Thursday, August 02, 2007
Right, so Transformers then. I saw it last Saturday, and half of it is great fun. The robots (or at least the Autobots; more on that later) are really well animated, and the action scenes are stunning.
But the rest of it is a bit of a mess. One doesn't expect a Transformers film to have a great plot, but at least the original wasn't full of holes like this one. Characters go missing, plot threads go forgotten, and the less said about Optimus Prime's great plan to defeat Megatron, the better. And it was quite clear that the producers didn't know what to do with the Autobots; the general impression is that Michael Bay wanted to make Earth Versus the Space Robots, but had this extra faction of good robots hanging around for which he struggled to find a role. When the big villain is defeated by the Brave US Military™ and a snotty teenager with a magical doohickey, while Optimus Prime lounges about on the ground, something's not right. One shall stand, one shall have a lie down, apparently.
Speaking of the villains, they are hugely disappointing. After making such a big fuss of dropping Frank Welker in favour of Elrond From The Matrix, Megatron barely appears in the film, although given the horrible character design (is he supposed to be some kind of evil robotic pine cone?), it's not much of a downside. The rest of the bad guys get absolutely no characterisation, and barely any lines, with the exception of Frenzy, who's apparently on loan from Jabba the Hutt's palace.
Instead of developing the, you know, title characters, Bay and chums instead populate the film with a bunch of one-dimensional humanoids who do very little of interest throughout; I'm still wondering why the Pentagon has a teenage Australian girl in their computer security division. And then there's the excessive military-porn. If you've seen a Michael Bay film before, then you know what I'm talking about. Slow motion shots of helicopters flying in front of a setting sun, slow motion shots of tough military guys getting on and off military vehicles, etc. One wonders if Bay has a Corman-esque archive of stock footage that he uses again and again for this stuff. It obviously turns him on, but does nothing for me.
Also, Bernie Mac. No.
In short, it feels like Bay was forced, rather against his will, to include the Transformers in his film, and it's difficult not to conclude that another director wouldn't have been a better choice. That said, the bits with the Transformers in (aside from the Optimus and Friends Comedy Hour™ which is truly horrifying) were really quite good, and if there were more of the Giant Robots Smashing Stuff, and less of the puny fleshlings, I would have liked the film a lot more.