If Michael Bay's intention was to make a Transformers movie that would have the established fans peeing in their pants and clapping with nerdly glee, he's succeeded in fine form. If, however, Michael Bay's intention was to create an accessible sci-fi adventure movie that could bring in moviegoers who believe a "transformer" is something you stick into your fuse box ... he's failed pretty miserably. Hitting the screens with all the subtlety of a 50-piece drum set thrown down an eternal flight of stairs, Transformers should have been bankrolled by the fine people of Tylenol: Twelve random minutes of the flick are enough to give you a brain-bruising migraine.
But loud and mindless I can handle. Lord knows I'm a fan of enough empty vessels like Transformers. (Indeed, I'm even a Bay supporter sometimes. I adore The Rock, I consider Armageddon a blissfully guilty pleasure, and I'm one of the few who bothered to find some good things in The Island. The less said about Pearl Harbor and Bad Boys 2 ... the better.) The main problem (among many) with this massively moronic Transformers flick is that for all its sound and fury ... there's simply that nothing there. One can only sit through so many sequences in which giant animated dolls throw each other across the street before he wonders "Do I even care who wins this fight? And which one's the good guy again? I think he had blue stripes." The plot is an amalgam of material found in the cartoon, the animated film and the comic book series, although all you really need to know is this: Lots of giant robots are searching for an ancient artifact that's hidden somewhere on Earth. Some of the robots like humans; others do not. Chases and explosions ensue. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Basically, for a mindless action movie, Transformers sure does spin its wheels before getting to the good stuff -- and then once the good stuff arrives you'll need a slo-mo button to figure out what the hell's going on. Except, of course, if you were raised on the Transformers cartoon, toys, comic books and video games. Then you'll not only know what's going on ... you'll know what's coming next. (And not necessarily in a good way.) Plus I find it very ironic (and more than a little sad) that the most entertaining component of the film is not the million-dollar robots or the elaborately chaotic action scenes: It's actually character actor John Turturro, whose services probably cost less than one CGI technician.
A very amusing Shia LaBeouf plays Sam Witwicky, a high school junior who desperately wants his own car. (He also has a large chunk of dreary back-story that deals with his late grandfather's arctic discovery ... a superfluous plot thread that adds little to the movie and actually vanishes from the plot entirely.) Sam's dad buys him a classic Camaro -- a vehicle that also happens to be a giant alien robot from another world. Then we get a whole bunch of arid nothingness that deals with a young hottie (Megan Fox), a clueless Secretary of Defense (Jon Voight), a bland pair of soldiers (Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson), a hacker duo as unconvincing as they are uninteresting (Anthony Anderson and Rachael Taylor), and a wild-eyed secret agent (John Turturro) before we can get down to business: The action. And when it's all said and done, Transformers might deliver the action in quantity, but most definitely not in quality.
Written poorly and edited together in even worse fashion, the movie leaps around from place to place and character to character with not only a lack of logic, but practically contempt for the way a story is told. The interesting characters simply vanish for large periods, but the bland ones stay front and center. The narrative lurches forward in tiny dribs and drabs ... but only to make way for a generally unimpressive series of action set pieces. Plot threads and side characters are simply forgotten about. The movie is fetishistic about cars and weapons and sexy underage women, but it never once connects on a human level. I've played video games in which you somehow care about the characters -- something this movie never once allows you to do. Essentially it's Independence Day meets the Godzilla remake, only with giant boring robots instead of boring aliens or boring monsters. Flat, loud, flashy spectacle that's been fine-tuned and sanded down to appeal to the widest global audience possible. All in all, pretty generic.
But I can't lie: The final 20-some minutes of Transformers is all but packed to the robotic rafters with high-end mega-mayhem. The entire third act is practically one big massive action scene. Whether or not that's a good thing is up to the individual viewer, but I was thrilled to see this lumbering mass exhibit even half a pulse by that point. But Bay and his screenwriters clearly have no interest in the human side of the equation, which explains why even the quiet moments of Transformers feel vaguely "cyborg" in nature. When you're trying to wedge some actual human emotion into a flick that's not much more than the 15th permutation of a glorified toy advertisement, you're better off doing it with some sincerity -- or not bothering at all. The Incredibles has more heart and soul than Transformers, and while I certainly wouldn't walk into a movie like this looking for deep and soulful emotion, I didn't expect a flick that felt like it was MADE by robots.