In 2005 I saw a poster at the cinema in Morecambe. It was a poster for a new Transformers movie. No date was shown as to when it was being released, or much detail of it would be either animated or live action. These were the days when the Web was still in a state of infancy and only just starting to get widely available. After remembering that poster, in April of 2007 I decide to try and track the film down. I did, it even had trailers and the news that it would be released that year. Come July I was ready for it, and was blown away by it. I absolutely loved it and could hardly think of anything else for several weeks. Well that was seven years ago, and I have finally got round to doing my review of it.
Based on what started as a toy line by Hasbro and became an international sensation with comics, books, more toys and cartoons and directed by Movie Action Supremo Michael Bay and executive produced by Steven Spielberg in co-operation with both Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks, Transformers is the story of a race of Giant Robots who can transform into vehicles in order to hide their secret from the rest of the world.
The story begins with a brief dialogue about a Cube called the AllSpark which built a world but the power for control of the object started a war which decimated an entire world. The cube drifted in space for millennia before crash landing on planet earth. At an army base in Qatar, Captain William Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and Technical Sergeant Robert Epps (Tyrese Gibson) along with the rest of their platoon arrive back from a supposed mission and are about to go home when a helicopter arrives at the base. The helicopter then transforms into a giant robot and destroys the base. Lennox and his team along with a boy on the base manage to escape but get noticed by the robot who sends out a smaller robot to take care of them. It then tries hacking into the army system but the lines are cut.
In the United Sates, a boy called Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) gets his first car, a Chevrolet Camaro. He goes out for a drive to show it off and runs into Class mate Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox) and gives her a lift home. At the Pentagon, Secretary of Defence Keller (Jon Voight) briefs a bunch of IT Analysts about the hack in Qatar and gets them to try and figure out what it was. On one team is Analyst Maggie Madsen (Rachael Taylor) who while trying to figure it out intercepts the same hack happening again on Air Force One. On board the plane is another robot who stowed away on board as a Music Cassette Player and is the one attempting the hack. The lines are shut again but he finds out about Sam. During the night, back at the Witwicky house, Sam’s car appears to just drive off. Sam follows and discovers that the car is a robot.
Maggie tries to persuade the secretary of defence that the hack was caused by something organic and metallic, but tells her that she needs evidence first. She takes a copy to hacker friend Glen Whitman (Anthony Anderson) but just as they manage to get into the data, the house is raided and they are both arrested. In the desert, Captain Lennox and his team are attacked by the smaller robot named Scorponok but are able to call in help and manage to defeat it before it escapes. Back at his home, Sam goes for a ride on his mother’s bike, when his car starts stalking him. He runs away bumping into Mikaela and then gets attacked by a police car, who is actually a robot. The robot demands to know if he is Username Ladiesman217 and asks about some visors. Sam manages to get away, runs into Mikaela again who spots the robot, but are then both rescued by his Camaro, who fights and defeats the police car. Using the car radio the robot sort of explains who he is and takes the two of them with him.
That night four large meteorites crash into planet earth and scan some cars, before then all meeting up. Sam and Mikaela are then introduced to the Autobot crew of leader Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), his first lieutenant Jazz (Darius McCrary), weapons specialist Ironhide (Jess Harnell), medical officer Ratchet (Robert Foxworth) and Sam’s car Bumblebee (Mark Ryan). Optimus explains that they come from Planet Cybertron where a war broke out over the AllSpark and that when he went looking for it; the villainous Megatron (Hugo Weaving) leader of the Decepticons landed on Earth and was discovered by Captain Archibald Witwicky (William Morgan Sheppard), Sam’s ancestor. The glasses he was wearing had the destination of the cube printed on them and Sam had the glasses up for sale on eBay. They all go to Sam’s house where his parents Ron (Kevin Dunn) and Judy (Julie White) are. The Autobots make a mess of the garden while Sam looks for the glasses before parents go to his room and find Mikaela. Sam finds the glasses but then the house is surrounded by Agents from Sector 7 led by Agent Simmons (John Turturro) who take all of them including the family dog into custody. The agents Press Sam and Mikaela for information before Sam finds out that Mikaela has a criminal record. The Autobots rescue them but are then pursued by more agents who capture Bumblebee in the process and take Sam and Mikaela back into custody.
Back at the Pentagon, a man called Tom Banachek (Michael O’Neill) who is the head of Sector 7 arrives and tells Keller that back in 2003, the Beagle 2 Mars Rover (even though it was neither an American spacecraft, or a planetary rover) landed on Mars and transmitted a few seconds of footage. The footage showed the body of a robot and Sector 7 cut all transmission from the thing before it could go public. The operations team from Qatar took a picture of the thing that attacked the base, and Sector 7 believes they are both of the same origin. The Pentagon is then hacked and Keller is asked to go to the Hoover Dam; he picks up Glen and Maggie on the way. Lennox’s team arrives in the USA and along with Mikaela and Sam also go to the Hoover Dam, the HQ of Sector 7. Sam manages to get Mikaela’s record wiped forever before they are all briefed on a giant robot in the basement called NBE 1, who is actually Megatron. They are also shown the Cube which is the size of a building and are shown that the Cube has the power to turn electronic objects into transforming robots. They are however unaware that Mikaela’s phone had been replaced with the robot from Air Force one who tells the other Decepticons where the cube is who all then head for the base. Inside the dam, Sam is taken to a tortured Bumblebee who makes the cube itself transform into a smaller one. A plan is made to hide it in the city. Keller, Maggie, Glen and Simmons go to try and contact the air force, while Lennox and his team along with Sam and Mikaela and the other Autobots take the Cube into Mission City. Megatron is then freed by the Decepticons and go off in pursuit.
In the Dam, Simmons, Keller, Glen and Maggie are attacked by the smaller Decepticon Frenzy (Reno Wilson). They are able to defeat it and get word out to the air force. In the city Lennox’s team and the Autobots are attacked by the Decepticons Devastator, Starscream (Charlie Adler) and Bonecrusher (Jimmie Wood), including the helicopter Blackout from the attack in Qatar. Sam is press ganged into getting the cube into military hands while Bumblebee teams up with Mikaela driving a tow truck after he loses his legs. The fight intensifies with Jazz getting ripped apart by Megatron and the Decepticons being seemingly unkillable. Sam tries to get the cube into military hands but the chopper is destroyed by Megatron. Sam falls from the building but is rescued by Optimus. Optimus and Megatron fight and along with help from the air force and Lennox’s team manage to defeat the Decepticons with Sam putting the Cube in Megatron chest, killing him instantly. The Decepticon bodies are disposed of and Sector 7 is shut down. The Autobots stay with Sam and Mikaela and Optimus sends a message to all surviving Autobots to come to planet Earth.
Transformers is amazingly well made. It was always going to be a tough film to crack but it is generally an action spectacle that has both terrific action sequences fights and drama.
The drama from and between the films human cast is very well done. Sam is a typical teenager with dreams but is over ecstatic when all of the weirdness begins. Shia LaBeouf does this splendidly and even manages to get his head together. He is however more understanding than the old jock characters and is more able to get a friendship going with Mikaela as a result. Jon Voight’s character is great as a leadership character as someone in his position is always trying to stay calm no matter what the situation but will allow himself to get angry and annoyed if he thinks it is justified as well as necessary and appropriate. Simmons meanwhile is a source of light comic relief but whose character is very serious about what he does and that comic nature is more his real world side and his serious professionalism along with a touch of madness is more what he really is. Epps is sort of the other side to that where he is genuinely a very serious guy but those elements of comedy are what the audience is thinking so it allows them to connect with him as well as the cynical sarcastic and surreal nature of what is going on. Sam’s nightmare parents are nicely well-played too with Judy being more of a real nightmare trying to get down with her son making her look embarrassing, while Ron is more of the friendly father figure who is not afraid to make his feelings known but tries to remain calm in saying them. Together they both have great onscreen chemistry but have different as well as very funny responses to certain situations, Judy promotes violence while Ron wants to do things legally. Their response to the sight of Mikaela is brilliant too as they are not disapproving about her, but more interested and pleased about her.
On the human side though, the real standouts are Tom, Lennox, Maggie and Mikaela along with a host of extra cast including Glenn Morshower, Brian Shehan (who really should have had more of a spot in this film), Tom Everett and one bloke who briefly appeared, don’t know what his name is but I think he appeared as the father of a girl Malcolm was going out with in Malcolm in the Middle.
Tom only appears very briefly but he is one of the most interesting characters. He is generally very casual but also very corporate in his character and is a bit easier on his approach, compared to Simmons who goes in all guns blazing. So while he only has a few shots, all those scenes are brilliant and is a real shame, along with someone else in the cast, that he did not appear again in the series. Lennox meanwhile is not your typical soldier. He is not gun hoe or busy barking orders at his platoon, he is more sensible, understands the situation and works to get the best results, as shown when he tells Simmons that he will count to three. Maybe because his platoon is made of a similar bunch of guys is the reason he is more like this allowing him to be more respectful on the battlefield, but when dealing with people as a whole he is both persuasive and calm enough to make sure people know what they need to do and because he is not an average soldier but perhaps a more respectable human being allows him to stand out to the viewer. Maggie meanwhile is almost the films secret main star. She is not exactly a geek or a nerd but is very specialised in what she does. While she pretty much does land herself into FBI custody, her headstrong nature as well as own beliefs and ideals mean that she did it in the best interests and not for herself and because she is not afraid to speak her own mind, she gains a large amount of respect from Keller who does take a professional liking to her. She is also not afraid to get her hands dirty as shown when they take on Frenzy. Her character is very likeable and while Like Tom her scenes are more of a handful of pieces here and there, all of those scenes are brilliant mostly thanks to how such a good actress Rachael Taylor is and as stated for Tom before, I do consider it a real shame that she did not continue to appear in the series.
Megan Fox is supposedly playing the girl next door character, however she is more than that. While in some respects her part is possibly meant for a bit of eye candy, her character is actually one of the best in the entire film. Mikaela is not a damsel in distress. On the contrary she would be the type to do the rescuing given half the chance. Her character is more of a challenge to the men as she knows so much about cars, but is not respected for as such. She strikes a friendship up with Sam because while he is trying to be like one of the jocks, she sees more to him than that and this allows her to have someone to talk with about her inner feelings which have become hidden by her looks. When he criminal record is revealed, her character comes out more and that inner torment that she has been hiding finally comes to fruition and allows her to do more as a person and connect more with the viewer. She is actually quite caring and can see the best in people despite what her exterior shows and I would easily say that she is very much on par with the Transformers themselves as highlights of this film.
As for the real stars given the name of the film, the Transformers. It is a nice mix of characters. Optimus is very serious and doesn’t pull jokes at all, it’s more in what he is than what he does. The use of the stereo for Bumblebee is a great move as it adds an element of humour to his character without him needing to speak. Megatron is very well-played and both looks bad but also sounds cold and calculating. He shares some of the best speaking parts for the transformers in the entire film and is a joy to be hold. For the most part the other Decepticons play their part by shutting up and letting Megatron do his bit, because well he is the centre piece, but the diversity of the vehicles that they are, as well as some of the speaking parts that they do, primarily Barricade (Jess Harnell) allow them to stand out a little more. So instead of being just ordinary silent villains, they have their own little character bits strung out here and there and are very enjoyable too. For me though, despite Optimus of course being the leader and some bits done by Jazz and Ratchet, they’re not as good as Ironhide. A machine whose part is that of a rough and tough persona, he is actually quite cool and has the best speaking parts of any transformer in the film. While his attitude can get the better of him, he is capable of toning that part down and has a lot of respect for Optimus and some caring nature towards the humans. But for a part of a rough soldier, he is quite capable of more than that and has his own touches of comedy which don’t get boring, as well as scenes that are not comedic which are absolutely brilliant (for more information please refer to my Top 5 posts on the Autobots and Decepticons).
The films special effects are well done. Making such characters appear like that was always going to be hard, but the rustic nature of their design makes them look more realistic, but just to achieve such designs deserve a lot of credit. While such effects have become part of the norm for cinema today, when you take something that was originally a toy, but then put it into a state where it not only looks good but also realistic to the point of the viewer being able to feel like they could touch it requires a lot of work, and if it can be pulled off, like it has done so here, it deserves a lot of credit. I particularly like how the design of the transformers is a lot like how George Lucas envisioned the craft in Star Wars by making the nuts and bolts visible.
The film’s soundtrack is also one of the film’s best components. While the end music of What I’ve Done provided by Linkin Park is very good in its own right; it is the music created for the film itself by composer Steve Jablonsky that gets the real attention. The parts used for the military sequences have a nice tense tone to them but is also catchy for a piece with no lyrics in as well as very memorable. But the piece that comes to my mind is that of the arrival sequence of the Autobots. The piece gives a heroic impression of here comes the good guys about it and starts off very classical but gets a little more intense and brighter as it goes along and ends with this sharp, sort of heavy component when the Autobots meet up and Optimus transforms. That piece in general has all sorts of bits to it with even an operatic tone part way in but for me, the piece does not have a single moment of it being better than the rest. A nice calm feel which intensifies little by little until you reach the terrific ending. Just thinking about that piece sends chills down my spine. I really like that piece.
Transformers is a truly terrific film. To this day I absolutely love this film, my favourite of 2007. With a great sense of action and battle sequences as well as a terrific portrayal of the human side to the conflict from the film’s cast (all of them) with special effects and music to back it all up; Transformers is one Excellent film that is enjoyable from start to finish guaranteed.
GENEPOOL (I do like the reference to the Beagle 2 Spacecraft. It gives it an extra sense of both validity and realism. I just couldn’t find anywhere else in the post to mention that).