In the past ten years every rehash of the Transformers franchise has suffered the same critical flaw: annoying human characters that get in the way of robots fighting.  Yes, this is my very simplistic view of the transformers universe and as you can tell I am a fan from way back in that simpler time called the 80’s. Even on the big screen we must suffer through the same issue yet this film has enough action that you forget the annoying humans from the first two acts. 

Transformers

Transformers, the latest film from director Michael Bay, is the story of how a group of sentient robotic beings from another planet bring their war to our world.  This being a Michael bay movie you pretty much have to expect that there will be a lot of action strung together with a plot that has roughly the consistency of dental floss.   The key word here is action and boy does it deliver.

The film follows two main story lines, the first is the survival of a Special Ops unit in Qatar.  Their base has been attacked by a transforming robotic being and our heroes must get this information back to the Pentagon.

The second , and more explored plot, is that of teenager Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf).   He’s your stereotypical teenage character.  Not the best athlete, not the best looking, working on some angle that makes him just interesting enough that you’ll watch him until the giant robots show up.   Fortunately you don’t have to wait long.

The opening scene is a Decepticon (the bad transformers for those of you not watching cartoons in the 1980’s) blowing up everything on a US military base in the mid east.   Stateside Sam buys his first car, which just happens to be one of the Heroic Autobots.   But how does this otherwise normal teenager end up with an advanced alien robotic life form for his first car?   As it turns out he is the descendent of the explorer who first discovered a frozen transformer eighty years ago.

For more on this plot line please exit this review and go rent “National Treasure” because any further discussion is irrelevant to the topic at hand which is giant robots fighting somewhere in Nevada.  Remember what I said about dental floss and plot?

While Transformers is light on plot it’s also lacks character depth for the villains.   Once the third act comes around it is suddenly very convenient that there are more than two Decepticon’s in the movie, all of which show up out of seemingly nowhere to join the battle against the Autobots.   

The Autobots, however are introduces in a much more theoretical manor.  The result of which culminates in what has to be the most expensive General Motors ad ever produced.

Michael Bay is no dummy, though, and he knows what gets people to spend eight dollars in July.   The last thirty minutes is nothing but action.  It is simply robot-on-robot fighting action.   While Spider-Man was the most expensive effects movie made this year, Transformers really gets the bang for the buck! Knowing full well that there are no transformers rolling around our streets the special effects visually draw you into believing that they are out there, transforming and ready to fight each other at simply because they’re on opposite sides of an ancient war.

The third act is nothing but action.  There is so much action in fact that all too often there is so much happening on screen that it’s hard to tell exactly what is going on.  This compiled with no real attachment to the evil robots you loose track when trying to score who is winning and who is loosing the war.

We don’t get much dialogue from the Transformers themselves. This is why the Decipticons come off as flat.  But the two robots that count the most are Optimus Prime and Megatron.  Prime is perfectly voiced by Peter Cullen (who ironically voiced Ironhide in the original series.) While Megatron is voiced by the man everyone loves to hate, Hugo Weaving (best known as Mr. Smith in the Matrix films). 

What Transformers represents is roughly analogous to the theatrical Premier of Batman in 1989:  a promising first effort in the Giant Robot genre, which has been prevalent comic books and anime for years.  However, given the right amount of time and advancements in Special effects technology (read: less dependence on human actors) we will get our Batman Begins of the Robot genre. 

Given the inevitable success of Transformers be prepared for live-action theatrical releases of Voltron, Robotech and Evangellion.  Oh, fear not. Transformers was left open for a sequel as well!

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