As someone who spent much of his childhood collecting and breaking Transformers, I’m approaching next week’s movie version with a feeling that veers back and forth between terror and hideous terror.
The new “Transformers” film is directed by Michael Bay, who is responsible for such thoughtful, dialogue-heavy character dramas as “Pearl Harbor,” “The Island” and “Armageddon,” which was 19 hours long and was about an asteroid, I think—it was hard to tell, because I spent most of the film trying to poison myself with some cleaning solution I found in the bathroom. In Michael Bay movies, no one falls down if there’s any chance at all he could instead fall through, say, a 12-foot-high wine rack. Any human emoting that happens is generally either of the screaming-while-falling-off-a-skyscraper variety, the yelling-while-running-from-helicopters variety or the shrieking-during-a-shootout-in-a-steel-mill variety.
Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Jon Voight, John Turturro
(Paramount; US theatrical: 2 Jul 2007 (General release); 2007)
Michael Bay movies have plot holes the size of actor John Goodman, but Bay has the good sense, if one of those holes become too terribly obvious, to blow up some stuff. Michael Bay is not going to be directing the sequel to “Gandhi,” is what I’m saying, unless there’s some way to turn him into a one-man killing machine (three words: machine-gun leg, but hey, what do I know, I’m just a newspaper guy).
And now Bay is behind “Transformers,” the CGI-heavy action flick based on the toy line that ate up irrational amounts of toy shelf space and what would have otherwise been my college fund in the mid-1980s—and now is back in full force. In fact, our newsroom received a promotional Optimus Prime toy last week and, no joke, it took six people and about two weeks to figure out how to Transform it. And now we can’t get it back. It’s just sitting there on the desk, in a horrific, half-Transformed pile. Taunting us.
Anyway, “Transformers” fans like myself have spent weeks busying themselves debating just how brutal of an innocence-shattering disaster this film is going to be, but we can generally agree on one thing: It can’t be as weird as the original “Transformers” movie, which was released in 1986 and was noteworthy for the following things, precisely all of which are true:
1. All of the good-guy Transformers are ALL KILLED IN THE FIRST 10 MINUTES.
2. When all of the good-guy Transformers are killed in the first 10 minutes and you are 11 years old and a boy, it makes you wonder if it’s OK to ask them to stop the movie so you can bury your head in your Mom’s lap and cry.
3. Orson Welles is in the movie, in what would, hilariously, prove to be his last film role. He played a planet named Unicron that eats other planets, which is more or less what “Citizen Kane” was about. (In 1988, Welles rose from the grave to exact revenge on the producers of “Transformers.” Dozens were killed. With a sled, I’m pretty sure.)
4. Someone says a bad word, which makes everyone gasp.
5. “Weird Al” Yankovic appears for some reason.
6. The theme music is a song called “The Touch” by Stan Bush. People who knew how to talk to girls in 1986 might remember this song as the one slaughtered in a recording studio by Mark Wahlberg in “Boogie Nights.” It is tough to truly convey what “The Touch” sounds like without hearing it, but it’s safe to say that if you were ever to engage in a lively dogfight over the South Pacific with a fleet of alien starships that all are armed with lasers, you would want “The Touch” to be playing on your iPod.
Hey, that’s a pretty good idea for a movie! I should patent it, before it’s stolen by Michael Bay.