Transformers, (in the manner of a review)

For some reason, Transformers opened last night, rather than July 4 (as has been advertised for years now). Being both a child of the 80s and having no mechanical aptitude to speak of, I’d say that I’m mid-level in terms of having been influenced by the considerable hype. I will say also that I was very, very excited about this film. For the most part, it delivered on what I imagine most of us were expecting. Some thoughts:

1.  It isn’t terrible. Sure, there are plenty of gaping Armageddon-esque Michael Bay plot holes, and this guy’s hard-on for the military makes you wonder what his private porno stash must look like (“Mr. October is a demolitions expert from Torrance”), but all in all the movie is a lot funnier than I was expecting. As an actor, Shia LeBouf manages the kind of Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents sort of unease and awkwardness without needing to gesticulate like a man who doesn’t speak English trying to describe a plane crash. What I wasn’t expecting was how unfunny John Tuturro was.

2. The Transformers look great, but occupy too little screen time. They also seem to know a hell of a lot about humanity for not having been here (ostensibly) for thousands of years, which makes the “whole alien culture interfacing with terrestrial culture” subtext a little boring. That’s surprising, since Speilberg’s obsessed with the concept.

3. Megan Fox is very pretty, but there’s something about a movie that straight up gawks at what is supposed to be a 17-year old’s abdomen like that that gives even a man who writes a blog called Dirtbag’s Delight a moment of pause. Michael Bay, may you be cursed with vivacious daughters in your more responsible years.

4. OK, I’ve had it with the “in the action” shaky camera work. Many of the battles between Autobots and Deceptions degenerate to the point where the Transformers become indistinguishable from the considerable debris that they generate. I understand the temptation, especially in an era where combat footage is increasingly gritty and first-person, to want to present battles from that angle. I just don’t think it makes for very intelligible scenes. About the only thing saving these parts from complete incoherence is the convenient color-coding of the good guys.

5. Be prepared for another Michael Bay chestnut: central characters, no matter their age or level of involvement in the final outcome, will be made privy to classified information of the highest order as a means of clumsily filling in back-story. You don’t make the captain of Neighborhood Watch the director of the CIA for calling in a burglary. You probably don’t make a 17-year old your top operative just because he happens to discover a talking robot.

All that said, I was entertained.


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