my review of the live-action Transformers movie

3 07 2007

I just went to see the new live-action / CGI movie, which was released in theaters today.  I’ll try to give my review / opinion without any spoilers.

When I first heard of the movie, I had really high expectations, because a Transformers movie could be one of the best sci-fi movies ever.  But after I heard some interviews with Michael Bay and others involved, it quickly became apparent that they didn’t intend to stay very true to the original (G1) storyline.  I realize some changes are necessary to make it more modern, and I’m not against all change, but certain things really didn’t need to change.

If I were watching the movie without knowing the “canon” of Transformers lore as documented in the comics and cartoons, I would probably like the movie a lot.  I still liked it, but the story was more about how the humans are responding to the invasion of Earth by these alien robots.  That angle has been done plenty of times, like in Independence Day and War of the Worlds.  This movie should’ve stayed true to the real story, which is about a civil war between two factions of Transformers which end up on Earth.  I wasn’t expecting a re-telling of the original cartoon or movie, but they could’ve stayed closer to the original concept.  Perhaps this movie will gross more revenue because it’s more about humans and thus not quite so far in the realm of science fiction, but if they want to change it all up, they should create their own franchise instead of changing an existing one with millions of fans.

The special effects were well-done, although a few scenes seemed a little blurry, and sometimes it was difficult following exactly what was going on in the fighting because the robots all looked too similar.  That’s another gripe that I have — they don’t have enough uniqueness in robot mode.  I realize they probably needed to look different than the cartoon to work in CGI, but they looked too much like real-life modern robots — clunky and not aesthetically pleasing.  You could see gears and spinning cylinders all over them, and they looked like they were made up of junk in some places.  They’re millions of years more advanced than we are, so they shouldn’t look like modern robots that we make in 2007.

The personalities of the and weren’t very developed either.  There were a few moments where you got glimpses into who they are, but sometimes they seemed clumsy, and most of the time they were one-dimensional.  Megatron was extremely one-dimensional, which was very disappointing.  Starscream didn’t have much personality, either.  All they wanted to do was blow stuff up (which looked spectacular), but there is more to them than just destruction.  But instead of developing the subplots around the Transformers, there were subplots involving the humans.  Now, I don’t have anything against humans — I am one (as far as you know) — but there are thousands of movies about humans, and this was a great opportunity to make a unique movie about a race of robots that are much more advanced and intelligent than we are.  This movie shouldn’t have had major plot lines hinging on humans to make everything work out.  It’s like the directors copied the pattern of other movies, figuring people liked the other alien invasion movies, so it would be safe to clone those.  (I think that’s a major problem in Hollywood and in popular music these days!)

I think the directors decided this movie was more about humans’ reaction to invading robots, and how we would fight them, and, of course, making lots of money.  What they don’t realize is that it’s the personality of the robots that has made the series so popular for over 20 years.  There’s the moral leader , who originally had a John Wayne type personality and values freedom for all sentient beings.  is the leader of the evil Decepticons, but he has a lot of character.  wants to be the leader so badly, and is always looking for an opportunity to gain more authority.  I could go on.  It’s the personality that keeps people interested.  It’s why people aren’t still talking about GoBots.  Anybody can make a transforming robot, but not every group of robots has someone who is admired like Optimus Prime.  It is possible to relate to alien robots — it’s why the cartoon and comics and toys were (and still are) so popular.  It’s too bad the directors didn’t understand that.

Also, the movie had a few bad words in it that really weren’t necessary, as well as a few conversations that you wouldn’t want to expose kids to.  I don’t know why they had to put them in there, because they weren’t important to the story at all.  It was also more violent than the original series, but the fighting scenes weren’t done in a overly-detailed, grotesque way.

I realize I’ve ranted on the problems of the movie, but I think it’s still worth seeing, even if you’re a Transformers fan.  Just don’t try too hard to link it with the original storyline.

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6 responses

10 07 2007
Kri'

Very well said Beppo; I don’t think it would be possible for me to agree with you more. You have stated my thoughts on the movie exactly as I would have written them – all of it. From the type of movie it is, to the type of movie it could have been, to the vulgarity in it. Great review.

In other news, this movie has set revenue records for a non-sequel, so I’m sure Transformers 2 is already in the works. Let’s hope that in spite of the monetary success of this movie, they’ll take our gripes into consideration for the next one (as I know we are not the only ones with these complaints)…

Not to beat a dead horse, but even at the end of the movie the last thing Optimus Prime said (semi-spoiler warning) was, “There’s more to these humans than meets the eye.” Huh? This movie isn’t supposed to be about the humans!!! Sigh….

11 07 2007
Beppo

I’ve heard there’s plans to make at least two more, with speculation of there possibly being as many as 5 total. I hope so, but I also hope they make the sequels more about the robots and define their personalities more. To non-Transformers fans, that may seem silly because of how the movie presented them, but it was their personality and character in the cartoons and comics that made them special. They’re much more than just alien invaders who are threatening Earth by bringing their civil war here. I hope the fans speak up and that the directors listen.

7 02 2008
Fab

We finally saw this movie on DVD. We were never readers of the comic series, watchers of the cartoon series, nor players with the action figures and my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It was loaded with action and great special effects. Plus, the lead actor, Shia Lebouf is a favorite of mine all the way back to the cheesy Disney Channel show “Even Stevens”. That kid can be VERY funny and has become a great actor.

As “outsiders”, we didn’t know any different and don’t care to. We like the human side of the story because we can identify because we are humans. Oh, and we saved the world one time, something to do with a cube of power and killing an aircraft-based robot. I’m with you on the cussin’ and stuff, though.

18 05 2008
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[…] how Transformers CGI should have looked in the movie If you’re a Transformers fan like me, you might’ve been disappointed by the redesign of the characters in the 2007 movie.  I very much was.  I was willing to accept some redesign, to be more modern, and in a few cases, to be more practical (like with Megatron and Soundwave).  But the movie took it way too far. […]

12 04 2010
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[…] a big fan of Transformers — the original series (G1).  I’ve ranted before at how disappointed I was with Michael Bay’s Transformer movies.   I’m not totally against modernizing it (it […]

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