Saturday, July 21, 2007

Transformers Rolled Out By Sashi

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In The Beginning…

First came the announcement that Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks were to be making the live-action movie. Fans rejoiced.

Then the news that the movie was to be directed by Michael Bay. Fans were split, some were happy, remembering movies like Bad Boys and The Rock, while other groaned, remembering The Island and Pearl Harbour.

Then the cast list was revealed, including the most in-demand young actor on the market Shia LeBeouf, the unknown but smokin’ hot Megan Fox, but the name that gave every Transformers fans goose-bumps was that of Peter Cullen, the man who voiced Optimus Prime in the original G1 cartoons and the 1986 animated movie.

Then the teasers, giving little indication of the movie’s storyline. The buzz was slow to build-up initially, being overshadowed by the other “summer blockbusters” Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

But then those movies came and went, leaving fans underwhelmed. The focus shifted to

Transformers, at which time the final cinematic trailer was released - and what an awesomely cool, well-edited trailer that was…

The hype was now well and truly at its highest.

The Premiere

So finally, I found myself at The Curve’s Cineleisure Damansara yesterday with some friends, for the premiere of the movie.

The fanboys were out in force, wearing Autobots or Decepticons T-shirts, while a handful walked around with their Optimus Prime Voice Changer helmet. Seriously. One of them was a celebrity blogger dude too.

Before the patrons were to be ushered into their respective halls, everyone had to get in line and declare their electronic gadgets such as cellphones, MP3 players and cameras. It didn’t matter whether your cellphone was a basic cheap-ass phone (like mine) that does nothing more than make/receive calls and SMSes. They all still ended up getting tagged and bagged, and I’d have to return later after the movie to collect your stuff.

My friend couldn’t be arsed to do that, so he went and left his phone in his car parked in the basement before returning to the cinema.

After we cleared that hurdle, and after undergoing a quick electronic gadget sweep later (another friend of mine commented that he wouldn’t have been surprised if they subjected us to a cavity search too, the way things were going), we finally entered the hall (THX-enabled too! Woo hoo!) and waited for the movie to begin.

After all the obligatory trailers went by (including the one for Disturbia, starring Shia LeBeouf, which elicited a comment from somewhere behind me that he “already got the VCD last week” - only in Malaysia, people…), the movie we were all waiting for with bated breath finally began.

NOTE: Tread carefully from here onwards, for there be spoilers, arr!

We knew for sure that we were in a hall with some serious fans when they started cheering during all the iconic moments that would appear throughout the movie - the first time we hear Optimus Prime’s voice, the first transformation (including that famous transforming sound, which a friend refers to as “Krik krik kruk krack!”), the first kick-ass robot-on-robot action, the first time we see Megatron’s ugly mug.. ok, so maybe not during that last one.

The Story

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What story? Ok, if you must know… we start with what seems to be a standard (but rather entertaining and funny) teen flick story, where Shia plays young high-school kid Sam Witwicky looking to buy his first car (and who also has this crush on the smokin’ hot Megan Fox), at which point they come across this old dirty Camaro in a used-car dealership.. oh, you’ve seen the trailer, you know what I’m talking about.

But here’s the thing; Sam doesn’t know it yet, but he happens to possess a very important clue to the whereabouts of a mysterious energy source called the AllSpark, which is sought by both the Autobots and the Decepticons for wildly opposing reasons.

The Decepticons figure this out after hacking into the US Military Defense network (yes, the aliens hack us, instead of us hacking their network ala Independence Day) and soon they begin to zero in on our young reluctant hero.

But wait! The Autobots too have figured this out, and rush to protect Sam and his crush, the smokin’ hot Megan Fox. Therein begins the frantic hunt for the AllSpark, with the Decepticons also closing in on the whereabouts of the frozen Megatron, who was entombed in ice many centuries ago when he came to Earth looking for that energy source. All this culminates in a mega-battle in the city streets, with the outnumbered Autobots relying on teamwork (and some help from their human friends) to fight the all-out destructive power marshalled by the Decepticons.

But look, seriously, the plot is so thin that it’s practically aneroxic. It’s all an excuse to just bring on the metallic bling and the fancy special effects together with all the pyrotechnics and sun-soaked cinematography that Michael Bay just happens to be famous for, to create that unique cocktail known as the mindless summer-blockbuster popcorn flick.

The Cast

If Shia LeBeouf doesn’t win an acting Oscar in his movie career, I’m gonna go postal on the film industry. It’s easy to see why he’s so in demand these days (he’s also slated to appear in the next Indiana Jones movie); the dude’s such a natural on-camera. His whole demeanour and performance is so believable, you WILL forget that he’s supposed to be talking to giant robots that were not really there during filming. Ok, so his acting chops were not fully stretched in this movie, but I’m taking into account some of his past performances that I’ve caught.

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The smokin’ hot Megan Fox, on the other hand, is here as eye-candy. Sorry, ladies, but I’m not trying to sound like an MCP here; that’s just the truth. But as eye-candies tend to go, she’s certainly high on the list of the most smokin’ hot ones.

More Than Meets The Eye

Now, we all know that the real stars of this movie are the robots. While the fanboys are somewhat uncertain about the transformation undergone by these metallic heroes of yesteryear, one has to admit that sticking to the old-school style of transforming would be pretty silly by modern standards. (Then they’ll have to answer all the weird questions like where does Optimus Prime’s trailer disappear to when he transforms into a robot, or how does a giant robot like Megatron transform into something as small as a handgun??)

But where do I stand on this new makeover for the Transformers? Somewhere in the middle, actually. They look cool as they’re walking about and strutting their stuff. And the transformations are indeed awesome, if only a bit rushed in places. But when these metal giants are duking it out in the city streets, things get so blurry and confusing that I cannot make out which metal bits belong to which robot. The fight choreography is just so MTV, ya know?

And most of the Decepticons look so powerful and menacing - but there just was no personality in them. Starscream never got annoying, and Megatron, despite looking like the winner of the World’s Ugliest Contraption Award, never hit the megalomaniacal heights that is part-and-parcel of his character (although, that’s mostly due to the fact that he appears so late in the movie, thus severely limiting his screen-time). However, you do have Frenzy in there, being both the hacker and comic relief in the film.

But other than that, I found the movie rather enjoyable. Although if I started to think about stuff about the movie and it’s plot and characterizations, I’d find myself feeling a tinge of disappointment creeping in.

Of course, at this point I then realize that this is a mindless summer blockbuster popcorn flick, and hence thinking too deeply about things is strictly a no-no when it comes to watching movies like these.

So remember to check your high-horse at the door, come in with a child’s imagination and sense of wonder, and just maybe you too, like me, would feel goose-bumps all over your body when you hear Optimus Prime’s voice for the first time, and of course, THAT transforming sound: Krik krik kruk krack!

Autobots! Transform, and ROLL OUT!

My verdict: 4 out of 5.

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