Sunday, November 9, 2014


Transformers is a sci-fi action movie from 2007, which just so happened to be my first experience with the Transformers franchise. Outside of a toy I got for my birthday one year that is. A toy that, to this day I still do not know the name of.
Going into the series knowing absolutely nothing, I had no idea what to expect.
One night, when there was nothing else on TV we sat down to watch Transformers on ABC. I don't know exactly when this was, but it was some time before Transformers 2 came out.
I remember having liked it. Afterwards I picked up a graphic novel based on Transformers Animated, and then a few more of the toys as time went on.
Then, earlier this year I decided it was about time that I watch all of the movies I hadn't seen yet, but were extremely popular.
On that list was, of course, all three of Michael Bay's Transformers movies.
As a big fan of every Michael Bay movie I've ever seen (But back then I didn't even look at the credits beyond the cast) I figured I would like them.
Since Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon came in at the library a LONG time before the original Transformers movie came in, we watched RotF and DotM before we saw Transformers again.
Originally, I wasn't going to watch Transformers. Then I was just going to watch it on my own, because I didn't want to have to put my parents through it if they didn't want to, and then we just decided to suck it up and watch it.
Despite the fact that the other movies were irritating us more and more as they went on, I have to say that Transformers is a really good movie.
I'm serious, it's a really good movie.
I remember that pretty much all of the Bayformers movies got a bad rap with a vocal bunch of the Transformers fandom. And to be perfectly honest, as time went on in each of the other two movies in the series I kept getting the vibe that there was a really good story that was desperately struggling to get out of a movie that had a bunch of douchebag humans taking center-stage against all of the much more interesting robot characters. Or for that matter, the much more interesting human characters!
Transformers opens much like the other two movies in the series did, with Peter Cullen narrating over a scene that foreshadows certain events of the rest of the movie.
At this point in time I was thinking: "And this isn't going to be any different from the other two movies" But then I got a little further into it.
You see, the movie opens with who I considered to be the most interesting human characters in the other two Transformers movies I reviewed, Captain William Lennox and his men from the army.
I remember thinking that I wished that they would have just cut Sam from the last two Transformers movies and focused on the interactions between the Not G.I. Joes and the Autobots, and that thought continued with me through the beginning of this movie, but I hushed that voice up a ways into it.
Lennox is stationed in Qatar at a Soccent base. He opens a Skype call to his wife and infant daughter right before the base is attacked by a helicopter of unknown origin, masquerading as a United States Air Force helo that had been shot down three months prior to the events of the movie.
The chopper transforms into a massive robot, and destroys most of the base, kills almost all of the soldiers and attempting to hack into their computer database. The base commander cuts the hard-lines, and a team of soldiers lead by Lennox managed to get footage of both the chopper and the robot it transformed into and escape to search for help.
Here, I was trying to convince myself that this would have been a better movie had it just focused on the military and the Autobots, but as time went on I began to dislike that notion more and more.
So Sam Witwicky is a highschooler who is attempting to buy his first car. He tells a story about his Great-Great-Grandfather, Captain Archibald Witwicky, who stumbled upon a giant metal man on an expedition to the arctic circle, and about how he apparently went insane later on. He attempts to sell some of his grandfathers things to the class so he can fund the car, but when he leaves school that day, his father immediately takes him to a used car dealership.
I was trying  to find something bad to say about this, but the explanation is simple. Nobody wants to have less money lying around. Especially since normal cars run on gas, and not Energon.
Sam and his father go to car dealership run by Bobby Bolivia, played by the late Bernie Mac, where Sam buys a classic sports car. A modified Chevrolet Camaro with some temperament issues.
Back in the United States, Sam and a buddy of his head off to a public park to join in on a party. There they meet Sam's love interest, Mikaela Banes.
I was trying my hardest to find a reason not to like her, to find a way to say that she came off as flat, or fake, or unlikable, but nope. She's actually pretty normal in this film. She even comes off as believable when she starts acting like she knows cars, which surprised me no end since the character seemed a little sidelined and psychotic in Transformers 2.
Speaking of trying to hate a character, at this point I wasn't nearly as sick of Sam as I had been in Transformers 3, oddly enough. I was wanting to think of him as a douchebag, but he wasn't coming off as one.
Not to mention Sam's parents, who seem to have gone from decently tolerable to bizarre caricatures of themselves over the course of three films.
I kept trying to find a way to fault the dialogue, or the acting, or the writing but it all just seemed like normal people reacting to an abnormal situation, rather than fanboys attempting to write dialogue for characters that they have no frame of reference for.
In fact, that brings me to a gripe I had with how Sam's parents were portrayed in Transformers 2 and 3, as essentially cardboard cutouts of cliches.
And I think I know why. Transformers 2 added another writer to the screenplay, and for the third one, he was the only one working on it. His name is Ehren Kruger, and he's worked on such gems as Scream 3 and 4.
I don't wanna put all the blame on him, but he is the correlating factor. Nothing against the guy personally. Considering that I'm not an insider on the film-making process I don't know this for sure Kruger is the problem. For all I know everyone else who was making the film went nuts and he was the only sane person on the team.
However unlikely that is.
Anyways, I noticed that Sam's interactions with his parents were a lot less excruciating in this movie, because instead of him being a douchebag and them being cliches, they actually seem like real people with real personalities.
Hell, even Sam's "What would Jesus do" speech wasn't what I would call intolerable. It just sounds like a kid trying to convince his teacher to help him out. And you know why it sounds that way? Because at this point, Sam Witwicky hasn't met the President of the United States of America to get a medal for saving the world twice. Because he doesn't know a small army of large robots who stand three stories tall and wield deadly weapons.
And even when Sam's dad is taking him through the Porche dealership on the way to Bobby Bolivia's used car lot wasn't hard to watch. Unlike the scene in Transformers 2 where Sam's mom was tripping out on some kind of hyperactivity drugs disguised as weed.
So anyways, I like how they interlaced scenes of Lennox's team with ones of his wife watching the news of his base being destroyed and survivor status being unknown, it helps to show how an information disconnect can affect a person.
Lennox's team was in the middle of analyzing the footage they had captured of the attacking robot when they were attacked by Scorponok, a Decepticon drone.
The action scenes in this movie are all really good. As per standard for the series the special effects are really good. All of them. So I doubt there's much to say about that that I haven't already said. Or that anyone else hasn't already said.
Anyways, Sam's car gets stolen and he follows it on his moms bike. He follows it to a junkyard, where it transforms into a gigantic robot.
Meanwhile on Air Force One, a Decepticon by the name of Frenzy manages to get a foothold into the United States classified information database, and before being shut out he manages to find out who the person was that found Megatron, and find out who his descendants are. Of course, Sam Witwicky is on that list. They check out his eBay page and find out that he's got his grandfathers glasses, which have the code needed to find the Allspark etched into them.
Another Decepticon, Barricade picks up Frenzy and harasses Sam, demanding that he tell them where the glasses are. Bumblebee intervenes and they escape.
To be perfectly honest, I can't remember when Sam picked up Mikaela and when she learned about The Transformers, but that isn't the movies fault, it's mine for not writing the review three months ago when I saw the movie.
Bumblebee and Barricade face off again, while Sam and Mikaela are left to deal with Frenzy.
I was trying to use this scene as an excuse to reinforce my opinions of Mikaela as a psychopath and Sam as completely useless, but I can't say that I would have handled the situation any differently than they did. I even wanted to criticize the product placement for the dewalt Sawsall they used to cut up Frenzy, but to be perfectly honest, I'd rather they use a real brand than a generic one.
Now, let's talk about one of the most famous scenes in the movie. The Arrival to Earth.
Right then I was trying to figure out if Transformers by Lion or The Touch by Stan Bush would have fit better, and they didn't. Arrival to Earth is an awesome piece of music, and it fits the scene pretty much perfectly. I have to disagree with the dude running with the camera, that while I do like this movie I don't necessarily thing that it's a better movie than Armageddon (Just like how I disagree with Rotten Tomatoes when I say that Transformers 2 was not worse than Transformers 3. And I also don't agree with them on The Island. The Island was not worse than Transformers.) I do have to say that it's a good movie so far.
I liked how the first human being Optimus met was a little girl. A small child, the picture of innocence, the exact thing that he would give his life to protect is the first being that he meets on planet earth.
Mikaela and Sam then meet up with Optimus Prime, Ratchet, Jazz, and Ironhide.
You know, in Transformers 2 there was barely any reason for Sam to be involved with the plot.
If Sam had only given the shard to NEST, Optimus wouldn't have died and Megatron probably wouldn't have been resurrected. But in this movie, the reason why the Decepticons want Sam is because he's got the code to find The Allspark. The reason the Autobots want to help Sam is the find the glasses so they can protect him and the earth from the Decepticons. The humans have to work with Sam because the Autobots are the ones that gave him the rundown on the situation. The Autobots gave him the rundown because they needed him to trust them. It's very simple, unlike how Sam got roped into Transformers 3's plot.
Now, despite the fact that the scene that follows is a little off-kilter, it's not out of place. It's not as though it's intended to elicit laughs.
So Sam is looking for his great-great-grandfathers glasses and he gets caught in his room with Mikaela. Despite the subject matter of the conversation between Sam and his parents, it doesn't come off as awkward to me. It actually seems like something that people might actually be talking about in that kind of situation.
Because Sam's parents reported him missing and because of the arrival to earth, a division of the US government known as Sector 7 shows up to investigate. The's probably a better summary of that, but unfortunately those details are a little fuzzy to me at the moment.
They detect Energon residue on Sam and Mikaela and haul them in. Optimus and the Autobots attempt to rescue them, but Sector 7 regains control of the situation and takes Sam, Mikaela and Bumblebee off to a classified location. If you haven't seen this scene be prepared for absolute painful brutality.
Thants to the glasses they got from Sam, the Autobots manage to rendezvous at the location they took Sam, Mikaela and Bumblebee to, the Hoover Dam. At the dam, they meet up with a hacker employed by one of the National Security Advisers to crack the Decepticon's encryption.
Frenzy, the Decepticon from earlier manages to sneak in and alert Starscream to the location of the Allspark. Thanks to Sam's Autobot knowledge the government decides to cooperate with Optimus and agrees to let Bumblebee take the Allspark.
The movie climaxes with a showdown between the Autobots and Decepticons. Bumblebee gets severely wounded, and hands the cube off to Sam to deliver to Optimus.
Right there, I was welling up with tears. Bumblebee was dying, and his only thoughts were of the safety of the human race, not of himself.
Now, this brings me to my gripes about Transformers 2 and 3. In this movie, despite communications being down the face-off between the Autobots and the Decepticons takes place in the middle of a major city, filled with tons of people. There's no way they could cover that up, especially not when so many people died in the crossfire.
And that was also something that annoyed me in the end of Transformers 2, the showdown in that movie took place in a major city as well. There's no way they could have covered that up, or any of the other Transformers related activity in the last two movies. As they went on, they kept stretching the willing suspension of disbelief, and the finally just gave up and said that everyone should know about the Transformers. It took them destroying most of Chicago to do it though, so I suppose that the version of the US government that can cover up large buildings in Nevada being destroyed and the destruction of the Pyramids of Giza
Sam takes the cube and runs to get it to Optimus. Along the way, The Allspark turns a Pepsi machine, an Xbox 360, and a Cadilac into Transformers.
I've heard people complain about this, asking why it only creates Decepticons and not Autobots. The explanation is simple. Despite Bumblebee being the last one to hold the cube, he didn't have time to reprogram it. The last Transformers with prolonged access were the Decepticons, and they probably programmed it to only create Decepticons.
The moment that saved Mikaela as a character for me was when she jacked a tow-truck and used it to haul Bumblebee out of the danger-zone. That's what turned her from a shallow psychopath into an actual human being for me, when she risked her life to save Bumblebee.
Sam manages to get the cube to Optimus, but Megatron has wounded him, and killed Jazz.
The moment where Megatron killed Jazz was even more infuriating this time around, which is something considering it barely phased me when I first watched the movie.
And just as all hope seems lost, as if the Autobots and the human race have failed despite their best efforts, Sam Witwicky made a choice.
A choice that changed my whole outlook on his character.
I suppose you could say that my opinion toward the whole franchise "transformed" a bit after watching the first movie again.
Despite all of my ire towards the other two Transformers movies I've reviewed, I still can't find it in my heart to dislike this one. It's not this movies fault that the other two weren't as good.
You know why?
Because this is the only movie where Sam Witwicky seemed like a hero.
That moment where he made that snap decision to kill Megatron was a moment where I was completely on-board with Sam. He risked life and limb to save a robot that he barely knew. In that moment, had they started playing The Touch, I would have been completely behind that being Sam's theme song. Because he fucking earned that theme song. The definition of true bravery is being afraid, but still daring to do what needs to be done. And Sam did what needed to be done.
I remember looking through the Transformers 2 soundtrack, and when I saw "The Touch (Sam's theme)" I was severely annoyed, because I didn't think he deserved that good a theme song. In Transformers 2 he acted too selfish and self-centered and completely uncaring to have that good of a theme song. To have that awesome, and uplifting a theme-song. Everything he did in that movie could have easily been done by Lennox, who was a much more selfless character. While Sam was on the road to redemption in Transformers 3, he screwed it up by not being very useful in the times when he could have redeemed himself the most.
My argument here is that by that point, Sam has already been through enough that he should have been pretty jaded and experienced by the time Dark of the Moon came out. Instead he just reset to the same basic template at the beginning of both of the sequels.
By the time of Transformers 2, Sam should have been working with NEST and the Autobots as part of their task-force. By the time of Transformers 3 he should have been head of the organization! Why is he looking for a job in the private sector? For that matter, why did it take so long for him to get one?
But at the end of Transformers, Sam Witwicky felt like a genuine hero. Like someone who I would actually consider a great character if they'd bothered to develop him properly as the movies went on.
If you're looking for a good movie about The Transformers, this may disappoint. The movie is more about the people than about the robots, and while I REALLY wanted to dislike it for that, I remember how much I liked the Batman movie from 1989. Despite that it was more about The Joker than about Batman, I still really, really like it. And despite Transformers being less about the actual Transformers than the humans, I still really liked it. And here's why:
Because it treated the civilians like actual people. And that made all the difference.
This movie is essentially perfect. There's nothing in it that I would change.
I was looking for things to change, to edit, to fine-tune and I didn't find any! I remember I had a whole catalog of things I would have changed in The Expendables, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Transformers: Dark of the moon. This is why I held off on reviewing this movie for so long, because of The Expendables. That movie was so badly made that it made me look back on the Transformers movies more fondly. That's why I reviewed so many movies in the order I did this summer, because of The Expendables!
So all in all, while the entire movie was really good, it was that last scene that clinched it for me. Because in that moment, I truly believed that Sam Witwicky had The Touch.