Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Over the past decade or so we’ve seen a plethora of kid’s classics brought to the big screen. While a great many childhood favourites have flourished – particularly comic book heroes – this canon wouldn’t have been complete without those loveable robots in disguise. Finally hitting our screens after a summer of blockbusters that simmered from disappointing to mild, it fell to Optimus Prime and co to save the day.

When geeky-teen Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) purchases his first car, he soon finds himself in the middle of a war between two sides of a “technological civilisation”. With both the noble Autobots and the evil Decepticons having crash-landed on Earth in search of the powerful Allspark device, Sam gets caught while trying to romance schoolmate Mikaela (Megan Fox) and avoid arrest from a government agent (John Turturro)

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Sadly, like the other lacklustre summer offerings, Transformers is a huge disappointment. With a plot that exists merely to link action sequences, characters who are secondary to the loud battles and more explosions than all of Arnie’s Eighties movies combined, it is pure Hollywood popcorn of the fluffiest kind. In short, this is Michael Bay’s most ‘Michael Bay movie’ yet (and that’s saying something).

For those interested in the storyline, it’s not a priority here. Though at times you might think it’s a jumbled mess filling in the time between set-pieces (which, in reality, is what it is), before you can say “Holy convoluted plot, Batman” another pointless and uninteresting turn is confusingly taken. Indeed, many film review sites and magazines that boast a plot summary section may feel the need to ignore that section altogether for Transformers, such is its irrelevance.

As far as the characters go, they also exist merely to push things forward in between chases. Despite including one of the hottest young stars around just now in LaBeouf and spending some time early on to develop him – we see his family, classroom, school rivals and wannabe girlfriend – by the end we just don’t care as he comes off more as an underdeveloped Peter Parker clone than someone we can root for.

In support, Josh Duhamel is reasonably credible as a military captain, Fox is pretty much there just to look good (which she does) and John Voight phones his performance in to the extent that you forget he is a capable actor. Rounding the cast off is Turturro, who plumbs the depths with a laughably over-the-top turn that wouldn’t look out of place in the later years of Lois and Clark.

Given that the director is action-helmer extraordinaire Bay (Armageddon, Pearl Harbor), none of this should come as a surprise. However, what does surprise is that a movie which is considerably louder, showier and more shallower than anything in recent memory could have been made in collaboration with bearded-genius Steven Spielberg. Though some scenes tell of his involvement – such as the Autobots creeping round the house trying to avoid being seen – the rest is a noisy, computer-enhanced, brain-at-the-door exercise in blowing things up at sunset.

Presumably, most of the effort involved in making this movie went into the action sequences and digital effects. While the effects are undeniably fantastic both in terms of quality and consistency (the machines move and transform in a believable way throughtout) none of the action sequences achieve the suspense or excitement the trailer promised. Aside from the early desert attack in Qatar, there’s just no tension to the set-pieces and we never feel any sense of danger. When Sam is near the top of a building with an angry Megatron after him, you know he’s not gonna die.

In a day and age where intelligent viewers expect – nay demand – more than just a bang for their bucks, some staggeringly impressive CGI just isn’t enough. Though its lowest common-denominator approach will please those who like to leave their brains on autopilot, Transformers is every thing that’s wrong with modern blockbusters.

Reviewed on: 27 Dec 2008
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Robots in disguise!
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Read more Transformers reviews:

Max Crawford ****
Anton Bitel **1/2
Scott Macdonald *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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