The first Transformers movie came out in a different time. A time where a movie designed to do nothing but sell toys and make cool visuals wasn’t so ashamed of doing that; and the fact it wore that on it’s sleeve levelled the playing field between itself and it’s audience. Now days – and indeed with the later Transformers films – things are a bit different. While it’s still obvious modern Transformers movies exist to make money and nothing else, they hide behind this pretentious notion that they are something other than advertisements. And I do think this seemingly small difference makes a keen distinction between the 2007 film and it’s sequels.
That difference amounts to the 2007 film feeling like a pretty solid, if crude, action blockbuster, while the cynical nature of the franchise is relegated only to it’s sequels. This shows in other aspects of the film too; this isn’t a movie about going set-piece to set-piece as much as you might think. There is a pretty hefty set up with good – and often funny – character moments, as well as those that just allow for the tension in the film to grow. Compared to everything afterwards, there’s also some style and flair on show here; that meaning that you can look at this film and occasionally think ‘this was filmed this way for a reason’, as opposed to the sequels where you think ‘there’s no imagination behind any of this’. It is so odd how one of the most cynical franchises in Hollywood had, what I consider to be, an imperfect but solid foundation that does feel as though it had care put into it.
Which is why it’s a shame there isn’t much interesting to say about this film except for that. This film may not have dated visually, but contextually it couldn’t be more irrelevant. The franchise it spawned, money it garnered over many years, and the effort clearly present in this first instalment… All lost in the wind now.
I don’t think it’s 100% on the direction the franchise took that this is the case, however. The stars of this movie – Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox – own life dramas both directly and inadvertently taint this picture and move the spotlight onto the films that followed. Shia LaBeouf’s incredibly bizarre celebrity journey through movies, online media and then more seriously into his arrests and the death of his career is just as tragic as it strangely eerie. I’m honestly not completely caught up on him, but the whole thing is a mess to say the least. Then there’s Megan Fox who said a whole bunch of unsavoury things about franchise director Michael Bay. These things ranged from insulting him based on his style of direction, and all the way to accusing him of sexualising underage girls in his movies… An accusation that, for anyone who dug through the franchise long enough to discover Age of Extinction, seems to hold true.
I guess the best way to describe Transformers is as a time capsule. A time capsule that is more fascinating than it has any right being. And in that spirit, I suppose this post is closer to being a retrospective than a review. Because what is there to say about Transformers, other than it’s an okay action film without all this behind the scenes stuff, and relevant context?
I suppose the action is good. But then it has to be, because that’s why you watch a Transformers film. Okay… I further suppose that the action isn’t as boring as in it’s sequels; there’s weight, impact and creativity in the set pieces. My favourite action scene is soldiers fighting a giant scorpion in the desert – a scene that doesn’t even really involve Transformers. After that, I suppose the opening when the helicopter baddie attacks the army base. It was creative opening with a good build-up, that sets up the menace the baddies pose.
I will admit to having a little bias towards this film. As a kid it was always one of my favourites – it being aimed right at me, and all – and my present day weakness for schlock that involves giant things fighting each other make me very susceptible to being forgiving to this type of film.
So, in spite of it all, I would recommend Transformers. I think even if you don’t like it, you’ll at the very least be able to say ‘yes, it is weird how low quality the sequels are by comparison‘. But then again, is it really worth watching a two and a half hour movie for that? In truth, the only people I can see genuinely enjoying this movie today are those like me, who grew up on it and can’t help but link it’s existence to the positive connotations of being a child. Because I didn’t grow up on the animated series, this is all based on or the toy line. No, I grew up on this; Bumblebee urinating on John Tutturo.
I’ll be ranking the Transformers films as I review them. The first and only ranking of the series so far can be found below.
- Transformers (2007)