Thursday, June 28, 2007

More than meets the eye candy

Sometimes it's tricky to write a spoiler-free review. I'm gifted at focusing on the tangential, but what to do when superfans are so obsessed with an upcoming movie that any little tidbit becomes too much information? Such is the case with Transformers.

In a way, I understand. Like many men of a certain age, the old 1980s cartoon and Hasbro juggernaut were significant interests of mine. But then I grew up; they didn't. And judging from their rapturous applause of the robots' look and sound, it seems that director Michael Bay (Michael Bay!) did what George Lucas could not: restore their childhoods. Good for them.

So, if I can't talk about the plot or the effects, what else is there? I'll talk about Megan Fox.

Sure, her character knows her way around a car engine, but let's not deceive ourselves. Following a long line of supporting heroines in action movies, and a short line in the R.E.M. discography, she's a simple prop to occupy our time.

But in a film loaded with unusual casting choices (John Turturro was just... bizarre), the elevation of this 21-year-old actress to leading lady may be the most adventurous. There's something about her that I couldn't place at first -- artificial in a non-California way, edgy in a non-bitchy way.

Then it occurred to me: she's like an adult film star who has been secretly engineered to infiltrate the mainstream instead, and at a disturbingly young age. I'm not sure Hollywood has seen anyone like this before. (Though the music industry is witnessing the rise of someone similar; her name is Rihanna, age 19.) How will these parallel experiments proceed? For Megan Fox, it's a promising start. She made the most out of being a simple prop in a big budget movie; opposite Shia LaBeouf (too in-his-head) and Josh Duhamel (too bland), she dominates every scene she's in.

For the record, I liked the movie a lot more than I thought I would, but I was coming in with really low expectations. Half of it is very good, and the other half is only pretty good. It owes obvious debts to past summer spectacles Terminator 2 and Independence Day. And I've sufficiently filled my quota for vagueness.


K-Lyn said...

So, my "please don't suck" mantra has not been for naught?

I was huge into Transformers when I was young (Although my favorite was the one that turned into a microscope) and I have many female friends who also have fond memories.

Quote from last night even: "Yeah, don't tell my husband but I wanted to marry Optimus Prime"

Given that I haven't even bothered to see Spidey or Pirates, the pressure on this blockbuster has mounted.

Neel Mehta said...

Okay, readers: spoilers are fair game in the comments, so you've been warned.

So, my "please don't suck" mantra has not been for naught?

K-lyn, you still might think the movie sucks, depending on whether or not you expect the microscope to make an appearance. (It doesn't.)

On the plus side, you have a couple of quality Alias writers doing the script, and it showed. The first half was low on action but high on dialogue. It wasn't brilliant, but sometimes "not sucky" looks like brilliant.

I will say that Optimus Prime pleased the vocally active part of the crowd (mostly men, a few women). There were some comic moments that I think were stretched a bit, though.

The transforming process, while occasionally dazzling, seemed needlessly expensive and intricate, almost as if the filmmakers had worked closely with GM to make the car parts look as real as possible.

Oh, and this is totally a 2-hour GM commercial.

K-Lyn said... expectations are higher than yours were but they did not include the microscope. Given prior input from my buddy burnout I've been trying keep them reasonable. I just want to have a good time at a summer blockbuster and I'm hoping this provides.

Thinking Fool said...

SHOCKWAVE: "Autobot intruders... TRANSFORM!" That was such a great cartoon. Does Shockwave appear in the movie, Neel?

Neel Mehta said...

Fool: Shockwave does not appear in the credits. Aside from Optimus Prime and Bumblebee (who figures heavily into the plot), you don't get exposed to each individual Transformers character. Sure, they introduce Ratchet and Jazz, but after a while (especially in battle) it gets confusing.

Maybe identifying the robots will be the focus of the inevitable sequel.