Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Transformers-Review by Guest Contributor Joseph Wren

Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, & John Rogers
Directed by Michael Bay
144 Minutes
Rated 12 A
Opens July 27

In the South Park episode “Cartmanland”, the character Kyle says about the director of Transformers: “Job had all his children killed, and Michael Bay gets to keep making movies. There isn’t a God.” Because we have some sort of commercial artistic balance in society, South Park and Michael Bay can co-exist; the good vs. evil of American screen culture. But the summer of 2007 has thus far brought us one hell of a serving of stupid from Hollywood, and Kyle’s sentiments haven’t been more relevant.

With Transformers, a deafening and bloodless gearhead fantasy, Bay has raised the bar for CGI-candy. For those not familiar with the world of Transformers, which were toys that young children (including this critic) played with in the 1980s, here’s the deal: Autobots (the good guys) and Decepticons (baddies) are giant alien robots that can morph into vehicles – in this case, the latest GM models of souped-up Camaro, Cadillac, etc, and even the odd military fighter jet. The spectacle here, and it is quite something to behold, is to watch the robots morphing amongst puny humans in California. The first few times we watch the transformation take place, it is visually incredible, but it gets old quickly

Somewhere amongst the heavy metal is a blockbuster-by-numbers plot, which involves middle-class dork Sam (Shia LeBeouf) and auto-shop pinup fantasy girl Mikaela (Megan Fox) who, as in most action films these days, fall for each other whilst dodging disaster and saving the world. Sam is targeted by the Decepticons because he possesses his great-grandfather’s glasses, on which is a map to a gigantic cube that fell to earth, over which much metal is bound to be shed between the warring alien factions. Luckily Sam has a “guardian” Autobot named “Bumblebee”, a 70s muscle car which recalls Uma Thurman’s Kill Bill character, Beatrix.

There are some attempts at comedy – giant alien robots talking about eBay and tip-toeing around the suburbs is good for a chuckle or two, as are brief comic turns by Bernie Mac and John Turturro, but most of the jokes are stale and lazy, such as depicting the current US President as a buffoon. The hyper action is just so far over the top, and Bay’s trademark “shoot for the edit” ethic is in full force, as the cuts are too rapid to even register what’s actually going on during the confusing climax.

Transformers is not much more than spectacle, slogans, and adverts on screen. The biggest failure here is Bay’s inability to make the robots sympathetic, which, as Brad Bird proved with touching hand-drawn animated The Iron Giant, is quite possible for those who actually have some capacity for emotion. Know this Mr. Bay, you can keep making your stupid movies that will make ridiculous sums of money, but nobody will remember them, because they utterly lack heart and soul.

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