Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

"This is even cooler than Armageddon,"one character screeches as a robot meteor crashes to earth amid an earth cracking explosion and ball of flame. How presumptuous of director Michael Bay to not only make Armageddon firstly, but to actually think it cool, and to congratulate himself. Thankfully, for him, giant transforming robots blowing ten shades of shit out of puny humans is very cool indeed.

Square-jawed yet wimpy-looking Sam Witwicky (many mispronunciations of this surname are the first of the many jokes that dive-bomb) is a teenager, eager for his first car and so his first girlfriend. With much persuasion - "What would Jesus do?", he hammers his teacher for the needed A - and raising cash, he heads off to the used-car dealer (Bernie Mac). While delivering the sales spiel he utters "There's a mysterious bond between man and machine." Omens ahoy! Anyway, Sam buys an old sports car, complete with a radio with a mind of its own. This turns out to be Bumblebee, a robot in disguise. By extreme coincidence, Sam's grandfather was an explorer and found a giant metal man at the North Pole.

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Oh, yes - there's some backstory for this, but the movie thankfully doesn't hammer it home much. There was a war on the planet Cybertron with the Autobots as slightly wet good guys and the Decepticons as the bad guys. They each want the AllSpark, a Cube with the power to make machines come to life. Sam's grandfather had the Cube's location etched on to his spectacles, and in a roundabout way, through a computer hack on Air Force One, all the way through eBay, the Decepticons track down Sam.

Two further plot-threads wind through and clog up this messy screenplay, which is chock-full of token situations and surprisingly disturbing. It is full of weapon fetishising and militaristic self-sucking ("You're a soldier now, son!" barks a sergeant at Sam) and the story it supports is harried, infantile, superficial and unspeakably thinly scripted nonsense with superfluous characters and idiotic situations. Bay embraces this jingoistic diarrhoea and delivers a movie that insults every bit as much as it entertains - it is not content merely to be moronic; it embraces this quality like a virtue. It is overlong, overwritten (the main characters and robots speak only in soundbites) and boring whenever it is not deafening the audience - yes, this soundtrack goes to 11.

As for the robots themselves, it has to be said, Michael Bay has a gift with superlative defying visual effects and blowing stuff up real good. To see the robots transform, cracking open each rivet and reforming to humanoid shape is something that made me gape in surprised delight, like a child opening the coolest box of tricks in the store. We have finally turned the corner: Transformers and David Fincher's Zodiac are the films with the most accomplished invisible digital effects I have ever seen. The opening sequence astonished me. One of the Decepticons lays waste to a US military base in Qatar. I simply could not see any of the usual joins between live action and visual effects. The Air Force One hack scene has the extraordinary technical prowess and exquisite timing of the spider-scene in executive producer Steven Spielberg's Minority Report.

Okay - I hated the script, that's to be expected - does it deliver good action? Aside from the opening sequence, it failed. The movie didn't involve me because I cared for no-one in the story. There are no emotional anchors - the humans are boring, and the robots stunningly uninteresting. Bay's framing of the robot-on-robot action almost destroys the sheer coolness factor of the volleys of firepower and mechanical pummelling dished out by our Autobot and Decepticon onslaught. Shaky-cam movements, an edit every .7 of a second and the eardrum shattering soundtrack makes it more of a chore than a pleasure.

Reviewed on: 27 Jul 2007
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Read more Transformers reviews:

Max Crawford ****
Anton Bitel **1/2
Stephen Carty *1/2

Director: Michael Bay

Writer: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Rachael Taylor, Anthony Anderson, Jon Voight, John Turturro

Year: 2007

Runtime: 144 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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