In Defence of Michael Bay’s Transformers

It’s got everything a child in 2007 could ever want!

When I hear the word ‘Transformers’, an inescapable grin fills my face. I’m painfully aware that people do not enjoy all of these films, with The Guardian saying it gives you a ‘triple-whammy of tinnitus, blurred vision, and sheer resentment’, but I’ve got a real soft spot for them, mostly. I was in my prime (wink) Transformers enjoying age, 8 years old, when the first Michael Bay film hit cinemas, and this might be nostalgia talking but Transformers (2007) ticks all the boxes for what a blockbuster movie about robots that can change into cars should be.

From the very beginning of the film, in which Decepticon Blackout attacks a military base in a perfectly destructive fashion, it is clear, this is a Michael Bay film. It’s got a sunset, a helicopter in slow-motion, endless explosions, spinning cameras, and a killer soundtrack by Steve Jablonsky. To this day people still rave about that soundtrack, as they should. If you get a chance, listen to the sweeping ‘Arrival to Earth’, which brilliantly teases the suspense, intrigue and awe about to unfold.

Obviously, the stars of the film are the Transformers themselves, with the age-old story of good versus evil, told through the slightly less-old story of Autobots versus Decepticons. As a kid, a Transformer toy was a no-brainer birthday request, it’s two toys in one after all. Bay’s film captures that child-like excitement around the notion of ‘robots in disguise’, with various vehicles, vending machines, Xboxes, and mobile phones, all transforming into war-faring robots. It also makes you wonder what piece of product placement will transform next.

From websites like eBay auctions to mysterious government organisations like Sector 7, they try to ground what should be ungroundable to moderate success. Particularly Sector 7 which is led by an excellent performance from John Turturro, with the explanation of what the Hoover Dam really is, a secret holding area for extra-terrestrial objects called, (and I promise this is real), Area 52.

Unfortunately, stuck between the commanding Transformers (with OG Peter Cullen returning to the franchise to voice Optimus Prime, having debuted with the role in its 80s animated form), lies the spark-less Shia Labeouf, now a controversial figure for all manner of reasons, but here, lost to his robot and human co-stars. Lacking the charm to be a real leading man, he’s outshone by his frazzled but friendly parents played by Kevin Dunn and Julie White, as well as previously mentioned John Turturro’s Sector 7 Agent Simmons, and even his co-lead Mikaela played by Megan Fox. Especially Megan Fox, where you can see that she wants more from her life before it’s interrupted with a battle for the sake of the Earth. 

Bay’s first Transformers film never pretends to be something it isn’t, it knows it’s a bit silly, (it’s robots changing into cars after all), and it never takes itself too seriously. It ticks all the boxes you want it to tick, with excellent special effects that still hold up today and an engaging plot that has you rooting for a transforming truck to defeat a transforming jet. Being blinded by nostalgia is one thing, but the charm of Bay’s 2007 Transformers is genuine and you should give it another chance. There’s more than meets the not-so-great reviews with this one.