Saturday, July 2, 2011

Transformers (2007)

In 1984 Hasbro launched the Transformers franchise, the center of which is a toyline revolving around the concept of alien robots that can turn into vehicles, animals, and even everyday objects. With a legacy spanning 27 years to this day, there was bound to be a movie based on it. Being a huge Transformers fan myself, I was excited, if a little skeptical, when the first in a trilogy of live-action movies was released in 2007, directed by Michael Bay. I was so excited in fact after seeing it for the first time that I had a sort of adrenaline rush for a week. I watched it again recently in preparation for the third movie, and this one never gets old no matter how many times I watch it.

After a little exposition on the AllSpark Cube, an object said to grant machines life that became the center of a centuries-old war between two factions, a military helicopter is spotted flying toward a U.S. military base, despite the fact that this particular helicopter was shot down three months earlier. Once it lands at the base, it changes shape into a looming mechanical being and proceeds to steal top-secret information while proving to be seemingly invulnerable to the soldiers' weaponry. We are then introduced to Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), who is about to obtain his first car. After a scene at a used auto dealer, he is lead into choosing a particular yellow vehicle. Not too long after buying it with his father (Kevin Dunn), Sam discovers that not only is his car an alien robot in disguise, but he has now become part of the conflict between the Autobots, lead by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen); and the Decepticons, lead by Megatron (Hugo Weaving).

The plot of the movie can get a little confusing for newcomers to the Transformers franchise, depending on your age, but from my experience it gets a little easier to follow the more times you view it. It's actually fairly straight-forward compared the movie that comes after, but there is still some complexity present. If you have any sort of trouble keeping track of the robot characters, especially their names, you're likely to have an easier time when you watch it more than once or know someone who's really into Transformers.

The main praise for this movie goes to the special effects. The robots are rendered beautifully by Industrial Light and Magic, with small parts moving everywhere all the time when they're in robot mode. It looks like it took them a long time to get everything just right to make these characters look as realistic as possible, including lighting, texture, and any sort of rust from their alternate modes. The end result is breath-taking, especially when one sees it for the first time, and is fascinating to admire every time you see the effects in action.

Transformers also has some good acting, with Shia LaBeouf's performance as Sam Witwicky leading to some funny moments spread throughout the movie. Megan Fox does a good job as Mikaela Banes, a female involved in the robot conflict that spends most of her time on-screen with Sam, and the personalities between the characters make for some interesting and sometimes humorous moments. The voice acting of the robots is solid, probably the most memorable being Peter Cullen reprising his role as Optimus Prime since the original '80's cartoon. Bumblebee, who transforms into Sam's Camaro, doesn't have a real speaking line throughout the majority of the movie, rather speaking via the radio with various well-picked audio clips.

Despite how awesome this movie is, there are a couple of things that bring it down a little. The story is pretty fast-paced, but there's a scene when Sam gets back to his house that seems to go on for eternity. This part could've easily been edited down to fit in better, but what we're stuck with is very awkward and uninteresting, especially when it gets into a topic of privacy. Another scene, which could've very easily been removed without impacting the movie, is a part where Bumblebee pees lubricates onto Agent Simmons (John Turturro) from Sector Seven after rescuing Sam and Mikaela. This part is one of my least favorite things about the overall movie and feels shoehorned in just to appeal to younger viewers. As stated earlier, it does nothing to the story and it would have been just fine if the scene was taken out altogether.

Transformers is an overall very exciting movie, especially in the visual department. There are a couple things that drag the movie down a little, but that doesn't stop the title from being spectacular. Those new to Transformers may get some enjoyment out of it, as will fans of the series that are willing to accept change and anyone who can get past the fact that Michael Bay's name is attached to it.

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