Archive for August 3rd, 2007

Transformers

August 3, 2007

Movie Poster 

Against my better judgement, I watched Transformers the other day. I have a problem with the current childish obsession with children’s shit from the late 70s and early 80s because most of it was crap, and its revival amongst today’s insecure 25-35 year old bracket smacks of an inability to accept the fact they ceased being a child long ago.

There is nothing quite as cringeworthy as seeing a 30 year old man trundling off to work on his BMX, or watching a woman who last saw the inside of a school in the late 1980s buying Bagpuss DVDs or walking around wearing handbags with images of Willo the Wisp and She-Ra on them. Transformers, the latest big-budget CGI-fest from Hollywood, taps into this childish nostalgia boom. A distracting piece of childhood tat from the 80s has had a lavish amount of money spent on it – was it worth it?

Well, and it pains me to say it, yes, yes I think it was. Perhaps my appetite for motor vehicles that transform into giant robots was whetted by the recent Citroen advertising campaign, or perhaps, despite my conviction that a man should put away childish things when he reaches maturity, there was just something so cool about the idea of Transformers when I was a kid and what was a cool idea then still seems a pretty cool idea now. I know I’m meant to champion proper, grown-up stuff, but watching a truck turn into Optimus Prime still feels pretty great, despite myself.

Those that mourned the deaths of those two titans of boring art-house tripe Antonioni and Bergman will not, I suspect, enjoy Transformers. From the very beginning, when an American military base is destroyed by a robot, you know you’re not watching a revival of New Wave. Transformers has a very basic plot (boy buys car, car turns out to be giant robot sent to protect him because he holds the key to stopping Earth’s destruction, boy and car get chased by evil robots, Optimus and his buddies turn up, cue Monster Mash), but executes that plot with an aplomb and attention to comedy I hadn’t expected. Because it is a comedy.

Those who expected Transformers to follow the seriousness of the cartoon show will be pleasantly surprised to discover that the movie plays it for laughs. There’s a great bit where the boy hero has to find a pair of spectacles in his parent’s house which are essential to the Autobots’ plans to foil the Decepticons and, as he and the female lead frantically search his bedroom, five giant robots make an arse of trying to hide in the garden, destroying most of it in the process. Another scene sees one of the Autobots pissing all over John Tuturro – not if I’d written a million different things I would expect to see in a robot movie would one have them been ‘robot pisses all over someone’.

Of course, a summer noise-fest now stands or falls on the quality of its special effects, and in this respect Transformers does not disappoint. The Transformers all look amazing. Optimus Prime transforming from a truck to a robot is a CGI wonder to rival anything yet seen on screen (it would have been even more staggering a site had it not been for those Citroen adverts, alas, alas).

The freeway-set brawl between Prime and Bonecrusher outstrips any freeway-set smash-up seen before – and that includes the one in director Michael Bay’s own Danny Butterman favourite Bad Boys II. The final showdown between the Autobots and the Decepticons in New York is like nothing ever seen before because of the complete and utter disregard the robots have for their environment – their immense size and the fact they’re fighting the shit out of one another leads to an all-out destruction wet-dream.

I wouldn’t recommend Transformers to anyone who expects such trivialities as plot or character in their movies, because you certainly won’t find much of it here (that said, the lead roles are all pretty well-rounded and the robots, especially the good ones, have distinct if not well explored characters of their own). For those looking for a couple of hours of mayhem and fun however, I can’t think of a better popcorn movie that’s come along all summer.

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