After seeing Transformers, I battled with the notion of whether or not I liked it. Seriously, I had little arguments with myself (kind of disturbing, actually), where I tried to convince myself either way. In the end, I revert to my general rule of thumb: If I have to battle with myself over whether I liked a movie, I probably didn’t like it, and I just need to “man-up” and admit it.
So here I go: I didn’t really like Transformers, and here’s why. For starters, I’ve never been a fan of the whole alien robots turning into cars and then back into robots thing. I was a Star Wars geek. My little brother, while also a Star Wars geek, actually dug the Transformers and tried to convince me that the stupid ‘80s cartoon movie was actually good. He lost that war with me, which made us even because I insisted The Lord of the Rings animated feature ruled, while he thought it sucked. (In retrospect, he was right.)
On top of my general ennui for Optimus Prime and all he stands for, director Michael Bay has been known to give me a headache from time to time. I actually enjoyed his last two movies (Bad Boys II and The Island) because he seemed to be getting some of those Michael Bay-isms under control. The rapid-fire editing, the shaky cameras and that asinine 360-degree shot of people standing still and looking skyward in awe are just a few of his tactics that irk me. That kind of Bay moviemaking comes back with a vengeance with Transformers, especially in the last half hour.
This is how the wacky plot goes. For centuries, some sort of organic robots have been squabbling over something called the Cube, or the Allspark, or whatever the hell it is. It contains some sort of energy force, and it wound up on Earth somehow. Two robot divisions, the nice Autobots and the evil Decepticons, are renewing their fighting ways on our planet. Sam (Shia LaBeouf) buys himself a car, not knowing that it is actually a Transformer/Autobot. He finds himself involved in a huge robot war because he wanted a set of new wheels to impress girls.
I will admit that this film contains some good stuff. The Transformers, robots in disguise, are pretty well-done and fun to watch when Bay keeps the visuals under control. LaBeouf is a great leading man, injecting a boneheaded action movie with some decent comedy and charisma. Megan Fox is fine as his leading lady, and Jon Voight does some awesome stunt work as a defense secretary with a talent for kicking ass. John Turturro is also fun with a strange, strange comedic performance. His work comes off like he’s well aware the movie is moronic, and he’ll be damned if he takes the proceedings seriously.
I just wish Bay had walked into his editing room at some point and said, “All right, perhaps we’re getting carried away here. Let’s just calm down, have us some soup and think of ways to assemble this without inducing headaches for the viewer.” Some of the CGI work with the Autobots is outstanding, and a sequence where a Decepticon attacks an army unit works nicely. But, far too often, I found myself wishing Bay would slow things down so I could take a good look at what was on the screen.
Ultimately, Bay’s over-the-top, frantic moviemaking did me in. In fact, I was sitting on the fence for this one until the climax, which is nothing short of a full-blown cinematic mess. The action is impossible to follow in many spots, and the conclusion of the big robot smackdown between Optimus Prime and Megatron is a major, abrupt letdown.
If you are a diehard Transformers fan and loved Bay’s Armageddon, this movie is for you. If you fail to see the allure of robots that turn into cars via spastic editing, stay away.