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"Transformers"

Directed by Michael Bay.
Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.
Starring Shia LeBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel and Jon Voight.
Release Year:  2007

Review Date:  7/3/07

Folks--

A friend of mine bought me the first five episodes of the cartoon series "Transformers" about five years ago for my birthday; people who have known me for a while know that I'm a huge fan of the toys and the TV show and the star-studded theatrical movie from 1986 (featuring--shocker!--Orson Welles, Casey Kasem and Judd Nelson) and damn near everything Transformers.  I still remember the first one I bought, Sideswipe, and my brother and I went on to buy pretty much every major character after that.  Megatron.  Jazz.  Optimus Prime.  Soundwave.  Starscream.  Ratchet.  Ironhide.  Bumblebee.  It's a shame that they've all been lost/broken/eaten/given away, because they were my favorite toys to play with growing up.

I've been following the progress of this movie since inception, and for me, the turning point came when director Michael Bay was hired.  Bay, who has truly been a source of both good ("Bad Boys", "The Rock") and evil ("Armageddon"), has a penchant for blowing shit up but not such a great background with working with strong actors.  I thought that this might work, though, because for the first time, Bay won't have a truly gifted cast to work with AND all he has to do is blow shit up while hoping that his CGI department delivers the goods on some bad-ass visuals.

This, combined with taking care of the hard-core Transformers fan base (which, if I can believe what I'm seeing so far from other friends of mine, is quite large amongst men and women), makes "Transformers" a surprise:  a good, solid--albeit overly long--action film that features the toys I remember in a modern setting while keeping the story simple and the effects fancy...AND, amazingly, featuring a human cast that does a good job.  Instead of giving us the TV show's history lesson of following the Autobots (good guys) and Decepticons (bad guys) from their days on Cybertron to when they left for other planets to find energy that can be dumped into Energon Cubes and sent back to Cybertron via a space bridge--hehehe--the movie takes another angle.  Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving, Agent Smith of "The Matrix" fame), the leader of the Decepticons, is frozen in a lab where he's been for 70 years; his disciples have been searching the planet for him, and when the movie opens, they have just about found him by going through extensive files in the US military's database (they're crafty) and learning that both Megatron and The Cube--which is silly and will be left to be explained by those who followed its brief history in this movie--are located in the same lab near Hoover Dam.  The Autobots are scouring the universe looking for this cube, but luckily, one of their scouts, Bumblebee, has found the kid (Shia LeBeouf) whose grandfather buried The Cube many years before Megatron was captured trying to discover it.  Bumblebee protects the kid while the military ramps up for a major defensive, since they have seen the power and might of the Decepticons during an incredible opening sequence when one of their spies makes a run on that information.

Whatever.  Here's what is important:

  • The Transformer robots are all pretty much sexy-time.  We get some familiar faces--good guy second-in-charge Jazz, Ratchet, Ironhide, Bumblebee, Starscream, Megatron, and of course, Optimus Prime...and, in what has to be the greatest, coolest, most important thing about the new movie, somebody tracked down Peter Cullen, who voiced Prime in the 1984-87 TV show, and had him voice Prime in this movie.  I'm telling you, this rivals the moment in the credits of "Superman Returns" when they played "The Superman Music", which might be the most heroic theme of our times.  The special effects will be nominated for an Oscar and watching the robots transform is strangely a thing of beauty.

  • There is a lot of filler between bot battles, but then again, watching the Transformers wrestle for two hours would have been boring, so thankfully, Bay gets a lot of mileage out of his two leads, LeBeouf (who truly has "major movie star" written all over him; I'm amazed at his charisma onscreen after really just five major motion pictures) and Megan Fox, who is jailbait-sexy as a high schooler with heavily-toned abs.  The script has some great laughs and mixing things up between this pairing, the military's plight (led by Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson, the people have good reason to have faith in our soldiers, ahem) and the government action (with Jon Voight taking a check to run around as the Secretary of Defense) makes the adventure worth taking.

  • Major Transformer botches are kept to a minimum, but still, I should have been consulted before any movie was released.  First, Megatron, is a plane in this film, not a gun as he is in every other iteration of this franchise.  Second, Soundwave--the tape deck Decepticon that could release his mini-tape killers on command, like Ravage the dog and Laserbeak the pterodactyl while yelling "OPERATION...DESTRUCTION" is either not in this movie or he is shamefully the very, very, very small boombox that does all the spying for Megatron early in this movie.  Either way, they blew it.  Third, Spike and Sparkplug--the human friends to the Autobots who only had one outfit, the construction uniform they were wearing in the first episode of the TV show--are now Sam and Ron; couldn't we have just named them Spike and Sparkplug?  How hard would that have been?

Otherwise, this thing is great; even freakin' Dave Bell liked this movie, and Dave Bell normally hates everything that isn't called "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka."  Finally, a new summer franchise emerges that I'm excited about!

Rating:  $9.50 Show

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09