If you were fond of Hasbro's Transformers action figures and have been dying to watch Industrial Light and Magic use CGI to make them come to life on screen, ignore the following review. Ditto if you love insanely loud (and inanely plotted) action movies. But if you need character development and a coherent story, read this and then — run. Run as if a giant robot that was just moments ago a boom-box is chasing you down the street. Otherwise you’ll be stuck, as I was, in two hours and twenty minutes of hell. Transformers, I’m sorry to say, sucked hard.
First, there's the story. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is your average horny eleventh-grader who wants two things more than anything: a car and the hot chick, Mikaela, played by second coming of Angelina Jolie, Megan Fox. He gets his car, a mysterious and rusty old yellow Camaro, and pretty soon, with its help, he gets the girl, too. The car, it turns out, is an Autobot he calls Bumblebee, one of the good guys of an alien robot race that has come to earth to find an important cube called “Allspark” that holds all power (don’t ask) and to keep it from the bad guy alien robots, the Decepticons, who want to use the cube’s power to destroy the earth. There's more to this robot alien tale, though, so
Why is this epic alien robot battle raging around this nobody hormonal teen? Because unbeknownst to Sam, the glasses he has been trying to sell on eBay that belonged to his great-great grandfather somehow have imprinted on them the map of the cube’s whereabouts. So, the Decepticons go online to search for the glasses. One of Transformers' saving graces is its consistent sense of humor. In one of its funnier scenes, the Decepticon Barricade, after changing from a black cop car into an imposing and gigantic robot, shouts in his booming bass voice to a bewildered Sam, “Are you LadiesMan 217?!” (referring to his eBay screen name).
But no matter how funny (and it’s not that funny) Transformers is, or how cool the transforming robots are (and trust me, after the bazillionth time one of them transforms, you will be utterly indifferent), these elements cannot change the fact that the film is organized around endless robot chase scenes and battles that just become one big CGI blur. Forget the subplot about the war in Qatar which begins the film with actors like Josh Duhamel as a soldier and John Voight as Defense Secretary, or the subplot about two hackers who try to catch the wily Decepticons, or the subplot with John Turturro and the secret government agency that’s been hiding the cube. These scenes simply drag this already interminable film into seeming infinity.
But some die-hard fans are easier to please. As I left the theatre, I heard a man say on his cell phone, "That was tight! Robots were bouncing off of buildings, man!” To him, nearly two and a half hours of that was awesome. I still demand that action movies have some kind of engaging plot and character.
Photos courtesy of Paramount