Transformers (2011) – Review

Michael Bay has failed to understand the criticism levelled at Transformers 2 and still struggles to shake off his habits of racial stereotyping, obnoxious film-making and leery shots on his female leads – 4/10

Dir. Michael Bay

 Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen was an extremely bad movie. Don’t believe what the box office figures would suggest, T:ROF left a lot of people unsatisfied. Even the man himself (Michael Bay) along with lead actor Shia LaBeouf admitted that the second film was a poor show and they reassured us that its sequel would not suffer from the same problems that plagued its predecessor. However, something about all this sounded a little off to me. Maybe it was the nagging feeling I had that Bay couldn’t for the life of him fathom what it was that people didn’t enjoy about being slapped around the face repeatedly with special effects and explosions. T:ROF was loud, obnoxious and completely aimless in its plot direction. But wait a minute, don’t jump the gun I said! Hold those negative thoughts I began telling myself. Try to keep a positive outlook, I proclaimed! Perhaps there was a small chance that Bay didn’t have some PR man’s hand up his arse, like a puppet, sprouting out words Bay didn’t understand. Maybe he was being honest and maybe he genuinely intended to reassess his directorial stance and return to making perfectly average films, the type that entertain enough to stop your brains from melting and slipping out of your nostrils, like The Rock (seriously, his only enjoyable film). So, I half-heartedly convinced myself  that this one might not be terrible, and don’t get me wrong, I was never expecting anything that was good, but I was convinced that he couldn’t possibly shoot a complete critical dud this time around, not three times in a row surely. Well, not so, he has done it again! Unbelievable. Michael Bay is the devil.

Undoubtedly this film is better than the second Transformers film. There is at least an attempt to add some order to the plot. Nevertheless, there are still moments when the plot progresses abrasively from one scene to the next. The reason for this could have been to try to save time, however if this is so then I would have to question why they didn’t just cut out some of the Sam Witwicky story. If I was being generous towards Bay then I should commend his scope. Despite all his shortcomings there is a grandness to Bay’s set pieces that seem unrivaled with other action crammed movies, apart from Inception. In Dark Of The Moon, the feeling of war and destruction is successfully conveyed as the whole world is invaded and Chicago is decimated.

Having said this, many of the pitfalls of T: ROF are repeated. The film starts with a battle between Decepticons and Autobots on their home world. We are told that one ship held the key to victory but it became damaged and spiralled off into space. This is followed by a montage of the space race back on earth, consisting of some real footage and some fictional scenes that include an odd-looking CGI JFK. This culminates in the launch of Apollo 11 and we learn that NASA didn’t lose contact with the astronauts, they intentionally cut off contact in order that the alien spaceship which crash landed on the moon could be investigated.

Strangely, I didn’t hate this part and whilst it felt a bit hammy, I welcome Bay taking the time to set up the plot. Unfortunately, the momentum and structure built by this start is made redundant by what follows: an overly long segment spent enduring the mind-blowingly mundane world of Sam Witwicky. Who actually cares if he is struggling to get a job? Who cares if he is jealous of his girlfriend’s boss? Who cares if he is feeling lonely without his robot buddies? What film is this anyway? I thought this was Transformers? Where are they?! Because let’s be honest there is more personality in their nuts than in Shia LaBeouf’s whole body. How this guy gets into any movies is baffling, does he really hold that much star power? Because if not, then what does he have? I can’t understand why so much screen time is given to a character with the depth of a puddle. Although LaBeouf’s acting soars high above anything Rosie Huntington-Whiteley can muster, she is a model not an actor. I don’t resent her in this movie for that reason but her presence left me missing Megan Foxx (much to my surprise!). At least she had more than that one expression which Rosie has nailed down – the pout.

This was not the only thing that left me confused. Strangely, Bay has decided to throw all seriousness out the window and include some bizarre moments that I’m sure he considers to be ‘comic relief’. On several occasions at random, some wacky and insane character will come and piss about on-screen for a while! It was highly frustrating and I had the urge to shout ‘GO AWAY’ or look around and ask if I was imagining this. By the time Ken Jeong appeared as Mr. Chow (from The Hangover) I was beyond caring. It would seem this is just Bay’s sense of humor and it is one that I will never get.

It seems that Bay has acknowledged his critics but not fully understood them. Criticized for being all about action, he slows down the pace at times, but all this means is more time with Sam Witwicky. It is also strange to find the likes of Francis McDormand, John Malkovich and Patrick Dempsey in this film. It’s like Bay has employed ‘real’ actors to increase the film’s credibility, however, their scenes feel disjointed and out-of-place.

What more can be said about the latest Transformers movie – it is all I expected it would be. Bay still struggles to grow up and shake off his habit of racial stereotyping, obnoxious film-making and leery shots on his female leads. It looks good at least and the set pieces are much, much better than T:ROF, nevertheless, the improvements are marginal. This is another stinker from Michael Bay, but oh well, at least we have got Transformers 4 to look forward to…

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