When I think of Michael Bay I think of explosions; well, that and culturally cheap mass-produced films pandering to teenage boys. This is why his adaptation of the Transformers universe is so popular: hot girls? Check! Giant alien robots from outer space that can transform into the sleekest, coolest cars? Check! Hugely fast paced action scenes awash in patriotic nationalist gobble? Check again! Wow: Mr. Bay sure knows how to give the masses more of the opiate they crave. It also explains why he has made three wildly successful films with an additional three planned.
In any case, returning to the movies themselves, the Transformers films revolve around a boy named Sam Witwicky who after buying a piece of shit car one day discovers that it is actually a robot from beyond the stars. The alien’s name is Bumblebee and he is Sam’s guardian. Which is good because thanks to Sam’s great grandfather, and his discover of cybernetic bad-ass Megatron deep in some ice, Sam is forced to participate in a robotic civil war brought to Earth.
This is the premise of the series. The first film, as such, is mostly expositional. It sets up Sam and his family, the Autobots and their foes the Decepticons, and Sam’s role in helping the Autobots bring peace to a troubled Earth. The action doesn’t start until relatively late in the film. Most of the run-time is devoted to discovering the All-Spark and Megatron himself. Then, once he is freed and meets up with his Decepticon buddies, the action heats up a bit more. The ending is a bit knack mead but it is solid as far as action movies go: there is a beginning, middle, and end which all fit nicely together. Nothing feels particularly rushed. Megatron is defeated (to of course live another day, though), Sam gets his woman, and the Autobots set up shop on Earth. Roll credits!
The sequel- Revenge of the Fallen- is my favorite of the three films, however. From beginning to end it is great action sequences, sub-plots which are both amusing and complimentary to the main plot, and with a tightly wound story which emphases leadership, being called to action (as reactionary as it is used in the film), and bravery. The story concerns a Decepitcon leader returning to Earth to finish some unfinished business: I.E., activate a secret device in an Egyptian pyramid to destroy the sun and wipe out all life on Earth. Spectacular action follows. The ending is a little rushed but it still feels appropriate in the sense that nothing is left out or feels inadequate.
Finally, the finale of this first trilogy- Dark of the Moon- is in the grey area with me. Speaking frankly it is probably my least favorite of the three films. There isn’t as much action in the movie as in the second and while the ending is filled with some intensely atmospheric battle scenes, over all Dark of the Moon is the sloppiest film of the three: characters are introduced and taken away without much comment (sometimes no comment), the battle scenes are rather awkwardly distributed throughout the movie in what feels like poor directing, and the story itself, while interesting when compared with the backstory (time-space bridges, Autobot traitors, and resource conflict), ultimately takes too much of a bite; the end result is a rushed, weird, experience which boasts and ending as vapid and sudden as that Sopranos finale.
I have not yet seen the fourth film, Age of Extinction. The trailers I have seen make it out to be epic with an intriguing plot but if it turns out to be a letdown then I will not have much hope for the other two films in the new trilogy. I hope that Dark of the Moon was a slip-up and not a signal of what to expect in the future. I guess we will have to wait to find out. In any event the first three Transformers films, though nothing more than adolescent whack-off material, provide a good thump for when you are interested in nothing more than a juvenile action fest.