With monstrous action, nonstop thrills, and stunning special effects, Michael Bay’s Transformers demands to be seen on the big screen – and what bigger and better screen to see it on than IMAX? While many of the one-liners and comedy relief gags grow wearisome with repeat viewings, the sheer bravado of the overall effort more than makes up for it. Additionally, this is an extended cut, with footage not originally seen in the theatrical version. However, that only amounts to about 3 minutes. But yes, as one screaming fanatic yells during the Transformers’ arrival, it IS way better than Armageddon.
A mysterious attack on a US base in Qatar leaves an entire squadron massacred with only a handful of survivors quickly making their way to a neighboring village. As the government attempts to track what they think are terrorists who staged the assault, hundreds of miles away, young Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) picks out his first car. A seemingly normal 11th grade student, Sam is unknowingly caught up in an intergalactic war about to start on Earth between two alien life forms that have the ability to simulate any mechanical device. Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots (the human-friendly group of alien Transformers) enlightens Sam about a secretive Allspark cube which has been hunted for by Prime and his mortal enemy Megatron for a very long time. Having landed somewhere on Earth, Sam may be the only one who can help the Transformers locate it before Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons (non-human-sympathizers), uses it to destroy the world.
From the first few moments of the film when Blackout (the helicopter) transforms and the audience nearly jumped out of their seats with applause, it’s not difficult to formulate what kind of impact this film will have on the casual fans as well as the truly devoted. Regardless of how faithful the story is to the original cartoons and action figure line, the explosive power of this film is unmatched. The action sequences rival almost anything made to date, and ironically parallels the other July 4th box-office-record-setting hopeful of 2007, Live Free or Die Hard. While Die Hard attempts to mimic realism with its overly creative stunts and chases, it goes so overboard that both physics and general believability are immediately questioned. Yet in Transformers, where we’re already dealing with giant science-fiction robots, the fights and battles across the city feel more realistic, at least in that we believe the catastrophe caused by the hulking automatons.
Unrelenting and exceptionally exhilarating, from the opening sequence attack to the “Kill Bill” themed Camaro transformation to the unbelievably destructive epic battle finale, nothing was spared in the pursuit of creating the most intense action ever filmed. At some points the action doesn’t let up and we almost believe Michael Bay has gone too far. Too much of anything lessens the impact, and this holds true for the nonstop affrays. Running slightly too long, it seems if anything had to be edited out, it would be some of that action. But as is, the film is packed so tightly with maelstroms of blazing bullets and grinding metal-on-metal robotic pummeling, that you’re not likely to see anything more exciting this summer.
Shia LeBeouf is astonishingly remarkable as Sam Witwicky, who is sarcastic, cynical and the epitome of a typical teenager. His character provides excellent comedy to counteract with the surviving Army squadrons’ never-faltering stoicism. He is likable and down-to-earth in a way that compliments the Transformers and their varying imitated attitudes. John Voight manages to be a droning stereotypical government man, and John Turturro gathers laughs as the unreasonably determined, cocky chief of Sector Seven, the Area 51-like government agency that deals with Transformers. Optimus Prime’s voice acting is also worth mentioning as the studio was able to get Peter Cullen who originally voiced the character on the cartoon series. His character becomes eye-rolling preachy at times, but because he’s a deep-voiced gigantic robot, he retains a nobly powerful presence nonetheless.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Transformers is just how much comedy has been fused with the revolutionary CG. Shia is constantly the source of laughs, the Autobots make an attempt at humor and a large percentage of the supporting cast is entirely comic relief, including Anthony Anderson, Bernie Mac, Kevin Dunn and Julie White (Sam’s parents) and even Decepticon Frenzy. Subtler humor includes references to Spielberg’s other films and a particularly comical decal on Barricade (the cop car) that boasts: “To Punish and Enslave”.
The computer animation and special effects are beyond anything we’ve seen before. The transformations themselves are absolutely astounding, with countless swiveling parts and mechanical flurries. Perhaps the complexity is present to conceal the fact that not all the pieces actually line up with the vehicles they mimic (especially considering the gargantuan size of the robot compared to the corresponding vehicle). But the movement and fighting between robots is so shockingly awe-inspiring that we forgive their awkward mechanical lips and other shortcomings. Despite the few hindering aspects of this special effects masterwork, Michael Bay’s Transformers is likely to be the largest blockbuster of the summer. Following in the footsteps of the popular slogan, this film truly has more than meets the eye.
– Mike Massie and Joel Massie (www.MoviePulse.net)