Friday, July 29, 2011

"Transformers" - Snark Review

A lot has been said about the Transformers film franchise. It's been both praised and despised by fans and non-fans alike, and it's easy to see why. The films are some of the most pandering, immature, lowest-common-denominator train-wrecks I've ever watched. I'm not a huge fan of action movies, but when they're done well they can be really really great, but the genre also tends to attract lazy film makers and studios that just want something with big explosions to shove on screens during the summer, and one of the biggest culprits of this in the past years is Transformers and it's 2 sequels.

It's fair to say that I didn't have high hopes when I first watched this movie. I'd never been a fan of Shia LaBeouf as an actor or Michael Bay as a director. But still, I'd been a fan of the Transformers: Armada show when I was younger and the effects looked well done from the trailers, they could still pull out something good, right? Well, I was partially right, at least for the first installment.

The biggest problem that hinders Transformers is that it lacks focus. We have numerous characters that each get their own sub-plots, a truckload of comic relief that isn't funny or needed, and as a whole very shallow characters. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First I need to go through the story.

We start out with a voice-over from Optimus Prime that tells us of The Cube/Allspark, a mysterious relic that has the power to grant life and sentience to anything, which accounts for how the titular giant robots came to be. He also mentions a war between the 2 factions of their species that resulted in their world being left lifeless and the Allspark being lost in the void of space. The Allspark eventually landed on earth.

This is where we run into the first problem with the movie; Why couldn't it be about that story? We have an entire species coming into being, forming a planet-wide empire, splitting into factions and warring over the future of their civilization. This is a great scenario to make an action movie about, and yet it's glossed over in a 45 second speech and barely ever mentioned for the rest of the movie.

After that we're introduced to a group of U.S. Special Forces soldiers returning to a military base in Iraq. And here's where we meet what SHOULD have been our main characters. Unfortunately they're all underdeveloped in the film and if they're ever given names in it I can't remember them. It doesn't really matter since they don't amount to much, so I'm forced to name them by the biggest characteristics they're given in the film. We have, in order of importance form first to last, White Soldier, Black Soldier, Hispanic Soldier, and Bespectacled Soldier. We're also shown that White Soldier has a family back home, but that's only ever given 2 words of dialogue and 30 seconds of screen-time. Also, Hispanic Soldier has a tendency to start talking in spanish when he's talking, because we all know that there aren't any Hispanic Americans that are fluent and well-versed in English, right?

Anyway, these guys get to the base just in time for an unmanned helicopter to show up at the base, transform into a robot, blow shit up, and try to hack into the U.S. government's secret files. However they cut the hard line to the database and prevent Decepticon #1 (he's given a name later but it doesn't matter since he's only got about 5 minutes of total screen time, most of which is this scene) from getting hold of the information he needed. As revenge he sends his Scorpion-like sidekick robot to hunt them down.

Then we're treated to our REAL main characters, Sam played by Shia LaBeouf, and Makaela played by living blow-up doll Megan Fox. They're completely useless for 95% of the story and I hate them. Their segment of the movie somehow has the ability to take up a huge amount of screen time without actually adding anything to the narrative. But whatever. We start out with Sam going with his dad to buy his first car, where we meet our first offensive Black stereotype in the movie, played oddly enough by Bernie Mac. He plays a used car salesman who tries to cheat Sam into buying a lousy car, and lives with his mother who he calls Mammy. Not even making that up. (Rather sadly, this was the latest movie featuring Mac that came out before he died. I bring this because, while other movies he had been in came out post-humously, THIS was the film on his resume when he passed a way. Though at least that saved him from the sequel.).

After Same buys a beat-up Yellow and Black Camarro which we'll soon find out is the autobot Bumblebee, he and his superfluous friend go to a party where Sam's crush Makaela is there with her equally superfluous boyfriend who bullies Sam for all of 30 seconds. The boyfriend says he doesn't trust Makaela to drive his super snazy truck home, which causes her to walk off in a huff and leave him. He is never seen again. So glad his character was here. Sam ditches his friend, who is also never seen again, and gives Makaela and extremely awkward ride home that's meant to be funny, but is more grating than it is amusing. After making a terrible joke about how Sam's sure there is "more than meets the eye" to Makaela, we're introduced to Sam's parents.

I hate these characters more than any other in the film. They are the type of people that are so annoying, obnoxious, and stupid that I wish them to die in the most painful way humanly imaginable. And they NEVER. SHUT. UP. At all. There's constant banter between them that's MEANT to be funny, but again just ends up making me want to stab myself in the ears to make the pain go away.

Then we cut to Airforce one, where Soundwave, a small sneaky Decepticon, starts hacking into the network again. This alerts a group of NSA agents who have been trying to decode the signal used to hack into the military base's computers. The only NSA agent that has any importance is Blonde British Chick (BBC I like to call her) who tells the military higher-ups she thinks the hacking was done by some sort of organic computer, because a brain is the only thing powerful enough to get the the military's firewall so quickly. The film makers then decide that the plot is moving and too good a pace, so they pull the drag chute and take us back to Sam.

Bumblebee, deciding he's had enough of Sam's poor acting and unintelligible stammering, drives himself away, Sam sees this and, thinking somebody is stealing his car, chases after on a bike. When he finds Bumblebee, he sees him transform and send some message into the sky. Then the police show up and arrest Sam without seeing the giant yellow robot.

After some not-comedy relief at the police station involving drugs, Sam is let out and we cut back to the Soldiers. They've managed to just find a village that has a telephone when the Scorpion robot shows up and starts attacking them. Their guns are fairly useless against it, and both Bespectacled Soldier and Hispanic Soldier die in the ensuing fight. Meanwhile White Soldier, in an attempt to get in contact with the military and call for an airstrike, is prevented indian IT stereotype asking him if he has a credit card. After another not-funny scene of them looking for a credit card in the middle of a firefight, they get the military to chase off Scorpionbot.

Then we switch over to BBC as she makes a copy of the information about the signal they're trying to decode in order to find out what information the Decepticons stole. She says there's only one hacker in the world who can crack it and, instead of telling the higher-ups this and having them bring him in, she instead illegally brings the information to him to have him decode it. We meet Hacker Guy here, and his main characteristics are that he's fat and black. That's about it. He's another stereotype that they try to use for humor, but it again doesn't work out at all. It comes off as more offensive than anything. Anyway, the FBI aren't complete morons and find out that BBC took the info, and they storm into the house and arrest the pair.

Back on Sam's side, Bumblebee returns to the house in car form, and Sam runs away from him and straight into the arms of Decepticon #2 and Soundwave, who ask him about a pair of glasses he'd posted on eBay. Makaela shows up too somehow because they needed some way to get her involved in the plot, and our two useless human characters are rescued by Bumblebee and we get a poorly edited chase scene before a short, unsatisfying fight between Bumblebee and Decepticon #2. Also, we see Shia LaBeouf in his boxers. Whyyyyyyyyyyyy???????

Then we watched the Autobots arrive on Earth, signaled by Bumblebee, and they each get their own short scene of them turning into some kind of vehicle. When one of them crashes into a pool outside a house, a little girl goes out to see and, as at hulking, silver robot larger than her house arises before her, she asks if he's the tooth fairy. Somebody got paid to write that. There is no justice in this world.

Then Sam meets the autobots and they explain that Megatron and the Decepticons want to get the Allspark and use it to destroy humans for...some reason. Racism maybe? I don't know. They tell him that the glasses he was selling, which belonged to his great-great-grandfather, contain the information regarding the location of the allspark that we blasted onto them when a discovery crew unearthed Megatron in the deep arctic. It's stupid and nothing but a convoluted reason to have Sam in the movie at all, and I don't believe it for a second.

Then, we reach what is, hand down, the worst scene in the film. Sam goes to his house, looking for the glasses in his room while the Transformers try to hide from his parents in their backyard. The mind boggles. Predictably one of them walks into the power lines and knocks out the power in the neighborhood. Sam's parents hear him talking to somebody and go to investigate. Makaela hides and Sam tries to get his parents to leave before they see the Autobots me. There's no reason to try and keep the sentient robots that are trying to save humanity a secret. After Sam's mom starts asking him if he was masturbating, Makaela shows herself we're treated to more non-funny comedy. Watching a baby seal die would be funnier than these characters and their dialogue.

All of a sudden, a squad of government agents storm the house and arrest Sam and Makaela and confiscate the glasses. The man in charge of the operation, which is called Sector 7, is a huge asshole who threatens to keep Makaela's father, who we are told is in prison for stealing cars, imprisoned for life. The revelation that Makaela's dad was a criminal, is for some reason a big deal to Sam, who throws a whine-fest about it. When Makaela says that Sam is being a jerk about it, he immediately stops. Glad to know that was completely pointless too. The autobots show up, and free Sam and Makaela, and we're treated to Bumblebee, a robot, peeing "Lubricating fluid" on S7 guy's head. They're about to escape, but then more S7 agents arrive and capture Sam, Makaela, and Bumblebee.

Sam, Makaela, BBC, and Hacker Guy are taken to the headquarters of Sector 7, and meet Black Soldier and White Soldier, where they all see that the government has been keeping Megatron frozen in a cryogenic stasis. Why they didn't just destroy him is never given a reason. They also show them that they have the Allspark, and have been studying it's power for decades. The Autobots set out towards the headquarters, as do the Decepticons when Soundwave reports that they have Megatron. There's a scene following where Decepticon #3, in the form of a tank just drives off of a military base. Nobody reacts strangely to a god damned tank just running over a fence and leaving the base. Is everyone in this movie an idiot?

When the Decepticons attack the headquarters, the Military guys decide to take the allspark and go to a nearby city to have it picked up by helicopter and hidden again. That's right, instead of trying to fight off the enemies at a government headquarters filled with soldiers and guns, they want to take a convoy into a HIGHLY POPULATED CITY, and try and get it airlifted away. Despite the fact that there's tons and tons of empty land for them to do this in, they go to a city. The Autobots meet up with the Convoy on its way to the city, while BBC, S7 Guy, and Hacker Guy try to contact the military using an old radio system so they can call for air support to fight the Decepticons. How do they accomplish this? Hacker Guy "hotwires" a computer to send out morse code over the radio. Somewhere there is a Computer Science Major crying into their pillow.

So they get the air force sent in, but the Decepticons attack and Bumblebee is injured. Sam is told by Black Soldier to take the Allspark to the top of a building so the helicopters can come and pick it up. Because in the middle of a battle, the best way to take care of a crucial hand-off is to do it in the most conspicuous place imaginable. Meanwhile all the interchangeable Autobots are fighting all the interchangeable Decepticons until Megatron shows up and starts fighting Optimus. When Megatron attacks Sam to get the allspark, Sam nearly runs into a car full of teenage girls, who freak out that he might have dented the car. Sam trips, drops the Allspark on the ground, and accidentally activates it, causing the steering wheel of the aforementioned car, the Xbox that some guy on the street is carrying, and a nearby soda machine to come to life and start attacking people.

Let me count the ways in which this is completely nonsensical. 1. How did just dropping the Allspark cause it to do that? If it's that sensitive then it should have blown up with how much Same has been jostling it during this fight. Second, why was a guy just carrying an XBox in the middle of a warzone? Third, Why were those girls driving around town all leisurely when there is a GIGANTIC, EXPLOSIVE ROBOT BATTLE GOING ON NOT 100 FEET FROM WHERE THEY ARE, IN CLEAR VIEW OF ANYONE WHO ISN'T BLIND. Fourth, and most importantly, this is never brought up or mentioned again. We never see anything fix this, so I guess we can just assume that the steering-wheel robot killed all the people in the car, that man was strangled by his game console, and a bunch of people on the street got their heads caved in by a can of Mountain Dew.

After that bullcrap, Optimus saves Sam from falling after the oh so ever well planned "take the Allspark to the most visible part of the city and set off a signal flare" plan didn't work out, and then Optimus and Megatron fight. Or rather, Megatron kicks the crap out of Optimus until the military wounds him with an airstrike. Megatron's still going though, trying to to get the Allspark from Sam. To try and keep it out of Megatron's grasp, Optimus tells Sam to push the Allspark into his chest, which would destroy it along with him. Sam instead shoves it into Megatron's chest and kills him.

That's right. At the end of all of this, the person who takes Megatron down isn't Optimus Prime, or Bumblebee, or the other autobots, or even the military. The most powerful and evil robot in the universe is taken out by Shia Fucking LaBeouf.

Other stuff happens after that but it's all inconsequential and just there to set up for a sequel that somehow turned out even worse than this one, so I won't cover it.

If you couldn't tell, I REALLY hated this movie. Like, despised it. It's not funny, it's offensive, the writers had no clue how to tell a coherent and cohesive story, and the majority of the action scenes (also known as the only reason anybody watches a Michael Bay film) are short and rather underwhelming. The acting ranges from average to god-awful wooden (*cough*Megan Fox*cough*) and the characters are either completely devoid of personality or they're moronic imbeciles.

Final Score: 1/10

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