Smith’s Verdict: ***
Reviewed by Tanner Smith
Michael Bay is a director with maybe too much ambition with his work, to say the least. He doesn’t even hold a good track record with his films (examples are “Bad Boys,” “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor,” and “Bad Boys II”). He has many trademarks of his own—swift camera movements, frantic editing, two-and-a-half hours of running time, colorful stereotypes, intense slow motion shots of characters, tight close-ups, intense music cues, and even more notably, over-the-top visuals. He made one terrific film so far out of all of those elements—a solid thriller called “The Rock.” Now here’s Michael Bay’s “Transformers,” which almost serves as a parody of Michael Bay’s earlier films. We get just about every trademark from Michael Bay, with a handful of CGI metal robots called Transformers, based upon a popular toy franchise by Hasbro.
This is a totally preposterous and goofy-fun movie in which good Transformers and evil Transformers fight on our world, and a group of central human characters are caught in the middle of the war and race to aid the good Transformers (called Autobots) in holding the key to Earth’s survival.
These Transformers are marvelous creatures to behold. They fold and unfold like Rubik’s cubes from automobile to giant robot and then back again. Both races of robots are drawn to Earth because decades ago, the fearsome leader of the evil Transformers (called Decepticons) named Megatron crash-landed there. It is said now that he holds the All-Spark, a cube that is the key to the rebirth of their dying home planet Cybertron.
The central human characters are introduced in different subplots. We meet armed services, including Sgt. Lennox (John Duhamel) and Tech. Sgt. Epps (Tyrese Gibson), who are attacked by a helicopter that transforms into a Decepticon. These guys are under the impression that this ten-foot-tall metal robot can be put down easily with automatic gunfire, and much later, they’re fighting a scorpion-like Decepticon in the middle of the desert. Then we meet the Secretary of Defense (Jon Voight) who is trying to figure out what exactly attacked the armed forces, with help from computer whizzes, including the beautiful, Australian blonde Maggie (Rachael Taylor) and optimistic hacker Glen (Anthony Anderson, overacting but funny). The political satire of this movie is that the Secretary of Defense is seemingly running the country while the President is relaxing on Air Force One, asking for a Ding-Dong.
There’s another character that is crucial to the story. His name is Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and he’s a teenager who just bought his first car—a rundown yellow Camaro with racing stripes and apparently, a mind of its own. He uses it to try and pick up the popular girl in school named Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox, not entirely convincing as a high school student, but wow, is she great to look at) and the radio pretty much plays what Sam is thinking, kind of like Herbie the Love Bug. But it turns out that the car is actually an Autobot named Bumblebee. His job is to protect Sam from the Decepticons because apparently, he holds the key to Earth’s survival—a pair of glasses with a sort of map imprinted in the lenses that leads to the All-Spark (I would like to explain why there is a map on the glasses, but I’m almost getting exhausted trying to piece together the plot myself).
Oh, and I should also mention the character of the secret ops guy (John Turturro) who runs a top-secret government facility called Sector Seven and is holding the now-frozen Megatron underground. He has the priceless line, “Do you want to lay the fate of the world on a kid’s Camaro?”
All of these character plotlines lead down to the big epic battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons. And that’s when I started to grow tired and bored. I loved the setup—the characters were colorful and appealing, if not fully-developed, and the action sequences in which the armed forces shoot up Decepticons in the desert is fun. And these Transformers look great. Created by Industrial Lights and Magic, they are truly sights to behold. In their true forms, you can still see the outside parts of the automobile they transformed from—hubcaps, windshields, and all metal. Their movements are incredible and their transforming is amazing. There is also a spiderlike robot that creeps around Air Force One, hacking into the computer for information about the All-Spark. I loved watching these creations but even so, it was hard to pay much attention to the big battle in the final half. The robots fight each other in the big city, causing millions of dollars damage to buildings and cars. The military is firing at the Decepticons. The music is extremely intense. I’m thinking, “OK, OK, calm down a little bit.”
This, I think, is Michael Bay’s weakest point—giving us never-ending epic battles that don’t catch our attentions. The movie is 144 minutes. By the way, I have to ask—why does Michael Bay always love his films to be two-and-a-half hours long? Does he think one of his films will be the next big epic, this side of “Titanic?”
The CGI is impressive in the climax, but I think if the scene was trimmed down in the editing a little bit, this movie would’ve been something great. Instead, “Transformers” is only something good and worthy of three stars.