Less Than Meets the Eye
Michael Bay is back! You’d think after bankrupting DreamWorks (now owned by Paramount) with The Island (2005), no one in their right mind would allow him to helm another movie, especially Steven Spielberg. Cooler minds didn’t prevail, however, and now he is giving us Transformers, the live action version of the toy-based cartoon from the eighties. True to form, Bay gives us exactly what he’s good at: a big, loud, bore.
Sam Witwicki (Shia LaBeouf) is just your average high school kid who wants to get a car so he can impress the hottest girl in school, Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox). He does get his car, an old beat up Camaro that also happens to be Bumblebee, a shape-shifting giant robot. He’s in league with the Autobots (good Transformers), who are looking for the Allspark, a giant cube that has limitless power and can restore their world. The problem is the Allspark is also sought by the Decepticons (bad Transformers) who will stop at nothing to obtain it and use it for thier own evil purposes.
This film is a real mess, and paced horribly. While you expect quick cutting during the action, Bay utilizes this “technique” for the whole film, creating a jarring, abrupt experience. In fact, I’d be willing to bet this movie was cut way down from a longer version. Characters appear then disappear for long stretches, transitions between scenes are choppy, and people do things that must have been motivated by earlier scenes that are now missing. And can someone please take away Bay’s camera crane and dolly? He uses them for what feels like every shot, and it’s distracting to the extreme.
The acting is uniformly terrible. The normally likable LaBeouf (Disturbia) is fine at first, but once the plot kicks in, he plays manic for the rest of the film, which really grates. The sexy Fox (Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen) is obviously cast for her looks (and they really tramp her up) and little else. Vets like Jon Voight (Glory Road) are inexplicably wooden, while weasly John Turturro (The Good Shepherd) is chewing so hard on the scenery I literally wanted him to choke.
To its credit, the fighting robots are cool. This is some very good effects work, and when the bots change form, it’s seemless and realistic-looking. Their designs are also impressive, from the stalwart leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime (who turns into a semi) to the sneaky Soundwave who looks like a boombox one minute, then turns into a Gremlin from hell.
Michael Bay movies make great trailers, but he sucks as a storyteller. Transformers is all bang and no heart, shoving action sequences in your face and forgetting that you have to have characters that you care about to create any kind of suspense or tension. As a result, we get a loud, flashy movie with lots of eye candy and no soul. The movie itself is a big, lumbering robot that changes forms, but can’t hide the fact that it’s still an empty tin can with shiny paint.