Transformers. The unreviewable movie franchise. I like them, but they suck at the same time. How is that even possible?
Everyone knows the deal by now. Don’t ask too much of it, dont think too hard, and you’ll be rewarded with some great special effects.
Actually though, in a couple of surprising ways, this movie became a little more than that (not much more mind you) and certainly, easily, became the best Transformers movie to date.
Once again, it’s Autobots vs Decepticons for the fate of Planet Earth. Except this time, they actually set up a reasonably decent backstory. I mean, by Transformers standards? This is Gone with the Wind. It’s also fairly free of gaping plot holes that are so egregious they take you instantly out of the movie. Last but not least, the sides here are clearly drawn amongst the Transformers… so that even the uninitiated will have no trouble knowing who’s who and which side they’re on. I even found a Transformer I like for the first time… the amazingly voiced Sentinel Prime.
Returning in his role as Vestigial Appendage is Shia LaBeouf. Providing Ass Shots for the first time is Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. (“Last time I saw a mouth like that, it had a hook in it.” – Rodney) She can’t act, but she’s not really asked to. LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky may be the most useless character ever to grace the silver screen, but to the movie’s credit at least they briefly acknowledge that in early subplots about his difficulties getting a job, and getting Military clearance after “Saving the World twice” (I watched those movies, did he?). Of course the flick then proceeds to bend over backwards in order to provide excuses and rationales to involve Sam in the action and make it seem like he has a purpose to serve aside from yelling “OPTIMUSSSS!!!”
Surrounding the two of them are a virtual legion of wasted, underperforming talents: Ken Jeong, Alan Tudyk, John Malkovich, John Turturro, Frances McDormand… I mean, some of these guys should be ashamed, seriously.
Bay compounds the problem by – literally – trying to squeeze a joke out of every second of the non-robot action early on. I was there thinking God, and people think he’s heavy hand with action sequences. And the humor is all so completely juvenile. There’s a laugh here or there, but only because he throws about a hundred pitches over the plate. Odds say you’ll throw a strike sooner or later. Other than that it was outright uncomfortable watching it try so hard to be funny.
Listen. If someone ever edited this movie to remove all the robots and take out every action scene, but left everything else exactly the same? It would quickly join “The Room” and “Troll 2” as one of the most ridiculous movies of all time.
But let’s be honest. No one is going to one of these movies to follow a good story or see some good acting. We go to see big robots kick the shit out of each other. And they do that aplenty. In fact, once the movie shifts it into high gear, it’s pretty much nothing but. Oh, and destroying buildings, too. There’s a lot of that. The special effects in this movie are spectacular, but they’re also backed by some good CGI choreography and a couple of halfway decent human involved action sequences. There were multiple times in this film when I was flat out awed by what I was seeing on the screen. Where all I could think was “wowwww…”
And right in the center of that was the film’s tremendous use of 3D. This is one you should definitely pony up the extra cash for, folks. I’ve been waiting for a movie to do this, I’m not even kidding. See? Ever since the new 3D “revolution” began, it seems as if films have been following James Cameron’s “Avatar” playbook. That is – this isn’t the 80s, throwing things off the screen at the audience, instead, let’s use 3D to create an immersive, subtle, realistic screen environment. Let’s not bludgeon the audience over the head with it.
To which Bay says, “Fuuuuuck that”.
Every frame of this movie pops with the 3D effect. Even exposition shots and set up sequences have great depth and rounded objects. This film is NOT cardboard cutouts positioned at different distances, it genuinely seems to have captured a workable, holistic picture. I was impressed. And of course, Bay isn’t hesitant to show it off, either, blowing things up over your head or in your face or following sky jumpers out of planes. The 3D here wowed me just as much, if not more, than the CGI.
So… the spectacle and the scale are worth getting out to the theater, undeniably. In the end though, there’s only so much bombast I can take. At 2 1/2 hours, with much of it being full blast blowout monster robot throwdowns, I was relieved to see it end. And of course, if you’re looking at it critically in the slightest, its the kind of movie that’s outright laughable at times for all the wrong reasons.
I enjoyed it well enough, but there’s no way I can go higher than a B-