Michael Bay’s Transformers movie is awesome, a must-see, a glorious example of what a summer blockbuster should be.
Now, permit me to nitpick:
Second generation robots fan
My brothers, both half-a-decade older than me, were nostalgic over local TV stations re-airing Voltes V and Daimos around the mid-to-late 80s. I, though also a fan of both shows, was more into Bioman, Voltron, and of course, THE Transformers.
I religiously watched the original cartoon series in grade school. Ironhide was a favorite, for a reason I now forget; Gestalt teams (Autobots who combine to form a much larger robot: Constructicons, Protectobots, etc.) were a much anticipated show feature; Skyfire’s Decepticon-to-Autobot story was cheesy drama that got to me; Omega Supreme’s immense presence radiated through the TV screen; and my heart thumped enthusiastically years later when fate had me watch the animated movie, along with the standard-issue hair-band guitar score.
Now that I’m pushing thirty, I still go nostalgic over stuff like this. I readily put out my hard earned RMB when I saw a complete First Generation Transformers DVD set in Shanghai about a year ago. Honestly though, the rush was second only to my finding the Aeon Flux animated series. Sexy beats robot-cool anytime.
Expecting the worst
When news came out that Michael Bay was directing a live-action adaptation of Transformers, and with him not being a fan of the series, and him being, well, Michael Bay, I had the same response as most of the movie community: we should all expect the worst. When image leaks of the robots came out, and it was found out that Bumblebee wasn’t a VW Beetle, and Megatron looked like an arty steel park sculpture, I knew sacrilege was too kind a word. But when Peter McCullen was confirmed to be the voice of Optimus Prime (after a ridiculous audition process), and that Prime still looked credible intact and inspired from the original character, I was slowly giving in to the anticipation. This can’t be any worse than that Aeon Flux movie (I ceased watching that poor excuse for a film after the first 15 minutes).
The anti-awesomeness of it all
Yes, considering most factors, this wasn’t a bad movie after all. The action scenes were stylishly and tastefully done, the robots -though a far, and confusing departure from the animated series, and were clumsily introduced, and underdeveloped to have solid-enough characters- were all mecha-excellent, from a simple gesture, such as Prime posing in battle-mode before dueling with Megatron, or the first time Starscream transformed. Sorry, I’m still torn whether I should like Bumblebee, since he does seem like a forced, stereotypical cinematic device (the handicapped Autobot, the human-guardian robot).
But I’m glad Optimus Prime IS still patriotic-hero Optimus Prime, the unmistakable blue-red truck Autobot leader. Fans of the animated series are all too familiar with the majestic aura he exudes, but the movie failed in developing that properly. Must he always tell Spike, I mean Sam, that when they get the Allspark, to implant it in his heart to save mankind?
And that’s my main issue with the movie: mankind. Sure, the robots rule every scene they’re in, but otherwise, we get uninspired storylines of one high-school misfit crushing on random hot girl, a hacker group with unimpressive eccentricities, an ultra-macho US Armed Forces going all-out to save the world, and a tired Roswell-alien type discovery that the government kept for decades: all of that was front and center, while the Autobot-Decepticon feud felt like a sub-plot.
Hamming up the troops
This Transformers film as US propaganda? There’s the all-cars-should-be-all-American-General-Motors-cars, the obvious corporate product placements (eBay, Apple computers, etc.) and there’s the incessant involvement of the mighty US Armed Forces generously smothered over this blockbuster. Alright, this is a Hollywood product, we should all expect as much, but then, I wouldn’t even think much of this angle at all, if this WAS primarily a story of awesome vehicle-transforming alien robots in the first place.
Lord of the Allspark
The Allspark vs. the Energon cubes? The Allspark radiation-power to give random gadgets robot-trasnforming capabilities has a minute spark of imagination to it, but the animated series’ harvesting, collecting of energon cubes from earth to bring to home-planet Cybertron seemed to be a more convincing -in the traditional sci-fi sense, I guess- plot.
So, preferring the ring-of-Lord-of-the-Rings inspired Allspark -looking like a box of painted-on foam during the last half-hour of the movie- over Energon cubes, might have something to do with the Earth’s drastic dry-out of its natural resources? Or maybe they wanted to leave out the topic of diminishing oil reserves (and the US’s role in the suspected promotion and exploitation of it)?
For argument’s sake, I just hope this was a bad decision made during the series-to-film adaptation.
Robots are funny here; humans are lame
Autobots trying to hide their gargantuan selves from being discovered around a house: funny. Not LOL-funny, but funny nonetheless. Humans in the supposedly comedic parts (the used-car salesman, the unsuspecting hacker, the wasting of John Turturro) fall hard and flat. The army-man having that unfortunate call to an Indian call center dude pushing for a credit card promo instead of just letting him through an urgent call to the Pentagon? Clever, but I saw that in the trailer already.
All that said, this is probably the only Michael Bay film I’d ever consider viewing a second time. Though, like a teenager on constant fast-forward to the dirty parts of a porno, I think I’ll be best of isolating the robot scenes from anything else.
Before you leave this page, ask yourself this: if Optimus Prime said that they learned the human language via the Internet, then how can Megatron speak the language right after thawing out from his frozen state?
Read a Pinoycentric interview of Floro Dery, a Pinoy character creator for the Transformers animated movie here.
UPDATE: Transformers was shown at the bus on the way home, and I had this odd feeling that this was some form of deja vu, but not because I’ve seen the movie before. Later on, I had the quick realization that 1/3 of Bay’s Transformers is following the current trend made popular by the Fast and the Furious movie series: you have your seedy-past-babe, run-ins with the law, even some of the photography in the car chase scenes.