Time for a summer movie update.
So far i've missed one of the movies on my list for this summer, but i've seen most of them. I'd also have to say that having seen the trailers, Rush Hour 3 is probably off my "must" list and on to "optional", while the Simpsons Movie may be on to my "must" list now. Underdog is off the list entirely. So... new list...
Movies i am for sure going to check out:
May 4th - Spiderman 3 (3.5 out of 5)
May 25th - Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (4 out of 5)
June 8th - Ocean's Thirteen (didn't see)
June 29th - Ratatouille (4.5 out of 5)
July 4th - Transformers (3 out of 5)
July 13th - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
July 27th - The Simpsons Movie
August 17th - Fanboys
Others of note that i am going to wait to rent or borrow:
May 18th - Shrek the 3rd (didn't see)
June 15th - Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (didn't see)
June 22nd - Evan Almighty (didn't see)
June 29th - Live Free or Die Hard (not yet)
August 3rd - The Bourne Ultimatum
August 10th - Rush Hour 3
August 17th - The Invasion
Anyway - now to my review of Transformers.
My expectations were pretty much met for this one, which isn't necessarily a great thing.
It was Michael Bay. Pure and simple. As my good friend Matt said - he is basically an old-time b-movie action director on a big budget. Lots and lots of 'spolsions, little character development outside of the one main hero (Sam), and an almost complete disregard for the intelligence of his audience.
At a high level, the plot was actually better than i had hoped. It was mostly believable, reasonably true to the original show, and the different groups all acted according to plausible motivation. Nothing completely random happened and there were no gaping holes.
At a lower level however, the dialogue and minor plot elements were poorly executed. The writing was slightly better than the first Fantastic Four movie, but that isn't saying much. There was more cussing than needed, though not a ton. But most of it felt very forced, like a middle-schooler on the playground trying to sound tough. Several weak minor plot elements including things like "they are using a signal to hack our network" - as though playing a sound-file really loud near a computer automatically opens up all encryption. Oh - and all government computers are apparently connected to one massive server and are connected through a "hard line". Lots of little science mis-steps too, like a craft leaving the earth's atmosphere showing heat and flame bouncing off a shield (which only actually happens when items enter the atmosphere, not leave). But this isn't an educational documentary, so all that can be overlooked. Barely.
I'd say my main real disappointment and complaint about the movie was the characters. In the TV show the Transformers all had very unique personalities. We got a very very small glimpse of that in the Autobots, but got to see none of that in the Decepticons. Basically the only time any of the Transformers were on screen they were shooting something or fighting, not standing around exchanging witty banter or arguing the way they did in the shows.
My only other complaint would be that there was lots of collateral damage to innocent bystanders that was treated very casually. I'd guess the death toll in the movie to be somewhere in the 5,000 area minimum (though you probably only see about 500 deaths on screen), but the whole time everyone was worried about averting an impending disaster, never acknowledging that tons of people were dead and dying already.
But if you can get passed elements like that - and for a movie like this you'd better - it was actually pretty good. The action sequences were excellent. Very fast paced, but they also slowed down to give a 'bullet time' look at the fighting which really showed off the Transformers and their abilities. Plenty of chances to see them actually transform - which i was afraid would be to rare. Lots of military hardware, just shy of being silly - just enough to be really, really cool.
I was also pleasantly surprised that the product placement didn't get in the way too much. Don't get me wrong - there is a TON of it. But it was very subtle - kinda. It didn't get in the way of enjoying it, but everything in this movie had a logo. Besides the whole movie being a Hasbro ad, all the cars/trucks were GM (a change from the mix of VW, Porche, Mack, etc from the originals) but i got over that pretty quickly. Sam's favorite band is apparently The Strokes, the US military exclusively uses HP computers and Logitech webcams, etc. What was amazing though is after the movie i quizzed my friends...what was the vending machine in the last scene (Mountain Dew) - what was the box that the guy was holding on the sidewalk (X-Box 360), etc. We could all name what we had seen, even though we didn't notice it at the time. Which is, of course, exactly what they were going for.
As for the movie experience, this was at the 'other' old theater in the Rivergate area. All digital picture, etc. Not quite as nice in the lobby and such as where we saw Ratatouille, but it was good enough. Good sound balance, great picture - mostly. There was one part of the movie where there are long sequences of over-exposure - basically most of the screen is bright white. During those scenes, i could see something on the screen. Not sure if it was dirt or what. It was in kind of a pattern of lines, and i almost wonder if it was the speaker or some sort of support behind the screen. I'd be curious to see if anyone else saw that at their theaters too. 90% of movies wouldn't have made me notice this, but the extended bright-white made it show up. Didn't ruin it for me though. I have to wonder how that bright white scene would look on film though. Probably a great example of how digital is better - no scratches or dust which i'm sure would show up on a film showing of the same scene.
So...if you like action movies and are looking for a shallow, entertaining movie, it is worth checking out, and unless you have a $10k home theater system, you need to see it in a digital theater. Coming from a guy that has a theater room with digital projector with 8 foot screen - i'd recommend that as a minimum requirement for seeing a movie like this. This movie is big in every possible way.
Overall, good flick. I would not say that this was a remake of the TV show, didn't feel like it at all. But it was an enjoyable movie.