Reviewed by: Max Crawford

Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes. The dead rising from the grave. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together. Michael Bay making an excellent movie. Are these the end times?

This is way, way better than Armageddon. It's childish, nonsensical, and brainless. It's also nothing short of awesome.

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No one really expected the story to be anything other than a flimsy pretext to show giant robots knocking lumps out of each other, and that's exactly what we get. A mysterious, powerful cube called the AllSpark - which fans of the series may remember as Vector Sigma, and which shall henceforth be referred to as the Plot Device - has fallen to Earth. This device was lost during a war between two factions of sentient robots, and now its location has been discovered they're quite keen to retrieve it.

The good guys - the Autobots - care about fragile, primitive earthlings and wish to spare them from harm. They're a lot more circumspect than the bad guys - the Decepticons - who, in the first of the movie's phenomenal action set-pieces, cheerfully tear apart a military base in order to steal their Internets. So the first half of the film becomes a quest for the Plot Device, while the second is a battle for possession of it.

That's it. There are a couple of embarrassingly stupid tangents related to the Internets being stolen, and a host of completely unnecessary human characters, but all inanity is forgiven from the first moment a helicopter transforms into an awesome death machine and starts kicking in tanks. For the first half hour or so the film appears to be in danger of becoming Herbie Goes Bananas, but let me assure you that not only does this not happen, there is an amazing bit where a jet fighter transforms into a robot in mid-air and punches a hole through another jet fighter.

The real stars of the show here are, of course, Industrial Light and Magic. Their efforts in bringing the Transformers to life are absolutely awe-inspiring. This may be CGI's finest hour. Optimus Prime is more believable than John Turturro, with a greater sense of presence. Speaking of Prime, he's hands-down one of the best things about the movie. Hiring Peter Cullen - the original voice of Prime - to reprise his role was an excellent decision, as he really makes the most of Prime's limited screentime. Much of the back-and-forth between Prime and Megatron is borrowed from the cartoon, and there are a few other fan-pleasing touches which are nicely handled.

Ultimately, Transformers is a movie that succeeds despite its director. We could stand to lose the tiresome Bay-trademark shots of military hardware silhouetted against the rising sun. The action direction is of the shaky camera, lots of fast cuts style which makes it difficult to tell what's actually going on. Most of the characters are so poorly realised that it's hard to remember or care what's happening to them. There is schmaltz. These are considerations which niggle slightly in the back of your mind as you watch a roller-skating mechanical hell-demon rip buses in twain.

If you're anything like me you'll be suspiciously eyeing vehicles all the way home from the cinema.

Reviewed on: 26 Jul 2007
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Read more Transformers reviews:

Anton Bitel **1/2
Scott Macdonald *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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