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michael bay

The most eagerly anticipated film of the summer is finally here, the long in gestation Transformers film came to the big screen never shying away from the controversy fans bestowed upon it. The choice of Autobots and Decepticons to be included was derided from day one by Generation 1 fans who wanted Soundwave included in the film, or Megatron to transform into his original pistol form, or Bumblebee to remain a VW Beetle. The list goes on of what people wanted to see in the film, but without actually seeing it, could they really be disappointed?

The question still remains open, but after seeing Transformers for the first of many times, and after reading the quotes, listening to the sound bites, analyzing the trailers one thing is entirely certain, Michael Bay knows how to do action movies, and Transformers is both his greatest film and a nostalgic fanboys dream come true.


The gigantic robots, who started life as a toyline and a comic book in the mid-1980’s, come to the big screen in a very big way. From the moment we see Bumblebee transform for the first time, to the triumphant battle between Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and Megatron (Hugo Weaving) your eyes are left in wonder at the spectacle before you. Transformers may be one of the single greatest achievements in visual effects on par with WETA Digital’s work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong (2005). The robots’ new look is sure to cause even more controversy, but by aiming for the “scientific aspect” of the transforming process ILM and the producers have captured each character’s distinct look while making the way they transform as practical as it can be for a 40-foot robot to transform into a mid-size sports car.

As a movie Transformers is a flawed film, there’s not much to the story that finds Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) buying Bumblebee at a car dealership and eventually unraveling into a plot to obtain the location of the All Spark Cube which crashed on Earth thousands of years ago. Its all really lip service to string together the thin storyline with epic battles pitting man against machine and, more impressively, machine against machine.

The most surprising aspect of the film is its focus on the humans more than the namesake robots, but in the end it doesn’t matter too much. Megatron has a criminally little amount of screen time, never appearing until the film’s climax, but his battle with Optimus Prime and his characteristic disregard for life (robot or human) make up for any shortcomings. Even Megatron’s single line of banter to Starscream about failing his mission makes any fan feel right at home.


The filmmakers certainly know where the series has been and what the fans expect. Throughout the two-and-a-half hour running time there’s in-jokes, self-referential quips, and classic lines reborn for a new generation. The biggest standout is the casting of Peter Cullen to reprise his iconic role as the voice of Optimus Prime. From the moment he declares, “My name is Optimus Prime…” you know the film has you, no matter how bad you think it might be, in the end, that bit of fan-service was a major turning point in your opinion of the film.

Not enough can be said about Industrial Light and Magic’s work, its Oscar worthy stuff bringing the boxy animated toys from the 1980’s and infusing new life, ideas, and artistic care into them in an effort to modernize them for generations who both grew up on the series, and are being introduced to it for the first time.


Transformers as an experience is unrivaled by anything at the box office this year, it’s the epitome of popcorn pleasure with large set pieces, even larger robots doing battle on those sets, and a fan base who will wait four hours in line the day before the official opening date to be one of the many to see a semi-truck transform into a hero. There’s going to be things written about how the story won’t stand up, or how it’s all just eye candy and lip service to fans with disposable income, but as one of those fans, Transformers was so much more than a nostalgic $9 trip down memory lane. It’s the movie going experience of a theater packed with fans, decked out in T-Shirts bearing the familiar Autobot logo, and cheering the very first time that red and blue Peterbilt appears on screen with the ever familiar and soothing voice.

Transformers is an experience like no other, and until the inevitable sequel, we may not see one like it again.

Not a lot can be said for sequels this summer. Getting thing started off with the above average X2 gave me hope, but everything after the disappointing Matrix Reloaded I have been wondering if it is really necessary to release 20+ sequel films during a four month period, the culmination of which holds American Wedding and the long anticipated Freddy vs. Jason. Still after the surprise hit of Pirates of the Caribbean two weeks ago I had new found faith in producer Jerry Bruckheimer. No more than 14 days later Bruckheimer’s biggest movie of the summer, a sequel, hits theaters but misses the mark.

Bad Boys II isn’t a bad movie in any sense and if I was expecting a laugh a minute comedy or a cerebral think-fest my head would have imploded several times over the course of the films somewhat bloated 2.5 hour running time. Bad Boys II is nothing more than huge explosions, awesome car chases, funny dialog, body parts flying, and slow motion head shots, and I like them all. Granted the plot is paper thin and the characters, aside from Martin Lawrence’s Marcus Burnett and Will Smith’s Mike Lowrey, are nothing more than 2D.

After September 11 the drug smugglers have found new ways of bringing illicit material into the United States on, or under, the water. Marcus and Mike have been assigned to the Tactical Narcotics Team (TNT) and begin gathering evidence against Johnny Tapia a brutal kingpin who has men hacked to pieces in his mother’s kitchen and runs drugs into the US using coffins and dead bodies as mules. Along with gathering this evidence Burnett and Lowrey participate in a high speed chase which cars crashing off of a semi, blast through a Cuban village in a Hummer, get in numerous gun fights, and kill more people than I can count. The story also opens up to envelop Marcus’ sister, Sydney (Gabrielle Union), who is later captured by Tapia and taken to Cuba. This is where the movie goes from iffy, but fun, to totally absurd. Granted we didn’t come to see an engrossing drama, but to think of a small group of men taking on a drug kingpin’s minions and the Cuban army makes your head hurt.

Other critics have called the movie a bit too excessive with the sheer amount of violence present. The ever popular slow motion head shot is a personal favorite, but just getting your skull blasted open enough, you then need to be disemboweled and disintegrated by mines. The movie doesn’t tip-toe around the effects of gunshots and bodies getting run over by cars and trains. The film is ten times more violent than it’s predecessor, which may turn a few people off.

The special effects and stunt work used in the film is top notch. The freeway chase towards the beginning of the film looks great, real cars or not, you won’t find a better chase sequence this side of Reloaded. Also of note is the Hummer barreling down a hill in Cuba where buildings are destroyed left and right and cleverly placed cameras give the whole chase a very cinematic feel. The cinematography in Bad Boys II is excellent with wide, panning shots, or the Bruckheimer norm, slow-motion tight shots of the main characters.

Smith and Lawrence play off each other’s characters very, very well. The movie provides a wealth of laughs at the expense of a certain white power group and a humorous trip to the boss’ house. I won’t spoil any of the jokes but the funny definitely doesn’t spare on the laughs, and then throws in a few more head shots for good measure.

Bad Boys II does try to be anything more than it is, which is good, but what it ends up being is a brain-cell killing event that gives us plenty of eye candy but very little substance to back it up. Then again the last time Michael Bay gave us substance I had to sit through Pearl Harbor. If you have two and a half hours to kill and don’t mind a bit of blood being spilled Bad Boys II offers a very cinematic, fun experience if you aren’t looking to be intrigued, only wowed.