Considering that “Transformers” is basically an explosive battle between huge, metallic robots, it is no surprise that
In “Transformers,” he certainly uses every arsenal of his technical proficiency at pyrotechnics to elevate a children’s cartoon to the level of great summer entertainment. But alas, he doesn’t quite reach the mark. There is much to be said about the astonishing visual effects on display and his story is certainly miles better than that of junk like “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor” and “Bad Boys II.” It’s too bad that Bay has still not realized that his style of mindless, jarring explosions can be very deadening and boring.
For those who are not familiar with the toys, the comic books or cartoon show, the opening voiceover narration gets everybody up to speed about the intergalactic war between two teams of extraterrestrial, transforming robots – the Autobots, the good, and the Decepticons, the bad. They have fought for years for a powerful hybercube known as the Allspark, which can be used to transform other metallic objects and technologies to their own making. Unfortunately for humanity, that cube has landed on Earth and the Decepticons arrive. One of them that stealthily comes in as a military chopper launches a massive, deadly attack on a military base, leaving only Capt. Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and very few others as survivors. In response, the secretary of defense (Jon Voight) recruits a group of computer geniuses to decipher a strange signal that was received during the attack.
Enter Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), an average teenager who talks his hapless father, Ron (Kevin Dunn) into buying him a new car. The new car looks merely like a worn down yellow sports car but he uses it to impress his beautiful classmate, Mikaela Barnes (Megan Fox). No sooner does he realize that it is really a transforming Autobot called Bumblebee (voice of Mark Ryan). Moreover, an old souvenir he has, a pair of his famous explorer great grandfather’s glasses, may hold the key to finding the Allspark and thus saving humanity from the hands of the Decepticons.
The best thing about Bay’s films, even his bad ones, is that they often introduce the latest in cutting-edge visual effects and this film certainly pushes the ante. The visual effects done by Industrial Light & Magic are as astonishing as they are seamless in the way they show the robots “transforming” back and forth into everyday automobiles and other objects, including a CD player. The robots in this film, if anything, assure us that we won’t be seeing herky-jerky movement of metal any longer.
For a while in the first half, the film also seems to slow down to tell its story and give personality to the characters, robots or human. LaBeouf pretty much plays the same role he did in “Disturbia,” the average teenager trying to impress another pretty girl who soon turns into an unlikely hero. He and his new car get some big laughs as the latter somehow instinctively knows the precise music to play to get the two potential lovers in the mood. Of course, there is a human-robot friendship that happens between develops Sam and his personal Autobot, as well as the others led by Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen). The screenplay, despite some terribly hokey dialogue, attempts to add some dimension as the Autobots argue about whether the human race is worth saving.
All that is ultimately for moot, however, once the long, really long third act ensues, which involves a duel between Optimus Prime and Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons. I remember why I was never interested in the Transformers as a kid beyond owning a few of their toys: because it’s not that interesting watching metal fighting and clanging at each other. Come on, robots, couldn’t you actually think of some kind of strategy when you’re apparently more powerful than the humans and the fate of the world is hanging on the balance? Or couldn’t the humans come up with an intelligent way to one-up them instead of just running or shooting futilely? It certainly doesn’t help that Bay’s editing of his endless metallic explosions is so frenetic and quickly cut to induce pure nausea and confusion as to which robot is really throwing which around at any moment.
I am sure the Friday night action crowds and teenage boys won’t care too much and will be entertained by what the film has to offer. After all, it is the summer of gigantic explosions and, better yet, it is not a sequel. But if Bay wants people to believe there’s more to this movie than meets the eye, he can’t fool me.