Transformers [2007]

A lot of my friends have been to see this movie, and the reports have been positive, except for _poe_ who made possibly the single most insightful comment about the movie that I’ve read. It’s a children’s movie. Full stop, end of story.

As a children’s movie, I think it accomplishes most of its objectives. It is big, loud, shiny and delivers a tale about a kid (albeit, an older kid) taking on the world and winning (in essence.) It doesn’t shy away from any kind of gross plot manipulation to keep things moving and deliver “good” outcomes, and it never tries to play a scene for more than a cheap laugh or gaudy effect. So, if you have a 10-14 year old kid that needs entertainment take it along to this movie. Or, indeed, as I do, several friends in their late 20s who seemlessly retrograde into 14 year old boys.

My only main complaint about it in this light is that it’s a bit long. There is a reasonably decent chunk of material that could be, I think, safely jettisoned. Basically I’m thinking of the whole Maddie Madsen storyline. It wasn’t offensive or stupid… it was merely superfluous.

As a movie for adults, I think this was a more-or-less complete write-off. It never tried to build suspense, or tension. It went for the cheap and easy laugh every possible opportunity. It scrupulously avoided dealing with any consequences of the problems it raised. It’s plot was ludicrously convoluted and improbable. The dialogue was shit for 90% of the movie. The morality and worldviews it represents are tired, cliched, unrealistic and jingoistic. And I think it lacked that handy dose of self-referential fun which made similar movies like Independence Day and Men In Black watchable, if not cinematic masterpieces.

And obviously, in either mode of viewing there are some serious and legitimate complaints to be made about the camera work. Shaky cam is all well and good if you’re an amateur lost in the woods, but for something that’s supposed to be a showpiece of CGI and just generally a visual extravaganza, it was difficult to watch.

So, are we still doing ratings? I’m apt to agree with Nick C’s 6/10.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Film and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Transformers [2007]

  1. jarratt_gray says:

    Sometimes a kids movie is what people are looking for. Just because it isn’t highbrow, doesn’t make light entertainment any less fun.

    I actually disagree though. It is a children’s story but not a children’s movie. Children’s movies tend not to have so many story threads running through them, and when they are epic in nature tend to be on a more fantastical scale (Narnia, Eragon).

    Additionally Transformers is a super hero movie, not a sci-fi movie. In fact it really has hardly any sci-fi elements at all.

    I do think it is a children’s story. It has its roots in both comics and cartoons and was primarily devised as a way to sell toys. The target audience always was 10-14 year old boys, look at the characters of the secondary Transformers (they are basically like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).

    That said, pretty much all the things you complain about I expected before seeing the movie. I was highly skeptical and perhaps that is why I ended up enjoying it.

    Also it was much better than all 3 Spiderman Movies.

    • mashugenah says:

      Just because it isn’t highbrow, doesn’t make light entertainment any less fun.

      Sure. I saw Ocean’s 13 on Friday, and it delivered a very palatable helping of fun. Not highbrow, also overly complex at patches, ultimately just light-n-fluffy. But I don’t care.

      Transformers didn’t deliver that for me. I’ll happily grant that this is partly a matter of taste: I prefer a good caper movie to an SF action generally speaking… but at the same time, I think that Ocean’s 13 was simply a slicker production all round.

      Additionally Transformers is a super hero movie, not a sci-fi movie. In fact it really has hardly any sci-fi elements at all.

      Uh, yeah maybe. I can certainly see why you’d argue that. But I think the moral challenges facing the heroes were a bit superficial to measure up to even most modest superhero stories. As someone eloquently expressed it: while reality may fluctuate in comics, emotional reality generally holds true. I didn’t see enough emotion in the whole movie to really push it outside of a simple children’s fantasy and into the realms of superhero-type stuff.

      Totally right though that it’s not by any means SF.

      Also it was much better than all 3 Spiderman Movies.

      I’m really too much of a Spiderman fanboy to have a rational discussion in those terms. πŸ™‚ Seeing the Green Goblin and Venom on screen gave me such a deep seated and intense thrill that I can forgive most faults in S1 and S3. S2 however, I’ll spare no quarter. It was shit. And not because Doc Ock isn’t as cool as The Green Goblin. I think Alfred Molina did a damned fine job with what he had to work with. Rather I think that S1 and S3 were true-enough to the emotional reality of the characters, while s2 was just CGI porn.

      • jarratt_gray says:

        Seeing the Green Goblin and Venom on screen

        Fair enough. I would argue the same for Transformers for a lot of people but I’m not one of them. I liked them when they were vehicles but I’m still not sold on most of the robot forms.

        Without trying to draw you into an argument or rational discussion over the Spiderman movies, what I found unthrilling about them was that they were overwrought with the major themes of the spiderman comics (forgivable) and that they tried to hard to capture the essence of the comics without ever actually trying to be their own movies. For the record I don’t really like the Batman movies either (Batman Begins a notable exception) because they did a similar thing. The Spiderman movies felt like average 90’s pulp TV, and while these days I generally think that TV shows are far superior to films, I would have forgiven the Spiderman stories if they were told in a TV show.

        I’ll admit though that I am strange in that I like both Fantastic Four Movies, which I think do deliver on both taking the comic book characters, making them their own, as well as telling a movie length comic book story. The first FF movie is the origins story where the first half of Spiderman 1 (which I really enjoyed) is the origins story.

        Superhero movies are generally invariably flawed though, and while I don’t think the Spiderman movies are that good (especially when they seem to try to hard to actually be quality cinema) they did seem to get the characters so totally wrong like Storm in the first X-Men, or basically the entire end of X-Men 3.

        Fantastic Four has its faults too, only to someone who didn’t grow up reading the adventures of the FF they are much harder for me to see. I thought Victor von Doom was a great villain in the first movie, but having read stuff later on anyone who was expecting the awesome and fearsome Doom from the comics would easily be disappointed.

        Getting back to Transformers though, not all movies (like anything I guess) deliver for everyone, though I do wonder if perhaps you see more in superhero stories than you do in children’s fantasy. Superhero stories try to reflect a mood associated with the times. Transformers certainly did that when they first arrived on the scene, and while the movie tries to update the Transformers a little for a modern setting, it actually ends up reverting the world to more of a cold war situation to take advantage of the time in which the initial story is set.

      • mashugenah says:

        what I found unthrilling about them was that they were overwrought with the major themes of the spiderman comics (forgivable) and that they tried to hard to capture the essence of the comics without ever actually trying to be their own movies.

        I’m not too clear on what you mean by this. They were a re-telling of the classic spiderman villains. How could they have “been their own movies” and still done that? Or did you want them to invent wholly new spiderman mythos?

        On this line, what was your view on Sin City, which explicitly and deliberately confined itself to be as close to the comic-on-screen as possible. Even the various shot selections are identical.

        I’ll admit though that I am strange in that I like both Fantastic Four Movies, which I think do deliver on both taking the comic book characters, making them their own, as well as telling a movie length comic book story.

        I found the first Fantastic Four movie to be very bland. It never seized my imagination or really capitalized on the inherent coolness of the characters it presented. I generally thought it was very slow in its pacing and yeah, just generally found it uninvigorating. Obviously your experience was quite different.

        I do wonder if perhaps you see more in superhero stories than you do in children’s fantasy.

        Potentially. But look at a children’s story in a grown-up movie like Pan’s Labrynth… that’s an adult movie with a children’s story, where the children’s story is a great source of ideas and inspiration. Of course, it’s less suitable for children than the Transformers movie.

        Transformers certainly did that when they first arrived on the scene, and while the movie tries to update the Transformers a little for a modern setting, it actually ends up reverting the world to more of a cold war situation to take advantage of the time in which the initial story is set.

        To be honest, I think it simply took as its base the exact same kind of world construction as something like Spy Kids, but was just a little less honest about it. It’s not trying to be retro… it simply grabbed whatever “neat” idea occured and chucked it in without worrying about any subtlties like the Cold War.

      • jarratt_gray says:

        I so wish Transformers was retro though.

        I’m not too clear on what you mean by this. They were a re-telling of the classic spiderman villains. How could they have “been their own movies” and still done that? Or did you want them to invent wholly new spiderman mythos?

        No that isn’t what I mean. Without trying to employ a comic book frame to the movie like Hulk or Sin City, Spiderman still confined itself to a story based on the serial cliffhanger nature of a 3-6 part modern comic story, instead of realising that it was actually a movie. What was actually told really well was the first half of Spiderman 1 where he gets his powers, but then it shifts to an undetermined amount of time down the track and expects us to still be with the characters. The sequels don’t do this as much, but have more of the periodic action sequences spaced throughout the movies as they would be in a comic book serial. For example in Spiderman 3 it would be perfectly okay in a 5 issue comic storyline for Harry and Spiderman to duke it out at the beginning of issue 1, start of issue 2 which leads to Harry’s hospitalization.

        But in the movie I was just sitting there going, cool fight but wtf?

        Likewise the reveal of Venom makes more sense as the last panel of issue 5 leading into the massive fight/resolution of issue 6, but in the movie I just wasn’t buying it.

        Weirdly, I thought Spiderman 2 worked better as a movie, even if the story was less engaging. I would have to watch it again to actually be more critical of it.

        What I meant by overwrought was the blatant voice over of the central themes of each movie. I know they are central Spiderman themes, I know the villains are important Spiderman villains, but voicing the theme at the end of the first movie in particular was really hokey.

        Oh and getting back to the being a movie versus being a comic angle. The overall story with MJ was a continual up/down on again off again thing, that might work within the context of a single movie, but over three movies shows the writers aren’t thinking. Except of course they are playing out the Spiderman story, but if that happened in another trilogy series without the background of Spiderman it would be really bad.

        On this line, what was your view on Sin City, which explicitly and deliberately confined itself to be as close to the comic-on-screen as possible. Even the various shot selections are identical.

        I had a couple of problems with Sin City.
        1) Frank Miller is a jackass and his story sucks so the movie was never going to be good. All the female characters were useless damsels in distress with no power except the power of their male saviour. Even the butch females needed rescuing by a man.
        2) I felt that the restriction of style really stiffened the acting. For the most part everyone was either overacted or completely uncomfortable in their roles. I can understand trying to be stylistic and mimic what is happening in the comics, but the comics themselves are trying to mimic the old noir detective stories, so you are now making a movie that is mimicking a comic that is mimicking a movie.

        What’s worse is that they are making a second one. I fear the world that did not see the same movie that I did because they were so “impressed” with the style and failed to see what it was really hiding.

        Just to add that in an old Bogart movie for example, the women (or at least the lead) are always smart, sexy and totally aware of the power they have. They have vulnerability but so do the male leads and both try to veil it behind a smokescreen of charm and cool. Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale is a really good example of something similar. The previous Bond girls have been little more than eye candy with little character and certainly no spunk.

        Obviously Sin City is not a movie I ever want to see again. πŸ˜€

      • mashugenah says:

        Spiderman still confined itself to a story based on the serial cliffhanger nature of a 3-6 part modern comic story, instead of realising that it was actually a movie.

        Ah, I see. Yeah, I hadn’t noticed that, but now you mention it, the movie was structured as a series of vignettes.

        I had a couple of problems with Sin City.

        Lol. Just one or two minor points eh?

        I liked the Bruce Willis/Jessica Alba story, but wasn’t too fussed about the others.

        For me the movie got a few kudos points for genuinely making me go “eeewww”. Like when they rescue the chick whose hand has been eaten. Then again, Idiot did that the other day with his story about a doctor who used to do lobotomies as a party trick. I had nightmares that night. :/

        Just to add that in an old Bogart movie for example, the women (or at least the lead) are always smart, sexy and totally aware of the power they have.

        I would have argued the other way, that typically we eventually learn that their strength is superficial, and they need the strength of a man to make it to the final hurdle. The only real exception I can think of is Bridget in The Maltese Falcon, who uses her “feminine wiles” to the bitter end, and Geiger’s assistant in The Big Sleep who likewise is always totally in control.

        Meh. What do I know about feminism?

      • jarratt_gray says:

        Lol. It was the Big Sleep that was filtering through my brain when writing that.

        Also I never said my problems with Sin City were minor. πŸ˜€

    • mashugenah says:

      Just because it isn’t highbrow, doesn’t make light entertainment any less fun.

      Sure. I saw Ocean’s 13 on Friday, and it delivered a very palatable helping of fun. Not highbrow, also overly complex at patches, ultimately just light-n-fluffy. But I don’t care.

      Transformers didn’t deliver that for me. I’ll happily grant that this is partly a matter of taste: I prefer a good caper movie to an SF action generally speaking… but at the same time, I think that Ocean’s 13 was simply a slicker production all round.

      Additionally Transformers is a super hero movie, not a sci-fi movie. In fact it really has hardly any sci-fi elements at all.

      Uh, yeah maybe. I can certainly see why you’d argue that. But I think the moral challenges facing the heroes were a bit superficial to measure up to even most modest superhero stories. As someone eloquently expressed it: while reality may fluctuate in comics, emotional reality generally holds true. I didn’t see enough emotion in the whole movie to really push it outside of a simple children’s fantasy and into the realms of superhero-type stuff.

      Totally right though that it’s not by any means SF.

      Also it was much better than all 3 Spiderman Movies.

      I’m really too much of a Spiderman fanboy to have a rational discussion in those terms. πŸ™‚ Seeing the Green Goblin and Venom on screen gave me such a deep seated and intense thrill that I can forgive most faults in S1 and S3. S2 however, I’ll spare no quarter. It was shit. And not because Doc Ock isn’t as cool as The Green Goblin. I think Alfred Molina did a damned fine job with what he had to work with. Rather I think that S1 and S3 were true-enough to the emotional reality of the characters, while s2 was just CGI porn.

    • mashugenah says:

      Just because it isn’t highbrow, doesn’t make light entertainment any less fun.

      Sure. I saw Ocean’s 13 on Friday, and it delivered a very palatable helping of fun. Not highbrow, also overly complex at patches, ultimately just light-n-fluffy. But I don’t care.

      Transformers didn’t deliver that for me. I’ll happily grant that this is partly a matter of taste: I prefer a good caper movie to an SF action generally speaking… but at the same time, I think that Ocean’s 13 was simply a slicker production all round.

      Additionally Transformers is a super hero movie, not a sci-fi movie. In fact it really has hardly any sci-fi elements at all.

      Uh, yeah maybe. I can certainly see why you’d argue that. But I think the moral challenges facing the heroes were a bit superficial to measure up to even most modest superhero stories. As someone eloquently expressed it: while reality may fluctuate in comics, emotional reality generally holds true. I didn’t see enough emotion in the whole movie to really push it outside of a simple children’s fantasy and into the realms of superhero-type stuff.

      Totally right though that it’s not by any means SF.

      Also it was much better than all 3 Spiderman Movies.

      I’m really too much of a Spiderman fanboy to have a rational discussion in those terms. πŸ™‚ Seeing the Green Goblin and Venom on screen gave me such a deep seated and intense thrill that I can forgive most faults in S1 and S3. S2 however, I’ll spare no quarter. It was shit. And not because Doc Ock isn’t as cool as The Green Goblin. I think Alfred Molina did a damned fine job with what he had to work with. Rather I think that S1 and S3 were true-enough to the emotional reality of the characters, while s2 was just CGI porn.

  2. cha0sslave says:

    I wasn’t impressed really.

    Thre was FAR too much CGI content, and yea sure obviously making actual robotic transformers is imposible but the amount they had was just overwhelming. It really worked well in Jurrasic Park when the technology was new, and it was somewhat appealing in LOTR but that was mainly because of the sheer scale of it but in transformers it was just too fast and chaotic. I found it really hard to actually watch what was going on when the transformers were fighting or chasing each other and they never seemed to really fight as such, just greek wrestle over small buildings while stuntmen and extras ran out of the way.

    There were 2 or 3 things about it that annoyed me too and went too far past the suspecion of disbelief for me. Firstly, the scale fo the transformers. They completely shat on the concept of spatial geometry. When Bumblebee was a car he was a normal sized Camaro, that’s fine, of course there was no sign at all of the massive amount of advanced technology present in his robot form but hey whatever right. What pissed me off was when they transformed, they were all of a sudden HUGE. Optimus must have been 60 feet tall when standing upright and with appropriate scale too, there was no way in hell that much material could ever be condensed into the size of a full cab Kenworth tractor unit. Never!!. The only one that was maybe plausable was Jazz, the lil VW or whatever he was since he was pretty small all the way through. Now sure they have advanced technology but I don’t recall anywhere in trasformers lore that they could create interdimensional rifts and hide part of themselves inside one, which leaves optical illusions but that can’t be either since there was too much physical contact and no displacement of nearby structures. No they ruined it for me there.

    And you cannot hide one 60 foot giant Robot in a backyard, certainly not 4 of them, doesn’t happen. And how could a bunch of highly trained special forces guys NOT notice a shiny twitchy, chattering robotoid climbing out of a plane and onto the tarmac, there WOULD have been a perimetre force watching every inch of the plane, and snipers keeping track with all sorts of different scope technologies. (night vision and infra-red surely).

    But meh, I never did like the original series either so there was never going to be any magical experience for me.

  3. cha0sslave says:

    I wasn’t impressed really.

    Thre was FAR too much CGI content, and yea sure obviously making actual robotic transformers is imposible but the amount they had was just overwhelming. It really worked well in Jurrasic Park when the technology was new, and it was somewhat appealing in LOTR but that was mainly because of the sheer scale of it but in transformers it was just too fast and chaotic. I found it really hard to actually watch what was going on when the transformers were fighting or chasing each other and they never seemed to really fight as such, just greek wrestle over small buildings while stuntmen and extras ran out of the way.

    There were 2 or 3 things about it that annoyed me too and went too far past the suspecion of disbelief for me. Firstly, the scale fo the transformers. They completely shat on the concept of spatial geometry. When Bumblebee was a car he was a normal sized Camaro, that’s fine, of course there was no sign at all of the massive amount of advanced technology present in his robot form but hey whatever right. What pissed me off was when they transformed, they were all of a sudden HUGE. Optimus must have been 60 feet tall when standing upright and with appropriate scale too, there was no way in hell that much material could ever be condensed into the size of a full cab Kenworth tractor unit. Never!!. The only one that was maybe plausable was Jazz, the lil VW or whatever he was since he was pretty small all the way through. Now sure they have advanced technology but I don’t recall anywhere in trasformers lore that they could create interdimensional rifts and hide part of themselves inside one, which leaves optical illusions but that can’t be either since there was too much physical contact and no displacement of nearby structures. No they ruined it for me there.

    And you cannot hide one 60 foot giant Robot in a backyard, certainly not 4 of them, doesn’t happen. And how could a bunch of highly trained special forces guys NOT notice a shiny twitchy, chattering robotoid climbing out of a plane and onto the tarmac, there WOULD have been a perimetre force watching every inch of the plane, and snipers keeping track with all sorts of different scope technologies. (night vision and infra-red surely).

    But meh, I never did like the original series either so there was never going to be any magical experience for me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s