Mark Reviews Movies

TRANSFORMERS

½ Star (out of 4)

Director: Michael Bay

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Rachel Taylor, Anthony Anderson, Jon Voight, John Turturro, the voices of Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving

MPAA Rating:   (for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor, and language)

Running Time: 2:24

Release Date: 7/3/07



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Review by Mark Dujsik

There is something so very, very wrong about a movie that exists for solely these two reasons: 1.) to get children of the '80s to try and experience some sort of nostalgia by watching their favorite action toys of childhood come to life, and 2.) to get a new generation of kids to buy those same toys. Yes, toy manufacturer Hasbro has teamed up with two major studios—the kind of unholy marriage you can only get out of Hollywood—to bring us Transformers, and it is probably the worst computer-generated-special-effects-driven summer blockbuster to ever disgrace the screen. The script, with its generic setup, dialogue, and humor, feels like it was written by and for kids eight and under. The screenplay is so incoherent, so jumbled, and so lazy, leaving multiple threads dangling and unanswered, there were moments in which I thought I had blacked out. That's not to mention the countless other times I wish I had. No, it's just written as though screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman either had no attention spans and/or expected that the audience wouldn't have them. And Michael Bay doesn't help either.

The Transformers are robots from another planet that can transform into machines—primarily vehicles. Some are good; some are bad. They fight. This is made to seem grander in the hilarious opening narration, which tells us of something called "The Cube" or the "Allspark," which is a cube that can mutate machines into robots which can mutate into machines. So which came first? Who the hell cares? Just listen to how seriously intoned this opening monologue is and be dumbfounded that someone wrote it and made money doing so. Anyway, a military base in Qatar (which we are told—not once but twice—is in the Middle East) is attacked by one of the Transformers, which turns from a helicopter into a robot that blows stuff up real good and proper. This is problematic for Sgt. Lennox (Josh Duhamel), because he has a new baby daughter at home. Yes, that's all the character development this movie can stand. Meanwhile, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf, whose dry, sarcastic persona serves as a saving grace) buys his first car, a yellow Camaro (more General Motors cars follow), hooks up with his crush Mikaela (Megan Fox), finds out about the whole Transformers war, and holds the fate of the world in his great-grandfather's spectacles.

Yes, Sam's great-grandfather's glasses hold the map to the Allspark, and that means his new Camaro, actually named Bumblebee, and the other good Autobots have to hold off the forces of the Decepticons, the bad robots. How robots are good or bad, I don't know. Why the Autobot leader Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen) forms words with his mechanical mouth when he has no air to manipulate while passing through the opening, I really don't know. And why the little ADHD robot that transforms from a CD player apparently gets off on downloading information, I really would rather avoid getting into. Speaking of disturbing moments, I also could have done without director Bay wanking his ego when a teenage kid yells out, "This is easily a hundred times cooler than Armageddon." I feel dirty just relating those two moments to you. Bay, of course, is all over the place on this one. His camera moving and shaking so much you cannot tell what's happening. To compensate, he saves the slow-motion sequences for times when nothing is happening (people getting out of a helicopter, a robot jumping out of the sand and not doing anything). The special effects have an unnatural glow and don't interact with the environment quite right.

If you like the idea of giant robots fighting, look elsewhere. Bay and the script unbelievably decide to cut away from giant-robot brawls on three separate occasions. Bumblebee's first fight is not on screen, and neither of the climactic confrontations between Optimus Prime and the evil leader Megatron (voice of… Hugo Weaving?) is worth watching too long apparently. Instead, the screenplay shows the humans and how they help out. Megatron can't be too much of a threat to humanity when the 50-foot tall robot can't even catch a scrawny kid. If you like the idea of robots participating in a comedy of errors involving Sam trying to keep the robots in the backyard hidden from his parents, well, you'll be happy to know there's an extended sequence involving that, and it's just as lame as it sounds. Any part of the script not directly involving the robots is a generic plot machination, whether it's Sam trying to win over the girl or the massive government conspiracy to cover up the robots' existence. In a similar vein, about 85 percent of the dialogue is comprised of generic lines like, "This is not good," "Did you see that," "Shoot," or "This is not going well."

The humor isn't really humor; it's just people saying phrases of disbelief after something extraordinary happens. Optimus Prime gets more philosophical than he did in the opening narration, and it's just as funny. There's an inordinate amount of useless flashbacks. Transformers, basically, is material inherently aimed at and hence written for kids that's made and not adapted for teenagers and adults. "Cool, mom," cheers a little kid as Optimus and Megatron fight. No, not really kid. Not even close.

Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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