Transformers Goes for Style over Substance
- Monday, July 02, 2007
DVD Release Date: October 16, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: July 2, 2007 (select cities), July 3, 2007 (wide)
Rating: PG-13 (for violence, some bad language and sensuality)
Run Time: 144 min.
Directors: Michael Bay
Actors: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Rachael Taylor, Anthony Anderson, Jon Voight, John Turturro, Michael O’Neill, Julie While, and Bernie Mac
Voice Talents: Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving, Darius McCrary, Mark Ryan, Robert Foxworth, Jess Harnell, Jimmie Wood, Reno Wilson and Charles Adler
As the summer movie season charges forward in its mix of mindless big budget entertainment, one may begin to wish for a change of pace. You won’t find that change of pace here with Transformers, which proves yet again that a movie needs just a little bit more that mind-numbing special effects to be any good. Lack of substance, however, will not prevent the movie from making the studio a big pile of cash.
Based on the popular Hasbro children’s toys released in the mid-1980s, that later became a comic book and a cartoon, Transformers tells the story of a warring race of alien robots who find their way to earth. These mechanical beings have the power to disguise themselves as cars, trucks, jets and other commonplace machines. The hero of our story, teenage Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), stumbles across these robots when he discovers that his first car actually seems to be alive. At the same time elsewhere in the world, a U.S. military base is attacked and the U.S. government is hit with a strange computer virus attack of heretofore unthinkable power.
LaBeouf has proved himself an outstanding actor and is moving well beyond his humble Disney Channel beginnings. The first half of the film is fun and suspenseful as we see Sam trying to figure out how to pay for his first car, and then figure out what’s going on with his strange new purchase. The comedy of Sam’s situation is a great tension breaker against the terror of confusing attacks going on elsewhere. At least, terrifying as giant robots and a PG-13 rating can be.
The great acting ends with LaBeouf however (with perhaps the exception of a hilarious cameo by Bernie Mac as a used car salesman). Sam’s token love interest Mikaela (Megan Fox) has really nothing to do but wear tight clothing and be . . . Sam’s love interest. John Turturro, one of the most interesting and accomplished actors of our time, plays “Sector 7” Agent Simmons as the same pompous buffoon that you’ve seen in hundreds of these types of action movies. It may be due to a weak script, but his role is ridiculous and unnecessarily over the top. Jon Voight’s Secretary of Defense Keller is almost silly as he apparently decided to phone in his best Donald Rumsfeld impression rather than a realistic character.
You almost forgive Transformers' early flaws because the film is fairly entertaining. As Keller leads a team of unlikely twenty-something computer geeks and military officials who are working to figure out what is going on with the attacks, you overlook the fact that bringing in outside hotshots to solve a top secret military problem is ludicrous on its face. But as Transformers progresses and the action ramps up, the dialogue retreats from boilerplate to absurd. After the good robots (Autobots) reveal themselves to Sam, and tell their story and their battle with the evil robots (Decepticons), the film quickly plummets. They are trying to find some power device called the “All Spark” before the Decepticons do. If the bad guys find it first, all of humanity is at risk . . . yadda yadda . . . you’ve seen it all before.
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