Being a 90’s kids, Transformers was one of the biggest animated franchises I grew up around. Maybe not the only animated staple, as Cartoon Network, Toonami, and Nickelodeon also great line ups of animation that enjoyed (including Courage the Cowardly Dog, Scooby Doo, Hey Arnold, Sponge Bob, and Dragon Ball Z among others), but it was a franchise that certainly had a growing fanbase sine the mid 1980’s, 1984 to be exact.
While I don’t remember watching Beast Wars and Beast Machines as much (I may have, but don’t remember), I would say the Unicron Trilogy (Armada, Energon, and Cybertron), were staples that I watched. Hot Rod was a favorite of mine, I didn’t mind Energon as much (though looking back, I can see the complaints and agree with them), and Cybertron’s animation was pretty good in my opinion.
Jump to 2007 and the first Transformers movie directed by Michael Bay was released. I remember seeing it with a cousin that summer and really enjoying it. Having never seen the 1984 Transformers (also know as Transformers G1 or just G1), it was the first movie that introduced me to what I called the “G1 Team” (essentially, well known bots of the G1 series). While the Michael Bay Transformers, a.k.a. Bayformers, may not have aged well, nor is it a perfect series in general, the first movie is one that I look back on fondly. So I thought I would do a review for it.
I may do a review for all of the other movies, including Bumblebee, which isn’t technically a Bayformers movie, but I still have to see. But today, I’d like to focus on this movie.
The Michael Bay movies are certainly a mixed bag and each movie may be a hit or miss for viewers (be they Transformer fans or not). Out of all of them, I would argue that the first movie is the best. It still has it’s flaws, but compared to say Revenge of the Fallen (a guilty pleasure of mine) and The Last Knight, I feel this movie is a much better one.
Positive: The Look and Sound of the Autobots and Decepticons
CGI is a tricky business and there is such a thing as too much and too little. As well as good and bad CGI depending on the technology, time, and effort. Since the Cybertronians (the actual name of the Transformers as a species) require a little more effort, with their vehicle forms being an exception, obviously CGI was going to be a must.
In my opinion, I think the CGI for them worked really well. Each of them look like how you would expect and look very mechanical (as they should). Even with Optimus having to have a slight color change with red areas being changed to flames, it works. And if you’re wondering why they did that, according to some sources, it was due to the red not being a good color to work with (green screen/motion/etc.) and the flames just looking cool.
Each Autobot and Decepticon looked pretty unique. They were all various types of vehicles and builds. And while the Decepticons may have had a more grey/monochrome color scheme, where as the Autobots had a bit more color, there was enough details to differentiate them.
The voice cast also is really well cast in my opinion. And while most might not have been tied to a Transformers property previously (For instance Hugo Weaving as Megatron and Jess Harmell as Ironhide), one Transformers veteran does return to the helm. That being Optimus Prime’s (and one dower Eeyore’s) 1984 actor Peter Cullen. Having not voiced Optimus much since G1, this was certainly a nice return to form and Peter Cullen would go on to voice Optimus in a few more Transformers related titles (like Transformers Prime, War for Cybertron, Fall of Cybertron, and Rescue Bots).
Negative: Too Focused on Human Characters
While having time to develop the human characters isn’t inherently a bad thing, there were times that it felt like it focused a bit too much on them. I don’t think we needed an extended scene for the interrogation nor do I feel like we needed a drawn out awkward scene with Sam and Mikaela when Bumblebee tires to set the mood.
I also feel that, at times, some of the human characters are not all that interesting and/or annoying. For example, while I kind of enjoyed the humor of Agent Simmons towards the climax of the movies (John Turturro was entertaining as the character), I did find him aggrivsting when he was first introduced in the film. Glen, the character who helped figure out that the sound/signal was coming from Frenzy was uninteresting, and Miles, Sam’s friend, felt unnecessary. Quite frankly, I feel like they could have taken out a character or two (mostly Miles and Trent) and they wouldn’t have changed the plot of the movie much if any.
Personally, I would have loved a scene or two that explored the war on Cybertron. Maybe a flashback of how Bumblebee lost his voice (a prequel comic kind of did that, but I feel not everyone would have read it) and prologue showing how The Cube was lost.
Positive: The Action
The action of this movie worked really well. The fight with Scorponok and the climax were the big battles. There were also some good smaller battles too. Like the Bumblebee vs Blackout fight and the Bonecrusher vs Optimus fight on the way to where the final battle took place.
For the fight with Scorponok, I feel it set up how the humans would initially react to such an attack. Not knowing what Scorponok was or where he came from certainly gave it an unknown territories type scenario. As well as setting up the realization that Scorponok wasn’t Earth made from a more casual observer (as Sector 7, the top secret government agency, already knew).
However, I think the battle in Mission City was the better battle of the two. An all out brawl was just what the climax needed. It’s Autobot vs Decepticon with some help from the Autobots’ human companions. Both sides want The Cube for different reasons: destruction vs preservation and not every character makes it out alive, with both sides losing allies (i.e. Jazz is killed by Megatron, Bonecrusher is killed by Optimus, Brawl and Blackout are killed by the human allies). Not even Bumblebee emerges unscathed, having lost both feet.
The action scenes are well done and serve the purpose they need to. Even of they don’t seem great in their entirety.
Negative: The Humor Doesn’t Always Hit
While I feel certain entries in the Bayformers series certainly have worse humor, I do feel like some of the humor here just doesn’t stick. Mostly when it comes to the more raunchy/risqué humor. Yes, this is a PG-13 movie, and this kind of humor can be utilized here, however, for a movie about sentient transforming robots, it doesn’t really fit. There’s also a particularly literal potty joke that, while in certain children media may come off as more tame, may come off as more eye rolling than actually funny.
Especially since this is a movie where parents may take their kids to go see (since much like the Avengers films, these are franchises that can be enjoyed by all ages despite the PG-13 rating). Again it’s worse in other movies than it is in this movie (just wait until I get to Revenge of the Fallen), but this kind of humor is simple flat in my opinion.
While certain humor does land, like the tone of the scene when Simmons, Maggie, Glen, and the Secretary of Defense deal with Frenzy. How Bumblebee handles Bobby Bolivia tries to get Sam into buying another vehicle and the Autobots trying to avoid being caught by Sam’s parents while he looks for his great grandfather’s glasses, where also well humored moments. However, the humor as a whole just didn’t lands, and I feel like the humor that didn’t do bring down the move a bit.
Positive: A Solid Enough Story
While the humor at times may feel off and the focus on the human characters a bit uninteresting, Transformers 2007 does have a solid story. I feel that it is everything you would expect from a introductory Transformers film. It brings them to Earth, shows how some people would react to sentient, unearthly robots, and gave us a reasonably constructed conflict.
Positive: The Music
Much like the look of the Cybertronians, I would say that the music is another positive that carries throughout the series. Between the (instrumental) score by Steve Jablonsky and the various main stream songs (for example several Linkin Park songs) work really well. None of the songs feel particularly jarring and linger as long as they need to.
Overall, I would gives this movie a seven out of ten. While not a perfect movie, and maybe not what people would have expected from a Transformers movie, it did a mostly good job. The designs of the Cybertronians were good and identifiable. The story was solid enough to work. It had plenty of action and well selected music added. And while the humor didn’t stick, and it felt that it focused on the human characters, I do feel that this was certainly an entertaining movie.