Transformers (2007)

For much of my young life, I was a diehard Transformers fan. I have distinct memories of receiving my first Transformer, Jazz, as well as Soundwave, Hot Rod, and of course, Grimlock, my favorite toy of all time. Heck, one Christmas Santa brought me Fortress Maximus–probably the most enviable toy I ever owned as a kid. FM was the equivalent of the aircraft carrier for G.I. Joe fans, or the Eternia playset for Masters of the Universe.

At the age of fifteen, I wrote a fan fiction novel about Transformers. It’s now out there in the wild of the Web, and not hard to find. I lost most of my interest in Transformers in high school, when my attention turned to even geekier pursuits such as playing Magic: the Gathering and reading The Lord of the Rings.

Still, I’ve always had a lingering fondness for ol’ Optimus Prime and company. Which is why I realize it’s a bit odd it took me so long to see the recent Transformers movie. I mean, I like science fiction blockbusters, and among everyone I know, I was probably the biggest childhood TF fan–so why the apathy? A few reasons, I think. A certain dislike for the flashy but insubstantial filmmaking style of Michael Bay; the ugly robot designs; and a genuine lack of interest in Transformers these days.

Anyway, I finally watched the movie over the weekend. As I’d suspected, it was entertaining, but it didn’t make me want to go out and buy any Transformers toys; which, frankly, represents a pretty big thumbs-down from me (I’m the guy who wishes he could get a Horatio Caine action figure, after all–my standards are pretty low). Again, I thought the Transformer designs were much too complicated and cluttered, especially in the faces, which made it impossible to empathize with them as characters. To me, they were big piles of metal that looked like they’d fly apart at the slightest bump.

What there was of a plot was confusing. Why, at the end of the film, are Megatron and Optimus Prime discussing the relative merits of humanity? At that point, Megatron has spent all of twenty minutes around humans, so his wanting to destroy them all–to say nothing of his understanding how important their continued existence is to Optimus Prime–sort of comes out of left field.

That’s only one minor point, really, but it’s indicative of my general feeling watching the movie. I enjoyed all the little asides to fans of the original cartoon, but most of it was just weird. Why the bizarre John Turturro character, who acts like a G-man version of Stanley Spadowski and somehow gets more lines than Megan Fox? Why the moment where Bumblebee pees on said G-man? The so-called “humor” of the film generally left me cold, especially the scene where the Autobots scurry around the house of human friend Sam (Shia LeBeouf) like Keystone Cops. Having looked up to the staid, respectful Optimus Prime of the original cartoon as one of my childhood role models, it seemed a bit undignified for Peter Cullen to have to deliver lines like “Oops, sorry, my bad” and fret about being spotted by Sam’s parents.

I want to be clear–I’m not criticizing the movie for not being a direct cartoon-to-meatspace translation of the original cartoon. I might have gone even farther from the show’s premise to up the realism of the flick, though I also would have ratcheted back the Transformer designs.

I watched the movie less as a Transformers adaptation and more as a standard science fiction movie–this year’s heir to Independence Day and Armageddon. And on that level, I still think the film fell a little short. The action sequences were confusing, the characterizations with wafer-thin, and Michael Bay’s odd and yet, somehow clich


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  1. Poe

    Yeah…it's kind of funny that I greatly prefer the 1986 animated flick to the 2007, massive-budget live-action one.

  2. "What there was of a plot was confusing. Why, at the end of the film, are Megatron and Optimus Prime discussing the relative merits of humanity?"

    I got that feeling as well. I think I didn't pick up on that right away for one solid reason: I was watching it through the lens of my childhood. Since the Transformers were established characters from the 80s cartoon, it just made *sense* that Megatron didn't care about humans, and vice versa for Prime.

    At this point, I'd prefer a Cel-shaded DVD-movie of any TF Dreamwave comics, perhaps done by Mainframe. Beastwars was fun – but having a movie that's both TF and not trying to cater to a toyline leaves room for actual storylines. *Logical* and engaging storylines. Too bad Michael Bay's film was lacking both.


  3. OB1

    As a whole, I liked it for what it was. The key was to disconnect the cartoon and animated movie from this live action movie. I went in pretending I knew nothing about any of that. You have to do this.

    That said, I hated everything about Turturro's character — the humor was awful, although I did chuckle at Bumble Bee's *release* — and totally agree with you about Megatron's ranting about humans. I imagined that while he were frozen, he could pick up what was going on, thru some radio/tv frequency or something, and therefore had an inkling of what we were all about. That makes it not so bad, but I'm not apologizing for the hole there…

  4. I liked it enough. I just think about how much worse it could have been and am comforted by that.

  5. JPL

    A series of TMNT articles would be cool.

    My favorite out of that entire line was Baxter Stockman, which has already been mentioned by PrfktTear. I always liked that the wings and his second set of insect arms were detactable.

  6. PrfktTear

    Ray Fillet was another favorite of mine. I remember getting him for Easter. Mama PrfktTear always had a great way of wrapping/arranging stuff on Christmas & Easter.

    I remember Muagen Man… he was cool, I think I ended up with two of him. I have all my TMNT stuff in a box in the attic. A TMNT retrospective is def. in order! I still remember the first Turtle figure I got, which was Baxter Stockman, I got it from my aunt for Christmas. Other one that I wanted a lot was Raph, for whatever reason I never could find him anywhere (I wonder if he was one of the hard to find ones). I got him for my 8th birthday from another Aunt, which along with getting Super Mario Bros. 3 from my parents made it the best Birthday ever!


  7. Poe

    A friend of mine had Ray Fillet, and it was months (or maybe just weeks…time seems longer when you're a kid) before my parents found one for me. Man, did I want that toy.

    I had Slash too, and he's one of my favorites. I still have a lot of my old TMNT…except Leatherhead. Wish I still had that guy. I've got to do a retrospective on that line at some point…it had some really cool character designs. Mutagen Man, Wingnut & Screwloose, Scumbug, Muckman…

  8. PrfktTear

    All the points you make are valid. After having it sink in for 6 months now, I'm not as in love with the movie as I originally was. I think I was just caught up in the Transformers hype. I just look at it as a brainless sci-fi flick, like you say comparable to Independece Day or Armageddon. The Transformers Universe is so vast and dynamic that the movie is a drop in the bucket, and if it can bring TFs mainstream again for a short time thats fine by me. I still was never happy with the designs for the bots.

    TMNT's Slash was the most enviable toy I owned. I had so many friends want to trade him, but I said NO!

  9. Mumma Ghostal

    As a parental unit, we thought Transformers were just about the coolest toy we had ever seen-it was like getting 2 for the price of one( and if anyone has been keeping up with what it was like to buy toys for the young PG…you can appreciate the comment!)We would seek them out ( COLLECT THEM ALL ) and the old Zayre’s store in Braintree was the equivalent to the MTRU, mostly because we knew when ” the truck came in”. Jason would toss the directions that we would try to look over, and transform the damn thing before our eyes. We would actually use it as a party trick-first we would give the thing to a grown-up, they would fumble around with it for a bit, then we would hand it to Jason, who would basically say “Time me”. Good times…
    Didn’t see the movie, well , not the new one anyway, and loved The Siege. ( The aforementioned fanfic novel)

    And I hated all things Matrix, although I will admit that it might have been different if someone had the brainpower to cast anyone (or anything) other than Keanu…

  10. Finally, someone who shares my opinion completely.

  11. I actually went a step further than you, and actively hated this film. I thought it was just fucking awful, on just about every level. Not for it's failure to translate from cartoon to meat, but just for being a bad movie.

    I still think you're wrong about the Matrix, of course, but I respect your right to be wrong. 😉

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