I should start off by saying that I absolutely hated the original Transformers cartoon series which debuted back in 1984. Perhaps it was because I was in my mid-teens and could see the fact that the show was little more than a 30 minute toy advertisement. It didn’t help that there was very little continuity not only in the cartoon series, but with the back story created for the toys and for the comic books all of which you can read up on if you’re so inclined in the Wikipedia entry for Transformers. The point is, I hated the Transformers and the only reason I was familiar with any of it was because I had a couple of friends who loved it for reasons I couldn’t begin to fathom.
So it probably comes as no surprise to learn that I loved the 2007 live action Transformers movie which we just got back from seeing. I think the reason the movie worked for me where the cartoon series didn’t is because they appeared to have taken the ever popular thought experiment of “what if X were real” and applied it to the Transformers. They then did everything they could to make a movie that would allow you to suspend your disbelief enough to sit back and enjoy the ride. Truth be told when you stop long enough to really consider the plot of the movie it ends up being pretty standard stuff for the genre and is little more than cheesecloth that won’t hold up too well if you prod it too much. The movie makes up for this by rarely giving you a chance to stop and consider the plot too carefully.
This is accomplished by putting some of the most realistic looking giant robots you’ve ever seen in very real looking environments blasting the bejeesus out of everything around them every chance they get. The humans are, of course, horribly outclassed by the foe they’re facing, but not entirely powerless against them and though they take heavy losses in each encounter they still put up a good fight and play a critical role in the battles that take place. That alone made for a refreshing change from the usual storyline where the humans are ineffectual and completely dependent on the good guys to defeat the bad guys. In fact it seems pretty clear that without the timely interaction of more than a couple of the human characters the good guys would’ve lost.
I won’t bother going into detail on the plot because it’s really not that important, but the basic gist of it is that there’s some ultra-powerful cube that’s been on the Earth for a very long time which has the ability to give life to machines and both the Autobots (the good guys) and the Decepticons (the bad guys) want it and one 16 year old boy that is the main character of the movie just happens to have the key to finding it and as a result much mayhem ensues. Unlike the cartoon series, lots of people die in this movie. Nothing particularly graphic, but it’s hard not to have a healthy body count when you’ve got giant robots knocking each other through skyscrapers and blasting the shit out of everything in sight.
I wasn’t going to go see this movie simply because I didn’t care for the TV series, but repeated viewings of the trailer and the enthusiastic reception of some other folks I know convinced me to give it a go. Considering some of the complaints about the movie I’ve heard from folks who were fans of the show it may very well be that the less you know of the original cartoon the more you’ll like the movie. If you’re looking for a little mindless entertainment with some amazing visuals you’ll be hard pressed to find anything better at the moment. I give it four stars out of five.