By Shane Jenkins
July 11, 2007
I guess there's some good news and bad news here. The good news is that Transformers is Michael Bay's best movie to date. The bad news is that that's kind of like winning the "World's Prettiest Slug" competition. By definition, Michael Bay movies begin at "watchable" and work their way down from there. Since I think this is as good as it's going to get with him, let me be the first to declare - "Transformers is perfectly watchable!"
But dammit, it should have been more than merely "watchable." I know this a movie based on a toy line, and, while I've never played with the toys or seen the TV series or 1986 movie, I bought into the hype a little. The trailers were pretty great, the robots looked fearsome, and I convinced myself that producer Steven Spielberg would have a mellowing effect on Bay, who I hoped would tone down his patented seizure-inducing camera and editing style that makes his action scenes all-but incomprehensible.
Not so much. But the worst offense of Transformers is that it's kind of boring. I would have thought that all the jokes about the animal cracker scene in Armageddon might have entered Bay's consciousness a little, but if there's a director alive who sticks to his over-sized and polished guns, it's him. Transformers is full of "animal cracker" scenes, where new It-boy Shia LaBeouf woos improbable high-schooler Megan Fox. LaBeouf's a better actor than Ben Affleck, at least in that he manages not to look incredibly bored when taking these big paycheck roles. But even his disarming likability isn't enough for us to care about his character too much. This is Transformers, and we paid to see big Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots do some damage. It's not quite as bad as Roland Emmerich's Godzilla, where the titular character disappears for a 45 minute stretch of the movie while Matthew Broderick and Maria Pitillo bicker, but it's not as far away from that as it should be, either.
And then there's all the "comedy." Really, we're only halfway through the summer, and I've already had all the action comedy I can handle. Fresh on the heels of the sitcom-with-effects that was Fantastic Four 2, Transformers offers up giant alien robots that learned English from the Internet, and therefore say things like "my bad" when stepping on flowers. This movie will be outdated in about two weeks. There's also a little evil robot (the bad ones are called Decepticons) who's like an Ewok crossed with Short Circuit's Johnny 5 (if Ewoks and Johnny 5 were, you know, evil). It twitters and coos as it scurries around wreaking electronic havoc and performing unconvincing physical comedy, and you just want to kick it back to whatever the hell planet it came from. The human comedy's not much better, with a paint-by-numbers Bernie Mac cameo, and a conversation about masturbation between Sam and his parents. OMG LOL, which is about the only annoying thing the Transformers don't say.