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Transformers DVD Review

Transformers

July 3, 2007

Director: Michael Bay,
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Rachael Taylor, Anthony Anderson, Jon Voight, John Turturro, Michael O'Neill, Kevin Dunn, Peter Cullen, Julie White, Bryan Cox, Amaury Nolasco, Mark Ryan,

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DVD Review

Friday June 22nd, and some of the staff from TheTransformers.Net and TransformersTheMovie.com made the long and arduous journey down to London for the premier of Transformers.

That’s right, despite our long running and publicised feud with Don Murphy and his stooges, where Don even accused us of leaking the trailer in advance (like we could get hold of that in Wales) we were still invited to the premier.

Arriving at Leicester Square in London we found the Empire cinema has a new floor adorned with a Transformers design. An hour before the doors were due to open the nerds started to gather, all recoiling from the light that had scarcely seen their pale skin since the first Transformers movie in 1986.

The usual suspects were there, the Moonies, Paul Cannon and perennial attendee at anything to do with Transformers, Andy Wildman. Even the great Mr Simon Furman was there, mingling with the public.

As the moment to enter the cinema approached, the nerd’s excitement hit fever pitch when Transformers t-shirt clad pr girls came out and asked if any of us had phones. They’re chatting us up! No, sadly they’re checking for people who didn’t bring phones so they could go straight in without queuing. A nerd without his phone? Naturally there weren’t many takers for their offer.

When we entered the cinema security was tight. We had to check in our phones and cameras, then have a bag search and then pass through the metal detectors. Once we passed all of this we were confronted with the same pr girls stood in front of a Transformers standee. Where’s my camera? Why was it taken off me when I need it most?

Incidentally there’s a scene in the film where the Decepticon Frenzy transforms into a mobile phone to be carried into a secure military instillation. If the security in the Hoover Dam base was as tight as the security at the cinema Frenzy would have been bagged and tagged and stored in reception. The military could learn from Paramount!

OK, so we entered the cinema and took our seats near an isle, and it wasn’t long before rumours started to spread that Michael Bay himself was in the house.

The rumours were true, after what seemed like hours with my watch moving time backwards Bay was announced, and together with the stars of the film took the stage to introduce the film. The nerd behind us, clutching his Transformer toy, even gave Megan Fox a high five when she walked passed, declaring he’ll never wash his hand again. You know, I believe he won’t. Considering the sprayed on dress she was wearing, I wouldn’t either.

Then the film started… with the familiar voice of Peter Cullen delivering the opening voice over. It’s at this point I let out a little wee, only slightly.

I was watching Transformers, after all these years. It was real.
I can’t go any further without talking about Optimus Prime. The scene where Prime gets his character introduction is beautiful. He drives through the smoke with all the poise and majesty you’d expect from the great Optimus. The theatre erupted when he introduced himself “I am Optimus Prime”. It wasn’t the last cheer Prime would get either, but more on that later.

The main focus of the film revolves around the relationship between Sam (Spike Witwicky in the original cartoon) and the weak Autobot Bumblebee. Except in this, Bumblebee isn’t the weak Transformers we’ve all come to love. Quite the opposite, his fight with Barricade shows him as a seriously tough warrior.

Sam purchases Bumblebee as his first car in a scene that demonstrates a lot of humour and a glorious in-joke. Next to the muscle car Camero guise that Bumblebee has taken is a yellow Volkswagen Beetle; the original Bumblebee.

This is one of many in gags for the Transformers faithful present in the film. Classic Transformers lines crop up everywhere, some subtle, some not so subtle. To be honest they were slightly over-used and seemed to be inserted just to appease the fans.

The relationship between Sam and Bumblebee was well explored and developed throughout the film, and was very similar to that of a Herbie film. Probably just as well Bumblebee wasn’t a beetle; otherwise the similarity would have been too transparent.

The biggest character inconsistency for me derives from the original G1 cartoon. Now before you go ‘oh here he goes, ranting about how it’s not G1’ – I’m not going to do that. You see, even the most hardcore G1 fan (and I count myself in that) understands that the original cartoon was a bit thin in terms of characterisation and plot, yet even in that most basic of children’s cartoon the Autobots understood that if you’re about to have a massive battle with the Decepticons you should get out of a populated area. Innocent humans could get hurt.

Not the film. Oh no, with the Allspark cube safely in the Autobot’s possession, and an imminent Decepticon attack coming they decide to take the cube to a nearby city. Why? Because it looks good for the final battle. This is a sorry example of a stupid plot point being inserted to link one scene to an action sequence. They want a battle in a city, and aren’t afraid to sacrifice characterisation for it.

Shame; it didn’t need to be that clunky.

One of the biggest gripes for G1 and indeed all Transformers fans will be the character of Optimus Prime. Rather than the noble, self sacrificing hard as nails hero we know him to be, this Prime comes across as something of a bumbling fool. The cringe-worthy scenes of him trying to hide in Sam’s garden and him dropping two humans from his grasp are so un-Optimus Prime like it hurts.

Prime also doesn’t do what Prime does best very often, and that’s beat the living snot out of Decepticons. Only once in the film does the mighty Optimus show how much of a badass he is when he takes out of the ‘cons on the highway. This was done with huge style and was reminiscent of the original ’86 movie. This action was greeted with a unanimous cheer from the audience.

Prime’s final battle with Megatron will leave a nasty taste in the mouth, you have been warned.

With director Michael Bay at the helm you can be sure of one thing; the action sequences will be big and explosive. He’s noted for his loud, fast car chases. With this in mind you’d think that a car chase between two Transformers would provide the ultimate action sequence. Two cars chasing after each other, with the ability to transform into giant robots; has to be awesome. Sadly the car chase between Bumblebee and Barricade doesn’t quite live up to the expectation. It’s not that fast, it’s not that exciting and it focuses too much on the humans inside Bumblebee.

How can you do that wrong? Somehow, Bay found a way.

It’s not bad, don’t get me wrong. It’s just not the ultimate car chase I was hoping for.

Naturally where this film excels is with the Transformers themselves. The CGI from ILM is some of the best work they’ve ever done, and the transformations, particularly those of Bumblebee and Barricade are smooth as you like.

The Autobots look excellent, they’re everything you could want from a Transformers film, and Optimus Prime, visually at least, IS Optimus Prime. The problem lies with the Decepticons. While they look decent enough in vehicle modes (Devestator aside, wobbly gun turrets?) they look bland as you like in robot mode. So much so that in final climactic battle it’s very hard to see who is who.

The wisdom of choosing Hugo Weaving to voice Megatron was questionable as well.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 84%

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