A review of the 2007 live-action movie version of the popular 80s cartoon, Transformers. 3.5/5
Millennia ago, a battle waged on the planet, Cybertron – a planet of bio-organic robots. The heroic Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, battled the evil Decepticons, whose leader, Megatron, wanted to capture the Allspark, a cube that gives unlimited power to whoever possesses it. The Autobots managed to launch the Allspark into space, but Megatron chased after it. He tracked it to Earth but crashed into the Arctic Ocean, freezing his system into lockdown. He lied there under the ice until 1850 when Captain Witwicky came across Megatron’s body during an expedition. His crew dug it up and the U.S. government took possession of it all the following years.
It is now the present day and we find Spike Witwicky, the great-grandson of Captain Witwicky, in high school. His father helps him buy his first car from a scrupulous car dealer. Spike finds a beat-up sports car and buys it. The car later turns out to be the Autobot Bumblebee, who was sent to protect Spike and Captain Witwicky’s glasses, which have the coordinates to the Allspark imprinted on them. The Decepticons show up to get the glasses, Allspark, and free Megatron. Optimus Prime and the Autobots land on Earth to join Bumblebee and regain possession of the Allspark before the Decepticons do. Spike and a girl named Mikaela join forces with the Autobots to outrun the U.S. defense department without harming any humans, battle the Decepticons, capture the Allspark, and save Earth from enslavement.
Director Michael Bay brings Transformers once again to the big screen, but this time it is live-action! Fans from the 1980s cult classic cartoon series, with a line of toys that has never ceased production ever since have long-awaited the time when their beloved cartoon would be given the live-action treatment. It took twenty years for the technology to become advanced enough to give an adequate portrayal of the robots. It was well worth the wait!
Hardcore, old school fans of the 1980s show and toys were against some of the changes in the live-action movie. Many of these changes had to be made based on trademarks, corporate red tape, age of the voice actors, technology, and other logistics. While some of the changes will not sit well with some fans, none are that bad as to ruin the movie experience.
To get the most enjoyment out of this movie, it is best not to compare it to the original series. In addition, it is best that the movie is seen in the eyes of an alternate universe unto itself, where the story is separate from that seen in the 1980s show. If that can be done, the movie will be a more fun ride.
The story is simple enough to be thoroughly enjoyable, yet complex enough to have some depth. It offers a fair balance to entertain everyone. The sci-fi element is enhanced by the fact that this more of a “them versus us” theme, similar to “War of the Worlds.” It has a bit more depth than the show of the 1980s.
Since the main characters are giant robots, it makes sense that a considerable amount of the $147 million budget is mostly spent on the robot effects. A mix of CGI (by ILM) and ten close-up props (by KNB Effects) is used, including Optimus Prime’s head, Bumblebee’s robot mode, Megatron’s legs, and Blackout’s feet.
The robots do look very good. For the diehard fans, the new designs of the robots are vastly different from their original counterparts. While the 1980s robots looked blocky, the new robots have more organic and humanoid bodies and faces which creates more of a wiry, alien appearance. It might take some getting used to by some viewers. Overall, the robots do look more alien-like, which is a positive considering that they really are aliens. The vehicle forms are updated with modern vehicle alternate forms based on present-day civilian and military vehicles.
The voice actors are a serious point of contention with diehard fans. Producer Don Murphy listened to feedback from Transformers fans and set out to hire some of the original voice actors from the cartoon. What we got were just two of the original voice actors. The biggest positive is that Peter Cullen once again voices Optimus Prime! We also got Charles Adler to voice the Decepticon Starscream. He voiced the Autobot Silverbolt in the show.
The biggest negative is that Frank Welker was not chosen to reprise the voice of Megatron. He and Cullen were auditioned personally by director Michael Bay, who worried that their aged voices would be noticeable. Welker’s voice was deemed to have aged too much and did not suit Megatron’s new alien look. Hugo Weaving received the role. However, Welker does reprise his role as Megatron in “Transformers: The Game” (2007). Welker’s Megatron is greatly missed.
The rest of the voice cast gives an adequate performance but no one stands out.
The human cast boasts several big names. Shia LaBeouf is the starring actor who plays young Sam Witwicky. Megan Fox plays Mikaela Banes. Veteran actors Jon Voight plays Defense Secretary, John Keller, and John Turturro plays Agent Simmons. Bernie Mac plays Bobby Bolivia, the used car salesman. And Anthony Anderson plays Glen Whitmann, a computer hacker.
The cast gives a great performance without many negative comments to be made.
At over two hours and twenty minutes, this is a very long movie. About a quarter of it is used on two side stories. One is Sam’s romantic interest in Mikaela and the comedic goings on related to that. The other is the small side track of Glen Whitmann, a computer hacker. The movie would have run smoother and faster without these two side plots. Also, there are quite a few humorous parts tossed in that detract from the Transformers side of the movie, which should be its focus. The humor is not overdone, so it is not entirely unwelcome. After all, it is based on a toy! There is some sexual innuendo but it is very small in retrospect and no nudity. Very few curse words are used in the film. It maintains a PG-13 rating, in case the parents out there are concerned.
Overall, “Transformers” (2007) is a fun and entertaining ride that provides plenty of action, sci-fi, and thrills that are sure to please old school Transformers fans as well as the younger generation of future Transformers fans.
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