No. I'm a nerd for a plethora of other reasons.
But even now, guess which Summer Movie I've been more excited about than any other? Yep... Die Hard 4.
Twenty years is a long time. But back then if I had any idea that technology could have progressed forward to the point that Hollywood could make a Live Action Transformers movie this good looking, I'd have jumped at the chance. And... technically I did. Though it's easy to fear that a kid property from my kid-hood might feel a little kiddish in my adulthood. Sadly, I was right. But let me tell you, this is one amazing looking movie. Especially that Optimus Prime. The ILM animation here is second to none. And the robot fight scenes? Man, you could actually believe it... if... you know... you weren't being asked to believe in fifty foot Robots hitting each other.
On the other hand... the Steven Spielberg Executive Produced Transformers doesn't have a whole lot else going for it. The plot is thin, the characters underdeveloped and there's a whole lot of waiting around for not too much to happen while lots and lots of explosions abound. In short... it's a Michael Bay film.
Good old MBay! That guy auctions off every cliché in the book from the incredibly nerdy guy getting the incredibly hot girl to the quick change Military guys to last minute sacrifices. Michael... Bay!
But man, did they ever spend that budget and product placement income on Special Effects. We start at a US base in a middle eastern desert which is soon gutted (yeah, that's tasteful) by a big fat transforming robot named (we learn) Blackout. Lucky for Mom and Apple Pie (this is the Fourth of July, y'know) some special ops soldiers escape into the Platinum Dunes (ZING!) led by Josh Duhamel's Captain William Lennox and Tyrese Gibson's Technical Sergeant Epps. Unluckily for Lenny and Eppie, Scorpinok is slithering around on their tail.
But enough about those guys. We want to hear what Shia LaBeouf is up to, don't we? Anybody still reading this? Okay, I'll move on. "S. La B." plays Sam (note: not "Spike") Witwicky, the great grandson of a great explorer (William Morgan Sheppard's Captain Witwicky, whose priceless artifacts, Sam is only too happy to sell on Ebay for his upcoming car payment). When his suburban nerd parents decide to take him to Bernie Mac to buy a him said car, he is drawn toward a small yellow VW Beetle with a special little something within it.
But instead he buys the rusty yellow Camaro right next to it because Michael Bay didn't want Bumblebee to be compared to Herbie. Well fine, then, Mikey, fine. Go remake another mediocre horror flick you twit.
And so begins two hours and and twenty-four minutes of Premiere product placement. Man... General Motors... Panasonic... EBay.com... Hasbro, obviously... Seriously, it's like Return of the Killer Tomatoes! in places!
Things are going along just swimmingly in the life of poor little Sam-I-Am. He's got a car, he's got a... he's got a... uh, okay, he's got a car! But it's a car that he manages to give a ride to the incredibly hot Mikaela Banes (the aptly named Megan Fox, who was born the year Transformers: The Movie was released) in. Not "A RIDE"... just a ride.
That is until he finds out his car is a giant transforming Robot named Bumblebee (Mark Ryan). Then it's all downhill. First Barricade (Jess Harnell) shows up, asks him what his Ebay ID is (I'm not kidding it's "LADIESMAN217"), then threatens to kill him. You can tell Barricade's a bad guy too, because he's a Ford instead of a Chevy. Take THAT Mustang lovers!!! See, they're all "Transformers", so they can pick out what they want to transform into and BLIP... they're that. Just to show off, Dumbledore (it means "Bumblebee", look it up) turns into a newer, shinier Camaro. Whoa. That ought to sell some cars.
Luckily Bumblebee's gotten the word out and his buddies have shown up from... uh... probably Cybertron. Luckily they get to fall close to some really spiffy new General Motors vehicles and shop for a while. I'm serious. Jazz (Darius McCrary) actually gets to see the new Pontiac Solstice up on a Lazy Susan with lights all over it and a big sign, so naturally he chooses that. I mean, who wouldn't? Ironhide (also Jess Harnell, so he can go fight himself) chooses the sleek new GMC Topkick pick-up, while Ratchet (once a big name in the comics, now voiced by Robert Heath Foxworth from Omen II) becomes a Hummer Search and Rescue Ambulance.
At this point I started slinking down in my seat in the theatre, nervously hoping that nobody there knew I drove there in a Chrysler! A... Chrysler!
Those guys are just the warm up, though... for the Chairman of the Board: OPTIMUS PRIME, voiced by original Prime Actor Peter Cullen (and he's a PETERbilt, too... because GM didn't have trucks that big). Prime informs Beauty and the Geek that they're there to find the AllSpark, which is housed in either a Borg Cube or that lil' Box from Hellraiser, depending on which part of the movie we're in, and that he and his heroic Autobots are there to protect Humanity against the evil Decepticons, like Barricade, Scorpinok, Frenzy (Reno Wilson), Bonecrusher (Jimmie Wood), Devastator, my old fave Starscream (here voiced by Charlie Adler) and the anti-Chairman of the anti-Board: Megatron, voiced by Hugo Weaving... instead of Frank Welker.
Of course, you've got to keep the human element going (like it or not). Hence Duhamel and Gibson show back up in time for the appearances of really hot computer chick Rachael Taylor (as Maggie Madsen) and really not hot Anthony Anderson (as another geek Glenn). Throw in Jon Voight as United States Secretary of Defense John Keller and John Turturro as Sector Seven Agent Simmons and you've got a barrel full of cameos, kids. Of course Voight and Turturro (both fine actors) seem to be in a "Ham" contest here to see who can take their parts less seriously. Not that the script by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and John Rogers warrants a whole lot of Oscar-Worthy acting, but damn... watching those two was like watching The Monkees Meet the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers while high on ludes!
There's the real detriment here. Transformers could have been more than just "cool" if taken seriously. Yeah, that's even with characters named "Scorpinok" and "Bonecrusher". However, it's clear that Michael Bay took this cash cow almost as seriously as his last few projects and neither Spielberg nor fellow producers Tom DeSanto, Don Murphy and Lorenzo di Bonaventura stepped forward to stop him. How silly is this movie? Well, kids, it seriously borders on Three Stooges style Slapstick. There are at least two urine jokes (at one point a giant robot pisses all over a government agent... well deserved, but not funny). There are parts in which robots the size of your Aunt Bertha duck and hide from parents... okay, then. There's even one point when the venerable voice of Peter Cullen, who could make just about anything from Hamlet Act One Scene Two to the ingredients on the back of a Soda Can sound important and breathtaking, actually says "Oops, my bad!" Yes... Optimus Prime, fearless leader of the Autobots, keeper of the Creation Matrix/ Matrix of Leadership, who says such things as "Freedom is the right of all sentient beings!" and "I thought you were made of Sterner Stuff!" says "Oops, my bad!"
Sigh. He sounds cool when he says it though.
To be fair, they claim they learned English in this version from the World Wide Web. But then, why doesn't he say instead "OMG COLON CLOSE PARENTHESES BFF LOL SEMICOLON CLOSE PARENTHESES LESS THAN THREE LESS THAN THREE ROTFLMAO!"
Anything to entertain us while we wait for the action. But when it comes... oh, man... Magnifique. This is one kick-ass Super Battle amid Skyscrapers and broken glass. Hey, it's the only thing Michael Bay does really well. It made me wonder why there was so little of it (and why Shia was in frame). The powerful, yet used and weathered Robots pull off some of the coolest feats you could hope for. Yes, it's a treat for CGI fans.
And it's probably going to be a treat for many fans. Look, even the purists (my brother-in-law again) will tell you that there are many, many, many Transformers incarnations, each with its own continuity. This is Hasbro, not King James, let's not get on and off "Canon" here. Just the fact that there is a big screen Transformers movie (and a sequel on the way... they made sure of that) and that it looks this good will be a treat for most people who like Transformers. It might not be the smartest summer movie, but Popcorn is Popcorn, and there's plenty of this. But for you purists out there, we are given a few sweet nods to the old cartoons and the original Autobot and Decepticon Insignias are utilized here. Even some of the dialogue sounds like what we grew up pretending we didn't love when there were girls around. Especially when uttered by the Cullenator.
All in all, it's a fun, if forced movie, big on Effects, light on story. I'm glad I saw it... I still wish for more. And yeah, I'm gonna get fan boy hate mail for this one, but Transformers warranted Two and One Half Stars out of Five. You can transform a Kid's Show into a Big Summer Action Movie, but you can't transform a Robot Jox into a great film. Sorry, Angel. So until we get a visit from Spanner the Space Bridge, who guides us straight into the Smelting Pool, where the Quintessons are passing judgement upon us all while Starscream's Ghost looks on and shriek's laughter, I'll see you in the next Transforming Reel!
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