And now, Scary-Crayon reviews...
TRANSFORMERS: the Michael Bay film
by: Wes

Before we get into the meat of the review, let's just get this out of the way right now: ugh. It's not even a real word (despite it having a dictionary.com entry), but it pretty much sums up my opinion of Transformers. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised by how badly the movie turned out -- after all, we're talking about a Michael Bay film -- but I admittedly had high hopes for Transformers. I mean, it's a difficult idea to fuck up. You've got the heroic Autobots, led by the wise and dedicated Optimus Prime, facing off against the villainous Decepticons and their charismatic leader, Megatron. These two robot factions have waged war on each other for hundreds -- thousands -- millions of years, destroying countless worlds in the process... and now our own planet Earth is caught in the crossfire. Will the Autobots prevail, or will Megatron seal the fate of humanity by crushing Optimus Prime with his bare hands? Understanding the source material always helps, but you'd barely have to know anything about Transformers to take that premise and make something wicked out of it.

The birds and the Bumblebees.

That is, of course, unless you have such disdain for the source material and such an overinflated ego that you take the production in an almost entirely different direction. Michael Bay's Transformers does indeed feature robots at war, but only for about 30 minutes -- if that -- of the 144 minute runtime. For the remainder of the movie, you get moronic "jokes" cribbed from UPN/CW comedies and a few bits where the robotic equivalent of a Gremlin runs around breaking things and gibbering to itself. When I sat down in that theater, I naturally expected to see a movie about the Transformers, but instead I got Shia LeBeouf acting nervous around Megan Fox and Anthony Anderson eating donuts and screaming and pointless government shit that had no bearing whatsoever on the actual plot. Then, when the Autobots finally showed up in force, they blundered around saying shit like, "'Sup little bitches," and "Oops, my bad." Bumblebee even "leaked lubricant" -- that is, urinated -- on one of the special ops guys. The Decepticons fared even worse, as most of them didn't even have speaking roles. And it baffles me that somehow, despite the fact that the film blatantly ignores the source material and dwells at length on pointless crap, Transformers is not only getting positive reviews from people who know nothing about Transformers -- which I suppose makes sense, given the intelligence of your average American -- but from the fans themselves. I visited the Energon Pub Forums on seibertron.com, where one fan who loved the movie challenged those who didn't (and I was thankful to know that these others exist, even if they were decidedly in the minority) to share their own thoughts for improving the script -- the implication being that it was so great that these detractors would find themselves unable to reply. I didn't do so there because I'm not even a member of the forums -- I was just dropping by to see how hardcore TF fans responded to the film -- but in response to that challenge I'll toss out a few ideas.

Sex over substance.

For one, if I'd been writing Transformers, I would have cut the bullshit out of the story. In Bay's movie, the Autobots come to Earth looking for a pair of spectacles that supposedly has the coordinates to the Allspark imprinted on one of its lenses. However, considering that they are captured by government officials and taken to the very same secret installment where the Allspark is being kept -- thereby negating the need to locate the glasses at all -- the race to find the stupid specs is completely unnecessary. It's also worth noting that the Autobots and Decepticons are all able to discern that the glasses in Sam's possession are in fact the pair of glasses with the coordinates just by looking at an image of them on eBay. If they're able to do that, you'd think these super advanced robots would be able to use their superior technology to magnify the picture and just read the damned coordinates right then and there, right? But no, for some reason they still need to go through a whole bunch of stupid crap to secure a pair of glasses that they end up not even needing. How much simpler would it have been to just have had Sam Witwicky be in possession of the Allspark itself? This would not only fill in the gaping plot holes and trim the stupidity introduced by the glasses, but also explain why the Transformers needed to locate Sam Witwicky -- because while a scanned image of a map is as useful as the actual map, a photograph of a three-dimensional WMD with various unique and terrible properties is decidedly not as useful or dangerous as the weapon itself.

Robot monsters attack generic soldiers. Exciting.

If I'd been scripting the movie, I'd also have -- I dunno -- actually made the film about the Transformers instead of wasting most of the overlong runtime with stupid human antics and stupid jokes that appeal to the lowest common denominator of the viewing audience. See, when I read the Michael Bay interviews in which he maligned the original cartoon for being silly and went on about how he wanted to do a more serious Transformers film and provide the characters with more depth, I kinda assumed that he would do just that. I mean, even though I enjoy the G1 cartoon, even its theme song is pretty misleading: the Autobots were hardly waging a battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons. At best, with the exception of Optimus Prime, they were mildly interested in foiling the Decepticons' plans -- and only then as long as it didn't distract them from goofing off and doing things like building retarded comrades and having snowball fights. When the 1986 movie began with the Decepticons having conquered all of Cybertron and being on the verge of smashing the Autobots once and for all, nobody was surprised. Given that, it would have been entirely understandable for Bay to want to make a live-action film in which hardened robot warriors with millions of years of experience under their belts didn't waste time playing with children while their enemies were consistently on task and preparing for war. Instead, he cribbed the Transformers' personalities from the robots on Futurama and filled his movie with gags even more immature and juvenile than anything G1 ever produced.

"Oops, my bad."

So had I been writing the movie, I would have imbued the Transformers with more gravitas and given them more screentime, such that when (and if, since I'm not sure there needed to be an Autobot casualty at all) one of them died, viewers would actually care. In this film, the robots were so devoid of personality and depth that not even Optimus Prime gave a crap when his comrade of presumably 1,000+ years was killed. When we watched Transformers: the Movie, we gasped when the original Autobots were wiped out by the Decepticons early in the film. When Optimus Prime dropped the Matrix and turned grey, we cried. But here, Jazz's death was so meaningless that even Prime immediately glossed over it with a line to the effect of, "We've lost a comrade... but we've gained new ones!" Weak. And you know what else was weak? The fact that Megatron was benched on ice until the very, very end of the film. If I'd been writing the script, I might've begun with Blackout attacking a military facility for undisclosed reasons -- but immediately after the attack, I would've had that Decepticon report to Megatron. Instead of being frozen, this Megatron would be stationed on the moon or in an underwater base somewhere on Earth a la G1, and during the ensuing communication the audience could not only learn more about the Decepticons' plot and goals, but also be introduced to the other enemy characters. Starscream could briefly argue with Megatron, the other Decepticons could be selected for various missions based on their unique strengths, and so forth. It wouldn't be Shakespearian depth by any means, but you'd at least have enough characterization be able to call Starscream "the rebellious one" or Devastator "the brute." I mean, when you walk out of a movie featuring multiple characters -- especially one that basically amounts to a feature-length toy commercial -- you should be able to say, "I like X or Y," and give one or two reasons for your choice. Expanding the Transformers' role in the film by including scenes like that, not to mention actual dialogue for the Decepticons, would easily have allowed for that kind of viewer reaction.

Now THIS is a showdown.Megatron brings the pain.

And if anything should have been done right in a Transformers movie, it should have been the fights -- yet here as well Bay's version disappoints. Rather than giving us well-choreographed matches between the robotic titans, Bay opts for multiple explosions and rampant destruction so chaotic and obscured by smoke and collapsing debris that it's nigh impossible to follow the action. This works well in the opening scene because nobody is really supposed to know what's going on at that point (even though the opening narration sort of ruins the surprise with its paint-by-numbers explanation -- I'd get rid of that too and have the characters reveal it through dialogue), but when Prime faces off against Megatron it would be nice to be able to appreciate each blow and maneuver. Again, it's hard not to refer back to the 1986 film, as even 20+ years later that Prime/Megatron fight ranks among the best one-on-one animated battles in an American production. Granted, part of that was because of our emotional investment in the characters, which we've already noted was almost wholly absent from the new film, but with all of the fancy CGI employed in the 2007 Transformers you'd think they could have produced something more engaging than the incomprehensible mess Bay gave us. So in addition to having built up the characters such that the audience had a reason to care about how they fared in combat, I'd have scripted battles (or hired a qualified choreographer to do so) that were energetic yet easily accessible to the viewer. And considering that it makes no sense whatsoever that the so-called protectors of humanity would intentionally move their showdown with the Decepticons into a heavily populated city, I'd probably also have moved the fights to a remote and deserted location. But then again, if Prime didn't care when Jazz died, why should we expect him to mourn the thousands of humans that likely perished when he and Megatron went barrelling through office buildings in downtown Los Angeles?

Run away from this movie, Shia!

I could probably go on and on and on and on about the things that could and should have been done differently about Transformers, but it ultimately comes down to my contention that the movie should have been made by someone who didn't feel the need to turn a straightforward premise about warring robot factions into a goofy and uneven sitcom about a boy trying to get laid interspersed with clumsy military sequences and a few giant robots fighting in the background. The film is supposed to be about robots battling to determine the fate of the planet and possibly the universe, but instead Bumblebee wastes time playing lovemaking songs when he should just acquire the damned glasses from the onset -- assuming that finding the Allspark is all that important. The military wastes time by being comprised of incompetent idiots that ultimately have to rely on Department of Defense eye-candy and a shrieking donut-munching hacker to find out absolutely nothing, because apparently other inept military personnel in one of their own divisions were already in possession of all of the relevant information. The Autobots waste time trampling flowers and making complete asses of themselves when they should be resizing graphics and locating the enemy. The Decepticons waste time texting each other and, for the most part, not showing up until the very end. Michael Bay wastes time making this craptacular movie. And I waste time by actually deigning to write an article about it. :(

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