I missed the Transformers when it was an animated TV show in the 80’s. I could say that I was in my 20’s and was too old for cartoons but that’s obviously untrue even now when I’m in my 40’s. But there was something about the show that didn’t interest me; I’m not sure what. The toys were cool, but I guess they were sort of the point. Maybe I was leery of the crass commercialism of the whole enterprise. Eh-probably not. I suspect that I lumped it in with anime, which unlike many of the geeks of my generation, I never developed a taste for.

Anyway, as I understand it, the set up is that there are these two races of giant robots, who are able to disguise themselves as anything mechanical. They’ve been fighting each other for centuries. The war reaches Earth and we are thrust into the middle of it.

I guess if you want anybody to direct something like this, Michael Bay, who directed Independence Day and Armageddon, is your boy. He excels at chases, cartoon violence and explosions. The fact that his movies are shallow slamfests doesn’t seem to matter.

There is an annoying inconsistency of tone in Transformers and it can be attributed to its cynical director. One minute the film is a serious, even pretentious science fiction epic, the next it’s a farce, then a military actioner, then satire. And none of these tones particularly hit home. It’s like Bay had no vision for the film and just said “yes” to every wacky idea that came up. To be sure, there are some crowd pleasing moments moments. I the showing I saw, the audience applauded afterwards. But there’s no emotional center here. I simply didn’t care about the characters.

Even Bay’s strengths failed him. The action moves too fast and the camera is too close. I couldn’t tell what was happening, especially during the big showdown at the climax. I also had trouble telling the robots apart.

I will say that the blending of animation and real life was seamless. The robots looked real and moved like you’d expect a giant robot to move. But these days achieving technical excellence is simply a matter of having enough money to hireLucasfilm or WETA.

Everything else about this film stinks.


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July 2007
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