Transformers (Michael Bay, 2007)
I remember when I myself was transfixed on the animated series Transformers. I longed to buy each and every transforming toy and show them off to all my friends and be the envy of the entire neighborhood. I memorized each of their names, and their qualities, and sometimes pitted them against each other utilizing my imagination. I grew up of course but there still remains that little part in my heart that longs for a come-back of those heroic (and villainous) alien robots.
I wasn't alone. The theater wherein Michael Bay's update of the popular series was playing was jampacked with eager viewers and most of them are of my age (or of my generation). Some of them would bring their parents (who probably slaved away to buy their kids those expensive toys), or to the lucky few, their kids (who would probably plead their parents to slave away to buy them the neat-looking new line of toys). Bay, the film's producers, and the numerous companies who tied-in with the movie have hit the jackpot. The film caused the audience to cheer, clap, and march away from the cinema with eager points for conversation and a renewed feeling of "it's fun to be a geek."
Now, I was alone. Amidst the sea of satisfied and salivating enthusiasts, I was the lone Grinch. I was thinking why I didn't like the film as much as the rest and I was ready to pinpoint Bay as the prime culprit yet I didn't. The film was tailor fit to Bay's sensibilities. It was loud, consistently moving, and slick (in your typical summer blockbuster way). It was the film Bay was destined to make; the film that would cement his status of prime director of cinematic junk food.
Sure, I was annoyed by Bay's methods. He can't ever have his camera still, it always had to move (through a dolly, a crane, handheld, or whatever) and the constant motion would either cause your adrenaline to pump or give you a severe brain seizure. He also relishes in over-the-top and suspect cheesiness as let's say: a little girl asking a gigantic robot whether it's the tooth fairy; or a shot of the two protagonists suddenly holding hands amidst the mayhem; or that entire ending sequence which stank of pure childish and illogical kitsch. Despite Bay's distasteful tendencies, I was very ready to let everything sink as it is: a pure popcorn flick that would carry me back to those good old days wherein my only worry was that I didn't have enough money to purchase that Bumblebee toy.
The culprit can't be the technical aspect of the film. The CGI was breathtaking; and the reincarnations of the alien robots were in my opinion very apt. I thought the film didn't really need Steve Jablonsky's epic-sized musical score (complete with Carmina Burana-esque chorale singing), but I guess he was trying to top the juicy visuals that was consistently on display. Bay's camera tricks didn't really help showcase the technical pizzazz of the film; but sure, it wasn't totally atrocious. The point is, I knew what was happening onscreen.
Then there's the ridiculous plot. Much of it is grabbed from the Transformers canon (whose illogicality is necessary), but the stuff that was added, I couldn't really buy. The first half of the film involved a chase to get Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf) who is in possession of a pair of eyeglasses that would reveal the location of the powerful Allspark. The second half (or what I'll refer to as the shut-your-brains-and-just-watch part) has the robots and humans battling the evil Decepticons to protect the Allspark. Annoyingly, the two halves don't jive; the first half isn't really necessary to arrive at the much-awaited mayhem of the climax and thus, the more-than-two-hour running time could have been trimmed to serve it better; and give it the appropriate label as a popcorn flick without all the inept narrative it tries so hard to sell.
I thought the update to Transformers is good. The animated series enters the present world of the world wide web, cellphones, Ebay, and Youtube. Meteorites land in the backyard and kids won't scurry away but will get their cameras to film the event and then upload to their respective websites. Everything is sold including family heirlooms using the ease of the internet. Information has become so readily available that the robots themselves form a complete vocabulary, attitude, and racial stereotypes utilizing the information gathered freely from the web. In a way, I can't really complain of the modifications the filmmakers have done to the beloved cartoon series.
I can understand the resounding praise that film has garnered from old and new fans alike. It's so easy to get lost in the fantasy of the boy and the car (who can transform into a heroic robot), especially if it's told with all the million-dollar special effects and goodies. It comes with this generation that is so engrossed with pumping up the ordinary: just observe the hundreds of nobodies in Youtube turning into internet superstars with their Jackass-videos or imaginative creations. Michael Bay's Transformers fits right in. It tickles that fancy of every Gen-X or Y employee that his used Corolla would play the right tunes for that hot chick he's never had the courage to ask for a date. In a way, it is that perfect escapist material for the frenzied masses who see technology as both foe and friend. So what's there to dislike in the film? Honestly, aside from Bay's inept direction and the inutile plot, I don't know.