I was always into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters, not so much the Transformers. I vividly remember some of my elementary school friends bringing over their Transformers, and we’d morph and battle them all day long. I was a sucker for durable plastic toys, as was any 8-year-old boy at the time. The Transformers TV show I don’t recall all that much, other than the insanely catchy theme song that worked wonders at commercial breaks.
It was with immense skepticism that I entered this 2007 incarnation of Transformers. I don’t have the nostalgic memories of battles between the Autobots and Decepticons for the good of mankind, and I don’t have many good memories of all but two Michael Bay films. For how hollow his films usually are (and they try so hard to be relevant), the dude is a master maestro of colossal destruction. Little did I know that Transformers would contain some of the most astounding special effects to ever grace the screen and would hit home with every 20-something male who longs for the days when their biggest concern in life was the status of Optimus Prime. This is made by the fans, for the fans. Outsiders need not apply.
The story centers on Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf), a high school student who has just bought his first car and is trying to score his first date. Sam hasn’t bought just any car; he has purchased Bumblebee, one of the Autobots (the good guys) who have arrived from planet Cybertron to save the human race. See, one of Sam’s ancient relatives discovered the evil Megatron (of the dastardly Decepticons), frozen in the Arctic ice centuries back. At that time the Autobots and Decepticons were battling for the Allspark, a cube which contains the powers to control the universe. Before Megatron went into a paralyzed state, he used the last of his power to engrave a map to the Allspark in Sam’s relative’s eyeglasses. Sam is now in possession of the glasses, and the Autobots and Decepticons are about to reignite their war to locate the Allspark.
If that doesn’t make any sense, don’t worry. The screenplay by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman is more of an exoskeleton for what this project is really about: mass destruction and gigantic robots beating the wires out of each other. Indeed, what Bay and crew have assembled here is one of the loudest, craziest summer movies in years – a pure joy and adrenaline rush for those of us who spent countless hours of our lives constructing battles for our robotic heroes. Everything, from the rousing speeches by the Autobots to the precision of the Decepticons, brings out the dork in all of us.
The special effects are among the best I’ve ever seen. The seamless transition the Autobots makes from vehicle to robot is awe-inspiring and original. Every last detail is accounted for and Bay’s first extended shot of the Autobots morphing will be an instant cinematic memory for many an audience member. It’s one thing to pull off the effects, but to use them to bring out the inner child is what drives them home.
There is a key misstep, but to expound would require spoilers. Let’s just say that the final battle is a big letdown, either signaling a director screw-up or a screenplay flaw. To deprive fans of the battle that has been built-up throughout the film is puzzling and disappointing.
If just mentioning Transformers brings back nostalgic memories, this is the film for you. The average moviegoer likely won’t take much away, except for the fact that a pretty big portion of the population may be incredible closet dorks. The screenplay assumes the viewer is familiar with the characters and even sections of the story, so be warned. If you’re in it just for a big, noisy, special-effects-driven diversion, I can’t imagine you won’t be floored and cheering like the little kid that’s still a part of us all.
Length: 144 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor, and language.
Theatrical Release: July 3, 2007
Directed by: Michael Bay
Written by: Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman.
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Rachael Taylor, Anthony Anderson