Optimus Prime in Transformers: The Movie

In this season of summer movies, few movies will gleefully target and pander to it's audiences with politician-like precision as obviously as Transformers: The Movie. We're talking broad strokes with bright crayons. Much like its male protagonist Sam Witwicky, this is a movie that wants to be liked by everyone and tries hard to win over ALL its audiences.

GMC executives should be thrilled because Transformers is a two and half hour long commercial and their cars never looked so shiny and cool. Like Justin Timberlake, Transformers brings the sexy back to American cars.

The military will be ecstatic because the movie is an effective military recruitment device. Soldiers, primarily represented by Josh Duhamel, are portrayed as kick-ass heroic family men. There are long sweeping panoramic shots of fighter jets, helicopters, tanks and aircraft carriers set to an overly dramatic Jerry Bruckheimer-esque musical score. If its ginormous and flies, floats or rolls, it's in this movie.

Fans of Transformers toys, comics and cartoons will be cheering up and down the aisles because there are numerous in-jokes and references to the Transformers canon. Transformations have that wonderful ee-ee-woo-woo sound and halleluiah, Optimus Prime sounds like Optimus Prime. Mainstream vindication for love of all things Transformers… priceless.

For men 18 to 40 years-old, along with the endless parade of grown-up boys toys, Megan Fox lives up to her namesake. She's drop dead gorgeous with a body (which seems to glisten with sweat for the duration of the movie) that elicits as much heart-thumping applause as when a car turns into a giant robot. And in case she's not your type, Australian beauty Rachel Taylor is thrown in for good measure. Fox and Taylor are not only attractive, but they also portray strong and competent female characters that aren't just sitting on the sidelines waiting to be saved making this movie agreeable to the Oxygen network crowd as well.

Moms and dads will be satisfied that while the action is intense, there's no blood or gratuitous violence to fret over and there's some comedy and slapstick (surprisingly some bits that involve the Transformers) in case you get bored between all the rockem' sockem' action.

For liberals, President Bush gets tweaked a little and there's some vague message about the dangers of government secrecy and the right to freedom.

For conservatives, there's also a vague message about sacrifice and fighting for what's right.

For black folks, there's Tyrese Gibson and Anthony Anderson reprising the hot-head and smart brother roles that they've portrayed in dozens of other movies.

The only thing that wasn't represented in Transformers was a kung-fu-fighting Asian hung-up on wires, but that's what sequels are for.

Yet for between all the campaigning, recruiting and shilling, there's a story to be told and akin to other summer movie blockbusters, it's got all the usual sci-fi implausibility and plot-holes, but it's serviceable in maintaining a brisk pace so you don't have time to think about them (a trademark of any good action sci-fi movie). The movie also does well to add brief, but human elements to the fold so this isn't one big robo-fest and is remarkable in how it is able to navigate not only a large ensemble cast of human actors, but also a large group of Autobots and Decepticons. The story nearly implodes due to the character overload, but it manages to make just enough sense for audiences to marvel at the one thing that matters the most: the Transformers.

With all the bonus making-of features and director's commentaries available on DVDs, there's very little movie magic left in Hollywood these days, so it is a major accomplishment when Transformers is able to make its audience's jaw drop and elevate the level of special-effects in movies. Trying to fully explain what makes a Transformer transforming so awe-inspiring would require a thesis, but in a sentence, it's just wondrously sublime and fun to watch. The action sequences in this movie are all-caps CRAZY and really defy conventional descriptions. With each Transformer looking so complex and mechanical, you would think the sheer act of making these enormous robotic behemoths move would be technically impossible, but what's amazing is how the filmmakers are able to make the Transformers duck, dive and dodge effortlessly in spite of the huge scale.

The Transformers themselves are really the saving grace of the movie. Without them, this would be a formulaic movie that is so commercially crass that it boldly tries to be all things to all people. So in essence Transformers is really like Bill Clinton in that his agenda isn't all that different from any other politician, but he's charming and you just like him more than the other guys. Transformers without the Transformers would be just-another-summer-movie.

As a Transformers fan myself, I could knit pick at several things, but overall it's hard not to be impressed by the movie that Michael Bay was able to put together. The movie panders a bit too much, but it does so genuinely so in this one rare instant, I actually enjoyed it. Optimus Prime for President!

Chi Kong Lui

Chi Kong Lui

In the 1980s, Chi grew up in small town on the outskirts of New York City called Jackson Heights. Latino actor, John Leguizamo referred to the town as the "melting pot of the world," and while living there, Chi was exposed to many diverse cultures, as well as a bevy of arcade classics such as Pac-Man, Space Ace, Space Harrier and Double Dragon. Chi's love of videogames only seemed to grow as his parents finally caved and bought him an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (after being the only kid in the block without one). In the 1990s, Chi finagled his way into the prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts.

Somewhere between all the gaming, Chi some how managed to finish high school and get into the New York Institute of Technology. At the same time, Chi also interned at Virtual Frontiers, an Internet software consultancy where he learned the ways of HTML. Soon after acquiring his BFA, Chi went on to become the lead Web designer of the Anti-Defamation League. During his tenure there, Chi was instrumental in redesigning and relaunching the non-profit organization's Web site.

Today, Chi is the webmaster of the American Red Cross in Greater New York and somehow managed to work through the tragic events of September 11th without losing his sanity. Chi considers GameCritics.com his life's work and continues to be amazed that the web site is still standing after the recent dotcom fallout. It is his dream that GameCritics.com will accomplish two things: 1) Redefine the grammar of videogames much the same way French film critic Andre Bazin did for the art of cinema and 2) bring game criticism to the forefront of mainstream culture much the same way Siskel & Ebert did for film criticism.
Chi Kong Lui
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Chi Kong Lui
Chi Kong Lui
13 years ago

Here’s an interesting quote from one of the editors of the movie: “I watched the first episode of the [1984] TV series just to get a flavor”, says Rubell. “I didn’t want to be influenced beyond that. None of the editors are fan-boys, so we were often taken to the Bay woodshed for cutting out some important reference to the original series. But, we were able to bring a more mainstream perspective to the story.” Muldoon says, “The movie is so much bigger that nothing from before in the TV show applies. The movie is huge.” Scantlebury says, “I didn’t… Read more »

PoepindeHoogte
PoepindeHoogte
13 years ago

I really liked it, then again i havent been to the cinema for awhile, so maybe that had something to do with it.

Anyway, i was really impressed with all the special effects and details on the robots. The animation wasnt too shabby either. Very nicely done, i was impressed.

Im not much familiar at all with the whole transformers thing, but from what im reading thats actually a plus.

Human acting can be somewhat cheesy, but also fairly funny. Its overdone, maybe immature, but it doesnt spoil the film.

Not a bad night spend

shun
13 years ago

I knew Michael Bay’s Transformers will be flawed. I knew that the plot will be nonsensical and incomprehensible. But I didn’t care and went to see it anyway, hoping that it will channel my inner child and get me high (as though experiencing funk music). It doesn’t. But unlike most of this film’s detractors, I bought into the Autobots vs. Decepticon concept. I admit that this is shallow, but I love watching epic battles of good vs. bad robots. Indeed, the movie’s best moments are when the Transformers are present, but those moments are too short. The movie has a… Read more »

shun
13 years ago

As far as I know, the Decepticon you have in mind isn’t Soundwave, but Frenzy (who, in the cartoon, is one of Soundwave’s cassettes). Soundwave didn’t appear in the movie.

Adam Sultan
13 years ago

With all the money toward C.G. and advertising, you’d think they could have hired a better writer. It took two movie tickets (18$ U.S.) for me to realize that they completely butchered my most favorite character, Soundwave the boombox, I just didn’t realize it was supposed to be him. In the cartoon series he had the coolest voice, and these cool transforming tapes which turned into an eagle and a horse or a dog or something. But in this movie, he is sadly portrayed as some sort of ant-faced shiny metal skeleton. His voice sounded suspiciously like an arabic golum.… Read more »

sportee
sportee
13 years ago

Thanks,

I loved the movie, I had the show on every weekend. This was having old friends over for dinner, and they only improved with age.
My hat, is off to Michael and Steven. The voice work, was also a true surprise, to have the same guys.

sportee

Anonymous
Anonymous
13 years ago

I’m so glad you were not on some kind of advisement committee. It sounds like you want to turn Transformers into a chick flick.

shun
13 years ago

Unlike most who criticize this film, I actually have a suggestion about how the movie could improve. (I don’t like criticizing without offering suggestions for improvement) For example, they could’ve spent more time with the history of the Transformers robots, which themselves raises a lot of question (some of which are from the movie): Why does Autobots love humans even if Decepticons don’t? What good did Prime see in humans? What makes him feel that way? How are Transformers created? How did Megatron come into power? Just who is Optimus Prime and what position does he hold in Cybertron? What… Read more »

Nostalgia Blue
Nostalgia Blue
13 years ago

There always seems to be nay sayers who look at movies to find every fault in them but in essence when asked what they would have done different they have the slightest clue. Transformers is a beautiful work of CGI art and Michael Bay is proving that he is a very good and capable action director. While reading the comment that 300 was a much better display of CGI is not at all true. 300 was a screaming 2 hour plus movie of fighting and CGI overkill that had a very stupid story that did not do Frank Miller’s Graphic… Read more »