Now in Cinemas: Reviews for August 16, 2007

Transformers, from director Michael Bay

Reviews by Jason Pirodsky

Transformers is, perhaps, Michael Bay´s masterpiece; an unrestrained exercise in excess that rolls all of his machismo style into an icon that any 8 year-old boy or child of the 1980´s can embrace: a car that turns into a robot. That the movie isn´t very good is beside the point; if you want to see a film about cars and trucks that turn into hulking robots and duke it out atop skyscrapers, directed by the man who brought us The Rock and Pearl Harbor, you won´t be disappointed. Transformers isn´t very fun to watch, but it´s great to look at, and fascinating on a deeply subversive level. The mid-eighties TV show was called 30-minute toy commercial, with the 1986 animated featured hailed as an 84-minute ad. Bay´s film is a 144-minute advertisement for itself, all flash and style and eye candy that´s completely empty on the inside. But then, it doesn´t want or pretend to give us any substance.

Directed by Michael Bay. Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Rachael Taylor, Anthony Anderson, Jon Voight, John Turturro. Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman and John Rogers.
IMDb link

Story involves Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), an average teenager lusting after the girl of his dreams (Megan Fox), who gets his first car: a beat-up yellow Camaro that soon reveals itself to be the Autobot Bumblebee. You see, there´s Autobots that have come to Earth to protect us from the Decepticons that want to destroy us; they´re all giant robots from a metallic alien race, and disguise themselves as cars and other machinery to blend in on our world. There´s a cube called the Allspark that can destroy the world, a brave Autobot leader (Optimus Prime, voiced by Peter Cullen), a frozen Decepticon leader (Megatron, voiced by Hugo Weaving), a countless number of humans providing listless exposition, and with the fate of the world at stake we couldn´t care less about any of it. But the effects are outstanding – the robots look great, move with a fluid-yet-robotic feel, and transform in such a convincing manner that we almost believe these three-story beasts could fit into a small car. They all look the same when they´ve un-transformed, however, and a big climatic battle is little more than 30 minutes of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em-style action where we can rarely tell who´s getting pummeled and who´s doing the pummeling. LaBeouf is likable and Fox is gorgeous, but they´re playing cardboard characters and do a lot more for the movie than the movie does for them. Jon Voight and John Turturro don´t belong in the film – at best, their talents are wasted, at worst, their performances embarrassing. The rest of the cast is all stock, government and military and computer people, most of which vanish from the proceedings when the plot doesn´t require them.

We complain about going to the cinema and having to sit through 20 minutes of advertisements before getting to our feature Hollywood Blockbuster. But rarely do we realize that the feature itself is often a well-concealed ad, a money-maker designed sell toys and video games, sequels and DVDs, to sell us characters and actors and keep us coming back to the cinema. Transformers is one of the least pretentious blockbusters out there: it knows what it is, it knows how to sell itself, and there´s no pussyfooting around. It´s an entirely hollow film that leaves you feeling empty, hungry, and wanting more. Now ‘scuse me while I go buy some toys.

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