Transformers My Reviews 13 APR 2008

TransformersTheir war. Our world.

Sam Witwicky is your typical, nerdy teenager who is trying his best to impress the girls but with a total lack of street cred like his, is pretty much failing hopelessly. However, his luck with girls may just change after his father purchases him his very first car, an old musty yellow Camaro that Sam just swears has a mind of its own.

Too bad Sam is only half right because through a series of fantastic encounters and events, he and schoolmate Mikaele Banes are thrust straight in the middle of an otherworldly war between the good Autobots led by Optimus Prime and the evil Decepticons led by Megatron in their quest to secure the infinite source of power and life, the Allspark that is currently hidden on Earth.

Caught in the centre of this all out brawl between these gigantic transforming robots, Sam must now try his best to try and locate the Allspark – before the Decepticons end life on this planet as we know it!

Transformers is a 2007 live action film adaptation of the Transformers franchise, starring Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Jon Voight and John Turturro. And in a homage to the original animated series, Peter Cullen provides the voice of Optimus Prime! It is directed by Michael Bay who has been responsible for some other big hits like Armageddon, The Rock, Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys, and Bad Boys II.

So, how exactly does one approach one of those geeky franchises from the 80s that has a huge following and expect the world from your movie. Well, you stick to the fundamentals that made that franchise such a huge success in the first place and don’t dare stray off the beaten path. Thankfully Michael Bay has gone and done exactly that, creating a movie that is simple in plotline and follows the original source materials almost to a T. In its simplest form the movie is basically one big fight between the good Autobots and the evil Decepticons over possession of the Allspark, with one human boy caught in the middle of it all.

Of course, this might be a little bit boring all on its own, so the story gets a few extra bits injected into it which basically sets up the scene and leads us into the final cataclysmic battle, but when it is all over you can’t help but sit back, smile and say that you enjoyed it. It is a simple story but painted deftly and with more than enough detail to satisfy anyone and although it does suffer in places of being drawn out just a little to long, it ends up being a thoroughly satisfying written work.

Shia LaBeouf is rapidly becoming one of my favourite new generation actors as with each new outing he continues to be a thoroughly likeable, 3-dimensional character who has a great on-screen chemistry and delivers his performance with a lot of feeling. If he continues with these kinds of quality performances then he is certainly going to become one of Hollywood’s future heavyweights.

Megan Fox plays the obligatory girl interest in the movie, but apart from looking absolutely stunning, I’m afraid she doesn’t quite deliver as good a performance and is pretty much hidden in the background for most of the movie. As it is the giant robots that take up most of the screen time, the only other actor that sticks out really is Josh Duhamel from Las Vegas fame who puts in a good performance as the main soldier who eventually teams up with Shia and the Autobots to put up some kind of fight against the Decepticons.

A big budget movie about giant alien robots is bound to have loads and loads of special effects and to be honest, this is a big part as to why this movie actually works as well as it does. Apart from the massive explosions and collateral damage sequences, it is the actual robots and their interaction with our world that manages to take your breath away with the sheer technical brilliance displayed in pulling these sequences off. Each Autobot and Decepticon are so lavishly detailed and given such life that you can’t help but suspend your disbelief and just sit in awe at their amazing transformation sequences and battle sequences.

Particular attention was paid to the physics of the movie and as such the robots are all sized proportionally to their respective camouflage vehicle modes and this feeling of proportion carries on throughout the movie which helps tremendously with the realism because you are not having to continuously re-imagine these creatures in ever different shot. And the meshing of the CG and real-life footage is nothing short of masterful. It is almost impossible to discern between the two and because of this you can’t help but end up completely immersed in what is being presented on the big screen.

Obviously Bay has had to combine some tradional camerawork with all this CG and I am pleased to say that he had done a fantastic job behind the camera, giving us expansive views of the action sequences and location shifts before moving in closer on the dramatic and more spellbounding close-up sequences. Clever use of lighting and atmospheric sound effects all add to the mix and you are left with a world which leaves nothing to imagination.

The score for Transformers is composed by Steve Jablonsky (with a little help from Hans Zimmer), who has worked previously with Bay on the Island, and uses six major themes across some ninety minutes of music. The Autobots themselves have three typical heroic/inspired orchestral themes while the Decepticons have a chanted there which relies heavily on electronics, unlike the rest of the score. This is actually a neat little trick because the electronics cause a very menacing theme and you can instantly pick up which group is currently stealing the limelight on the screen.

As to the actual soundtrack, Bay has gone for a more rock-tinged sound to give the movie that edge it needs and you find the likes of Linkin Park, Smashing Pumpkins, HIM, Taking Back Sunday and The Used just to name a few. The music choice works and you’ll often find yourself tapping your fingers along to the track as you are shuttled from one action sequence to the next.

Transformers is a great homage movie for all of those fanboys who grew up with the Transformers franchise back in the 80s (I tingled in excitement when Optimus first appeared I must confess) and Michael Bay has succeeded in making a film that appeals to long-time fans, excites new blood to the Transformers franchise and is generally one of those good action movies that requires pop corn and will certainly pass the time. It does however feel a little slow and drags on in places, but it is a more than capable action movie with enough fun, excitement and hold your breath moments to please any movie buff and does in the end make one of the most famous 80s franchises ever, very, VERY proud!

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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.