For everyone who has been following this film through various stages of production you’ll have been joining us all in the rollercoaster of anticipation. There’s the initial excitement when we heard that there was going to be a Transformers film produced through Steven Spielberg, then the down of hearing it was going to be directed by action-cheese man, Michael Bay.
However things turned around again when the first shots came out of the Transformers in action, and they looked amazing. From there it was up and up with every shot, and when the teasers and trailers arrived, most Transformers fans were panting like Pavlov’s dogs.
I admit I was, but all the while I was wondering what the story would be like, and if we were going to be seeing something totally wild.
Now that I’ve seen it, and many thanks to the excellent team at Edinburgh Ocean Terminal Vue Cinema for helping Filmstalker out with the review, I’m hugely disappointed.
Transformers tells the story of the survivors of a ravaged planet who have been scattered to the universe in search of the only item that can bring it back to life, the Cube. The Cube created them and gave them their way of life, and for a long time they lived on their planet in harmony. However a split grew and fighting for control of the Cube began, one side fighting to use the Cube for good, and the other to use it to conquer worlds.
The battle raged and many were lost, finally the planet was destroyed and the Cube lost in space. The survivors of both factions headed off into deep space to try and recover it.
The Cube landed on Earth and was discovered and exploited by the American Intelligence community. Meanwhile groups of survivors from that planet had arrived and were scouring the planet for its location. One group were called Autobots, and the other Decepticons, and caught in the middle is one boy who knows the secret location.
It is a good set-up for the beginning of the story, and the changes to the plot to bring the story to the epic setting of the big screen are very good. It turns out to be a good fun, light entertainment film that requires absolutely no engagement from your brain whatsoever, because as soon as you do you see the cracks, and they can be rather big at that.
The Transformers are stunning, that has to be said up front. Seeing these huge robots walk around the real world is amazing. Michael Bay and the effects team have created some stunning work that looks and moves with an incredible feeling of reality and weight. Each movement and response convinces you that these are real, not CGI, the only thing that really gives it away is the sheer scale of them.
When these creatures transform it is incredible to watch, you couldn’t have wished for anything better. Complex animation mixed with stunning sound tracks produce what has to be an award winning CGI sequence. Seriously it will take your breath away.
Something else about the stunning Transformers that I really have to highlight is the sound, in fact the entire sound production for the film is fantastic, but the Transformers are lent a ton of weight and believability through the sound that they make during transformations and while moving in general.
At various stages in the film we are introduced to new Transformers characters, and the moment we meet the main group of Autobots is superbly crafted for the fan. They arrive from space and within moments of being on Earth encounter vehicles that they analyse and adapt themselves too. It’s these scenes that really bring the feeling right to you that you’re watching a live action Transformers film.
One of the surprising things about the film is how long it takes to reach that stage of the big Transformers moment. The film builds slowly and does take a lot of time to develop the character of Sam as well as his relationships with his parents and his car.
Of course the action is big. It goes without saying with Michael Bay in charge. In fact there are a number of scenes that are incredibly Bay-esque and might be recognisable from other films. Camera spinning around both sides of a gunfight in a room or a slow motion shot from below of a car flying over the leads head? You’ll see these in other Bay films if you look for them.
However the multiple Transformer action scenes suffer from one very big flaw, the Hollywood fight sequence. The camera is pushed close into the action, shaken and jerked along with the movement, and you aren’t into the action sequence before you’re wondering which robot is fighting which.
During many of these multiple fight sequences I found myself catching up with the action after the robots had stopped. Oh, he’s there and he’s there, so that must mean…is how it was going in my head. I always felt like I was playing catch up with these moments, something the two audience members with me also felt.
However, not all the action sequences were like this, there are some scenes where it works superbly well, for instance the road chase is amazing, but here there is the time taken and wide shots are utilised, both giving a great scale and sense of power for these CGI creatures.
For most of the single robot sequences we saw the action is superbly choreographed and provides some excellent thrills, combined with the amazingly realistic affects I found myself amazed.
I just wish that when they had spent the time on the Transformer fights that they had pulled back a little and spent some more time on the characters involved. With all the effort spent to get the robots looking so realistic and moving so well you would have think a little more time would have spent showing them off in battle.
This failing of the action sequence was particularly noticeable at the end of the film. Here we witness multiple robots fighting other robots, and even new robots we haven’t seen before appearing to battle against humans. It all seems a rather large mess. I felt like I was being pulled from battle to battle without seeing any of them complete, and at times I had no idea which fight I was now watching.
To cap all this there was the rather odd appearance of new Transformers which started blasting humans, Transformers that we never saw again after their one scene and never seemed to be dealt with – what happened to them? This is a continuity problem that seemed to appear at various points during the film.
Actually there were a number of areas of the plot I struggled with and felt that they were too jarring – obviously accepting of the whole giant robots from space part of the plot!
The first moment that hit me was that line from the trailer that was still in the film, when the Soldier in charge tells the pilot of the Black Hawk helicopter to get out or “we will kill you”. That was just one of the many jarring and incredibly poor lines in the film, of which there are a fair few. Those all-American, gung-ho, cheesy lines which seem so out of place, and often not just because it was a UK audience.
It’s not just lines that seem out of place though, the fragmentation of the plot appears at its worst when Shia LaBeouf, playing Sam, is standing atop a building trying to evade Megatron as he bursts through the roof to reach him. One moment Sam is standing on the roof, away from the corner of the building, and then the next frame he’s hanging on for grim death to a statue which towers above the corner of the building.
How he got there and why was a puzzling moment and steps you out of the story for a moment, it is something that happens a few times in the latter stages of the film and does give this disjointed feel to the plot.
One more thing that annoyed me, before I get onto some more positives and that was Soundwave (the small Transformer that turned into a CD Player). He was the most irritating and annoying thing I’ve seen on screen and is reminiscent of such characters as the dog from Men in Black or Jar Jar Brinks.
His irritating bleeps, whistles, shouts and screams, and over enthusiastic movements did nothing to endear the character to the audience, other than the extremely young audience. The cartoon hiding behind men and creeping along hiding his face with his hand was all too Scooby Doo for me and showed another area where the film struggled.
In one hand it was a children’s comedy, and on the other it was trying to be a pretty serious adult action adventure film. By isolating sections of the film you could say it worked on both levels, the whole house escapade was children’s comedy to a tee (we even heard a very young kid giggling at the top of his voice in the audience) and some of the Transformer action scenes with the humans were much more adult.
The film was trying to be these two films at the same time, and it gave the feeling of swinging back and forth between camps. In the adult sections, and the parent’s interrogation scene in the house, the humour worked well, but for other sections like the rest of the house scene, it clearly descended into a children’s comedy.
One big thing that has to be said is about Shia LaBeouf, but before I do I just have to say how incredible Megan Fox looks on screen, the men in the audience were melting during that car bonnet scene. Back to LaBeouf though, he was superb. He played Sam perfectly, grabbing the comic element and the serious, action star easily.
What I’m dying to see from him is more serious films and less of that nervous, fast talking character. I think there are great things ahead of him and Indiana Jones IV is just the start.
So overall I was stunned with the audio and effects, but the storytelling in the latter half seemed jerky and there were threads that were left unresolved or just magically resolved by the final scene. Pushing the cheese-filled, gung-ho lines aside, the rest of the plot was strong and the film provided some great entertainment, but it really did feel like it was trying to be two films, a children’s comedy and an action adventure. Perhaps a Director’s Cut will reveal more in the future.
The Dark is Rising
The next children’s fantasy series comes to the big screen with a cast of great actors, and from what we can see so far it looks rather strong. With Ian McShane…
The Bourne Ultimatum
I still think that this looks confusing on the big screen during the action sequences (just like Transformers!) but it also carries with it very strong performances, great characters and a brilliant script. The trailer looks superbad too…which leads us on to…
Well surprise, surprise, there were laughs in the audience, and even from me. It looks very dumb and silly, but could have moments of hilarity, or at least strong humour.
The trailer just looks spectacular, and I’m dying to see what Mathew Vaughn has made of the story. With such an impressive cast and a fairytale story for adults, not to mention the gorgeous ladies involved, this is a definite must see.
License to Wed
Well it did raise a couple of laughs, but all in all it was dead quiet in the cinema, painful almost.
Now this does look interesting. I’ve heard some mixed reports about it, but for the most part it sounds like a very strong adaptation of the classic Rear Window, what’s more is that David Morse, Shia LaBeouf and Carrie-Anne Moss star with the excellent D.J. Caruso Directing.