July 9, 2014

Shadowcon Mini-Views- Transformers (2007)

Alright, so I'd said I'd do this and here we are! Quickest turn-around time for this site I think, and I'm pretty happy to be back on here after a week of absence (seriously, that's like a whole year in Internet world).

I feel the need to clarify a few things before we begin our brief look at the film Transformers, because many of you might be going into this review with your own opinions on the film, or if not that, then you probably have preconceived notions of what I'm going to say about the film given that I am a Transformers fan. Let me be clear: these are not good movies. There is very little humanity in any of these, the plots of all three of the films are at best tepid (and become worse as you progress through the series), and the humor is some of the worst I've ever had to sit through. So no, these films are not good films. But that's okay from time to time. There's a reason that the title Summer Blockbuster exists: because a stereotypical summer blockbuster isn't going to have much of a plot or deep intricate characters. And these are very much stereotypical blockbusters (hell, some would say that these are parodies of summer blockbusters for how much ludicrousness is in them). Yet these movies (at least the first and third ones) do at least lend themselves very well to that audience; there's a distinct difference between a dumb popcorn action flick and a movie that actively tries to kill all brain function in its audience. Thankfully, the first Transformers is the former of these two types of films. So let's dive right in.

Given that this is a Mini-View, I'll not be doing a blow-by-blow of the plot(s), but I will say that this movie is, unlike the others in the franchise, justifiably enormous. It has a total of five whole plots running through it, and as a result, none of them shine to their fullest. And what's worse is that the Transformers themselves are like the fourht plot tossed in here, so they shine even less. You have Sam who is supposed to be a typical teenager guy but comes off more as an obnoxious doofus... I mean that in the way typical teenager guys don't come off as obnoxious doofuses. He's like a five year-old personality trying to impersonate a teenage guy. The female lead is even worse here. Megan Fox doesn't do anything with her role besides look sexy to most people (though I don't find her all that stunningly sexy myself).

Misogynistic comments aside, the rest of the human cast is all over the place both in terms of character and relevancy. You have these military guys running round trying to get back to base, hackers trying to figure out what we're dealing with after a Transformer attacks a military base, and then out of nowhere you have a secret government agency that brings everything together in a quick and extremely convoluted package. See, this is the problem with this film: the plots spun here are too numerous and wind up not only driving up the runtime but also end up jeopardizing any one of them to actually shine.

But all of that is (supposedly, for we do spend too much time on all of that) in service of getting to the Transformers... y'know, the title characters! And truth be told, there isn't much to glean in terms of character from them either. No, what sets this film apart in peoples' minds are really just the effects. And as a summer blockbuster, that's as it should be: effects driving the action and pace of the movie so that we can all have a relatively good time. And enjoyment does come here, not only during when the action scenes of the film come about, but also in just looking at the Transformers interact with their environment. When this appeared in theaters for the first time in 2007, people were just gushing about how much the effects wowed them. And rightly so, for the effects in this film are absolutely gorgeous and thrilling to look at. Just the way the Transformers move and the way they interact with the world around them really gives the impression that these are not just CGI layered over live action but actual beings with mass and weight and heft to them. The transformations are awesome jigsaw puzzles to behold, and nothing looks out of place with the effects in the movie, and they still stand up to today's standards, looking unashamedly superior what Age of Extinction brought us in the CGI department. Transformers is not a "good" movie; that much is obvious just by the premise. But there is some enjoyment to be had from it.

That's me as a critic more so as a fan, so let's look at that fan side of this, shall we?

To those who somehow haven't guessed from my Project 365 posts, I'm half a year shy of twenty as of 2014, so as you may imagine, I was not born in the '80s. Hell, I was born in the mid '90s, squarely in the middle of the decade that almost nothing happened. So I've come into the Transformers scene as a fan growing up mostly on the Unicron Trilogy (I know) and the few slivers of the RID stuff that was still around by the time I was eight. So really, I'm not a G1 fanboy here; hell, I think that's one of the more boring continuities in terms of what the '80s established and messed around with (don't kill me please!)

That's not to say that the mythos that G1 established isn't important, and I'm not dismissing the world that the cartoon and comics introduced (look at all the good that came from it like Beast Wars, IDW, etc.). I'm just saying that, as a person who didn't grow up on the '80s glory days, I have no nostalgia to fall back on when viewing these films. So I'm coming at this recognizing the G1 cartoon as an extremely important base from which obviously better content has arisen and not as this be-all-end-all entity of Transformers-dom that no other thing having to do with Transformers will ever beat, because I think the majority of fiction coming after the original cartoon has beaten it... I probably just lost every viewer on the site, haven't I?! Damn.

Anyway, does this film do right by the Transformers brand in terms of either paying homage to the franchise? Well that's really up to the individual fan, but for me, I think it does do good by the franchise by introducing Transformers to a much larger audience, which is a great thing. I think this movie in particular pays its respects to the various other fiction out there without doing what the later installments of the franchise did which was just spit on everything that came before. And that doesn't come from me thinking that the film franchise "raped my childhood" or whatever, because it didn't. This was just an exciting awesome film that I think did a great job at seeing the Transformers themselves come to life on screen even if the rest of the film didn't.

There are people out there who still hate on the movie aesthetic and/or characters, saying that things should be just like they were in the '80s. To the vocal minority who says this, here're some thoughts for you to mull over: First, Transformers is inherently about change. Second, can you imagine how stupid live action versions of the '80s designs would look on screen? And finally, the live action film franchise isn't being made exclusively for the adult fans who just want nostalgia; these are movies for a wider audience to get people interested in the brand. The first film I think did this to a reasonable degree. Unfortunately, its successors did not.

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