I want to be clear from the outset. I’m not a fan of the Transformers series. Sure, I saw the first one when it came out – who didn’t? Childhood memory induced nostalgia is a great selling point, and one that Michael Bay seems adept at exploiting. I had absolutely no intention of seeing the latest Transformers movie, and had I not been presented with some wonderfully free Gold Class cinema tickets, there’s a good chance I would have never spent 3 hours in the dark watching it.
But I did.
Were my hopes high? No. I will say this, though – the trailer featuring the inclusion of Dinobots (my favourite as a kid) did excite me slightly. Not as much as the thought of having a Lindt Chocolate Sundae delivered to me halfway through the film though.
So what did I think? Without spoiling the highly cerebral storyline I just feel the need to make a few comments.
I know going into a Michael Bay film expecting a coherent storyline and thought-provoking character relationships is a fruitless pursuit, and I also know that by not seeing the second or third film I’ve surely missed out on some important aspects of character development (HA!) but far out.
Protective scientist slash commando father, selfish stupid daughter who of course looks good in short shorts and wears them all the bloody time, barely comprehensible Irish boyfriend who father doesn’t like but eventually warms to, scientist working for the bad guys who suddenly realises the error of his ways, evil government man who kills innocents and justifies it as ‘tough choices’ (Campbell Newman take note) – all the archetypes are there, and they’re all horrible. I know the robots are CGI but I sympathise with them for having so little to work with.
The movie could have been a good hour and a half shorter without the absolutely unnecessary human nonsense. The same relationship conflicts between father daughter and boyfriend are played out repeatedly as little more than filler for the massive action sequences. At least by getting the majority of the ‘evil’ characters to wear sunglasses all the time you don’t have to worry about the complete lack of emotion or humanity they would be able to convey if you could see their eyes.
Thankfully my chocolate sundae arrived about an hour in and I wasn’t too bothered. Mmm.
I’m not a film scholar by any means, but even my limited understanding could tell that the film was horribly cut. People would go from being perilously trapped to running for freedom with no indication of how they escaped their previous predicament. Meanwhile they were happy to do so many slow-motion, wide-angle helicopter pans of cars driving on the fucking road that simply eliminating driving shots could have made the film 10 or 20 minutes shorter.
Why bother explaining how a highly sought-after Mark Whalberg was able to walk around a secret research facility owned by and housing the very people who were LOOKING FOR HIM with nothing more than a LAB COAT AND A PAIR OF GLASSES when you can dedicate 10% of the film to slow motion footage. It befuddles me how this film was so long but the story moved so little. Then there was the fact that, every time people exited a vehicle, they both got OUT OF THE SAME DOOR. Do Transformers not have passenger side doors in vehicle mode? DO THEY EVEN HAVE AIRBAGS?
At least, upon discovering a new mineral that could revolutionise manufacturing for the future they gave it a wonderful name like Transformium. That must have taken them all of 2 minutes!
Then there were the Dinobots. Much like Bryan Cranston in Godzilla, such a significant part of the advertising campaign features so little in the film. They only emerge for the last 40 minutes or so, for little to no reason other than… to milk another 40 minutes of a film that should have wound up ages ago.
Then there was the product placement. The movie should have been a giant advertisement, with half of the product references so overt they might as well have stopped the movie. No subtlety required. Michael Bay must REALLY love Bud Light.
The most disheartening thing about this film is as Galvatron walks away – oh and that’s another thing. I know it’s not Bay’s fault in this case but the name Galvatron sounds like a fucking tinea cream. Instead of being scared, I just wanted to scratch my feet. Anyway as he’s walking away (or flying, I can’t remember, I was nearly asleep) he just can’t help but say “we’ll meet again Optimus”. Talk about flogging a dead horse.
I know I won’t be there.
The movie was pretty appalling, but I expected that. The action sequences were epic, sure, but they were overblown. I don’t care how good the battles are, if there isn’t a good narrative, pace, or human character, it can’t stand. As I’ve already said, the fact that this went for 3 hours astounds me. At least if it was 90-120 minutes long you could understand why they don’t worry about character development or seemingly essential scenes. Of course, I expected all of this.
The saddest thing of all is that these movies will continue to make millions of dollars and justify their own existence. Bay is probably sitting in his office, lighting cigars off rare comics and pearl necklaces like Krusty the Klown, while a multitude of smaller film-makers and actual story-tellers are left to try and make compelling films on small budgets.
Perhaps most ominous of all, Bay is the one bringing us the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. I’m sure the first one will be fun, I just hope it never lives to see a fourth, and become what this franchise has.
Still, it was free, and I got a chocolate sundae. If you were going to see this movie, you still will, and if you weren’t, you most definitely won’t, so in the end this review is inconsequential.