Anthony's Film Review
Remake of 1980s cartoon decent and still more than meets the eye...
I am not a fan of the Transformers animated series, but I did take the opportunity to watch the first three episodes of the show before seeing the 2007 live-action movie. It was enough to help me understand its appeal. The focus in each episode are two clans of alien robots, the good Autobots and the evil Decepticons. They both have the ability to morph into human technologies as disguise, like cars and jets. They both struggle for power over their home planet of Cybertron. However, members of both factions crash to Earth and the battle continues there. As you can imagine, human characters are brought into this conflict. In the first three episodes, they were mainly a father and son working at an oil rig, both named Witwicky.
The great thing about the cartoon is how these robots seem so human. It's probably the faces that they possess. You forget that they are giant robots until you see humans standing next to them. Then you can also appreciate their magnificent scale and their ability to transform into vehicles. As the cartoon's theme song goes (and I quote it verbatim), Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons. They're robots in disguise and more than meets the eye. It's a neat concept.
It can also be a neat concept for a live-action film version, but only if done right. The start of the movie feels a little far from the Transformers and spends a couple minutes too long on the human plot lines. I'm not complaining about the scene with the military attack in Qatar. It sets the premise well enough. I'm somewhat objecting to the scenes with Sam Witwicky, an otherwise regular high school kid (Shia LaBeouf) trying to woo a girl (Megan Fox). It is necessary to introduce his character, but it's not necessary to put in dialogue that would lead the film into the genre of teen comedy and not science-fiction. Some later scenes were like this, too. The first thirty minutes were not boring, but I had to wait before things picked up.
It is nice to see the Transformers in the film mostly similar to those in the television cartoon, both in name and their alternate disguises. I especially liked the presence of Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots. In fact, the voice of Prime in the cartoon, Peter Cullen, reprises his voice for the character in this movie. In comparison to the 1984 episodes, Cullen's voice is somewhat aged, but still recognizable. He delivers the voice of an authoritative but benign leader. As for the Decepticons, the leader Megatron doesn't appear until the film's second half and is not voiced by the cartoon's original voice actor, but he is still menacing and an equal to Optimus Prime.
At first, I was reluctant to accept the visual appearance of the Transformers in this movie. They are incredibly detailed compared to the cartoon. Soon, I no longer cared. The cartoon's animation for the robots transforming was done in a couple of frames, a little too quick to appreciate how each part of the robot fits neatly into what they're changing into. The movie takes it many steps higher. Thanks to the miracle of CGI, each of the Transformers consists of thousands of parts all coordinating seamlessly during a morphing process, either to or from robotic form. It's as if the designers took every part of a car or whatever object and figured out how each piece of it can fit together as a towering robot as well as the movements necessary to switch between the two forms.
The film is pretty good, but it focuses a lot more on the humans and not on the robots as the cartoon series did. The Transformers appear to be more like secondary characters who are simply invading human space. It doesn't develop the humanlike characteristics of the Transformers enough. Then again, the cartoon looked as if there were too few humans on Earth. The film takes the realistic approach of placing these robots in our already overpopulous world. Naturally, many humans would fear or try to destroy them.
But if there is one reason to watch the movie, it's the climax. There are more explosions, bullets, and bits of destruction than the entire first half of the movie. It may feel uneven throughout, but it still delivers at the end. It's enough for me to recommend the film not for the intelligent storyline, but just simply for exciting eye candy. And I will say that Shia LaBeouf's performance is better than I thought. He may be playing a teenager, but he does so with enough realism to not clash with the suspense and science-fiction. It's more than meets the eye, as the old Transformer saying goes.
For more information about Transformers, visit the Internet Movie Database.
In addition, check out my reviews of the following: