Monday, July 2, 2007

Transformers Review!

If there's one thing I hate about movie reviews, it's the way most of them spend half their space recapping the plot of the movie. By the time you've read a Roger Ebert review, you can probably skip the first hour of the movie.

That said, I'm going to start out with a plot summary of Transformers. Here goes: Giant transforming robots fight to the death.

That's it. That's the entire plot. Oh sure, there's a McGuffin in play here, and there's a ton of other random business involving the humans. None of it matters, and really, the movie doesn't try to hard to pretend that it does. I think if Michael Bay read that plot summary, he'd more or less kind of nod.

And really? For all the geekier portion of fandom reveres it, that was basically the plot of the 86 movie too, and for that matter, almost every cartoon, comic book, coloring book, or choose your own adventure staring the Transformers.

Okay, now that we've got that over with, the real question: should you go see it?

Answer: Yes. For the love of Primus, yes.

First of all, you need to know this. Whatever its deficiencies in plot, they are more than made up for in tone. Transformers hits the perfect balance of not taking itself seriously and not making itself a joke. The movie is extremely funny when it wants to be, and only when it wants to be. The dialogue in this movie isn't just serviceable, it's fantastic. The movie is delightfully free of all the crappy lines you expect it to contain.

No one is more important to that tone than Shia LeBouf as Sam Witwicky. Normally, you hate this character. But here, he's exceptionally, compulsively likable. It's really difficult to overstate how good LeBouf is in this movie. He carries the first hour on his back.

Okay, now we can talk about the robots.

Whatever you think of the new robot designs - and I hated them at first - there's no denying they look great in motion. These transformers looks sharp, alien, and most importantly agile. These aren't lumbering metal giants - these are action stars. They bound across highways, leap over other cars, and climb buildings with incredible speed and grace.

The other thing they do is transform. If this movie proves anything it's that things transforming into giant robots is still really neat. You find yourself craving transformations, and movie does not disappoint. Transforming is integrated into the action scenes just enough and every time it happens, it's very, very cool.

Of course the movie isn't perfect. Like so many Transformers stories over the years, it suffers from an excess of fleshlings. At least half the human characters are completely extraneous. Off the top of my head, I can think of a half dozen scenes and several entire characters that could have been omitted without losing anything. In a couple of places in Act II, it drags a little. The plot, as I mentioned, is totally inane. There's probably a few too many scenes with Frenzy.

And basically none of that matters. Nothing in this movie is so bad that it will detract from your viewing experience. Afterwards you can look at it objectively and point to things that could have been done better, but there is not one part of this movie that is painful to watch. Hell, there isn't even a part of this movie that isn't fun to watch. You will be solidly entertained for the entire hour and forty minutes you are in the theater. It is worth your $10. It is worth your time.

And you will get to see giant transforming robots fight to the death. I mentioned that, right?

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