Friday, July 6, 2007


Transformers is your typical Michael Bay schlock (Bad Boys franchise, Armageddon, The Rock, and that reprehensible Pearl Harbor). I don't want to incite riots and burning of effigies in my honor, but he really didn't have much to work with in the first place. The movie is based on an animated movie, and an animated series from the 80's, which in turn was based on a collection of Hasbro Action Figures. The list of successful movies based on games is short enough, and toys is even shorter. I'm excited about the upcoming Light Bright Movie, and the Operation franchise (wait, I think that one was already done, and it was called Turistas). What I'm trying to say is that despite all my misgivings, and my deep rooted hatred of all things Michael Bay, he was able to craft a moderately fun movie that actually delivers what it promises- a bunch of big robots fighting.

This is more than just a metallic blood sport, however. The "plot" engages two warring factions: The Autobots- led by Optimus Prime, and the Decepticons- led by Megatron. These giant robots have an uncanny ability to transform into every day machines such as cars and airplanes. According to the back story presented in a two minute long exposition, a cube known as the "Allspark" was lost on Earth. It has the uncanny ability to turn normal machines into transformers. Megatron wants it to create an army to take over the world, and the Autobots want it to, well, not do that.

This is where the human actors come in. Don't worry, there's a lot more robot than there is human in this movie. Sam Witwicky's (played by Shia LeBeouf) grandfather discovered the Allspark on a mission to the North Pole. Now he is the target of both the Decepticons and the Autobots (who track him down based on his e-bay account- I'm not kidding). This all comes to a head when he buys a new car, which happens to be an Autobot in disguise. He and his new found lady friend (an over sexualized Megan Fox) get drawn into the epic struggle in the making.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, an army base is ransacked by an overly eager Decepticon- leaving only Sergent Lennox (Josh Duhmel- in a performance more rigid than the robots) alive. This leads to the Secretary of Defense (Jon Voight) to ready the army to engage the Koreans, or the Chinese, or whoever he thinks sent the robot. This is until Maggie Madsen (Rachael Taylor) in an unnecessary side-plot identifies a signal from the robots as extra-terrestrial (or something like that). Eventually it all boils down to the Autobots vs. the Decepticons, the government vs. whoever, and everyone vs. Shia LeBeouf.

I have been a huge fan of LeBeouf since his breakout roles in Holes and Constantine. He actually did not disappoint here. He plays the part with ample skill, and his trademarked awkward yet charming humor. Fox creates a nice foil for him, creating a sexual tension amidst nothing less than an epic struggle. The rest of the cast, however, falls rather flat.

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the special effects. Of course the movie is filled with eye-candy. There are more shots involving the robots than there are the actors. Despite how rich and involved the CG robots are, I'm never fully convinced of them- especially when they're interacting with real people. It's almost as if each robot has several distinct personalities that change from scene to scene. I'm assuming this is not what most people would go to see, however. I'm sure the biggest draw is to see the robots fight and blow things up- both of which there is no short supply of.

Bay tried to add some humor in the form of LeBeouf trying to hide the robots from his parents. These scenes aren't so much funny as they are just a little painful to watch. The film-makers appear more awkward than the characters. Trying to add this dimension, in all honesty, just failed.

It's probably not the worst movie I'll see this summer, and it's certainly not the best. It was better than I expected, however (actually just about anything would have been). Even though it's clearly Michael Bay, I think he did okay with the material he had to work with. Besides, it's got a lot of big robots fighting. Isn't that what motion picture were created for?

Watch the Trailer


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