Sunday, July 29, 2007

Movie Review: Transformers

Well, that was a summer movie. Shut your brain off and watch things fly around on the screen, other things blow up, and actors that have done better things go slumming. As far as summer movies go, this one was pretty good. Somewhat scarily, there are hard-core old-time Transformers geeks out there, who could tell you when the body color of some obscure robot changed from red to orange during season 3, but I couldn't tell you much about Transformers beyond the existance of a truck named Optimus Prime and (of course) the catchy jingle. So the new-look robots, which all sorts of sharp edges and rotating bits and roller-blades (?) and jive accents (??) and what not, didn't bother me as much as it likely did others. The design team really did a number coming up with these designs.

Michael Bay knows how to blow things up, and he knows how to breakaway from the action to give us the cliched "human angle" (and fortunately, the family he gives us on screen is pretty funny, with a sort of a That 70's Show vibe about them). What he doesn't know is how to film a hand-to-hand battle, even if that battle involves giant robots. The ability of filmmakers to put any computer-generated thing into a scene that they want is pretty much established fact by now, but that doesn't mean directors know how to use that new ability. Bay gets too much into the "you are there", shaky-cam style of filming where the camera is down among the actors, staring up into flashes of robots flailing all around them. Yeah, that's great that you can do that, but I can't see what's going on. You spent all that time designing these robots, give us nice long looks at them when they're accidentally trampling flower beds, but when it's time for them to do what we came to see them do, you give us shaky closeups of torsos. Not a good decision.

Despite that, this is still an enjoyable, if disposable, piece of entertainment. Shia LeBoeuf, who is apparently the current young flavor-of-the-week, does a good job stammering his way into some hottie's heart, and while Jon Voight doesn't really do much for me here, John Turturro made the most of his bureaucratic asshole character. And the robots weren't bad either. Four stars.

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