Movie News & Reviews

"Transformers" crashes in heap because of twisted bid for teen audience

Unlike most of the things from my childhood that seemed really awesome at the time, the original "Transformers" movie is just as great now that I'm an adult as it was when I was a kid.

Voice work by Eric Idle and Leonard Nimoy, cartoons swearing, songs by Weird Al, and a planet-eating robot voiced by Orson Welles from beyond the grave made the movie funny and weird, but what made it outstanding is they killed almost all the major characters.

No joke! Almost every character from the beloved cartoon series was killed! When in the history of money has a TV show ever done that? They didn't just die, either, they crumbled into a horrible gray child-scarring dust that's one of the scariest depictions of death I've seen to this day. Nothing like that will ever be made again. That combination of steel-plated balls and outright insanity was a one-time shot.

Nor was I expecting as much from the new "Transformers" movie. I was just looking forward to big robots fighting! There's no possible way to mess up a movie about big robots fighting, right?

Ha! Trick question. The new "Transformers" isn't about giant noble robots missing each other with lasers until the other side flies away, it's apparently about Shia LaBeouf's efforts to score with teen classmate Megan Fox. Step one: buying a sweet car, a beat-up '70s muscle car that rolls itself onto the lot and forces LaBeouf to buy it with eerie robot powers.

Meanwhile, off in the sandy parts of the world that are so used to being blown up these days, a couple Decepticons have landed and are blowing more stuff up for some reason.

A grueling eternity of unnecessary sideplots later, it's revealed they're after mysterious artifacts that landed on Earth thousands of years ago. LaBeouf is the descendent of the explorer who originally found the artifacts, so the Decepticons will get to him -- and the secrets he guards -- at any cost.

It doesn't bother me that live-action Transformers look different than the cartoons. Big surprise. The real crime is they all look like they were cranked out of director Michael Bay's AWESOME!!! factory.

Bumblebee wasn't AWESOME!!! enough as a VW Bug, so he starts off as a rough-worn muscle car. When Fox complains, he turns himself into an '07 Camaro. Sweet! Where is the nearest car lot so I can get me one of those? Or maybe one of the other cars blatantly advertised -- what was it called? A Pontiac "Shameful Hack Who Can't Even Make a Movie About Giant Robots Any Fun"? Whatever it was, it sure looked cool.

That's the movie, pretty much. It's so obsessed with the Hollywood need to appeal to the XXX-Treme teen set that doesn't even exist that it ends up laughably out of touch. It would be insulting if it weren't so pathetic.

Bay's not all to blame, though. Not when he's working with a script this bloated, confused, and cliched. "Transformers" spends so much screen time with humans -- LaBeouf and Fox, systems analysts yelling at government men, and the survivors of the first Decepticon attack -- it's like it somehow forgets the draw of the TV show wasn't the couple of human characters it kept around, but the enormous talking robots. I seem to recall they were called "Transformers," and they actually had personalities and motivations other than hanging around and trying sooo hard to look scary.

There's nothing wrong with reimagining old movies and TV shows. Some great things have come out of remakes. But to reimagine something, you first have to have an imagination. Part car commercial, part movieland wet dream about hot young teens, and all ungodly train wreck, "Transformers" is nothing more than a naked ploy for money. For the love of all that's holy, spend yours somewhere else.

Grade: F+

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