I had the movie, Transformers, thrust in front of me last night when my younger son got it out of the video shop. My initial reaction was: shall I go and do something else? In fact, Transformers turned out to be a sharp and funny movie, with some off-the-wall characters, and an ability to make an action movie interesting as well as spectacular.
I must admit I lost track of which Transformer was which much of the time, and to have the nastiest of them all, Megatron, frozen for most of the movie was a bit of a mistake I think, but I enjoyed the vocal characterizations (the transformers learned to speak off the World Wide Web) and the visuals were splendid.
But it was more of a surprise to have a bunch of actors in amongst all the technology who were interesting people. Shia LeBeouf (whom I’d forgotten until I checked I’d seen in Holes several years ago) was full of energy, wit, and verve; Megan Fox transformed a role that could have been nothing but a sex figure into something human; Rachael Taylor’s wonderful Tasmanian accent grated against all the US ones, and Kevin Dunn and Julie White as LeBeouf’s parents were superbly cast. John Turturro makes the most of a wonderfully obsessive Sector 7 agent.
And the minor characters are often unexpectedly interesting, such as the Indian telephone operator who’s more interested in the right way to make the phone call than in contacting the Pentagon for an emergency; or the crazy Black computer geek and his family.
There are times when the action’s over the top, but in the middle of it all there’s this wonderful humour, which gives the film life. It’s as if the writers decided that straight action wasn’t get this movie into the A-stream, and they were probably right. So they put some scenes in that will give the adults something interesting, and this balances the whole thing out admirably.
I should have gone to see it on the big screen – huge things cease to be huge on the small – but not having done so, I’ll have to watch it again and try and work what’s actually happening in some of the grunty fight scenes.
By the way, I watched it with comments from my son and son-in-law about who all the Transformers were, what their histories were, whether they'd actually ever had any of them as children and so on. I was rather astonished at the detailed remembering of this curious craze.