written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman
directed by ever-lovin' Michael Bay
starring Shia LeBeouf, John Turturro and Peter Cullen
review by Stephen Notley
Expectations are funny things. One could go into Transformers expecting nothing more than a bunch of robots transforming and hammering on each other, and those expectations would be met, handsomely, dizzyingly. Transformers does not skimp on robots, transforming, or hammering. Quite the opposite; once the robots show up and really get to business the movie becomes a full-on hammerfest of transformational robotics, a belly-burting glut. But after the intial rush of met expectation wears off, what then? Now the expectations have been met one starts to expect more, and to reverse-engineer the previous expectations and their satisfaction.
I cackled with glee during Transformers' opening scene, and I cackled at other places, but looking back there was something harsh, even forced, about my barks of laughter. I had a ball while watching it, but the movie is already disintegrating in memory. Now that a live-action Transformers movie is shown to be possible, I find myself becoming retroactively disappointed at what this one failed to do.
Could the movie have had a more emotional, graceful storyline, perhaps along the lines Harry Knowles describes in his review at Ain't It Cool News? Surely yes. Does Michael Bay's military fetish, indelibly tied as it is to the essense of this movie, nonetheless betray the film? Perhaps. Quite likely. Would the movie have been better off without all the hacking and high-level governmenting bits in favor of scenes that allow you to get to know the Autobots and Decepticons a little better than just sort of being able to tell which is which? Undoubtedly.
And it's easy to go on, finding things that are crass or ill-conceived or could have been improved. It's easy to forget that the movie is solid enough to admit this criticism, has substance enough to be worth having its flaws cared about. It was supposed to be laughably ridiculous, but bless Bay and his army-loving heart, he asserted something in this film, something hard to deny.
Because the transformations are awesome. There have been many complaints about the robots' design, how they're confusing and fiddly and don't look like anything. But that, I say, is their genius, and no more so than during the act of transformation. It is mesmerizing, gears and shafts and plates and sheets moving around and up and behind and expanding and contracting, too many details whirling around to follow as the thing suddenly crystallizes into its new form. In our world, things don't look like this, don't shift and reform and lose and regain their shape. The only things that do are fire, smoke and water, and none of those things are solid objects. These Transformers, though, they are solid, bewilderingly so. They attract and offend the eye, make you feel like you've missed something, stir a bookmarked desire to see the movie again. They make Transformers worthwhile even as the rest of the movie melts into uneasy oblivion.