July 5, 2007 - There are many things you can say about Michael Bay. In my opinion, he's a director that, for one reason or another, has had the opportunity to work with some of Hollywood's brightest stars, and more often than not, has delivered timeless wastes of money by movie goers. So, you can only imagine how I first felt once I heard they were making a Transformers movie with him at the helm. The teaser trailer only amplified my fears by feeding the notions on the web that the Transformers were from Mars and not Cybertron.
The rumors swirled for months until they were put to rest and it was revealed that my beloved childhood heroes, a sentiment shared by many, were in fact going to hail from Cybertron. At least that fire was extinguished. Then arrived another trailer, the first official trailer from the film, and I felt myself kick into full fanboy mode. Where was Optimus Prime and how was he going to look? Was that Bumblebee? However, the largest question that burned inside of me was where was the sound? The wonderful transforming sound that we easily associate with the Transformers. That one sound, that when you hear it today makes you regress into that childhood so long ago.
I'll be the first to admit that my viewing of the movie hinged on that one sound. I know it may seem a bit pathetic, but this is something that not only myself, but several fans the world over cherish. In many ways, it is the same reaction that films receive when you bring up the notion that a comic book character is getting their first big screen treatment. It was not until I saw the fourth trailer for the film and partially viewed the transformation of Optimus that I was hooked harder than I have ever been by a trailer. It no longer mattered to me who directed the movie or anything else.
Last night, as I sat in my comfortable chair waiting the beginning of the movie, one solid, booming voice relinquished me from my adulthood and snugly wrapped me in the movie. It was the voice of Peter Cullen. For those of you who do not know, he is the man who brought the virtue, loyalty, and pride to the original show by providing the voice for the Autobot leader, Optimus Prime. From that moment on, I was satisfied - the rest of the film could be total garbage. Fortunately, this was not the case.
From the opening you know that the pacing of the movie is going to be quick and unrelenting. Now this is not to say that some of us will and did fell that certain things could have happened much sooner than they did, but even I can't complain about those. The film opens with the return of Sergeant Lennox, played by Josh Duhamel, and his squad from a mission to their military base in Qatar. Not long after they arrive, the base is attacked by Blackout, who disguises himself as a chopper shot down 3 months ago. In that moment of the first transformation of the film, if you have not turned into a kid again, this is clearly not the film for you. Even that fabled sound is there.
From there we shift to Sam Witwicky trying to hock his great grandfather's belonging to his classmates. For a period of the film we will shift between the Captain and Sam played superbly by Shia LaBeouf. Then there's the occasional scene of a large government "command center" led by Defense Secretary John Keller, played by John Voight, who is trying to figure out what happened at the base where the initial attack happened. Several teams of experts are working on breaking the signal that was recorded when Blackout attacked the base in Qatar.
Let me say this about the human roles of the film. Initially, I was afraid that they would be treated as the stars and the Transformers would receive the supporting cast roles of the film. Thankfully, this is not the case. The human characters are all likeable and equally believable. Once you see the film and see how many supporting characters there are, you will understand what a great job everyone did in their roles - they all feel very real. I think this is one reason that the humor in the movie works so well too.
Humor is sprinkled throughout the film and nothing seems overly contrived or forced. I don't want to spoil anything for anyone, so I will be vague, but there are several humorous scenes including, a very funny, but evil, Decepticon drone, Sergeant Lennox and crew are very witty in their dialogue and great delivery, including a scene of the Autobots "hiding" in a back yard and two hilarious scenes with a computer hacker, Anthony Edwards, that the FBI has taken in to custody. One very important thing that the humor does is strengthen the bond between Bumblebee and Sam. To point out a specific scene, after witnessing Bumblebee's transformation the previous night for the first time, Sam takes flight on his mother's pink bicycle as he is being stalked by "Satan's Camaro" (AKA: Bumblebee). Another scene shows Bumblebee working harder than any other car has ever worked to help the boy get the girl. Shia's dialogue and delivery are so sharp and spot on that it feels very much like the events in the movie are actually occurring.