Review: Transformers

Published 8 years ago by , Updated February 9th, 2012 at 9:30 pm,

By Vic Holtreman

Short version: A schizophrenic and mind numbing movie. Who knew that so much action could be so boring?

transformers2 Review: TransformersI’m not going to spend too much time writing this review because I’m quite sure that it’s irrelevant. Based on the reaction of the audience at the screening I attended, most folks will not agree with this review, will go watch Transformers and leave the theater in a state of bliss.

Me? I just don’t get it.

Over the weekend I actually started to get excited about this movie based on the early reviews that had been coming out. I just checked and although in the overall category it’s just barely slipped into “Rotten” territory, the “Cream of the Crop” reviewer consensus is still well into “Ripe” (meaning good). Over at the user rating stands at 8.3 out of 10 at the time of this writing.

I can only conclude that all these people are on crack.

First off, let me say that for anyone who goes to see this film and is NOT on crack, the ONLY reason to see it is Shia LaBeouf, who plays Sam (this last name shall be eternally mispronounced and is a running joke) Witwicky, the teenage kid who ends up in possession of the Transformer named Bumblebee, who morphs into at first a classic but beat up old Camaro and then the latest (and admittedly incredibly cool looking) new model. The kid is a natural and his delivery on screen was worthy of an old-time, seasoned comedian. He had me laughing out loud during the first 2/3 of the movie or so and his lines were very well written as well.

For me, that was it. Seriously.

About 2 minutes in, you know you’re watching a Michael Bay™ movie. There’s just something about the way he shoots large scale scenes that gives him away – and then there’s the music… is it me or does he use pretty much the same music in every bloody movie he’s ever made?

On the plus side, what at first seemed refreshing was the comedic relief with Shia, his dad and even Bernie Mac. Although I’ve never been a big fan of Mac, I thought he fit really well in his brief appearance. On the other hand for much of the film I felt like I was watching two (and sometimes three) different movies that had been spliced together. It made me feel schizophrenic because these segments were all completely different in tone. We had the Shia comedy, the high-government serioius (and mostly, ridiculous) portion, and then the tough-military-action-hero movie. These were inter-cut in such a way that was, for lack of a better word: jarring.

Oh sure, the Transformers looked cool, if you could ever get a clear look at them. Bay is one of the major contributors to ADD in the youth of the modern world. There was so much movement on the screen during the battle sequences, and the Transformers had so many moving parts that honesly, most of the time I couldn’t tell WHAT the hell was going on, and basically I just checked out.

Let me disclose that I’m not and never have been a Transformers fan. It’s not that I have any animosity towards the franchise – I just never paid it any attention. Apparently however, there were many fans in the audience, and by their reaction they were plenty happy. I have honestly never been so confused by an audience during a film. There were all kinds of whoops and hollers during certain scenes, and I understood that the movie was TRYING to elicit that reaction at those points, but for me every single one of them fell flat.

Every. Single. One.

Never did I think that a movie with so much action could be so incredibly boring. In my review of Ratatouille I mentioned that I was full of anticipation as to what would happen next and how the movie might end. With Transformers I quite literally just did not care. I actually debating just leaving part way through because I was so bored and numb from all the pointless action, but I figured I needed to watch the entire thing if I was going to review it.

Oh sure, there’s eye candy with Megan Fox as the high school “hot chick” that LeBeouf is hankering for and there’s Rachael Taylor as an utterly unbelievable computer expert. But outside of Shia’s humor, the stuff with his parents was, in a word: stupid. Oh, BTW, if you bring your 7 or 8 year old to this, be prepared to explain to them what the word “masturbation” means after the film. Wow, masturbation jokes in a movie about giant robots. They could have just downgraded this to a PG and inserted a few fart jokes maybe, because, ya know… THAT would have been funny.

Oh, and never have I seen so much mass destruction in a film with so few casualties or injuries. Yay for PG-13!

I’ll tell you this, it’s extremely likely you won’t be seeing a review of the inevitable Transformers 2 by me on this site.

The only reason I rated this even 2 1/2 stars is due to Shia LeBeouf’s performance. I look forward to seeing him in future films.

So… I’m ready. Flame away.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

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  1. VIC, I know we have had our disagreements in the past but how can you disrespect the transformers so much to give ratatouille a better review? The transformers were amazing with a perfect balance of action, and comedy. You must also remember the movie is based off of a toy and a cartoon, so I wouldnt expect a hugely elaborate storyline. At the screening I attended last week the transformers received a standing ovation. The graphics were outstanding, and the movie was everything I expected.


  2. Cool review as always, Vic. Naturally, I was shocked to hear that it wasn’t up there with Citizen Kane. :-)


  3. This is interesting, probably the first time I have ever disagreed with you, but I do understand your assessment about the movie. The thing about Transformers(Bays film)is that it mirrors the plot depth that everyone of the cartoon series had so I expected nothing more. The animated series were always recycled plot types with minimum change and very rare did any character die. The orginial Transformers movie was really the only exception. Hopefully the sequel will mature in plot depth. Plan on seeing it again to see if outlook changes.

  4. “The transformers were amazing with a perfect balance of action, and comedy.”

    Some of the comedy was unexpected and really very funny in the first hour, but after that the humor veered off into stupidity. I hated the “drive by the Porsche dealer” bit, who would do that to a kid that had been killing himself saving money and struggling to get A’s in school because he wanted a car so badly? And the parents (the mom in particular) seemed to have some sort of progressive mental degenerative disease that made them stupider as the movie went on.

    “You must also remember the movie is based off of a toy and a cartoon, so I wouldnt expect a hugely elaborate storyline.”

    Um, yeah. I actually laughed out loud when the second credit in the entire movie after “Michael Bay” was…. Hasbro.

    Listen, I’m not a snob. I don’t need an incredibly intricate plot (see my recent rant on judging films within their context and my review of “Die Hard 4″, which I liked a lot), but I do need a film to be engaging. “Transformers”, for all it’s whiz-bang had me yawning, and outside of Shia, I didn’t really care about what happened to anyone in the movie.

    “The graphics were outstanding”

    Yes, they were. But honestly, for long portions of the film (especially at the end) I felt exactly like I was watching someone else play a video game with killer graphics and not a movie.

    Sorry guys, I’m sticking to my guns.


  5. I havent seen the movie yet but roger ebert gave it 3 stars and he said that the audience he saw the film with really liked all of the human characters and the scenes with them
    but when it came time for the big robot battle the audience was stone cold silent
    too much CGI was rogers conclusion as to the reason for this non reaction from the crowd
    so it looks like your onto something vic

  6. Thanks, Gary. Actually it just occurred to me that I watched an advanced showing of the film, which no doubt brought out the really hardcore fans, which may have explained a lot of the audience reaction.

    I’m curious to see how “regular” audiences react to the movie.


  7. “Who knew that so much action could be so boring?”

    Right here. That would be me, as I’ve said many times in many different places.

    Speaking as a long-time Transformers fan, one who has seen all 7 TV series in near entirety and followed the development of this movie for four years, your review pretty much described a movie that was exactly what I was expecting. Not even close to the movie I was hoping for or the movie I want to see Transformers made into, but definitely the movie I’ve been expecting. It just helps confirm that I won’t be spending money to see this.

  8. Right on the mark with this. I felt the film’s strengths where when it focused more on Sam’s story than say, that hokey stuff with Jon Voight and his “advisor” Rachael Taylor. I also found the majority of Transformer action hard to follow. The dialog in the film is awful. But y’know something, Vic? The film also made ‘reference’ to Sam’s “secret stash” of porn magazines…

    I don’t know which was worse, Autobots hiding from Parents, the right cheek to theleft cheek, the Mikaela backstory (“I did juvvie because my daddy was a car thief”) the “bad cop” thinking Sam is a drug dealer/user…I did sort of laugh at “the phone call” and the Indian operator,though…and John Turturro’s ‘Sector 7″ T shirt.

    Why, I really don’t know. Maybe I just needed something other than Megan’s torso to justify myself being there.

    2 out 5 for me.

  9. Darren, yeah. The more I think about the more I think that 2 1/2 out of 5 was being generous…

    There were many things that bugged me that I didn’t even touch on in my review, some of which you mentioned.

    Autobots hiding from parents was particularly dumb IMHO.


  10. Dude,your review should be made into a movie!! It’s got the right balance of humor,action,special fx,and romance,and even a great writer! LOL:)

    I’ve come to the conclusion that I like your taste in movies and that your one of the few film critics that I happen to agree with. I hardly ever listen to the almighty Ebert & Roeper,mostly because they hate most the movies I like. BTW,did anyone see the show when they reviewed FF2? The one guy that’s usually on the show (not remembering whether it was Ebert or Roeper) had attacked and given FF2 a bad review because he didn’t like the FF as characters. He went on to say things like:
    “The FF are 3rd rate superheroes…” and that “even their catchphrazes are lame…” said he about the Torch’s favorite “Flame on!” and the Thing’s favorite “It’s clobberin’ time!”. Last time I heard critics were supposed to critique the movie;not the characters. Luckily,they had some other guy fill in for whichever critic it was that didn’t show up,and he aparrently knew the FF pretty good and defended the FF and pointed out that they were “1st rate superheroes” and that they were “comics 1st family of heroes”. He also pointed out that the SS wasn’t a lame character to his pessimistic co-host,and he still gave it “thumbs down”,as opposed to our FF defendee,who gave it a “thumbs up”.

    Aaaanyway back to Transformers,
    Vic,I completely trust your review and have decided to wait for the DVD release of this and am pondering on renting it.

  11. LOL, thanks Kel, but I assume no legal responsibility for your delay in watching the film. ;-)


  12. I totally agree with Vic, Everything you said in your review was everything I was feeling when I saw this movie. We never really get to see a smooth transformation between robot to car or robot to plane. Everything just happens so fast. If I were to buy the Prime toy I think I would lose my mind trying to make him into a truck.

    By the way, that stupid boom box robot annoyed the living crap out of me.

  13. Vic, excellent review and I agree. Though I still left satisfied and happy, my biggest beef is also the fact that we never really got a clear look at the Transformers. The opening scene really had me a bit scared with the hyper editing and though things got better, I was disappointed by how we never got to clearly see the robots fighting. The big sequence at the end, most of it just looked like blobs of metal moving on screen.

    I enjoyed it and I’m not hesitant to recommend it as a good summer action flick but personally, I was disappointed. And I’m not even an oldschool fan.

  14. Yay. Another reviewer with the brains to see this film was ludicrous.

    Oh and, by the way, I’m a Transformers fan.

    What I’d like to see is a what-if scenario wherein the audience could see this film with the added bonus of charm, story, heart and action scenes in which you can actually see what each character is doing.

    Maybe then they’d all go… ‘ahhhhh… now I get what the real film buffs are saying…’ and stop praising this as something mindblowing in a GOOD way.

    After the first – reasonably enjoyable – hour, my mind was just plain BLOWN… and I honestly had a headache.

  15. Vic-
    I’ll be honest. I’ve anticipated this film for some time now and I thought you may have been a little off your rocker with 2.5 out of 5. Then I seen it.
    Normally I hate having to get up and take my daughter to the bathroom, or getting more popcorn or soda. But during this film, I was bored. The action scenes were like a Disney ridem -fun but over too soon and not much to do in between.

    2.5 was being generous sadly.

  16. Thanks, Alca, for the validation.

    I did actually debate just giving it a “2″, but in the grand scheme of things – 2, 2.5, doesn’t matter that much. The first 45 minutes-hour was really pretty entertaining, even though even that portion had problems.


  17. I found it to be 2 1/2 hours of fun.

    I wasn’t looking for a Gone with the Wind epic, I was looking for a movie about toys we used to play with, that has been jazzed up with top rated FX & car prototypes that we might see on the road in a few years.

    For what it was, a Sci-Fi flick, with an above average cast, and above average eye candy, I found the comic book female scientist perfect, for this sci fi flick about alien robots from outer space.

    The ‘bot fights were hard to follow when they got all tangled up.

    I think the story line moved along ok. I bore real easy, (An ADD thing) and I was doing ok through the whole thing.

    The humor was fine. It kept it light, mixed up the emotion throughout the flick.

    My 10:15 am showing in a pretty large theater was full, and at the end, we all erupted into applause.

    -If you want to go to see your childhood toys come to life, and enjoy it, this is THE movie for it.
    -If you’re looking for Gone with the Wind, look elsewhere.
    -If you’re looking for a way to get out of the sun for 3 hours (Counting cool previews), this is it!

    I say 4.5
    Thanks for reading,
    Bruce Simmons

  18. Bruce,

    See my review of Die Hard 4 to see that I don’t judge all movies by “Gone with the Wind.” :-)


  19. I have posted extensively on my thoughts regarding this movie here:

    Like you, I also valued Shia LeBeouf’s performance, but didn’t think it elevated the film enough to give it a 50% rating. I found myself actually getting angry at the movie (a point I reached when the realization struck that there was absolutely nothing that could possibly happen in the remainder of the movie that could make the experience worthwhile on the whole – a point reached with a remarkable amount of time left).

  20. I have to say I love how in tune you folks who are regular visitors are with me. :-)

    I never thought that comments would be posted saying that my 2 1/2 star rating was too HIGH! :-)


  21. Well,Vic,I unfortunately lost a bet and had to see Transformers yesterday,and I gotta tell ya your review is completely accurate. During the first hour of the film I was thinking “this would definetly get a 3 out of 5″,then a little while later when it came to that part that you mentioned that was VERY innapropriate,(and while watching it I realized just how innapropriate it was,I’ve never been to a movie where the audience gets so quiet so quickly,with their young kids watching,BTW)then I was thinking “2 out of 5″. But then came the ending with all the robots fighting and stuff,the part that would never end (I like that,BTW,movies with big finishes,that was one of my complaints about the 1st FF,the end fight seen wasn’t long enough),with the amazing special FX. So then I’m thinking “2 and a half out of 5″. I give it that because the special FX were amazing,the ending had a huge finish which didn’t lack on action,and Shia’s performance wasn’t half bad (didn’t like Shia much before I saw this,BTW,and now I am looking forward to Indie 4 a little more). And that’s wear the praise ends as far as I’m concerned. The story was confusing,like 3 different movies rolled into 1,the stuff with Shia’s parents was dumb,the fact that the government had high school students to help them with the Transformers was rather hokey,there were obscene gestures and references that should not have been,and the music sounds waaay too much like “Pirates of the Carribean”. So,that said,Vic,your review was right on the money.

  22. Ah, another satisfied Screen Rant customer. :-)

    Thanks, Kel!


  23. When I first heard about a Transformers movie a few years back, I was ecstatic. I loved the Autobots as a kid. Loved the first movie. Shamed myself by crying when Optimus went out.

    However, I didn’t expect much from this movie. I really didn’t. I figured it would be all sound and fury without anything to really grab onto. I didn’t care, though; nothing in the universe could have stopped me from seeing it. I didn’t care of it sucked, I’m telling you.

    Thus, I was pleasantly surprised. No, it’s not a perfect movie, but it’s highly entertaining for all of that. Call me easily amused, but I found Optimus Prime trying to blend in with the house pretty darn funny. And yes, Shia plays Sam with quirky panache. That kid will be big.

    Look, a movie is about entertainment. If you weren’t entertained, I’m terribly sorry for you. However, I don’t feel a bit stupid for applauding at the end along with the rest of the packed house on Sunday. I don’t feel low-brow for getting the shivers from, “One shall stand; one shall fall.”

    Heck, the little sound effect they make when they transform was good enough for me. Brought back the warm fuzzies and made this 30-year-old feel like a 10-year-old again.

  24. Molly,

    No worries… LOTS of people liked the movie as evidenced by it’s monster one week take at the box office. I just believe that even no-brainer action movies can be made to some standard that is (for me) entertaining. I guess I’m just not a Transformers fan… that might have made a huge difference in my opinion of the film.

    Thanks for chiming in,


  25. Eh, to each his own I suppose. And I guess it is just a matter of what you like. I me and the rest of the movie audience were mindless action tards who really enjoyed the movie. My only peeve is that Jazz went out like a total punk. To flare, all it was was jump into megatron, call him a b**** (I think) And then get ripped in half.

  26. Don’t worry, Zachary. They’re thinking about reviving Jazz in a different form with the All Spark fragment Optimus found in Megatron’s chest. Nothing’s sure, of course, but hey. Sequels!

    And he did have some excellent moments in the battle against Devastator. He had this nifty energy shield and got in several good shots before going after Megatron.

  27. The Oscar nominee list is out.

    Transformers is up for Visual Effects and Sound Mixing.


  28. I know this is way way way overdue, but I have to say this!

    Thank You!

    The reviews I’ve read about Transformers had only worsened the pain I felt in my chest when watching the movie. It still hasn’t gone away. I guess mainly because being Transformers fan, I felt cheated when the producers claimed they were transformers fans but produced a scene where Volkswagen beetle was humiliated by Chevrolet. I find this purely despicable.

    Let me end this rant by saying that I take offense at the movie being titled as it is. It should be, “Sam & the GM Cars.”

  29. I came on this posting for the hell of it, I guess I was bored and wanted to see what people wrote about this movie. Question, What can you possibly expect from a movie that comes from cartoons from the 80′s….do you actually think people will be going crazy to see a VW kicking some decepticon butt…I wouldn’t have. I love the fact that they changed all the cars….it makes perfect sense. I personally thought the movie was real good. I enjoyed the hell out of it and accepted it for what it was. I don’t let the critics kill it for me like some people on here. I was not there to see any great acting from these people I was there to see Giant Robots Fighting!!….Any ways i cant wait to see Revenge of the Fallen…the trailers look awesome.