Property review: Transformers (2007)

Transformers 2007 main review

Trans­fomers

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.

Cast­ing: 8.5
Writ­ing: 6
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.

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