Dir: Michael Bay
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Anthony Anderson, Jon Voight, John Turturro
Anyone going to Transformers expecting to see a non-stop orgy of robot on robot action will be disappointed to discover that this film is not so much a tussle between two mechanical mercenaries but rather a battle between two films, one great, one not so.
In the blue corner we have a slice of throwback 80's entertainment, a suburban blockbuster in the mould of 'Explorers' or 'The Goonies'. A piece of pure fun that isn't afraid to mix its spectacle with surprisingly genuine humour. This film stars Shia LeBeouf as a young boy eager to get his first car in order to win the attention of the girl of his dreams. He ends up with a robot in disguise as a battered yellow Camero and soon discovers a further ragtag bunch of shape-shifting auto-bots who inform him that the fate of the world is in his hands. The scenes with LeBeouf's Sam Witwicky trying to maintain his cool around Mikaela (Megan Fox) or trying desperately to keep the auto-bots hidden from his neurotic parents are highlights, some of the most joyful moments of any big studio picture in years.
In the red corner is the military action, the characters are either completely forgettable (Josh Duhamel's Captain Lennox for one), expositional in the extreme (Jon Voight's Secretary of Defence) or just plain embarrassing (John Turturro's Agent Simmons). Despite the incredible special effects these relentless barrages of firepower never thrill as one would hope, the action sequences lack any purpose, feeling more like a boss fight halfway through a video game. As this aspect of the film barrels inevitably towards collision with LeBeouf's section one hopes that the magical and inventive film will survive when faced with the military might.
Unfortunately it doesn't. We are quickly overwhelmed by pointless sub-plots involving hackers that have no resolution or bearing on what occurs. We are taken back and forth by the narrative, most tiresomely in a sequence where our characters our apprehended, but soon escape only to be apprehended by the same group five minutes later.
Even the robo-carnage fails to impress, yes, the special effects are jaw-droppingly integrated with the live-action plates, they will fully deserve all the awards they shall undoubtedly earn I.L.M., but most of the time the fights are filmed in dizzying close-up or with blurry and roller-coaster-like camera sweeps that render the onscreen events impossible. Michael Bay's editorial focus is too schizophrenic and the robot design so similar that everything becomes a grey haze, or, in the instance of certain major confrontations, way too short lived.
It would be foolish to expect character and narrative from a Transformers movie, but they surprised us with Sam, or perhaps, Shia LeBeouf surprised us with Sam and his early interplay with the robots shows evidence of an incredible Hollywood presence to come.
Alas he is let down by his director who lets the ball drop when it comes to the spectacle, though manages to show impressive chops as a comedic director (perhaps aided by the guidance of executive producer Steven Spielberg?).
The film belongs to I.L.M. though, their work is ground-breaking and will undoubtedly look mightily impressive on their show-reel, alas the robots themselves are under-used as characters and the real meat of their story - the action - is the film's major weak link, which for a popcorn fuelled blockbuster is a huge shame.