At what point
would a serious assessment of Transformers mean anything?
It's the Citizen Kane of giant fighting robot movies,
but that's not saying a whole lot. Judging from audience
reaction, if this is the movie you've been waiting for,
this is the movie you've been waiting for.
Whether or not
it follows the plotline of the original animated series
doesn't matter. If it doesn't, it's not a big enough violation
to have offended the fans attending with me who screamed
like teens at Candlestick Park at the Beatles' last live
concert every time Peter Cullen intoned "I …am …Optimus
It's not like
he does that a lot. In fact, for director Michael Bay, you
might even say the film shows some restraint in waiting
to give us the leader of the heroic Autobots. At its heart,
Transformers wants to be about a boy and his first
car, which unfortunately for Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf)
puts him at the center of a millennia-old intergalactic
At least it
might be millennia-old; the script occasionally varies in
its understanding of its history, as well as its tone. Bay
opens with a gritty war scene, ostensibly (and hey, rightfully)
reminding us of those guys in the Middle East putting their
lives on the line for reasons they don't quite understand.
And yes, taking on a black ops Huey that turns into a spiky
killer robot makes the whole Weapons of Mass Destruction
thing seem rather unimportant.
segment lays out a lot of clichés about soldiers, including
the handsome Josh Duhamel, and sets them as the frontline
against the Decepticons. When they pop up at various points
later in the movie, though, it's just one more firecracker
in the overall Fourth of July celebration that is Act 3.
all sweaty, young Sam sweats for a different reason: unrequited
lust for Mikaela (Megan Fox), the short denim-skirted Maxim
girl that doesn't realize that she's shared every class
with him since first grade. Good thing he has Bumblebee,
disguised as a beat-up Chevy Camaro.
radio, Bumblebee communicates ideas to Sam that he considers
just coincidence. When a driverless police car assaults
him, however, he and his nascent girlfriend realize there's
more than meets the eye here.
Sorry, but I
think I got further along in the review without using that
phrase than the movie did.
has all the typical elements of a Michael Bay film. That
patent 360 degree pan in slow-motion is here, underscoring
the emotional connection between Sam and Mikaela that Bay
won't illustrate any other way. Emotions spike and dip in
a herky-jerky fashion depending on the needs of the scene,
not the need of the narrative. Everybody sweats a lot and
But it also
has lots of action that looks good. The robot transformations
are pretty cool, though Bay often fills the screen up so
much that it's hard to focus on what is actually happening.
The every bit as charismatic as his press LaBouef also does
a great job of anchoring the movie. When he schools the
Secretary of Defense (Jon Voight) on Megatron, he clearly
speaks for every fan who's had to explain the continuity
to a parent or cynical friend. It just doesn't matter, but
LaBouef makes us believe it possibly could.
about the logic feels like the proverbial glass house. The
driving macguffin, the legendary All-Spark, can't be any
less intelligent a plot point than midichlorians - okay,
bad example, but you get the point. It's a toy line with
a mythos that amazingly makes for a watchable movie. Not
a great one, but watchable.
What it really
begs for, though, is the Bay touch on other toy adaptations.
Just imagine My Little Pony (who makes a cameo here)
all sweaty and grimy, defending right, justice and hair
play while dealing with the inner turmoil of not wanting
to act in the Spring Fair's Revue, or trot while everyone
else is cantering.
can launch a whole production company to run with their
toys. G.I. Joe may be a given, and has been in development
for quite some time. But can you imagine Wes Craven on Furby?
It's just a thought. Watching Transformers leaves
you with plenty of time to think, but man, do them robots
(for Giant Robot Ass-Kickin' Movie):
Rating (for actual cinematic achievement):