Hollywood has transformed (pun unintended!) yet another 80s kiddy franchise into a box office monster. Transformers owe their origins to a Japanese line of toys that was acquired by Hasbro; it was then subsequently animated into a popular TV cartoon series in 1984 and drawn into comics by several publishers including Marvel Comics. Dreamworks became intrigued by the possibilities of creating a live action version with the maestro of over-the-top mayhem Michael Bay helming the project.
In the early days of production, when pictures of a re-vamped Optimus Prime leaked out onto the web, hard core fans were enraged. Many film buffs were also sceptical of whether Michael Bay could make a decent film out of the rather ludicrous back story created for kids in the 1980s. All these doubts were more or less swept away when the film finally hit the streets in early July. Transformers, the movie, did extremely well and topped the box office charts in numerous countries.
I finally saw the movie yesterday. I must admit that the film exceeded my expectations: the plot was not totally horrendous; comic relief moments weren’t corny; and the special effects were of course awesome. Although the film’s running time of over 140 minutes means that Bay could probably have trimmed it down, Transformers nevertheless did not feel boring and there weren’t really many filler scenes at all. As the robots are the stars of the film, Transformers does not feature an A-list cast and probably the only one who is receiving decent exposure is Megan Fox, the other major eye candy apart from the computer effects. The stand outs among the robots are Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, Blackout, Frenzy and Megatron. I did find the battles between the Autobots and Decepticons truly dazzling and this proves that with ever improving computer visuals, animation action can now be realistically recreated as live action.
The major complaint I have regards the transformation process of the robots from their various camouflage identities. Growing up on Japanese animation, I expected a logical twist and turn of the car parts when the Camaro transforms into Bumblebee. The movie, however, gives us a “disintegration” of the Camaro, lots of camera shaking and loud sound effects, and cuts back to a robot that has finished transforming!! I can’t see how the car becomes a robot, how the doors become the arms or how the hood becomes the torso. Definitely unsatisfactory.
Overall, an enjoyable robot movie that lives up to the blockbuster label. Recommended.
Here’s a video clip of the commercial for the original Japanese toy on which Optimus Prime is based.