Less Than Meets the Eye

X-Posted to the the Reel.

It was always going to be tough for me to see Transformers. For 6-Year-Old Baxter, Optimus Prime was a role model, an icon and even a little bit of a crush. I both loved and was destroyed by Transformers: The Movie, the original animated feature in which my precious Optimus bravely sacrificed his life for the good of Earth and the Autobots. I was actually inconsolable about the death of Prime for weeks after my mom took me to see the film. It was one of the most unforgettable, and possibly one of the most significant moments of my childhood. There was little chance that anyone could have made a live-action Transformers film 20-some years later that would stand up to the memory of MY Transformers, and specifically my Prime.

But why, oh why did it have to be MICHAEL BAY?! You guys have all seen Pearl Harbor, right? Armageddon? The ISLAND?! Crap crap CRAP. And not in a good, Paul Verhoeven kind of way either. Unbelievably bad writing, terrible, forgettable action sequences. People are fooled into thinking his movies are exciting because (I suppose) he blows things up constantly. But they aren't good action films. Are any of those explosions as memorable as, say, the car chase scene in Bullit? (San Fransisco sure has a lot of hills!) or the foot chase scene in Point Break? (Swayze throws a DOG at Keanu to slow him down!) The answer is no. They're not. All I remember from Armageddon is the cheap tear-jerker moment when Bruce Willis is about to die so that Liv Tyler can marry Ben Afleck. All I remember from The Island are pretty people running around in white outfits and yelling a lot. All I remember from Pearl Harbor is…well, I try not to remember ANYTHING about that one.

Transformers isn't much different than the rest of the Bay catalog. He wastes plenty of time on extraneous scenes that supposedly provide Bay's idea of character development. His characters don't develop any further than if they were caricatures drawn at the carnival, engaged in their favorite activity. There's the brave solider (Josh Duhamel) who is about to risk his life to save the U.S. of A. and has a wife back home and a baby daughter he's NEVER MET! There's the hot Australian hacker chick with heavy eyeliner who discovers the Decepticon's plot to infiltrate the government's top secret files. She involves her fat funny hacker friend who loves Dance Dance Revolution because he's the ONLY ONE who can help prevent the Decepticons from getting the information! Or IS he? He never actually does anything other than eat donuts, dance with his brother and get sassed at by his mamma. But he sure is hilarious. Because he's fat.

There's also a hottie love interest who is “more than meets the eye” (new drinking game! smash a beer bottle over your head every time someone in the movie says that line!) because even though she's hot and hangs out with dumb jocks, she also has a convict for a daddy and knows how to steal cars. Great! Now she has one and a half dimensions!


Semper Memento.

And what about our main human character? I do love that Shia LaBeouf. If there were a stock market for actors, I would have bought shares in LeBeouf a long time ago. He's going to be huge. But the things Bay had him say and do in Transformers aren't doing his dramatic stock any favors.

All in all there are at LEAST 5 characters and as many scenes that could be cut completely from the 2-and-a-half hour long movie. Everything else could be tightened. How many times do we need to see robots smash into buildings? And, what would be left after a major editing overhaul would STILL suck. Even without the pilfering of my childhood, this movie is still trite, aimless, cliche, self-important, cheesy, and often, kinda boring.

And WITH the childhood pilfering? Well, I'm still not sure if it's better or worse that they used the original voice of Optimus Prime. I was happy to hear it again, but not happy to hear it come out of that pointy, unlovable re-imaging of Prime. It would have sucked to hear a new actor try to be the hero that I loved, but it was equally difficult to hear them lift dialog directly from Transformers: The Movie as Prime was about to square off with Megatron. It recalled the better film, the better version of the characters, and the heartbreakingly heroic death scene in the original. Basically, it reminded me, as if I needed more reminders, that I was watching crap.

I think I have a few happy childhood nuggets left. Does anyone want to call Baz Luhrman and have him direct a musical version of Clash of the Titans starring Dane Cook?