Directed by Nelson Shin
It is the year 2005. The treacherous Decepticons have conquered the Autobot’s home planet of Cybertron. But, from secret staging grounds on two of Cybertron’s moons, the valiant Autobots prepare to retake their home land.
How much more of an introduction do you want? We have a short and simple explanation of everything we need to know right at the opening. Actually, I lie. That introduction comes after the opening credits. Prior to that, we’re treated to an awesome display of carnage as the planet Unicron swoops down and quite literally devours another planet full of peaceful, happy robots, and their peaceful, happy robot children. Don’t bother wondering why or how these robots have children, because they’re all dead within the first five minutes of the movie. Now how many films, let alone kid’s films, begin with the eradication of an entire planet?
Right at the outset, this film establishes an epic scope, and the rest of the film lives up to it admirably. Even beyond having a carnivorous planet, the war between the Autobots and Decepticons rages to new heights as a simple supply run to Earth quickly turns into a massacre, killing off several primary characters from the TV series. It may not have as much impact on strangers to the franchise, but fans knew for certain this movie meant business when such a staple character as Ironhide got wasted.
To fill the missing spots, and make use of its star-studded cast, the movie introduced a host of new characters that immediately became fan favorites of the franchise. If they look goofy and weird to you, keep in mind that this was set 20 years in the future, the year 2005. Don’t blame the Transformers for looking odd, blame GM for not making elongated, streamlined, neon-colored convertibles by now; those cars should have come out years ago.
One of the things I love about this film is how natural the transforming feels. The characters bounce back and forth between their forms without thought or hesitation. It’s as if they really were born (or created) to transform, and it is every bit as natural to them as walking is to us.
You can feel free to be skeptical of my love for this film. After all, how objective can I be toward my favorite childhood movie? Probably not much. But I’m going to try my best anyway. And I think there really is a lot of good content here. There’s a lovely prison planet for starters. It’s run by a bunch of lunatics that execute people for being innocent. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I already mentioned Unicron eating other planets, but he also uses some strange magic powers to revive an army of demonic/undead Transformers. Yes, you read that right. This movie has zombie robots. The mind boggles.
The acting all around is superb. Every one of the performances fits perfectly with the character, and there’s a lot of good talent here in case you skipped the list of actors at the top of this review. I want to point out Leonard Nimoy as my favorite, though. His character is one of the most fearsome sounding villains I have ever heard. You normally only think of him in the dry, emotionless role of Spock, but Transformers is a whole different story. I wish he had been cast as a villain more often, because he really delivers the goods here.
I’ve been raving about this film for a while now, but I did promise to be as objective as I could. So I’m going to try and point out some flaws with the film, although they honestly don’t feel much like flaws to me. The first and most obvious would be the animation, which is far from amazing, but it is also far from the crap present in the TV series. It doesn’t hold up to more “serious” animation, but it works well enough.
Also related to being a children’s film is that some of the comic relief characters can be pretty annoying, especially Wheelie. I suspect Grimlock will get on some people’s nerves as well. They are far too engrained into my childhood to ever hate them, but I can at least recognize that my nostalgia is at work here. Fortunately, they are nowhere near as pervasive as Jar-Jar was in Phantom Menace. You’ll have a few scenes of irritation, but the film always has bigger and better things to get on with.
Why am I even talking about such minor issues? Transformers has interstellar warfare, a prison planet run by a psychotic judicial system, an army of undead Transformers, and an entire freaking planet as the main villain. And it’s all tied together by excellent directing and excellent acting. Man, I haven’t even mentioned the totally bitchin’ rock soundtrack that fills nearly every scene with pure awesome. What more could you ever possibly want from a movie?
Futures Passed continues tomorrow with two brothers doing their best to survive in the post-earthquake LA wasteland. Any guesses?