Home > Clint's Blog > Why I Was Wrong About the Transformers Movie

Why I Was Wrong About the Transformers Movie

July 4th, 2007

Or partially wrong… I won’t admit total “wrongness”. This Michael Bay film was one of his better attempts, but still had some moments that made me wish he hadn’t appealed to his innate need for “campiness” and avoiding a more in-depth plot. It didn’t ruin the genre as I had expected, but a human, rather than robot focus made it a far different film than many (myself included) may have been expecting.

Great Expectations
When I entered the theater I expected an action-packed movie that would utterly disappoint me and prove to be a completely meaningless, sappy, cliche-driven movie that took you on a roller coaster ride and didn’t really hold true to the original Generation 1 Transformers world that we 30-somethings loved so much as kids.

Well, I was mostly right, but I did enjoy the film nevertheless. And after seeing it, I honestly have a hard time thinking how else he might have done it. The only alternative would be to convert the film into an Action-drama, lose the jokes and add in more character background and development to the robot characters.

Character Development
This movie was very human-centric and spent more time on setting up Sam (almost never called ‘Spike’ to my surprise) and his relationship with his parents and soon-to-be girlfriend. The dialogue was fine, but mostly lacking. It seemed as if every time the humans spoke I wished they would shut up (especially Sam’s mother) and every time the Transformers spoke I wanted more. We got the setup for Sam Witwicki. We got some background on the heroine. We even got background on Sam’s relatives and some insight into his parents. What we did not get was a lot of background on the real reason everyone came to see the movie – the Autobots and Decepticons. They simply existed, were introduced (Autobots through Prime and Decepticons through closed-caption-style text as they received their orders later into the movie), and did their thing with no r4ason for anyone in the audience to care one way or the other about them – not really, anyway. It’s because we know so much about them already (through years of television) that the audience was able to fill in the pieces.

Good CGI Meets Bad Cinematography
If I could point out a disappointment it would be that the tremendously cool action sequences were shot in a way that saved the CG crew time and money, but made it almost impossible to track the action. Film blur and close-ups were so prevalent that it was very hard to track what was going on and I really felt as if they took this route to avoid having to spend more detailed render time on the robots while they fought each other. Then (and this happened near the climax) you’d be watching a tremendously cool, epic battle and they’d cut to a human character’s situation and come back with the lead Autobot all but defeated – with no real idea how or why…

Don’t get me wrong – I wanted more, but I’ll need to watch this on DVD several times in order to really appreciate the battles… and even then I fear most of the cool stuff is off-screen and off-script.

I know it sounds like I’m complaining, but this critique I actually partially recanted on as I saw it on screen. In the Transformers movie, the robots don’t have to find parts to build themselves into nice cars, they obviously have some kind of nanotechnology that allows them to take the form of just about anything they can see/scan. You’ll see this with Bumblebee in a particular scene, and with a mini-Decepticon in another. Where this decision breaks down, however, is when you see the robots at the end (post-battle), still with damaged paint jobs. If you can morph from a Cybertronian robot to a Semi-truck in 3 seconds flat, you can probably repaint yourself just as easily. I’ll assume for now that this wasn’t done so that the robots maintained a more “authentic” look and blended in… or that it wasn’t a concern… I can live with that.

New Vehicles and Form Factors
I loved the changes and couldn’t care one bit that Ratchet wasn’t a cargo van ambulance. The new vehicles and shapes were awesome. And even Megatron, whom I complained about pre-film as being too complex and strange-looking, made more sense once I understood the revised plotline. This part of the movie was well thought-out and I think it played well. Die-hards will have to deal.

Hey, It’s Starscream – Remember Me?
I was very pleased to see that Starscream was indeed in the film. I can’t imagine seeing the Transformers without him. While I won’t reveal anything about the plot – we really missed much of the interaction between him and Megatron. There is one good line, but that’s about all we get. I can only hope they are saving it up for a second film. In my opinion Starscream is much like Data from Star Trek the Next Generation – you could build an entire script around him and it would come off as an excellent movie. I think we got a bit robbed in this movie due to the nature of how they introduced Megatron, but we’ll see what happens in future installments (and you can bet there will be more).

Audio and Video Quality
The audio in the film was excellent from what I experienced in the Cobb theater where I saw it. Mind you, this isn’t the best theater I’ve ever been in (or even remotely close) but I could tell enough to know that I’ll REALLY enjoy it when it comes into my home theater on DVD. Surrounds were used quite a bit, though not excessively or in a manner that wasn’t natural. Gunfire and explosions were mostly filling those rear channels in addition to the expected environment sounds. Sub frequencies abounded in this film and I’m guessing we’ll have people using this as reference material when showing off their new subwoofers and home theater systems. The opening battle sequence in Qatar is especially impressive. There was a lot of film grain on this picture, so I’m hoping they can alleviate some of that before it makes it’s debut on one of the optical disc formats. I’d hate to see that translated to the disc without some correction along the way.

Summary and Conclusion
It’s a good movie. If you wanted tons of character development on the Transformers themselves you’re going to be disappointed. They are relegated mostly to action and take a back seat to human character development that is a bit over-the-top, at times, disappointingly silly. I would have liked to have seen this developed as a more serious dramatic action movie. It wasn’t. It has its share of hard hitting moments, but it repeatedly dips into comical relief and makes sure you are guided into the “serious” moments carefully, with plenty of relief times to cool down in between. Campy is fun – but it took precious screen time that would have been better spent on the relationship between the Autobots. I can’t really go into further detail without plot spoilers but suffice it to say, there is no real reason to love the Autobots. Support them, yes… but love them… nope.

Go see this movie. You’ll enjoy it – diehard fan or not. I can critique it all I want, but the bottom line is that I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’ll be there for the sequel – I’ll just hope there is more time with the Autobots and less with the hormone-raging teenagers and power-dealing government officials. Warning: those of you who dislike action-packed movies without a ton of thoughtfulness or deep storylines will likely hate it.

And of course, how they’ll do a sequel after they killed off Optimus Prime and Bumblebee I don’t know…

PS. I’m just kidding about Prime and Bumblebee.

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  1. avaserfi
    July 4th, 2007 at 21:40 | #1

    Nice review. I am torn as to whether I should wait for the HD release or see it in the theater, but me being me and theaters being theaters Ill wait to watch it while I can drink a beer.

  2. July 6th, 2007 at 09:12 | #2

    It was better than “Cats…”

  3. Matt34
    July 10th, 2007 at 04:11 | #3

    “Film blur and close-ups were so prevalent that it was very hard to track what was going on and I really felt as if they took this route to avoid having to spend more detailed render time on the robots while they fought each other.”

    That was my biggest complaint about the movie. I strained my eyeballs trying to focus in on those burly battle scenes.


    Go watch it, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

  4. July 10th, 2007 at 10:36 | #4

    I never read anything about a movie until I see it so I refuse to read the above blog. Since I won’t go to the movies any more, I’ll have to wait to comment on this one until after it comes out of DVD (unless J picks me up a pirate copy over in China).

  5. majorloser
    July 10th, 2007 at 18:57 | #5

    It was a geat movie, but I do agree the transformations and action scenes were freakin’ fast! I’d like to see it in slo-mo when the DVD come out.

    The next movie will have a lot of things to work with.

  6. egr2rst
    July 23rd, 2007 at 11:59 | #6

    Loved the movie also. My wife enjoyed it more than me. It set up a lot of character plots for future movies.
    Walked out of the movie saying, “I wish we could have seen it with our now 30+ year old boys when they were still young”.
    This should really entertain another generation of the pre-teen boys.
    Walked out the show with a 6 year wearing a spider-man t-shirt. I said, “That was better than Spidey, huh”, to which he smiled and said “yeah”.
    I agree with everyone about the blurred action scenes.
    Wasted time seeing it in our little non-surround movie theater, so unless you have a great neighborhood theater, wait until you can enjoy it at home in your own surround sound. We’ll definitely do that!

  7. lea
    July 23rd, 2007 at 23:35 | #7

    can’t wait to see your review of “hairspray”…

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