Transformers (2007)
Transformers (2007)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 2 hrs. 24 min.

Release Date: July 3rd, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Michael Bay Actors: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Rachael Taylor, Anthony Anderson, Jon Voight, John Turturro, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, Zack Ward

 


 

A

drenaline-soaked fight sequences and massively destructive gunplay push Michael Bay’s “Transformers” into a new sector of action epics. As it fuses eye-popping, computer-animated robot transformations with an abundance of comical characters and outright humor, “Transformers” also boasts a particularly appropriate cast and a coherent – though complex – storyline (unusual for this type of science-fiction). Despite the dispensable automaton jargon and the markedly preachy Optimus Prime (voiced by none other than the original Prime from the ‘80s cartoon series), this theatrical adaptation is everything fans of the property could want.

A mysterious attack on a U.S. base in Qatar leaves a squadron of soldiers massacred, with only a handful of survivors forced to make their way to a neighboring village. As the government attempts to track what they think are terrorists who staged the assault, hundreds of miles away, young Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) picks out his first car. A seemingly normal 11th grade student (who provides comic relief to contrast the military men’s unfaltering stoicism), Sam is unknowingly caught up in an intergalactic war about to commence on Earth between two alien life forms that have the ability to simulate any mechanical contraption. Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots (the human-friendly group of alien Transformers) enlightens Sam about a secretive Allspark cube, which has been hunted for by Prime and his mortal enemy Megatron for a very long time. Having landed somewhere on Earth, Sam may be the only one who can help the Transformers locate it before Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons (non-human-sympathizers), uses it to destroy the planet.

From the first few moments, when Blackout (the helicopter Autobot) transforms, it’s not difficult to formulate what kind of impact this film and its advancements in CG capabilities will have on casual moviegoers as well as the truly devoted. Regardless of how faithful the story is to the many television series and action figure lines that predated it, the explosive power of this cinematic undertaking is unmatched. The action sequences rival almost anything made to date, coincidentally paralleling (and besting) the other July 4th box-office-record-setting hopeful of 2007, “Live Free or Die Hard.” While John McClane’s feats don’t involve the supernatural, they go so overboard with the stunt designs and his imperviousness to injury that both physics and general believability are immediately ruined. Yet in “Transformers,” where viewers are already coping with the existence of giant, extraterrestrial robots, the battles across cityscapes feel more realistic, particularly with the way in which the creatures interact with their environments. Director Bay also happened to criticize “Live Free or Die Hard” for its failure to use actual F-22s, whereas his own Air Force base shots utilized the real deal, because, as he so gloatingly stated: “I have the number to the Pentagon.”

Unrelenting and exceptionally exhilarating, it’s evident that nothing was spared in the pursuit of creating the most intense action set pieces ever filmed. It helps, of course, to have more than $100 million in funding available. However, too much of anything can lessen the impact, and this holds true for the nonstop affrays shown here. Running overlong, and with an overabundance of characters, it seems as if Bay refused to let anything get edited out – even when entirely necessary. But, despite the surplus of footage, the project is packed so tightly with maelstroms of blazing bullets and grinding metal-on-metal robotic pummeling that audiences aren’t likely to notice how much the runtime keeps growing.

Like the focus on adventure, the computer animation and special effects are beyond anything seen before. The transformations themselves are absolutely astounding, with countless swiveling parts and mechanical flurries that appear so intricate, one can’t begin to imagine the painstaking lengths taken to attend to so much detail. Some of that complexity nicely conceals the fact that not all the pieces line up with the vehicles they mimic (especially considering the gargantuan size of the robot compared to the correspondingly tiny vehicle), but the movement and combat between the Transformers are so awe-inspiring that it’s easy to overlook their shortcomings – including awkward mechanical lips. Very much a popcorn movie for the ages, “Transformers” is one of the most entertaining blockbusters to hit cinemas in quite some time.

– Mike Massie

  • 9/10