Give me a break on this one, I’m coming off a 2 and a half month hiatus from writing these things, so I’m a tad rusty. But it’s finally up, 3 days late. Enjoy, fans!
My job as a film critic is to essentially determine one thing: Was it a good movie? And for Michael Bay’s new action epic, Transformers, the answer is yes. But could it compete on the same level of quality film making as March’s Zodiac? Absolutely not. But it’s a different kind of filmmaking.
Shia LaBeouf (Disturbia) stars in this big screen, live action adaptation of the 80’s cartoon series, which in turn was based on a toy line of robots that turned into cars. LaBeouf plays Sam Witwicky, a high school loser who buys a junker of a car, which turns out to be Autobot Bumblebee, part of an alien race of robots from the planet Cybertron. The Autobots, led by Optimus Prime have come to earth in search of the Allspark, and keep it out of the hands of Megatron, leader of the Decepticons. Soon Earth gets thrust into the middle of an epic, centuries old battle between the Autobots and Decepticons.
Now, you can imagine the overall tone of the flick isn’t all that serious. You probably felt a little silly reading that, I know I felt silly writing it. But it’s this kind of film where Michael Bay (Armageddon, The Rock) tends to excel. The audacious, outlandish, cartoonish action flicks that dominate the summer blockbuster. I had no real great expectations for this movie. I knew it was going to be corny going in, but just amazing on the special effects and action sequences. And it was corny. But thoroughly entertaining.
I will say this about action movies today, they lack the linguistic spark that was predominant in the 80’s and early 90’s. While the plot-lines may have been low brow, the one-liners and wisecracks are the ones we still talk about today. And that’s where the script fails miserably for Transformers. The dialog is overtly and overly cheesy. It degrades to soap opera level cheese. During the climax, the love interest Mikaela (Megan Fox) says to Sam, “I’m glad I got in that car with you.” Yes, it refers to a set of lines earlier in the film, but even with a frame of reference, it’s just horrendously bad.
But bad actors delivering even worse lines is what these summer event movies are all about, right? I could do the round-up of the stars of the film: Vegas’s Josh Duhamal, a decent enough TV actor still trying to follow in the footsteps of George Clooney and failing miserably at it. John Voight, who is familiarly mediocre. Tyrese, a former model turned actor, need I say more. Fox, whom you’ve never heard of and will never hear from again, at least not outside the pages of Maxim. The only ones really worth watching are the bit parts, particularly John Turturro as a shady government agent, or the voice over actors with Brian Cox and Hugo Weaving both lending their voices to the robots in disguise, and the under-utilized star, Shia LaBeouf.
A bit of career advice for LaBeouf: You’ve actually got some talent. Pick scripts that showcase that talent. Yes, any child of the 80’s would jump at the chance to be in the Transformers movie. I know I would. But you’ll never get your due if you don’t earn it.
But acting and script aside, it was a great movie. It’s an odd thing to say, really, when you think about it. Considering 90% of what is judged about a movie is the acting and the script. But, it did deliver the enjoyment, the excitement, and the escapism I look for in epic, bombastic flicks. I didn’t go in expecting Citizen Kane, and I didn’t get that. That’s coming out ahead in my book.