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The First ‘Transformers’ Movie by Michael Bay
Is there really ‘more than meets the eye’ with this movie? 😐
I suppose you could say ‘Transformers’ has been with me since I was a kid. Mind you, it wasn’t the original Generation 1 ‘Transformers’ that I grew up with. My ‘Transformers’ were the ‘Beast Wars: Transformers’. I love the TV show as well as enjoyed playing with the ‘Beast Wars’ toys I had as a kid.
The 1980s ‘Transformers’ are what people think of first when it comes to discussing ‘Transformers’. These include the Autobots and the Decepticons. I’ve seen episodes of the 1980s TV show and I’ve seen the 1986 ‘Transformers’ movie. I’ve enjoyed the 1980s ‘Transformers’ cartoon TV show and film. 🙂
I wouldn’t say the original ‘Transformers’ are on the same level of what I consider to be ‘Transformers’ in ‘Beast Wars’, but I respect that fans of the original 1980s ‘Transformers’ hold them in high regard. I’ve also seen episodes of a Japanese TV version of ‘Transformers’ on a ‘Takara’ DVD.
When it came to the possibility of a live-action version of ‘Transformers’, I was very keen on the idea. I was looking forward to seeing a live-action version of the 1980s TV cartoon show I watched in my teens. Sadly, we ended up with the 2007 live-action ‘Transformers’ film directed by Michael Bay.
Now, I know there are people out there who hold the 2007 live-action ‘Transformers’ film in high regard compared to me. And upon revisiting the film after all these years on DVD in 2022, I’ve been able to appreciate why this movie is considered to be pretty groundbreaking of its time back in 2007.
However, that doesn’t dispel the mixed feelings I have about 2007’s ‘Transformers’. This is especially with the hindsight of recent years, as four more ‘Transformers’ films were made by Michael Bay afterwards and the efforts of those films are debatable to say the least. But that’s for another time.
For now, let’s talk about the first ‘Transformers’ film in the Michael Bay-directed series. Now for a long time since I saw it at the cinema in 2007, I’ve greatly resented the film. This is despite me seeing the film more than once at cinemas and on DVD as well as purchasing the music album of the movie.
I suppose one of the reasons why I resented this film was because it wasn’t the ‘Transformers’ film I was hoping for. I expected this to be a faithful live-action retelling of the 1980s ‘Transformers’ cartoon show, except told in 2007. That isn’t what we got with this particular movie, which is a pity. 😦
Lately however, in terms of revisiting the film after all these years in 2022, I’ve been able to see the potential value in it. The film does cater for audiences that aren’t familiar with ‘Transformers’ as well as those who are hardcore fans. The film is very groundbreaking in how it visualises its Transformers.
Nothing like it had been done before. It’s a brave effort for Michael Bay and his filmmaking team to come up with a live-action version of ‘Transformers’, setting it in a gritty atmosphere compared to the cartoon many ‘Transformers’ fans know and love. The action sequences are rather good as well.
There are issues with some of the film’s action set pieces as well as how some of the characters are developed, but for a first film, this seems to be a good starting point. It should also be noted that Steven Spielberg had a hand in the executive producer side of things when this film was being made.
Whilst Michael Bay is the film’s director, the screenplay is by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. This was my first encounter with them as writers and their panache for writing is debatable to say the least. They would go on to pen two of the ‘Star Trek’ reboot trilogy and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’.
I hope to identify what’s good and what’s bad about this film through my review when it comes to outlining the story and how the characters are identified. I try my best to identify positives and negatives in a film and TV production I review, and hopefully the case will be the same for this film. 🙂
The film’s story has the heroic Autobots from the planet Cybertron, led by Optimus Prime, on the search for the ever-powerful Allspark, a cube that can create worlds filled with life. Their search leads them to the planet Earth where the evil Deceptions, led by Megatron, are also looking for it. 😐
Meanwhile on Earth, a boy named Sam Witwicky buys his first car. It happens to be the Autobot called Bumblebee. Bumblebee protects Sam from the Deceptions, since he holds the key to the location of the Allspark on Earth. Soon, Sam is caught up in the Autobot-Deception battle on Earth. 😐
With help from the United States military as well as his potential girlfriend Mikaela, Sam and the Autobots fight to save the Allspark from falling into the hands of the Deceptions. But will it mean the death of one of the Autobots’ fellow comrades as well as one of the Deceptions in the growing fight.
I should point out the film focuses more on the human characters as opposed to the Transformer characters featured in the film. This is something I’m fine with for the first film in a series, as the human interaction with the Transformers needs to be established. In terms of the sequels however…
Again, that’s something to talk about another time. Incidentally, in case you don’t know what they are, the Transformers are robots from the planet Cybertron that can transform into any vehicle like cars and planes. Hence the term ‘robots in disguise’ when understanding what the Transformers are.
The film’s lead human hero is of course Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky. Sam happens to be a young descendant of an Arctic explorer who stumbles on a big secret that becomes the Earth’s last hope. Now, I appreciate the human side of things when it comes to establishing Sam’s character in the film.
I know that Sam is meant to be a character that people can relate to when he gets himself a car in the form of Bumblebee and he wants to impress the girl of his dreams in Mikaela. That’s something I can get behind; since a romantic love story is something I’d like to look for when I’m watching a film.
So….why is the film trying to make out Sam Witwicky is a bit like Peter Parker? By that, I mean he tends to get picked on by bullies at his school, including Mikaela’s boyfriend Trent. Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a Peter Parker angle, but I wouldn’t say Shia LaBeouf fits the character criteria. 😐
Firstly, Shia LaBeouf looks 21 when playing Sam. That might because he was 21 when he played the character. Secondly, I think Shia LaBeouf is more ‘cool dude’ than ‘shy teenager’ when it comes to asking girls on a date or giving them a ride home in his car. It’s rather miscast in my humble opinion.
I mean, I get it. He’s meant to be odd and perhaps a bit of an outcast. But surely he would have more friends than the one he has with him at ‘a party’ and who wants to climb up a tree. 😀 Also, I think Sam might find it easy in impressing Mikaela with his looks, despite talking awkwardly at times here.
Megan Fox as Mikaela Banes has almost a similar problem in terms of a defined character. She’s a classmate of Sam’s (Yet she didn’t know who he was in all the years they’ve been at school together? That’s a bit weird) and she helps him in the mission they have in helping out the Autobots.
Now before I go any further in terms of criticising Mikaela’s character, I want to be clear that Megan Fox is a very sexy lady. I can see why Sam would be into her and I’m sure that a lot of male viewers who watched this film were entranced by her. I’d like to think Megan Fox has had success in her life.
But there’s something about Mikaela’s character development (more the second film than the first film) that doesn’t work for me. To start off with, Mikaela is often remembered as a pretty face in these films. She’s also learnt a lot about cars from her father who’s later revealed to be a car thief. 😐
And that’s as far as I know about her as a character. Pretty face; daughter of a car thief; and that’s it. Nothing else is developed beyond that. I get that Sam has to learn what Mikaela’s background is like before he accepts her, but there could’ve been more in-depth character drama throughout the film.
I would’ve liked it if the film focused more on Sam and Mikaela’s romantic relationship and their interaction with the Autobots in order to help them recover the Allspark and defeat the Deceptions. Sadly, other elements in the film including other characters get in the way of Sam and Mikaela’s story.
Two of these characters are Josh Duhamel as Captain William Lennox and Tyrese Gibson as Technical Sergeant Robert Epps. Now to be fair, Lennox is the more developed of the two army characters, since he has a wife and baby daughter to go back home to and he has a scene with them via videocall. 🙂
I can’t really think of anything to say about Epps’ character apart from him being Lennox’s best friend and…well, the military black man in these ‘Transformers’ films. Oh and Epps does get stressed out when he, Lennox and other soldiers are fighting against the evil Scorponok in the Qatar desert. 🙂
LENNOX: “Epps! Where’s your wallet?”
LENNOX: “Which pocket?”
EPPS: “My back pocket!”
LENNOX: “You got 10 back pockets!”
EPPS: “Left cheek! LEFT CHEEK!!! LEFT CHEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Seriously, man; calm down! 😀 But yeah, the point I’m trying to make here is that Michael Bay loves using the military in these movies. And that’s not just with characters that are in the army. He uses the military in order to perform the explosions he uses during the intense battle scenes of this film. 😐
Now in the first film, that’s fine, because it makes sense for the military to be involved if a worldwide national security breach was occurring. But it’s such a shame when variety doesn’t seem to be a thing in these Michael Bay-directed ‘Transformers’ films where the military is being used all the time.
Again, something to readdress in future films. There’s also Jon Voight as John Keller, the U.S. Secretary of Defense. I enjoyed Jon Voight’s performance in the film. He was in the first ‘Mission: Impossible’ film with Tom Cruise and he’s appeared in the ‘National Treasure’ films with Nicolas Cage. 🙂
There’s Rachael Taylor (who’s really Australian by the way) as Maggie Madsen, a data analyst recruited to decode a signal following the Deceptions’ attack on the Qatar base in the film. She’s helped by Anthony Anderson as her hacker friend Glen Whitmann in order to decode the signal further.
Since seeing ‘Transformers’, I’ve seen Anthony Anderson in other films like ‘Kangaroo Jack’ and ‘Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London’. Upon revisiting the film, Anthony Anderson’s performance is better than I remember, although it can go on the verge of over-the-top at times. 😐
There’s Jon Turturro as Agent Seymour Simmons, a member of Sector 7, an advanced but secret research division that seems to know a lot about the Transformers. Simmons can be annoying at times, especially when he endangers Sam and Mikaela’s chances of helping the Autobots in the film.
Kevin Dunn and Julie White play Sam’s parents, Ron and Judy. Kevin Dunn was in ‘Small Soldiers’ beforehand. Thank goodness the dad character wasn’t called Sparkplug as in the 1980s ‘Transformers’ cartoon. The same for Sam not being called Spike! 😀 Sam’s parents can be quite annoying.
And look, I get it. Sam’s parents are meant to be the comic relief. But I would’ve liked it if Sam’s parents were more than that. I would’ve liked it Sam’s parents were supportive and caring in his endeavours to help the Autobots to save the Earth. Also, Sam’s mother asks her son this question. 😐
JUDY: “Were you masturbating?”
What kind of mother asks that question to her son? The film’s cast also includes Michael O’Neill as Tom Banachek, who is the head of Sector 7; Amaury Nolasco as ‘Fig’; Zack Ward as Donnelly; and W. Morgan Sheppard as Captain Archibald Witchwicky, who is Sam’s great-great-great grandfather.
There’s Bernie Mac as Bobby Bolivia, a used car salesman who provides Sam’s car in the form of Bumblebee; John Robinson as Miles Lancaster, Sam’s best friend; Travis Van Winkle as Trent DeMarco, who becomes Mikaela’s ex-boyfriend; and Glenn Morshower as Colonel Sharp who’s at the Qatar base.
Incidentally, I’m not trying to avoid talking about the Transformers robots featured in this film as I would like to talk about them. But it’s difficult to do that as the film focuses more on the human side of things as opposed to the Transformer side of things. I would like to know more about the Transformers. 😐
It’s good that Optimus Prime is voiced by Peter Cullen, who voiced the character in the 1980s cartoon show. There’s Bumblebee, who sadly has lost his voice in the film and can only speak through sound bites on the car’s radio. This is something I have a huge issue with concerning Bumblebee’s character.
It’s okay for Bumblebee to not have a voice and finally regain it when he’s voiced by Mark Ryan at the film’s end. But that gets retconned when we come to the sequels (again, more on that another time). I honestly think it would’ve been great for Bumblebee to talk properly to Sam and Mikaela in the film.
Incidentally, Optimus transforms into a blue-and-red semi-trailer truck like in the 1980s cartoon show, whilst Bumblebee transforms into a yellow Chevrolet Camaro – not a yellow Volkeswagen Beetle. That disappointed me, as it would’ve been great to see Bumblebee as a Volkswagen Beetle. 😦
Yeah, I know there’s a cameo of it in the film, but that’s not enough. It’s sad that we would have to wait for the 2018 film ‘Bumblebee’ for him to be a yellow Volkswagen Beetle in that. The film also has Jazz, Optimus’ second-in-command (voiced by Darius McCrary) and he’s a silver Pontiac Solstice.
There’s also Ratchet (voiced by Robert Foxworth), the Autobot medic who can transform into a yellow search and rescue Hummer H2 ambulance. And there’s Ironhide (voiced by Jess Harnell), who is the Autobot weapons expert and can transform into a black GMC Topkick C4500 in the film here. 🙂
I like it that the film features five Autobots in Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Jazz, Ratchet and Ironhide in order for audiences to identify with. This is something that doesn’t get reflected in future films, especially when one of the Autobots – Jazz – gets killed off, which, I admit, was saddening to see.
The Decepticons include Barricade (voiced by Jess Harnell), who can transform into a police car; Bonecrusher (voiced by Jim Wood), who can transform into a mine-protected vehicle; and Frenzy (voiced by Reno Wilson), who can transform into a boombox and Mikaela’s mobile phone in the film.
One of the most famous Deceptions is Starscream (voiced by Charlie Adler), who can transform into a Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. There’s Blackout who can transform into a MH-53J Pave Low III; Brawl (also referred to as Devastator) who can transform into an M1A1 Abrams; and there’s Scorponok. 😐
Scorponok makes me think of the Predacon character in ‘Beast Wars’, though there was a Scorponok in the original ‘Transformers’ line-up. And of course, there’s Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving), the leader of the Decepticons who can transform into a silver Cybertronian jet in the ‘Transformers’ film.
And Megatron doesn’t really do much in the film. He appears in like the second half of the film; revives after being frozen for years; has a fight with Optimus; tries to get the Allspark from Sam; and ends up getting killed by him. So much for the Decepticons’ impressive leader in the 2007 film! 😦
I hate to say it, but Megatron in the 1980s ‘Transformers’ cartoon series as well as the Predacon Megatron in ‘Beast Wars’ is more impressive than the Megatron in the Michael Bay-directed film series. And it’s bound to get worse as we progress through each of the remaining films of this series.
Another big issue I have with the film is the climactic battle between the Autobots and the Deceptions in the city. I get that the Autobots and the humans want to hide the Allspark cube from the Deceptions in the city, but couldn’t they have evacuated the people living in the city first before doing that.
Peoples’ lives are in danger once the Autobots and the Deceptions fight each other in the city, including a woman that Ironhide somersaults over. The Autobots are also clumsy when they go down from buildings, especially when Optimus saves Sam with being giant-sized and causing a lot of damage. 😐
There was one time where I owned the 2-disc DVD edition of the 2007 ‘Transformers’ film. On Disc 1, there’s an audio commentary with director Michael Bay. At the end of the film, there’s a menu containing a trailer for the first ‘MCU’ film ‘Iron Man’ and a teaser trailer for 2007’s ‘Transformers’. 🙂
On Disc 2, there are the documentaries ‘Our World’ and ‘Their War’, which contain in-depth insights into the making of the 2007 film with behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew. There’s ‘From Script to Sand: The Scorponok Desert Attack’, the ‘Concepts’ stills gallery and the film’s theatrical trailers. 🙂
Upon revisiting Michael Bay’s first ‘Transformers’ film, I’ve found I enjoyed it more compared to how I first saw it at the cinemas back in 2007. I still think there are issues concerning the story and characters with how they’re developed, but as a starting point, this film is actually an enjoyable flick.
I’ve grown to appreciate how well-regarded the film is in terms of its place in cinematic history. It’s groundbreaking with how it depicts giant Transformer robots in a live-action setting, which was something never done before. Despite its flaws, 2007’s ‘Transformers’ has the makings of a good action piece. 🙂
A shame that isn’t followed through in the upcoming ‘Transformers’ film instalments! 😦
‘Transformers’ rating – 7/10
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