Film: Transformers

Cover image


Director: Michael Bay
Distributor: Dreamworks Home Entertainment

From director Michael Bayand executive producer Steven Spielberg comes a thrilling battle between the heroic Autobots(R) and the evil Decepticons(R). When their epic strugglecomes to Earth, all that stands between the Decepticons(R) and ultimate power is a clue held by young Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf). Unaware that he is mankind’s last chance for survival, Sam and Bumblebee, his robot disguised as a car, are in a heart-pounding race against an enemy unlike anything anyone has seen before. It’s the incredible, breath-taking film spectacular that USA Today says “will appeal to the kid in all of us.”


“I bought a car. Turned out to be an alien robot. Who knew?” deadpans Sam Witwicky, hero and human heart of Michael Bay’s rollicking robot-smackdown fest, Transformers. Witwicky (the sweetly nerdy Shia LaBeouf, channeling a young John Cusack) is the perfect counterpoint to the nearly nonstop exhilarating action. The plot is simple: an alien civil war (the Autobots vs. the evil Decepticons) has spilled onto Earth, and young Sam is caught in the fray by his newly purchased souped-up Camaro. Which has a mind—and identity, as a noble-warrior robot named Bumblebee—of its own. The effects, especially the mind-blowing transformations of the robots into their earthly forms and back again, are stellar.

Fans of the earlier film and TV series will be thrilled at this cutting-edge incarnation, but this version should please all fans of high-adrenaline action. Director Bay gleefully salts the movie with homages to pop-culture touchstones like Raiders of the Lost Ark, King Kong, and the early technothriller WarGames. The actors, though clearly all supporting those kickass robots, are uniformly on-target, including the dashing Josh Duhamel as a U.S. Army sergeant fighting an enemy he never anticipated; Jon Voight, as a tough yet sympathetic Secretary of Defense in over his head; and John Turturro, whose special agent manages to be confidently unctuous, even stripped to his undies. But the film belongs to Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, and the dastardly Megatron—and the wicked stunts they collide in all over the globe. Long live Transformers! --A.T. Hurley

As sci-fi action blockbusters go, they don’t come much bigger than Transformers. Maybe it’s because of the subject matter: it’s based on a toy line from the 1980s, concerning giant robots from outer space engaged in a civil war that pits the heroic Autobots against the evil Decepticons. They have the ability to disguise themselves as vehicles and other mechanical objects, transforming back into robots when it’s time to stomp each other senseless. As a premise, it’s rather silly. But it’s also very simple, and that’s why it works.

The heroes are truly heroic: the noble and powerful Autobot leader Optimus Prime is one of the most iconic characters of the 1980s, and getting the original voice actor (Peter Cullen) to give him life was a stroke of genius. The villains, meanwhile, are just plain evil: Decepticon leader Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving) is motivated by absolute power, and his soldiers are not above a bit of wanton destruction to achieve their goals. Mix in a bit of mysticism in the form of the Allspark, the source of life for all Transformers, and the result is pure cinematic magic.

It’s not a perfect film: there are some characters and sub-plots that are unnecessary and which go nowhere, and at almost three hours, it’s a lot of movie. But the Transformers themselves, rendered in CGI, have a very realistic size and weight on screen, and look particularly good as they switch from one mode to the other. Moreover, director Michael Bay is smart enough to realise that appealing to kids doesn’t mean pandering to them—the cutest robot on screen is a manic little psychotic killer with the apt name Frenzy. The humans in the film, meanwhile, keep the film grounded, whilst never detracting from the real robot stars. Unlike The Matrix trilogy, which tried to be too clever, or The Lord of the Rings films, which were too clever, Transformers is probably the best science fiction epic since the original Star Wars trilogy. —Robert Burrow

How do you like your blockbuster movies? If the answer’s loud, fast and full of big robots fighting, then you’re well and truly in luck. For director Michael Bay’s take on Transformers, based on the toys of the same name, delivers just that. And with some style.

The film stars the fast-rising Shia LaBeouf (Disturbia) as Sam, who discovers that his first car has a little more to it when it transforms into an Autobot robot called Bumblebee. Fortunately, the Autobots are the good guys, and following not far behind are a good number more, headed up by Optimus Prime. Against them are the less friendly Decepticons, with Megatron at the helm, and the two sides are set for a frenetic battle right in the middle of Planet Earth.

There’s a plot sitting underneath all of this, but it’s pretty much given with the Transformers movie that it’s just a vehicle to get the film from one set piece to another. And there’s little denying that the action sequences are spectacular. Boasting quite staggering special effects, the on-screen action moves with a pace and ferocity that sometimes makes it hard just to keep up with it all, as mighty robots engage is some quite staggering fights. It’s quite an achievement.

Paving the way for an already-in-production sequel, Transformers has little pretensions about what it’s going to do, and is all the better for it. This is a film about big robots, big fights, big effects and, ultimately, big, dumb grin-inducing fun. What, really, is there not to like?—Jon Foster

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