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The toys are great, but I don’t know about the movie
Steven Spielberg's, Michael Bay Directed, Live-Action "Transformers".
OPENING WEEKEND: $90,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $245,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

January 8th, 2007: Cybertron is the home of a race of shape-shifting robots, with each one having the ability to transform into some machine that serves as his disguise. The Transformers are made up of two warring groups, the freedom loving Autobots, led by Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) whose disguise is a big 18-wheel semi truck, and the evil Decepticons, led by Megatron who transforms into an airplane. Endlessly in conflict, the Autobots and Decepticons are only concerned with attaining Energon – the mysterious life force and fuel that keeps them going. Their constant battles, however, have completely obliterated Cybertron and have released the last supplies of Energon into space. By a twist of fate, the Energon has found its way to earth, which means that the Transformers and war will soon follow. On earth, The Decepticons are bent on destroying anything or anyone in their path, but the Autobots will fight not only for the Energon, but also to preserve human life. Both will utilize their incredible disguise forms, leaving humans caught in the middle and at a tremendous disadvantage, with their weapons nearly powerless against the formidable robots.

What to Expect: What at first may have seemed like a bad idea has now easily become one of the most talked about blockbusters of the summer. Of course, this hotly anticipated movie event is based on the successful 1980s toy and cartoon franchise that thrilled young boys across the globe. In August of 1986, Transformers: The Movie came out and went on to become a cult hit, especially with the 80s generation that fell into the whole Transformers hype. Now, 20 years later, a special DVD re-release of the animated motion picture and the upcoming live-action adaptation have reinvigorated the entire franchise once more.

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I freely admit to having been one of the many young boys who found himself smitten by the Transformers universe. I watched the cartoon, have seen the movie on several occasions, and still own more than a handful of Transformer toys, even if they are buried so deep in my closet that I haven’t seen them in years. In summary, I was a die-hard fan, but I have since grown up and I am going to take a look at the upcoming movie with total objectivity.

Michael Bay, the lone figure on top of the blockbuster mountain who could be called “king of the summer,” is helming this massive project. Please allow me to just get the following out of the way: I truly despise most of Bay’s work. I think his overblown, over hyped, oversaturated, overlong, and relentlessly over-ambitious movies are so far removed from any sort of reality that I find the pretentious and cartoonish content difficult to sit through. Literally, my butt hurts after being forced to sit through one of his flicks. With particularly idiotic movies like Armageddon and Pearl Harbor, I’ve also noticed that my brain would go numb as a result of having been forced into submission by the content. The idea alone that a core drilling team would be easier to train to become astronauts to save the entire world rather than other way around is enough to make me gag. The nonsense that ensued after the group of good ol’ boys was shot up into space was even more difficult to sit through. A movie can be fun, but I don’t find that massive budgets that results in mind-numbing explosions and meaninglessly overbearing cinematography can compensate for an absolute lack of any wit or intelligence in the story. I do, however, take exception to two of Bay’s movies, namely, The Rock and The Island. The former was helped largely thanks to great performances by Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage, while the latter, despite being a tremendous box-office failure, proved that Bay’s big action and big visuals were so much more enjoyable when they were backing up a movie with actual thematic content. Unfortunately, coming off such commercial disappointment, Bay is likely to revert to the nonsense that brings in the big bucks.

Let’s get back on track here. Since Bay himself has no interest in actual content other than the action, it will largely be up to screenwriters Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman to make sure that the movie doesn’t spiral out of control. The duo claims that they are fans of the television show after having grown up with it and that they have stayed true to the characters in their script. Although some of the robots’ powers have been changed or been updated or upgraded to fit better with current times or with the story, both Orci and Kurtzman assure that the characters will act as fans remember them. Reportedly, the duo assembled a round table of screenwriters, who also happened to be fans of the franchise, to punch up the script one last time shortly before the movie went into production. With Bay also claiming that he wants to go for realism with the movie, one would think that this project is being well taken care of, but knowing Bay, he’s probably talking about special effects realism, not story realism.

Speaking of the characters, let’s see exactly which robots have made the cut and are going to appear in the movie. On the Autobots side, Optimus Prime, the 18-wheeler leader of the group couldn’t possibly be left out of the story. Bumblebee, who was a Volkswagen Beetle in the cartoon series, has been upgraded to a Camaro, while Jazz will be the cool looking car in the movie as a Pontiac Solstice. Finally, there is Ironhide, a 4x4 GMC pick-up truck and Ratchet, the robot that transforms into an ambulance. Leading the charge for the Decepticons is Megatron, who will transform into an airplane and not a gun, just as he did earlier in the cartoon series. Starscream, his right hand robot, will also transform into a plane and writers have already promised that the same comedy-relief dynamic between the two that dominated the cartoon series will remain in-tact for the movie – Megatron will constantly insult Starscream. One of the most fearsome robots will be the mine clearing vehicle known as Bonecrusher, who not only hates humans and Autobots, but even fellow Decepticons. Barricade and Blackout will both find handy disguises as a cop car and a special operations chopper, respectively. Blackout is actually an all new robot created especially for the movie. Scorponok's disguise is a scorpion-like creature, naturally. Finally, the 4-foot tall Frenzy, who transforms into a boombox, will act as a stealth spy for the Decepticons. The writers admitted that they wanted the Decepticons to outnumber the Autobots in order to give the audience the feeling of real threat and danger to both the Autobots and the humans. Furthermore, in their disguise forms, all Transformers will have weapons that will be equivalents of the weapons we have on earth. To me, that seems like some sort of an illogical limitation that was created solely to even out the playing field during battle sequences between the robots and humans. On the plus side, the writers have promised that Optimus Prime and Megatron will go one-on-one in hand to hand combat in the movie, with the outcome providing a clear winner.

While there are plans to release a four-part comic book series entitled “Transformers: The Movie Prequel,” which will give a lot of the back story leading up to the motion picture, here is the essence of how everything comes into play. Once again, the Transformers are led to earth after the Energon cube from Cybertron finds its way there. The mysterious substance bears the life-force that created the Transformer race and is necessary to their survival. Early in the movie, there is a scene that sets up a lot of the plot. Some 100 years prior to when the story takes place, a Decepticon is found in Antarctica, encased in ice. If I were to bet, I would say that the Decepticon is Megatron. Parts of one of the film’s opening scenes have already been prominently featured in the film’s trailer. Blackout, the robot disguised as a special operations chopper, approaches a US Army base in modern day Qatar and proceeds to attack, destroying all planes and nearby hangars in one sonic blast. He then begins to download a top secret government file from a computer, before some brave soldiers, including Captain Lennox (played by Josh Duhamel) pull the plug on him. Pissed off, he releases Scorponoc to chase the surviving soldiers into the desert.


I have good reason to believe that Blackout was downloading information on the whereabouts of Megatron, who has been held in top secret captivity by the United States military for some 100 years since being discovered.


Meanwhile, the hero of the story will be a lovable high school geek named Sam Witwicky, who will be played by Shia LaBeouf. His love interest Mikaela Barnes will be played by Megan Fox, while Travis Van Winkle will play her obnoxious jerk of a boyfriend. Whether it is the Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor or an army of robots attacking America, it is good to see that Michael Bay cannot stay away from those clichéd and predictable romantic triangles that enrich his stories so immensely. For getting a bunch of A’s on his report card, Sam’s father buys him a car as a reward. Wouldn’t you know it, the yellow Camaro he gets also happens to be Bumblebee. When Sam finds his grandfather’s century-old map with information on how to go about finding the Energon cube, he really gets entangled into the story. Two one-in-a-million coincidences like that are sure to make him the protagonist somehow. Sam then attempts to sell the artifact on Ebay, which sets forth a plot involving five separate storylines that will eventually converge during the climactic battle between the Autobots and Decepticons. The big finale is said to start out at the Hoover Dam and end in downtown Los Angeles. There’s also a likelihood that scenes for the movie were actually shot at the Pentagon for the first time since the September 11th attacks.

Shia Lebouf has reportedly already signed on to star in two sequels to the movie, which may take its toll on the young star considering how difficult the first shoot was for him. The actor, as well as many of his co-stars, made it quite clear that Michael Bay imposes a physically rigorous and even savage shoot. According to Lebouf, he suffered from anxiety attacks throughout production and even had to see a heart specialist on a regular basis.

Apparently, this is the largest movie project since “Black Hawk Down” to receive an approval from the Department of Defense for its accuracy in portraying the American forces in action. Some filming even took place at the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, using actual aircrafts. Additionally, Bay has been given a hefty budget of just under $300 million to make this action extravaganza a reality. To that I say, “So what!” Bay had a similar budget for Pearl Harbor, supposedly a more serious film about army combat, and the results, in my opinion, were tragic. It doesn’t matter how realistic Bay thinks the movie is going to be, his plot will still probably rely on tired, simplistic, contrived, or even coincidental resolutions. While the technology available now should give Bay great resources to create spectacularly life-like and believable robots, it will not replace good, old-fashioned storytelling. Meanwhile, Bay has been giddy about his teaser trailer. To that I say, “Who cares?!” I still remember the “Ooh’s” and “Ahh’s” from the audience in the theater when the Street Fighter trailer premiered and we all know what that eventually led to. It’s not the trailers that matter, but rather the movies themselves. With so much money and so much technical wizardry put into these types of productions, it would be downright embarrassing if the studios were unable to sell them with impressive promotion. Even the worst movies in the world can have the best trailers given the right editing and the right soundtrack. As a former music video and commercial director, Bay should know that and that’s probably why he gets so excited about a two-minute long montage – it’s still the only format he has completely mastered.

Overall, however, the biggest problem that I have with Transformers is the robots themselves. As a former fan, who is now more mature and able to evaluate something with objectivity, I do not find any logic whatsoever in the existence of the Transformers, other than as a line of toys. I still look at the toy concept as somewhat brilliant, but the cartoon and movie existed primarily as a way to promote the product and not the other way around. Robots that live on a planet called Cybertron don’t really need to be able to transform into a tape player. Am I wrong? Since they live in an alien world, how would they even know what a tape player looks like? I realize that I am applying logic somewhere where it is not intended to exist, but I’m just trying to make a point about a movie that Bay is looking to approach with “realism.” Just what sort of realism is he talking about? The trailer is clearly selling a super-cool and dark action-adventure with incredible special effects, but when you think about it, it is going to be about robots that transform into vehicles that are far more useless than their robot selves. But I believe that it gets even worse than this. Anyone that was a fan of the original toys and cartoons is likely to be disappointed by the updated Transformer designs for the movie. Some of the robots simply look like some sort of atrocious humanoid aliens. Megatron essentially looks like the alien from The Predator. That’s all fine and well for an alien invasion, but not for robots that are supposed to have human-like personalities. This leads me to my next point. The live-action Transformers throws humans into the mix and takes the spotlight off the robots themselves, which essentially does reduce them to alien invaders. These are not the protagonists and antagonists of the 80s franchise, these are merely visitors. This makes Transformers nothing more than an update to Independence Day or Armageddon that utilizes a cult toy/cartoon franchise as the hook. I don’t need another movie about humans saving earth from destruction.

In Conclusion: The Transformers cartoons never attained the same sort of universal popularity that Pixar’s films have because they were primarily designed for young boys. The material really does not translate that well into adult entertainment and if anyone were to stop and think about it, they might be able to see through all the hype of the trailers and the special effects. The saddest thing of all is that the fanboys that grew up with the franchise, including myself, are probably the ones that are going to be most disappointed with this movie, which will probably bear no resemblance whatsoever to the nostalgia of their childhood memories. No, this is another big Hollywood production designed to appeal to the masses and to make some big cash by utilizing the most one-dimensional story elements imaginable. Once again, we have been invaded by aliens far more powerful than us, only this time they shape shift into cars as well. I think there is a possibility that this premise will totally backfire, leaving the studio with an incredible box-office bomb on their hands, but that’s not very likely. Still, I don’t quite see this movie dominating the summer. I do think the toys were a good idea, however.

Similar Titles: Pearl Harbor, Independence Day, Armageddon
July 3rd, 2007 (wide)
October 16th, 2007 (DVD)


Michael Bay

Jon Voight, Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, Bernie Mac, Tyrese Gibson, Peter Cullen, Rachael Taylor, Michael O’Neill, Anthony Anderson, Amaury Nolasco, Hugo Weaving, Kevin Dunn, Julie White

Total: 769 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Science Fiction

Click here to view site

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor, and language.

143 min





Transformers at RottenTomatoes.com

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