Dreamworks Pictures, 2007
Transformers rolls out in uneven debut
Let’s get one thing clear from the beginning: We at GI are not huge fans of the Transformers. Yes, we watched the original cartoon from the 1980s, and yes, we know the difference between an Autobot and a Decepticon. However, we did not revere the creatures who have more than meets the eye going on. Really, the only reason why we even bothered going to see the original film was because a certain former GI editor made demands. So, we indulged. It was not exactly the most fun two hours we’ve suffered through, but it wasn’t a total wash, either.
Transformers takes itself seriously, we’ll give it that. It’s based off of the original cartoon about the warring robots, but it tries hard to downplay its cartoon roots. With Michael Bay as the director, you know what you’re probably going to get: Lots of loud explosions and maybe some exposition that refers to the source material. Or maybe not. In this case, there are references such as Sam Witwicky and most of the Transformers’ names. But there’s this uncomfortable pall cast over everything that signals a struggle to be Transformers yet not be Transformers at the same time. It’s as if Bay wants to use the name to lure in old heads who love the franchise, but he doesn’t want to tread too much in the realm of giant talking robots who take the forms of common everyday objects because just who could believe that? While the premise is a bit much, you can take it because you more than likely took it back in the day when Transformers was still a thing.
Pushing the film along is the extensive use of live-action mixed with CGI. The mix is decent and mostly seamless, and it’s handled well. Usually, CGI and live action do not mix well at all, but this is well done enough that it’s not distracting. The acting is hit or miss, but the humor more than makes up for the stilted nature of the film. And while the acting is a little wooden, the chemistry between Shia LeBeouf and Megan Fox is obvious and welcome. It’s more than obvious that these kids got together at some point during the making of the film, so it helps that it comes out in their scenes together.
While it manages to get some things correct, Transformers does miss a few beats. Firstly, it’s a tad too long. It’s nice to have the military realism in the film because you’re going to want to know exactly what the government is doing throughout the film. But the film drags in too many places and that’s one of the them. Secondly, it’s a little hard to figure out and keep up with the different Transformers, especially because while some of them look exactly like their original series counterpart, some do not (i.e. Megatron and Starscream). Though Optimus Prime is voiced by the immeasurable Peter Cullen (again!), it’s hard to follow what’s going on when you’re constantly trying to figure out who’s a Deception and who’s an Autobot. Some of the lesser characters feel a little throwaway. Lastly, it’s a Michael Bay film so some of the logic is missing and you’re tasked with making spurious leaps in logic that assume you watched the original show religiously. Not everyone did, and that’s a terrible assumption to make. And what bothers us the most about that is, parts of the movie deviate from the show and the comics.
While it has its share of problems ranging from too much going on to too much deviation from source material, Transformers isn’t that bad. Just make sure you that you do know the difference between an Autobot and a Decepticon before you sit down to watch.
Like the comics?: 6
Total: 20.5/30 or 6.8
How we grade
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.