Michael Bay should write a book someday titled something like: â€œHow to Make a Decent Movie Without a Good Plot and Character Development.â€ No director is better at ‘winging’ his way through a film than Bay is. Like a student who ‘wings’ through a test he/she didn’t study for, sometimes you pass and sometimes you fail. With Transformers, Bay goes all out and turns the action up to ‘Death-Com 3.’ He’s desperately dishing out every trick he knows in an effort to make up for the film’s cartoonish plot. And he succeeds. Transformers has its flaws, but I came away feeling like I just got off the world’s coolest roller coaster. That’s actually a pretty good comparison for what the film is.
You know, there is a little bit of irony surrounding Transformers that you might not realize at first. Transformers is probably the most convenient film for Michael Bay to make and I’ll tell you why. First off, I want to say that Michael Bay sure wasn’t one to talk a few weeks ago when he was a judge on the Fox reality TV show On the Lot, during which he criticized one of the contestants for his film’s lack of character development. With the exception of Pearl Harbor, you only have to watch maybe two Michael Bay films to know that character development is on the bottom of his priority list. Bay makes his characters hide behind the action sequences and in terms of character development, they are like robots. See where I’m going with this? Now that there are actual robots in his film, we have to suspend disbelief that these are believable characters.
Now, lets talk about Bay’s pride and joy: action scenes and special effects. In a word, they are amazing; and they deserve a lot more than just one word. I criticized some of the action sequences in Live Free or Die Hard last week because they were so silly and so far off from what the original offered. The action sequences in Transformers are ridiculous, but they are so mind-blowing that I felt as though I had no choice but to give in. I kinda felt like the character of Anton Ego, the food critic from Ratatouille. Knowing Michael Bay was the director, I was prepared to rip this movie; but instead I was blown away.
Every stupid and cheesy line, every annoying character you wish would just shut up, every gap in this videogame plot, every mistake that should make Transformers one of the year’s worst films, is outweighed by the action and effects, which are more than enough for me to give this a thumbs up. That’s how good they are. They make Transformers a popcorn flick triumph. There’s an awesome car chase scene and I love the baddies in this movie, especially the one that transforms into a jet. The effects of the transformations by themselves make Transformers flashy, cool, and unique.
Let’s be honest, the plot is videogame material, very cartoonish and ultimately something that shouldn’t be on the big screen. But once again, the action scenes are worth it. The Transformers have their own planet and for a long time they lived in peace and then they were divided by a feud into two groups. One group is the Autobots, and their leader is Optimus Prime. The other group is the Decepticons and they are lead by Megatron. They have this cube thing called the â€œAll Sparkâ€ that can be used for good or evil. But the cube was lost into space and it ended up on Earth. Now, the Decepticons have tracked it to Earth and will destroy humanity to obtain it. The Autobots have come to protect us.
So how does Shia Labeouf fit into all of this? Labeouf plays Sam Witwicky, whose great grandfather had a little encounter with Megatron while on an expedition in Antarctica. Megatron was frozen solid but Great Grandfather Witwicky hit a gizmo that had Megatron imprint a map of the cube onto his glasses. The fact that Sam has possession of those glasses makes him the center of the story. He buys a car that ends up being one of those Autobots sent to protect him. If nothing else, I can all but guarantee that Labeouf will be a star in this business and Transformers will likely be the movie to boost his career to that status. He’s truly wonderful and has some memorable one-liners. What Bay needs most of all is an actor that can compensate for his own ineptitude in character development. Labeouf does all that can be asked of him.
Bay does manage to throw in one extra surprise aside from the action and special effects. Transformers is almost as hilarious as it is thrilling. I think it’s pretty obvious the laughs are intentional here. It’s usually between the action where Bay’s films blow up in his face, but he throws in one hilarious scene after another to get us through the movie. So here’s the formula: action sequences, a couple of hilarious scenes, action, hilarious scenes, action, hilarious scenes, then the hat trick of a final battle sequence. The movie is just crazy enough to work.