Writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman got off on the right foot by understanding that these kinds of movies never work without a compassionate thread to the story. In other words, they know an audience must find characters to really care about. With a Michael Bay film we knew we'd get plenty of action and explosions, but what we weren't expecting was a good story with a little bit of meat on its bones. And that's exactly why the film works. He takes a mediocre but hugely popular comic-book tale about a legendary battle between robots, and mixes in the touchy-feely undertones of a boy and his first car to create a completely modern spectacle that'll both knock your socks off and warm your little cockles.
We alternate between three main storylines for most of the film's first hour and a half or so, knowing that at some point all three will converge with the mouth of hell purging forth tons of exploding TNT. After all, it is a Michael Bay film. The first storyline features a group of soldiers stationed in the desert of Qatar battling a deadly scorpion-like metallic creature that burrows through the sand when it's not killing with unbridled discretion. A group of surviving soldiers, led by Sergeant Lennox (Josh Duhamel) is desperate to get a report of the deadly arachnid back to the Pentagon. Meanwhile, a typical but somewhat goofy teenage boy named Sam Whitwicky (Shia Lebeouf) is looking to buy his first car. Naturally he wants a Porsche, but he can only afford a beat-up old yellow Camaro. Sam later learns that the car is actually the Autobot Bumblebee who has come to Earth (with other Autobots) to fight the Decipticons in hopes of saving the planet. Finally, a shadowy branch of the government called Sector 7 of which the Department of Defense is even unaware is holding a mysterious extraterrestrial cube known as the Allspark while trying to uncover the truth behind its believed-to-be sinister purpose.
As the three plotlines eventually come together, the proceedings literally spill out onto the streets of downtown L.A. with a battle of 9/11 proportions between the Autobots and the Decipticons. At the risk of angering the long-time fanboy, this is where the movie will lose a lot of non-Transformers fans. Using shops, cars, and skyscrapers as their little sandbox-of-aggression, the robots spend most of the remainder of the film slamming, stomping, shooting, wrestling and otherwise ripping each other apart. It's a bit too rambunctious and becomes quite difficult to tell the good guys from the bad. I realize this is the one part of the film most Transformers fans have been anticipating ever since it received a greenlight. But for me, having grown up a good piece before the comic book and cartoon rage, this is where it becomes just another Michael Bay "blow-'em-up." I won't complain too much however, because it's also the part of the film where we get to see some of the most spectacular special effects ever put on film. The conversion of these characters into their full battle-ready transmogrifications is flawlessly perfect. No stop-motion effects here! It's clear the wizards at Industrial Light and Magic are the best in the business at fooling filmgoers.
Two acting performances really stand out and are actually quite an integral part of why the whole thing works. First is that of Shia LeBeouf. His Sam is no stud nor is he the prototypical geek. He's just a normal kid who wants the same things every kid wants. His goofy awkwardness makes him instantly likeable. John Turturro also gives a nice turn as agent Simmons of Sector 7. His almost-over-the-top rendition reminds us the filmmakers didn't take things too seriously and neither should we.
If the film's trailer doesn't do anything for you, then the movie probably won't either. After all, it is a summer blockbuster in every sense of the word. But, while most summer action movies fail to entertain AND fulfill, Transformers does both. For flat-out action movie appeal, you'll be hard-pressed to find anything that compares.
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English; French; Spanish
Language and Sound: English: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access. The bonus material for Michael Bay's ode to the '80s animated series includes the following featurettes: "The Story Sparks," "Human Allies," "I Fight Giant Robots," "Battleground," "Rise of the Robots," "Autobots Roll Out," "Decepticons Strike," "Inside the AllSpark," "More Than Meets the Eye," " From Script to Sand: The Skorponok Desert Attack" and more.
o feature-length audio commentary by director Michael Bay
o Our World
+ The Story Sparks (08:00)
+ Human Allies (13:00)
+ I Fight Giant Robots (14:00)
+ Battleground (14:00)
o Their War
+ Rise of the Robots (14:00)
+ Autobots Roll Out (20:00)
+ Decepticons Strike (14:00)
+ Inside the All-Spark (17:00)
o More Than Meets the Eye
+ From Script to Sand: The Skorponok Desert Attack (08:53)
+ Concepts (02:12)
Number of Discs: 2 with Keepcase Packaging
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