In 2007, the only thing I was looking forward to all year was seeing the Transformers movie. It was quite an exciting time. My favorite childhood cartoon was going be made into a live action movie! It seemed destined to be a monumental event, and all future movies would surely pale in comparison.
While the movie wasn’t awful, it did leave me feeling a bit disappointed. But compared to the sequel, the original film was a cinematic masterpiece. After seeing Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, I left the theater feeling angry. Why would they do that to us?
So did they manage to give us a movie worthy of the name Transformers this time out?
Well…I’ll be nice and start out by listing some positives about the movie:
– This was a good movie to see in IMAX 3D, as they seemed to use the technology well. (OK, the word “good” shouldn’t actually be used in association with this movie, but it certainly looked pretty at times)
– They named Sam’s girlfriend Carly, which was the name of Spike’s girlfriend in the cartoon. I’ll give them bonus points for that. Of course, Carly got just a little bit hotter in her transition to the big screen:
I don’t know, maybe they should have stuck with the blue jumpsuit and legwarmers. I think that was a good look.
Unfortunately, the actress who played Carly made January Jones’ acting in X-Men: First Class seem like a great performance in comparison.
– Optimus Prime was a real badass in this one. He kept talking about killing Decepticons, shouting “You die now!” and showing absolutely no mercy to any of his enemies.
– The action scenes were pretty good. One of my biggest complaints about the first one – and to a lesser extent the second – was that most of the fight scenes were shot in extreme close-up. You couldn’t tell what was going on, you only saw twisting CGI metal.
This time around, you could clearly make out the robots shooting each other and punching each other in the face. And isn’t that what we all really want out of a Transformers movie: Seeing robots shoot and punch each other in the face?
You’d think that since this was essentially just a big, special effects-laden action movie, that the only real requirement was to have good action scenes. And since it delivered on that end, shouldn’t I have liked the movie?
No, and here is my main complaint about the movie (and the series as a whole):
It seems that in a movie called “Transformers” that the focus would be on the Transformers. That is not actually the case. The Transformers and their struggles are really just a backdrop for a love story between Sam Witwicky and his girlfriend.
I get it – The producers figure that the movies need to have a human character at its core that we can relate to. But is that truly the case?
Pixar seems to be able to make successful movies where the main characters aren’t human. Audiences seemed to enjoy WALL-E well enough, and that had a robot as its main character.
So why wouldn’t this movie worked if Optimus Prime, and not Sam Witwicky was the main protagonist? People love Optimus Prime. He’s a great leader and yet a relatable character.
After all, look at what Optimus Prime had to deal with in this movie:
- A betrayal by his friend and mentor.
- Being forced to choose saving Earth at the expense of his home planet of Cybertron, even though the people of Earth turned their backs on him.
- Getting stuck in cables for about thirty minutes.
Seriously, it seemed like the writers realized they made him too powerful, so they needed to keep him away from the main action for a while. And so, they had him get tangled up in some building support cables for half an hour.
Like I said, they really went out of their way to make this movie not be about the Transformers.
Another example of this: As the movie enters its final act, the Autobots – who we presumed to be dead – make a dramatic return, and say they’re going to take the fight to the Decepticons.
Okay, that’s more like it! Maybe now we’re going to start to see the Transformers really start kicking some ass.
Except that immediately after that scene, we don’t see the Autobots again for a good twenty minutes. Instead, we watch a group of humans run through a collapsing building. When we finally do see the Autobots again, we learn that most of them have been taken prisoner by the Decepticons. WTF???
So once again, even though the movie is called “Transformers” we have close to an hour of screen time in which the Autobots appear for just about two minutes. This movie comes close to breaking the record set by Ang Lee’s Hulk for “Underuse of a title character in a movie.”
Other complaints about the movie:
– Apparently, the writers thought that the reason people didn’t like the first two movies was because there weren’t enough “funny” characters in them. Well, don’t worry, because there was certainly no shortage of “comic relief” in the third installment:
- We had the miniature Autobots from the second movie. They weren’t really funny then, and they still aren’t funny in this one.
- John Turturro is back as a retired government agent.
- Sam’s parents make an appearance for no real reason except apparently somebody thought we’d be heartbroken if they weren’t in the movie.
- John Malkovich gets a bunch of screen time in the first half as Sam’s boss. After spending so much time dealing with this character, you might think he would have some relevance to the plot. You’d be wrong.
- Ken Leong (from Community and The Hangover) plays the same character he always plays: A wacky, manic Asian guy. Seriously, is this guy capable of playing anything else? At least one scene with him is actually funny.
– I can’t say for certainty how high-ranking government officials talk. But I can’t imagine that it’s anything like the dialogue provided by Frances McDormand’s government agent. I’m not sure why in every movie they need to include a government official who DOESN’T LIKE OR TRUST THE AUTOBOTS. But yet she gets lots of screen time that could have been devoted to, maybe giving some of the robots a personality.
– Megatron is supposed to be the main villain of the series, but the films don’t really treat him that well.
In the first movie, he crashes into Earth and spends 50 years frozen in human captivity. Once he is freed, he dies within an hour.
In the second movie, it is revealed that Megatron is actually subservient to The Fallen who apparently has been the real Decepticon leader all along.
And in this movie, he spends most of his time as Sentinel Prime’s bitch. When he finally tries to assert himself, all he does is help sabotage his own plot. He then tries to form a truce with the Autobots and gets his head ripped off.
Shouldn’t it feel monumental when Optimus Prime finally destroys him? It doesn’t.
Then again, the movies never seemed to care that much about the Decepticons. They may have given the Decepticons the same names as the characters from the TV show, but there was nothing distinctive about any of them. Instead, they were all just generic giant alien robots.
– So much about the movie’s plot doesn’t make sense. Maybe it isn’t a good sign when they pretty much took the story directly from the cartoon. (For DVD owners, watch “The Ultimate Doom.”
While the Decepticons’ overall motive of wanting to rebuild their home planet is sensible enough, most of the background information that they give us about the plot contradicts the first two movies.
I’m also not sure why the Decepticons feel the need to hatch such elaborate schemes when they’ve apparently got an entire army hidden on the moon. They outnumber the Autobots about 10 to 1, and have superior weaponry. Why don’t they just make a full-scale assault on the planet, destroy all their opposition, and then do whatever they want?
I was also confused why the Decepticons needed ships at all. They can transform into jets! What the hell do they need to fly in ships for?
So could anything have been done to save this movie?
Well, they could have made this movie into “Transformers vs. G.I.Joe.” Since they seemed determined to spend so much time dealing with some of the military guys, they should have used characters from G.I.Joe and make the movie a giant fanboy wet dream. I know I would have loved to see Snake Eyes chop the head off a Decepticon with his sword.
They also could have just said that this was the new Spider-Man movie in which Spidey fights the Transformers. I’m not completely convinced that wasn’t the original intent of the script.
For instance, Sam has money problems, dates a girl much hotter than he is, and manages to alienate her. Sounds just like Peter Parker in every Spider-Man movie.
Sam also seems to have Spider-Man’s powers. He withstands physical abuse that would kill most humans, he swings around on cables, (Note the scene where he fights Starscream) and towards the end of the movie, he is able to jump over cars. Not to mention that the scene where they’re running through the collapsing building would have been much more fitting in a Spider-Man movie.
I was half expecting to see Sam jump onto the roof of P.F.Chang’s! (Just kidding, everyone knows that’s impossible, even for Spider-Man)
It’s not like there isn’t any precedent for Spider-Man to meet up with the Transformers:
Don’t worry. I’m sure in a few years, they’ll either give us a spin-off movie (Sam Witwicky in his own movie!) or re-boot the franchise. Then we can all be disappointed yet again.