(Major spoilers ahead, be warned)
I owe Michael Bay a hand-written apology. I went into Transformers thinking that it would be along the lines of such Bay crapsterpieces as Pearl Harbor and Bad Boys II, but boy, was I wrong. Hearing a solid week of raves was an encouraging start, and my pal Dave wanted to see it even though he had already seen it just a few days prior. The hype ended up being paid off, as this was by far the best popcorn movie of the summer. Spidey III, you were a favourite of mine despite what a lot of folks thought. Die Hard IV, you did a good job of bringing back the franchise. Ocean's Thirteen, you were a damn sight better than Ocean's Twelve. But you'll have to settle for the participation ribbons, lads, since Transformers has taken the title. Nonstop action, comedy, great FX, and lots of lingering shots of Megan Fox's navel. Just good times all around. Bay clearly went into this project as a huge Transformers fan, and delivered the kind of live-action film that fellow TF fans would love to see. This raises Bay's all-time great film total to two (Transformers and the Rock), which proves that even a broken clock is right twice a day.
A few comments....
* For what was maybe the first time in a Bay film, the female characters weren't just mindless arm candy. Megan Fox helped get Bumblebee back in the final fight. The Australian chick figured out the computer virus before everyone else in the American government, and even after she had to go to her 'mentor,' he proved to be more or less useless. Even Shia LaBeouf's mom ended up being more of a comic foil than Kevin Dunn, which isn't easy to do. Clearly Bay attended my first-year film course and heard all of the criticism leveled his way about the sexism in his films.
* The Autobots had a stated rule of not harming humans, but apparently this is just physically. What about when Bumblebee destroys the other cars in Bernie Mac's lot? Poor Bobby Bolivia. He went from being a successful car dealer to being as poor as the actual Bolivia. He must've been dealing with insurance hassles for months afterwards. Thanks for nothing, Autobots! No truth to the rumour that Transformers II will feature Bernie Mac, Clooney, Pitt, Damon, Cheadle, etc. trying to pull an elaborate con on Optimus Prime out of revenge.
* In the future, DVDs will have a standard special feature that will make it possible to include John Turturro in the film. I mean literally, every film. You could buy a DVD of, say, the African Queen and throw him in there as one of Bogey's boater buddies. Or a DVD of the Little Mermaid will suddenly have Turturro voicing Flounder. That man is a national icon.
* I was disappointed they couldn't find room for the immortal 'You Got The Touch' from the original Transformers cartoon movie. Even as a throwaway gag, like maybe as one of the songs Bumblebee briefly played on his car radio.
* Starscream was in the film, though I was upset that no effort was made to replicate the traditional screechy Starscream voice. That's one of those voices that makes just about anything you say funny. You could read a cake recipe in that high-pitched, overly modulated tone and it would sound like comic magic. The voice actor who did Starscream, Chris Latta, passed away in 1994, or else I'm sure he would've gotten the call. Latta was also the voice of Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe ("I was once a maaaan!"), which is the cartoon voice equivalent of winning both the Nobel Prize and an Oscar in the same lifetime. God bless you, Chris Latta. You are my messiah. I will make it my life's work to found the Church of Latta Day Saints.
* Along those same lines, the voice of Optimus (Peter Cullen) was also the voice of Ironhide in the original cartoon, one of the Beagles on DuckTales, Monterey Jack in Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers ("Ch-ch-cheeeeese!"), and Eeyore in virtually all of the Winnie the Pooh cartoons of the last 20 years. Voice actors have the most interesting IMDB pages.
* Jazz was killed! Man, even in a movie about giant robots, the black guy gets killed first. Jazz was voiced by, get this, Darius McCrary, a.k.a. Eddie Winslow on Full House.
* So, so many options for a sequel. Starscream got away, so presumably he'll return with a crapload of reinforcements. We still haven't even scratched the surface on the number of available characters --- the Dinobots, Ultra Magnus, Hot Rod and Soundwave, just to name a tiny few. Optimus Prime is still alive, so they could just redo the Transformers cartoon movie plot and bring in Galvatron and Unicron. But how would they possibly top Orson Welles as Unicron? What film legend would agree to be the voice? If only Stanley Kubrick was still alive.