PSA: Transformers (2007), or Michael Bay’s Useless Robot Children

12 03 2009
Transformers! Not much more than meets the eye!

Transformers! Not much more than meets the eye!

My, oh my. What a mess. Have I ever told you all how much I hate Michael Bay?

Michael Bay has to be the most violently psychotic director in Hollywood. He likes explosions, loud noises, dialog shouted at the top of actors’ lungs, and humor that borders on physically harmful. His plots cross the line of ‘simple’ and spill directly into ‘infantile’. His style is non-existent. His movies are perennially panned by anyone with a modicum of good taste. Does this sound like the type of fellow that should be given HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS? Well, the answer is ‘yes’ if you are a Hollywood studio head, because even more disturbing than him having all that money is the concept that almost all of his films have been box-office smashes. People actually LIKE these movies. Why? I don’t know. Maybe they soothe the stupid part of the brain and they help some people think. Any other explanation is implausible, because he is horrible at what he does. Today’s film, 2007’s biggest smash hit Transformers, is said to be his best movie yet. I am inclined to agree with that statement, but so what? If you drive a race car for a living, and you come in 50’th place for nearly twenty years, but one race you miraculously make 49’th place, you are still horrible at your job.

Based on the line of toys by Hasbro and some Saturday morning cartoon show that I’m sure nobody ever watched, Transformers is a story about a battle between two warring sets of sentient self-aware robots, the virtuous Autobots and evil Decepticons. These robots come from outer space, a planet called Cybertron that the Decepticons destroyed in their lust for power, but for some reason can transform into cars and trucks and other objects from Earth. They’re fighting for the All Spark, an object that created both races of talking robots. And nobody knows where it is, only that it is, of course, on Earth. You know what? Forget about all that robot stuff. Let’s talk about teen angst for a while. It sure does suck being a teenager, doesn’t it? It especially sucks to be Sam Witwicky, a high school loser who has a crush on his hot schoolmate Mikaela Banes. He wants to get a new car to impress her, but his father isn’t going to get him one. Everything is going not so good for the guy until he finds an awesome, shiny, brand-new vehicle just waiting for him to hop in and impress someone with it. He doesn’t think for a second that this awesome vehicle might be a robot in disguise. But forget about all that robot stuff!!! Let’s talk about soldiers. They sure are great, huh? A group of soldiers stationed in Qatar, some military personnel working for Special Operation Command Central (or SOCCENT), is being attacked by evil giant robots who are trying to use their satellite network to find the All Spark. The soldiers fight valiantly, but their remote desert base is destroyed, and only a small group of sexy soldiers remain to tell the rest of the world what happened to them. Will the soldiers get back to a city before they are attacked again? Will Sam Witwicky get laid with a name like ‘Sam Witwicky’, or are all his advances to Mikaela in vain? And will these pesky robots ever get out of this movie?

So, okay, if you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m a little perturbed. Have you kids ever seen a Godzilla movie before? Even the crappy Matthew Broderick American version? If you have, then there is one part you all know to be the single worst aspect of any Toho release; the human beings. You go to a movie about a giant lizard that destroys the city, and Japan decides instead to show astonished soliloquys from aged scientists about how there is no way to stop the monster. I don’t think even Toho realizes what a profound rip-off that is. Michael Bay has created a movie about human beings that desperately wants to be a movie about giant robots. Is that supposed to “ground the movie”, as I have seen in so many blithely positive reviews about this film? I think “grounding” a movie like this, an effects-fueled spectacle, is the last thing you would want to do.

This has all the workings of Bay’s normal films, only magnified. Imagine all the collateral damage from all Bad Boys I and II, Armageddon, and The Island combined into one explosion-fest. It’s candy for the eyes, to be sure. The dialog is wonky at best and fucking awful at its worst. And the plot, full of logical flaws and long, extraneous sub-plots that go nowhere, is as insipid as Bay himself, and he didn’t even write it. But here’s something I never thought I’d say in a film like this; there’s not enough action. What? Say again? You heard right! There is not a lot of action in this movie. There sure is a lot of talking about action, and a lot of action-ready “hot” dudes and robots, but there isn’t as much actual walking the walk compared to talking the talk. Sure, there are some “pulse-pounding” sequences (otherwise, it would be a two hour philosophical dialog about fearsome robot action), but I was expecting at the very least something to placate my drifting thoughts. Instead, we are treated to Sam Witwicky waxing over some vacuous mannequin woman that is so beyond his reach and military grunts frantically saying things like “What the hell was that?’ and “That ain’t human!”

To be fair, though, the blame cannot be placed totally on Bay. The performances are lackluster all across the board. Shia LeBeouf plays Sam with the tenacity of someone who’s being paid a lot of money, but he also plays him very hip, and that combination can certainly grind on the audience as his wry, sarcastic sense of humor took quite a toll on my patience. I think Shia is a decent actor, and I look forward to seeing him in more movies, but just not another where he plays this character. Megan Fox is boring and stiff. ‘Nuff said. Josh Duhamel and Tyrese were typical as two of the military survivors from SOCCENT, and although I cannot help but think that they were completely unnecessary characters (WHY are they involved in this?), they caused no outcry from me. Something that does cause an outcry though is the comic relief from Mr. Bay, in the form of Anthony Anderson and John Turturro. I never thought Anthony Anderson was funny, not ever, but John Turturro really disappoints me in this movie. I won’t go into their lame characters, as comic relief typically has only the briefest and laziest of exposition anyway, but Turturro plays a secret agent, and I will never get back those lingering minutes he appeared on screen. Never. I feel genuinely mad at his flaccid attempt at humor here, and I really wished he had tried harder to be funny and not just spastic. You were in The Big Lebowski, for crying out loud!

The special effects, of course, are immaculate. There was never a moment when I questioned their artificiality, but it makes you realize just how far CG has come when you see some of these robots. Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots, is especially impressive. Good job, Dreamworks!

Bottom line: this movie is not engaging. I don’t care about anyone enough to worry about their well-being. Even the earth, which is apparently endangered because of some minor sub-plot involving transforming robots, is not something I care enough about in this film to become interested. I hear people en masse telling me how much fun this movie was, and my only reply to that would be “When?”. When was it fun? I’m a fun guy, as people who know me will attest, and I had zero fun watching this. Watching giant robots be ignored by petty human concerns for 140 minutes is not my idea of a good time. So feel free to argue the point on the comments section, but until I find a compelling argument against my stance that I wasted over 2 hours on Michael Bay’s best film, I give Transformers 2 unfunny Anthony Andersons out of 10.

See you tomorrow for The Sword of Doom!