2007, US, Directed by Michael Bay
Colour, Running Time: 144 minutes
Cinema screening, Image: 2.35:1 Super 35, Audio: English language
While wandering around some foreign island the other day I made the unprecedented decision of stopping by to watch the new Transformers super budget blockbuster, primarily because I was passing a cinema, plus it was beginning to rain, and I needed the toilet quite desperately - four quid well spent for a comfortable, clean, and peaceful public convenience, and a film thrown in to boot. Plus I’d already seen The Simpsons the day before and sure as f**k wasn’t going to be watching that again (ever) whilst the remaining choice lay between girly crap such as Bratz and License to Wed, and the six screens being taken up with the latest Bourne movie, neither of the preceding films for which I’d seen anyway, so that was out. Oh, and Cal (along with just about everyone else) had given Rush Hour 3 the thumbs down. Really: Transformers was the best option…
The movie version of the popular (almost cult, surprisingly) cartoon and toy series from the eighties starts out with a devastating attack on an army base by a mysterious machine that temporarily masquerades as a chopper that had been lost in combat some time before. Elsewhere a resourceful but cheeky teenager (Sam) is being bought his first car by his rich old dad and fate leads them to pick up a sporty looking thing that soon proves to be a modern day Kitt, having as it does a mind of its own. It turns out that the car is a shape-shifting ‘Autobot’ from another planet and the fact that Sam and the car ended up in each other’s company was no accident - Sam is unwittingly in possession of an artefact containing alien information and a group of evil, similarly extraterrestrial robots called Decepticons (led by Megatron, the leader who was found a hundred years before frozen in ice) are looking to acquire this information, and Sam’s ‘car’ along with several other Autobots are here to ensure this doesn’t happen for the sake of the universe. Thus begins a battle between Autobots and Decepticons here on Earth with Sam and some other teens caught in the middle (along with the army too of course).
Plots don’t get much more melodramatic than that - the entire fate of humanity and the universe hangs on some kid in possession of a pair of antique specs and later an alien box (surely a macguffin if ever there was one). Newcomer Shia LaBeouf does a reasonably amicable job as the lead teen, Sam, and (TV Barbie doll star) Megan Fox doesn’t have to say much to do a good job looking drop dead stunning as his newfound girlfriend, Michaela - it’s ironic because Sam, desperate to impress, tells Michaela that there’s more to her than meets the eye but she’s so shallow I don’t think he could be more wrong. They try to characterise her by giving her a criminal record and an aptitude for fixing cars (a boring attempt to subvert the stereotype of a gorgeous bimbo) - hell she can even drive a car in reverse at speed without needing to see where she’s going - but she really is there to look incredible and nothing more (and super babes have rarely been better represented than with Michaela here; phew!). In fact, these PC attempts at stereotype subversion are pathetic and contrived - there’s only one analyst more supreme at comprehending computer networks and code than a sexy female college grad (and she’s better than the army intelligence operators themselves of course), and that’s a jive talking black dude. The dialogue throughout is of a juvenile nature but I suppose it was aimed at younger audiences; what bothers me more is the fact that the writers seem to be trying to be hip and funny at every turn and very little of it actually is funny (unless you’re twelve). What does stand out as completely supreme (apart from Megan Fox’s facial structure), however, is the special effects - they’re simply as amazing as it can get I‘m sure, CGI seamlessly composited with live action in probably 80%+ of the film. In fact, it’s a jaw dropping example of sci-fi movie production planning with effectively two films having to be made with the intention of being spliced together.
It’s no surprise to find this is another offering from the cinematic phenomenon that is Michael Bay - temporarily I thought the guy was about to show us another side with The Island, but unfortunately that was a bit of a flop and probably discouraged the director from implementing a touch of intellect into his films. So now we’re back in brainless Armageddon territory with Transformers, something that often looks like it could easily pass as an advertisement for cars or jeans or something, such is the artificial slickness of its appearance. It’s sort of like a frantic cross between Knight Rider, the Terminator films, and Gone in 60 Seconds. The ridiculousness of the whole thing is somehow pushed aside for what are admittedly exhilarating action sequences along with monumental destruction on the scale of Hiroshima multiplied by 9/11, and I suppose that’s the main attraction here (apart from Megan Fox’s body), and it will undoubtedly trick people into thinking it’s a cool film, at least until they get a chance to watch it again on disc and realise that it’s quite emptyheaded. If you have to see it, then you have to see it at the cinema (it‘s a hefty audio-visual experience), otherwise I wouldn’t bother (unless you still make love to your Transformers toys whenever the missus is out). It’s a pity such stunning special effects can’t be put to better use, but then again there’s a hundred and fifty million dollar investment to get a return on I suppose.