07 October 2007

Mooney at the Movies: Transformers

"See, this is why I'm more ridiculous." (Paramount)

Transformers (B-)

Starring Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Jon Voight, John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese, Anthony Anderson, Bernie Mac, with the voices of Peter Cullen and Hugo Weaving
Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
Directed by Michael Bay

Alright, so I know I'm a little late to the game in seeing this, but better late than never I suppose.

So first of all, basing a movie on a series of toys is as ridiculous as basing it on a theme park ride, but in a post-Pirates world, I suppose you could base a movie on anything. But beyond the ludicrousness, is an undeniable sense of fun. Michael Bay has always followed the motto, "Blow stuff up first, let the audience think later (if at all)," and while it still follows that mantra, it's still a vast improvement over pretty much anything Bay has done.

The (alleged) story, as explained in the narration by Peter Cullen (voice of the original Optimus Prime), involves the Autobots (the good guys) and Decepticons (the baddies) searching all over Earth for a power source called "the Cube," a maguffin of the worst kind. Once the aliens arrive on our planet, they take the form of various GM vehicles (taking product placement to a whole new level). They're both searching for Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), whose great-grandfather discovered the location of "the Cube." The main reason Transformers works is mainly due to Shia LaBeouf (a deserved young star) as the lead. LaBeouf is a gifted comedian, present even from his days slumming on the Disney Channel. His charisma carries the movie through its slower, non-action-packed sequences. The action is quite exhilarating, but it's nearly drug-like; when stuff isn't blowing up, the movie drags and drags until you're bombarded with more explosions.

But even the action is problematic. It's one thing to have weak characters in a Michael Bay movie (in this case, Trailer Trash Barbie a/k/a Megan Fox, goofy-looking secret agent John Turturro, and even goofier-looking Jon Voight as the Secretary of Defense), but this is even a little much by his standards. The action's difficulties lie in it just being too much, as is the problem with most blockbusters nowadays. It's no longer enough to be exciting; we now have to have bad guys the size of skyscrapers, throwing tanks around. Did special effects guys learn nothing from Hulk? Some scenes leave you on the edge of your seat, such as the opening attack on the military base. But the climax, featuring the big showdown between Prime and Megatron is the epitome of anti-climactic. Perhaps, if that scene had come about 45 minutes earlier, it wouldn't have seemed like such a letdown. But in the grand tradition of average but fun movies like Twister and Eraser, this is the kind of think-free sugar-rush you sometimes need. But in this day and age, when you're not forced to accept brainless action anymore (thanks to the Bourne series and Casino Royale), should you have to settle for it?