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July 03, 2007
Taking Notes: Transformers Edition

Taking Notes: Transformers (2007)

So, this is going to be the first of what I hope to spin into a weekly column about the new stuff I take an interest in. Whether it be films, comic books, videogames. Whatever I happen to get into during the course of a week.

Today's article is a special, since it will focus singularly on the Transformers film. Following articles will hopefully contain several similar pieces, probably shorter.

Many years ago a war erupted on Cybertron, between the Autobots and Decepticons, over a powerful object known as the "All Spark"; which is said to be able to create life. During this war the Autobots managed to smuggle it off the planet and away from the Decepticons and Megatron. In the present, it is determined that the cube and Megatron are here on Earth, poised to destroy anything in his way to retrieve the cube, he and the Decepticons bring the long fought war of Cybertron home; leaving the fate of Earth as well as the entire universe in the hands of young Sam Witwicky.

I am going to say this right away, prior to seeing it, I had a lot of pent up apprehension about how the film was going to turn out. The worry was really that of knowing the work of the director of the film, Michael Bay, who has a general habit of making films with very little story and far more action than is probably necessary. This isn't to say that I walked into the theatre expecting to hate it, far from it; the reality is that I walked in hoping to really enjoy my time, and I can't say that I didn't enjoy myself.

Going in, the film sets itself up quite quickly and giving a summarized version of the story, voiced by Optimus Prime himself, Peter Cullen. This exposition piece goes on to set the tone for the rest of the film, by trying to believably explain the why and how of the Transformers themselves and yet more the why as to them coming to Earth at all. Along those lines, it's equally clear that the goal of the presentation was to make it as believable as possible for the audience that they even existed, by dumbing down the light shows of their weapons and really just making them seem 'real tech', which goes in the face of our old hallmark in the science fiction universe, but plays out well enough on screen.

As the film progresses, we are slowly greeted by the important characters of the film, who take their roles as aggressors and defenders, namely the Decepticons and Autobots; which is a bit questionable in its effect. While you can easily see that they're trying to squeeze in as many Transformers as possible, coupled with human characters, the method of introduction left out a few characters completely; Scorponok, introduced early on is relegated to an enemy who attacks without provocation, and Frenzy, a nuisance and apparently intended to serve as comic relief for the film; really, thinking hard about it, you get very little information about the characters beyond what is important to the plot.

Beyond the basic plot, there are a few other important elements to touch on. First, the film really makes heavy use of the fast paced and violent fight scenes, and as expected from Bay, comes off quite well. Along these same lines, we have the cg effects, and while I am still not particularly satisfied by the designs of the Transformers, I was quite impressed by them on the screen; the level of detail was honestly quite high. And really the wrap up of the whole thing would be the dialogue, not fantastic, but in short it worked well enough for the film.

For all of my apprehension over the film and its handling it wouldn't be correct to say outright that I hated it. I think when it comes down to it, it's a thrill ride trying to be a romantic and funny rump, coupled with serious overtones; really in the same boat as Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Even for that, I would have to say it's about as good as to be expected with a property like Transformers, and ideally the only real problems I had with it were the poor comic relief segments which seemed to last far too long. Otherwise it probably was in fact the most enjoyable period of time I have ever spent watching a Michael Bay film, which is really saying something. It most certainly isn't perfect.

Would I consider it a decent movie? Sure. Would I consider it a good movie by the standards of excellence? No. Explosions and a lack of character building in a character driven story have prevented such a consideration. Did I have fun? Yeah.

Final verdict? Leave your haughty expectations at the door for this one, it's glam without the glue, but its worth your $8.00. Might even be worth a DVD purchase, with the right incentives.

-- lost in thought

Tags: Column, Taking Notes, opinion, Transformers

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