Monday, November 09, 2009

Review: Transformer & Transformers Revenge of the fallen

Transformers 2007
Director Michael Bay
Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro

Revenge 2009
Director Michael Bay
Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro

Remember the old Saturday morning cartoon about robot that change into cars jets and trucks? Robot in disguise! remember? Well even though I was captivated by animation, I found the whole concept of transforming robots too big of a "suspension of belief" to swallow. And if they were alien robots, why did they have stupid names like Autobots and Decepticons? Decepticons? Hey they all changed into cars and stuff! And Optimus Prime? Who thought of these names? So you can see, I was not a fan of the cartoon, and transferred that to the movies.

I decided to watch both movies back to back just to get an idea of the CGA and see why they movies were so popular. In the first movie, rival autobot (autobots?!!!) try to discover the whereabouts of an ancient cube that will allow the Autobots to once again populate their war devastated world. Their only clue to its location is a pair of glasses etched with the location and belonging to the lead character Sam.

The observation that comes to mind with the first movie is that Bay took himself and the movie way too seriously. Perhaps overcompensating for the fact that he is making a movie about Saturday morning cartoon characters. While the action sequences are spectacular, the dialogue is ponderous as the robots are large and verging on dogmatic. Heavy handed comes to mind quite easily. The only person who seems to be camping their character is Turturro.

Bay telegraphs the movies climax that you are left wondering why he drags it out so long.

The movie is by the numbers geeky guy in high-school, buys car (or whatever) that has weird powers, and is drawn into a conflict way beyond what he ever expected and (I swear I am not giving anything away) becomes the hero in the end. Star Wars anyone? Harry Potter? Back to the Future?

The film is diverting, the action is good, the DVD has bupkus for special features.

So lets talk about Revenge of the Fallen

And Bay loosens his sphincter and quite possibly has fun with Transformers 2. The movie is for all intents a carbon of the first. The hero is tired, dispirited and wants nothing more than to have a normal life, but is pulled back in by the original conflict.

With the last movie, we were lead to believe that the Autobots on Earth were fighting the few Decepticons left but since the cube was destroyed there was little left to fight about. But now there are shards! No Kidding! Who woulda thought! Kidding aside, Revenge is just plain more fun. Nowhere near as heavy handed as the first. Humor and campiness is in ready supply. If anything, Turturro is allowed to run wild with his character and that alone would have been worth the price of the movie. He brings to life this maniacal conspiracy theorist recluse living with his mother in a New York deli. He can deliver a line like "remember the sacrifices I have made for my country" and make that and other one liners something especially funny. The action sequences are if anything even more spectacular. You completely buy into 50 foot robots beating the crap out of each other on busy city streets. The plot is no less formulaist than the first movie, but the humor quite literally ties the move together and keeps the flow going. Scenes like the little demon decepticon that changes into an RC truck? Found that he could switch sides, clings to the girl friend's leg and then pantomime some pretty rude behavior. Sam says..."you do realize what its doing to your leg right?" and the girl friend replies "yeah, but he is so cute!" all done with a falsetto voice saying things like "oh yeah, who's your daddy now?" and "oh you like that don't you!" I know...bathroom humor but it demonstrates a director willing to have fun and be a bit less pendatic with his material. I know I laughed.

So if you have been sitting on the fence with this DVD, the movie is entertaining enough to make at the very least a rental worth it. But forget about any extras. If there were any, I couldn't find them. Which means I guess I am seeing a trend now. No one it seems is bending over backwards to make the DVD value added anymore. It really is a shame because that is how the format was promoted. You could have so much more than what a vhs could offer. The commentaries, deleted scenes, trailers what have you. Perishingly few DVDs seem to be offering anything anymore.


ebonic said...

As a fan of the the first gen cartoon I was happy with the first movie but rather disapointed in the second. The movie was ok but it was pretty much the same as the first, with a some more special effects. I was happy that they used the original voice of optimus prime but wonderd why they didn't try to get soundwaves original voice for the second movie. He had an unmistakable robot voice that any fan of the show would know right away. Also Devestator, the giant robot at the end of the movie, what the heck was it supposed to be anyway? Looked like some weird dog or animal. Nothing at all like the original. All though it was a cool movie, Over all they strayed way to far away from the original series which was a big disapointment for the real hardcore fans. All though it made a ton of money, I think if Bay could have stayed more true to the original series he could have made one of the best trilogies of all time. Right up there with lord of the rings and star wars. I was very excited when I found out they were making the first movie and I liked it, but after the second movie I could really care less if they make a third cause Bay messed it all up with his toilet comedy. Only thing that would bring me back is Mehgan fox sexy behind and the original Optimus Prime. It could have been way way way way better!

Beam Me Up said...

Great review ebonic! Thanks! That is what I was hoping for, someone who HAD watched the TV version and liked it. I just could never buy into a truck turning into a robot. That means I missed the point. So bringing up why fans would be disappointed with the movies is very good information. So as it stands now, if you were NOT a fan of the tv version and are NOT looking for great movie making then these are a reasonable distraction, otherwise, pass

martinhekker said...

Okay, seems like a reasonable if kind review. The entertainment value of the first movie was slim compared to more. . . competitive sf film. However, I rented the second movie and have considered just not watching it. But your review convinces me to give it a chance.

Beam Me Up said...

I would Martin
Don't get me wrong, it's still a walk in a line, talk - ain't we great" type of ending that the more I see it, the more angry I become...check out the ending to GI Joe...I threw stuff at the tv at the end when I found out that they wrote that scene in as an afterthought! And they think that ADDS TO THE MOVIE!!???

So yeah, there is surely an element of movie making by the numbers here, but still, some of the robot fight scenes are still worthy!