In late September 1984, I was 11, and one of the greatest cartoons I had ever seen had just aired. Giant robots that could change into cars, planes, guns and a few other things flashed in front of my young eyes and I was hooked. I mean what kid wouldn’t be. If you add the ability to buy the toys and play with these amazing things it made the experience even better. So you could imagine how stoked I was to hear that there was going to be a live action movie made. Yes at the time I was 37 years old but at heart I am at times still that 11 year old boy. A boy who’s memories were somewhat shattered as Micheal Bay’s first film, while not being completely horrible, was NOTHING like I had imagined.
Bay’s first film was too busy, hard to follow and the Transformers themselves were visually difficult to differentiate from each other. But it was entertaining just not great. Then came Revenge of the Fallen. Which to put it mildly, sucked. It was so bad the director himself apologized for it. The third film was a bit better than the second but it still was sub par.
One of the damning elements of all three films, in my opinion, was the casting of Shia LeBeouf as Sam Witwicky, followed closely by, and in some people’s eyes surpassing it in horribleness, is the addition of his parents and the ridiculous attempts at humor by the writers (Bob Orci is one of them) using these characters. Which brings me to this statement, Good Riddance Shia! Not having the inane stuttering and fumbling Sam in the latest installment in the “Bay”formers films is a HUGE plus in my eyes.
I will say I was surprised upon the closing credits that, while it has it faults, this film entertained me. I would like to say I was blown away but I can’t. The biggest flaw that I found was how long this film is. 2 hours and 45 minutes. You could remove almost an hour of the film and it would have been much better. For some reason Bay must think that his audience needs to see 20 minutes of cars driving every once and awhile to get the point across that, you know, these guys are…um…driving somewhere. The second flaw that stands out is we are introduced to a whole new group of Autobots, none of whom is given any amount of development. Two of them aren’t even called by name. If you were to ask me to point out Cross Hairs or Drift, I wouldn’t know where to point. Don’t get me started on the confusing aspect of exactly who is the main bad guy of the film as there are multiples, none of which save one are truly fleshed out enough to even care about.
The story by Ehren Kruger is darker and a bit more “grown up” (if that’s possible with a film about robots who change into cars) than the first three films in that humans are now the one of the enemies and are in league with a new alien force. This plot line is one that in the third act causes a character, to commit an act that is very out of step with everything we know about him, which left me feeling sad in the fact that it is carried out very matter-of-factly. There is a lot of evil corporation/money hungry moustace twirling thrown in for good measure so all of the cliché, bad guy human stuff is there. It is at times a bit gruesome in its portrayal of the human capacity for evil but also a bit silly and here and there bordering on ridiculous (why is it the bad robots all feel the need to announce themselves when they first appear), but it is a Transformers movie, not Shakespeare so what more do you expect. I think another thing that really bothers me is that, even with it bloated running time, this film is so obviously a set up for a sequel, it doesn’t even try to hide it.
Now I ask you what would a Michael Bay Transformers film be without some young, scantily clad girl being ogled by the camera every now and then? Nothing I guess and filling those Daisy Dukes this go around is Nicola Peltz, who plays Mark Wahlbergs 17 year old daughter who, along with Wahlberg and her boyfriend, played adequately by Jack Reynor, gets swept up into the Autobot struggle. The creepy thing about it now that I think about it, save for Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in Dark of the Moon, these characters are all supposed to be minors, sheesh Micheal, perv much?
A nice addition to the cast is Stanley Tucci who does a good job as the head of a Tech firm who just so happens to be…nah to much of a spoiler, lets just say it’s pretty dastardly and underhanded. Another interesting casting is that of Kelsey Grammer as yet another shady human who along with Titus Welliver do a pretty good job of being guys you aren’t supposed to like. The voice acting is well cast with the addition of John Goodman, John DiMaggio, Ken Watanabe, Mark Ryan and the always awesome Frank Welker. Sadly Welker is far too under used in my opinion. There are a few characters who are just there, and don’t really add or take away from the film in my eyes, and I am not even going to waste any more time naming them as it would be superfluous.
Adding to the more “grown up” elements of this film is the inclusion of much more action movie language than the last 3 films. I understand in writing an action film the use of colorful language is a standard, but when your target audience are kids ranging from 7-13 whose parents are the ones you want to buy the action figures, it felt out of place in this film. Anyone remember the backlash that happened from the inclusion of the now infamous “Aww shit, what are we gonna do now” line from the 1986 Transformers the Movie? It was so bad that in the original VHS release of the film it was edited out because of the parental outcry. Now take that and multiply it by 20-40 and add a few other choice words in there and you get my point. I understand the film is PG-13 but it is still a movie being marketed to children so why all the potty mouths?
I realize that I seem to be bashing the film more than praising it, and I am, only because I am a Transformers fan from way back. But don’t get me wrong, I liked this film much better than the last two sequels and would watch it more than once if and when I end up owning it on Bluray. There are obviously elements of the film I wasn’t too happy with but as an adult fan of the Robots in Disguise, I was entertained enough to say go ahead and see it, just use discretion when deciding to take the little ones.