Review: Generic Summer Action Movie 2007

What I'm about to say will not be popular. GSAM2K7 has gotten very positive reviews, and most of the people I know have loved it. So if you can't handle a differing opinion, you can stop reading right now.

Disclaimers:

I'm not a fan of action movies.
I'm not a fan of Michael Bay.

That said, GSAM2K7 sunk below even my low expectations. There's a certain level of idiocy I accept in summer movies, but Bay exceeds it by fathoms. The movie was pure distilled Bayessence: big explosions, in-your-face battle scenes, entire cities being ripped to shreds, seizure-inducing special effects. The plot has all the complexity of a Garfield comic ("Oh no he didn't just eat the lasagna again!). The characters shout loudly at the camera and hyper-project every emotion.

No summer blockbuster archetype goes unused. Unnoticed Funny Nerd falls for Unattainable Sexy Chick who over the course of the movie eventually reciprocates. Big Black Guy who can't resist donuts teams with Sexy Australian Chick to crack the secret code that our Top Military Personnel couldn't. Shouting Bossy Old Man shouts a lot.

Further, every GSAM gimmick from the past decade was re-used. GSAM2K7 wasn't really a new movie. It was more like a sampling of old GSAMs with a few new sequences spliced in. As it turns out, the Bat Signal has been refurbished with the Autobot Face. The Men in Black now work to keep Megatron frozen and hidden from the public in a top-secret location. Interestingly, they choose a desert tourist attraction for this purpose. The military personnel from Armageddon are back in their secret headquarters to figure out how to stop the end of the world. Bay recycles the sequential introduction ("Look at this hilarious motley crew!") of the lesser Autobots just as he did for the lesser humans that were going to help Bruce Willis save the planet. And just like Armageddon, the lesser characters are warm bodies we never get to know. Like in other Bay films, the camera never stops moving and the background music never stops playing. As in non-Bay film King Kong, massive entities stomp through a space crowded with humans who just barely manage to avoid being squashed every single time. Just as in Pearl Harbor and Armageddon, amid the quest to save humanity (or the nation, take your pick) arises a trite love story that provides a Maxim babe's exposed midriff. The height of poignancy is reached when our flawed heroine reveals the reason for her juvie record, "I did it to keep my dad out of jail!" as our hero looks back with guilt-ridden lust. Not satisfied with merely making a bad movie, Bay strokes his massive ego by working in a shameless shout-out to his prior film when a kid yells, "This is easily a hundred times cooler than Armageddon."

What I'm most surprised at is the praise the movie has generated from fans of the Transformers cartoon. Let me state for the record: I am an unabashed fan of the 80's cartoon. This movie did no justice to the cartoon. Sure, just like GSAM2K7, the animated series was an advertisement for toys, but at a time when the Japanese were making the best animation, Transformers was an American robot cartoon that lived up to the high standards set by the Japanese. I'm sure there are many adults like myself who remember getting home from school, throwing off my backpack, and plopping down in front of the TV just in time to watch the show in an afternoon lineup mixed with G. I. Joe and He-Man.

The original cartoon had depth and refinement. The 3-parter "More than meets the eye" set up the overarching plot of the longstanding war between the Autobots and Decepticons. The series came into its own with the two-parter Dinobot island episde that introduced the loyal brawn-more-than-brains Dinobots into the fold. As season 2 progressed, the myth was further developed with background episodes such as "The Secret of Omega Supreme" and "The Search for Alpha Trion". Of course, the best episode was "War Dawn", simply a masterful work of storytelling. The arc climaxed with the real Transformers movie, the one that came out in 1986.

I was initially excited when I saw the boombox because I loved the original Shockwave character but the boombox transformed into a Gremlin-like character. Apparently, they decided to make Frenzy, originally one of the many cassette tapes that Shockwave housed, into a Gremlin that could hack into computers. Shockwave is nowhere to be seen. Other discrepancies:

  • Megatron not a gun, but rather a fancy jet.
  • Bumblebee not a bug (see pic at top of article for details). This was unforgivable. The Volkswagen bug was so fitting for Bumblebee. Much weaker than the other autobots, he was always the little guy that could, Spike's protector, the viewer's vicarious actor. The Camaro destroys his essence.
  • They don't turn into robots, but rather giant insects. See Megatron as an example:
  • Transformers are supposed to transform. The cartoons, the toys -- indeed the word itself -- implies a reshuffling of existing part into a different configuration, a conservation of mass, if you will. So how can Bumblebee, a Camaro, tower to a height of multiple stories? Instead of parts flipping, rotating, and sliding, they instead morphed. Frenzy shrunk to the size of a cell-phone. Transformers are not supposed to morph.
  • Along similar lines, there should be recognizable car-parts even in robot form. Optimus used to have the front of the tractor as his entire chest. Bumblebee used to have giant wheels as shoulders. Today, they're all giant bugs.

Bay's piece doesn't hold a candle to the original. It simply uses the "Transformers" name to recyle movies of the past while adding in a few uninspring frills. But if you're one of the millions who did enjoy it, have no worry. As you know, Starscream escaped in the end, leaving the door ajar for GSAM2K9.

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Conservation of wha?

I basically disagree with you, since I enjoyed the Transformers flick - even though most of your rant is a pretty accurate reflection of the film's weaknesses. However, I have one quibble - when did the Transformers cartoon EVER obey conservation of mass? As you note, Megatron turned into a GUN. A gun that could be held by another Decepticon who was the same size as Megatron in robot form. Throughout most of the series, Optimus Prime's trailer simply disappeared and reappeared when he transformed, magically. The cartoon never truly obeyed conservation of mass, and aside from the giant cube, the movie actually did a better job.

Transformers and deregulation

After the Federal Communications Commission did away with regulations
that prohibited toy companies from broadcasting cartoons based on their
products in 1984, The Transformers began with a three-episode miniseries (later titled More Than Meets the Eye) that introduced audiences to Optimus Prime, Megatron and their armies, as they travelled from the metal world of Cybertron to Earth in search of new sources of energy.

(Wikipedia)

So, deregulation allowed the Transformers series to exist.

 

Weird regulation

Couldn't a toy company create a 100% owned spin off company doing the cartoon broadcasting and claiming that the toy company is actually just selling derivated products from the show?

 

P.S. when you press preview, it looks the same as when you actually post, and you need to scroll down a lot to see (and remember about !) the "post" button. Extremely frustrating.

Transformers

Weirdest thing in the movie were Megan Fox's thumb tips. They are like half the normal size for a human. Hope this doesn't ruin the movie for you.

Conservation of Mass

I may still have an old transformer that had three forms: robot, jet, and aircraft carrier. Aircraft carrier.

Someone else probably got to "airplane Megatron" before Mr. Bay. I did not read the full Megatron write-up at the Transformers wiki, but I saw Megatron as a gun, tank, spaceship, dinosaur, dragon, some predator bird-beast thing... I think people were strip-mining our childhood memories before we were even children.

Frenzy

When Frenzy transformed/morphed into the cellphone, it was only his head that did so...after it had been knocked off of his body.

Shockwave?

I think it is funny that the tape deck was one of your favorites and you don't even remember his name, SOUNDwave was the tape deck, Shockwave was the large purple guy left on cybertron who turned into some huge laser gun. As for Megatron not turning into a gun, that would have been lame, I mean sure when I was little I thought it was cool, and the toy was fun, but I mean come on, such a disguise is useless if you want to go unnoticed, and the above is correct, Megatron's transformed state was altered constantly in other series, heck in the cartoon movie of Transformers when he became Galvatron he became a cannon instead. Overall some of these guys had to change, which wouldn't have been an issue if Americans would quit ripping off Japanese stuff and made up Transformers on thier own instead of basing it all off a series of toys that came from Japan. Yes Transformers has evolved, and it has been for a long time, I own the original series, beast wars, beast machines, and have seen several other transformers series, including one in the mid-ninties that was made in Japan and dubbed into english. Though I have to say while I enjoyed it and the realism created by them not morphing or having Prime's Trailer mysteriously disappear and reappear (seriously, where did that thing go?) I wasn't happy with the Decepticon line up, while I realize in MTMTE there were few good decepticons and the movie didn't need two more jets (Sky Warp and Thundercracker) I was disappointed to see that Devastator had gone from the merging of the six constructacons to a tank, and the others seemed to be rejects from Starscream's army when he freed several Decepticon prisoners and put them in rundown war relics. That said I can't fault the "insect" look. I bought the special edition DVD and when I saw how they made the models and all the detail... well when you have that many armored plates shifting around it ends up looking like a bug. They could have made the Transformers like the old cartoon, or even some of the more modern ones, but let's face it, the only way they could do that and make it still look real is if they only looked real on the outside. Think about bumble bee (the original) if he really was the same he would have a hollow cab of thin metal and glass for a chest plate,. Yes it's a movie, but I personally found it refreshing that they actually brought the Transformers to life instead of them being this old show that could never happen unless you could ignore all the inconsistencies. As for the original having good writing... yeah sometimes, but when the Autobots had to get to Africa to stop Megatron from using his device to drain the sun in less than two hours and they drive off from their base in North America... well let's just say the cartoon was great when I was a kid, but the kids today look at our golden age as being really stupid.