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TRANSFORMERS (director: Michael Bay; screenwriters: based on Hasbro’s Transformers action figures/Roberto Orci/Alex Kurtzman/story by John Rogers, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman; cinematographer: Mitchell Amundsen; editors: Tom Muldoon/Paul Rubell/Glen Scantlebury; music: Steve Jablonsky; cast: Shia LaBeouf (Sam Witwicky), Megan Fox (Mikaela Banes), Josh Duhamel (Cpt. Lennox), Tyrese Gibson (Sgt. Epps), Rachael Taylor (Maggie), Anthony Anderson (Glen), Jon Voight (Defense Secretary John Keller), John Turturro (Agent Simmons); Runtime: 144; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Tom DeSanto/Don Murphy/Lorenzo di Bonaventura/Ian Bryce; DreamWorks Picture & Paramount; 2007)
“There’s less to this picture than meets the eye.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An overlong (144 minutes) mindless and lifeless thriller that plays to the teen fanboy crowd. Its director Michael Bay (“Pearl Harbor”/”The Rock”/”Armageddon”) has been someone whose films have always underwhelmed me and this tedious phony patriotic thriller is no exception. There’s less to this picture than meets the eye. Hack writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman deliver the bad screenplay. It’s based on the popular cartoon and Hasbro toy action figures from the 1980s, and if you were driven to ecstasy by such questionable undertakings you should find that this pic has targeted you as its ideal viewer. It pays homage to the young computer geeks of this generation as the hope of the future (I hear the young nerdy Spielberg’s voice in such pronouncements). It’s all cheesy CGI special effects, lots of product placement, a plotline that isn’t even semi-plausible, shallow characters, it has the feeling of an extended ad to get the numbers up for military recruitment in a way the usual Be All You Can Be ads can’t, lots of mumbo-jumbo talk explaining the ridiculous story, a fantasy teen chick (Megan Fox) is unleashed for the nerds to get off on, there’s even a pretense to being serious about such twaddle (which is a given in any Bay pic), a cute Taco Bell dog that always fits into such crowd-pleasing pics is here given some quality screen time, and loud and meaningless action sequences are the order of the day. If that’s your kind of pic, a videogame as a film, this mega-budgeted summer blockbuster should satisfy as it concludes with its centerpiece dueling giant robots sequence.

The star of the film is these created in Japan and restyled in America shape shifting toys that transform from robots into such things as cars and planes, then back again (seeming like walking Erector Sets). It’s an exercise in shock-and-awe for the masses who might have missed the Gulf wars on CNN and want to see the great thinker Bay’s view on such matters. The plot revolves around a cyber war to destroy the universe played out on Earth between the good robots called the Autobots and led by Optimus Prime, who aim to protect the humans, and the evil army of Decepticons, led by Megatron, who aim to destroy the Earth. But wouldn’t you know it, high school nerd Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has dad buy him his first car and the Camaro just happens to be an Autobot Bumblebee, which can change forms and drive itself. Sam is now equipped to enter the battle to save the planet. He also becomes important because of something the aliens call an all-important Cube, the reason they came to Earth. We are told Sam’s great grandfather discovered it while exploring Antarctica in the 19th century and left an encrypted message on his glasses on where it may be. The rival robot forces want the Cube, and Sam is their way of getting it.

The action opens with a confusing alien attack on an American military base in Qatar that’s defended by gung-ho Special-Op troops led by Capt. Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and Tech Sgt. Epps (Tyrese Gibson). The boys are up against a helicopter that converts into a fighting robot, which blows them away as quite a weapon and wonder why the good guys don’t have such toys. In the good old USA, the secretary of defense (Jon Voight) does his best Rummy imitation and barks out orders at the military brass fawning over him even though he’s clueless about what’s going down. It’s up to a young pretty blonde outsider computer scientist (Rachael Taylor) to try and warn the secretary of defense about an impending attack. But he ignores her until Sam gets involved in the action, with his would-be girlfriend, the hottie car buff Mikaela (Megan Fox), who ride together in that mysterious 1970 Camaro, and know what’s going down better than all those Pentagon big-shots. In the end, the Witwicky boy teams up with Optimus Prime to save the world. The lesson I got from watching this crap was that it takes a teen and something made out of metal to be man enough to do such a big job.

It’s a movie filled with gratuitous explosions, lame sitcom teen humor and fast-cut editing to give one the impression this pic is about something important and not as inane as a toy commercial (an impression it never could shake).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”