Movie Review

Mania Grade: A+

Maniac Grade: B+

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  • Reviewed Format: Theatrical Release
  • Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor, and language
  • Cast: Shia LeBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Rachel Taylor, Anthony Anderson, Jon Voighy, Joihn Turturro, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, Bernie Mac, (voices) Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving, Bryan Cox, Mark Ryan
  • Writers: Robert Orzi & Alex Kurtzman, John Rogers
  • Director: Michael Bay
  • Distributor: Warner Bros.


Now THIS kicks ass!

By Brian Thomas     July 02, 2007

Optimus Prime in TRANSFORMERS (2007).
© DreamWorks/Paramount Pictures
We look forward to summer movies as entertainments that deliver thrilling action sequences, dazzling special effects, chills up our spines and gags that keep us laughing. Transformers does all that to perfection, zipping along at a pace that makes its 144 minutes rush by without a slack moment.

The satisfaction it delivers is no doubt helped by a sense of lowered expectations. This is a movie based on a TV cartoon show nearly 25 years old, which was created to sell a line Japanese robot toys. Add to the equation that it’s directed by Michael Bay, whose films traditionally rake in loads of cash while suffering the critical hoots of reviewers and public alike. We enjoy his films, but don’t really respect them, including the ambitious Pearl Harbor. Well, allof the trademark Bay techniques that he developed shooting music videos and Playboy cheesecake vids are still with him. Windblown characters move in slow motion through golden sunlight to the strains of generic heroic music in shots that could have come from any military recruitment ad. But here, at last you get the feeling that Bay is working in exactly the same groove as the audience, giving us cheese and laughing along with us.

Wisely, there’s no attempt to “re-imagine” the basic plot of the cartoon, only enhance it by generating the web of a live-action movie around it (possible spoilers within synopses, but we’ll try to conceal any major surprises). Transformers concerns a race of robot-like living machines whose civil war has spreads across the galaxy as both sides search for a power object that could secure victory. This technological/magical talisman – a huge cube known as the Allspark – is found on planet Earth by the leader of the evil Decepticons, Megatron (Hugo Weaving), but the alien is frozen in Arctic ice before he can use it.

A century later, a platoon of soldiers fighting in Afghanistan (to make things topical) that includes new father Sgt. Lennox (Josh Duhamel of Turistas) and Tech Sgt. Epps (Tyrese Gibson of Waist Deep) is attacked by an unknown enemy that enters their camp as a military helicopter, but immediately transforms into a powerful robot that decimates their ranks. Our surviving squad of heroes struggles to reach their superiors with a photo scan taken by Epps of the intruder, even as it pursues them across the desert.

Meanwhile at the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense John Keller (Jon Voight, taking the entire thing dead seriously) tries to find out who this enemy combatant is, as armies across the world gear up for battle, and another intruder – a Decepticon in the form of a boombox known as Frenzy (Reno Wilson) – has hacked into defense computer networks on board Air Force One. Only Maggie Madsen (Tasmanian hottie Rachel Taylor of Man-Thing), one of the Pentagon’s intern decoders, finds the signature of an alien intelligence within the hacking signal, bringing in her outside “assistant” Glen Whitman (Anthony Anderson) to help.

Meanwhile, California teenager Sam Witwicky (current movie golden boy Shia LeBeouf of Disturbia) has no idea that the coordinates for the Allspark are in his possession, passed down to him in the artifacts of his great grandfather Archibald’s exploration of the Arctic. Sam cares nothing about his famous explorer progenitor, hawking his belongings on eBay to raise money for his first car, which he sees as his lone avenue toward impressing his out-of-his-league dream girl Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox of TV’s Hope & Faith). A bit of a hustler, in the already in-the-works sequel, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to find both Sam and secret grease monkey Mikaela working for used car dealer Bobby Bolivia (Bernie Mac), who sells Sam and his dad (Kevin Dunn of Gridiron Gang) a mysterious rusty (but bitchin’) old yellow Camaro found on the lot.

The strange car indeed helps Sam connect with Mikaela, but later that night Sam is alarmed to find it driving itself to a nearby junkyard, where it transforms into the robot named Bumblebee (Mark Ryan) to send a message to his compatriots across space that he has located Captain Witwicky’s heir. Soon after, Bumblebee’s nearest compatriots arrive, hurtling into the ground like meteors. Fortunately for Sam, he’s been found by the Earthling-friendly good guys first. These “Autobots” sre the enemies of the Decepticons, and go with Sam and Mikaela to his home to secure the map to the Allspark, leading to a funny sitcom sequence of Sam trying to conceal the giant robots from his concerned parents.

Meanwhile, a secret government agency known as Sector 7 (led by John Turturro at his shiftiest) has used Maggie’s discovery to track down a connection between the aliens and Sam, with the Decepticons close behind. The teens are taken into custody, with all parties converging on the Allspark for a major confrontation.

Like an old Japanese monster movie, Transformers finds ways to get its heroic children (or teenagers at least) into top level government meetings. And just like in those movies, it all comes down to a last act full of giant monsters smashing through a major metropolis. Transformers is designed to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout with heavy duty action sequences, but the climactic battle at the end is a mind-blowing orgy of chaotic stunts and f/x beyond anything previously achieved, with robots flying around crashing through buildings while puny humans scamper to get out of their way. It’s fast, frantic, and above all FUN. The bar for science fiction spectacle has once again been raised.  

With the standards of summer movie thrills increased by advances in digital effects, we’ve been overdue for a movie that shakes things up a bit by giving us a fresh – if cornball – ride, much like Raiders of the Lost Ark once did. Transformers is that movie, and I wish I was watching it again right now.
Copyright © 2007 Brian Thomas, author of the massive book VideoHound’s Dragon: Asian Action & Cult Flicks, available now!


Showing items 1 - 10 of 46
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miko34 7/2/2007 12:33:41 AM
I can't believe that Megatron was the father of Optimus Prime and they were both filled with midichlorians. Seriously, though... can't wait to watch it. All 80's cartoons should be made into movies (Hollywood's going to do it anyway).
Miner49er 7/2/2007 12:54:44 AM
If they make sequels, I want to see the Dinobots, Omega Supreme, Astro Train, and Jetfire.
TheSleeper 7/2/2007 3:20:58 AM
This gets an A while Live Free or Die Hard gets a C ??!! Well, I've yet to see Transformers, so I'll hold final judgement until then. But unless Transformers is as good as Raiders of the Lost Ark or the original Die Hard, I think there's something a bit screwy with Brian Thomas's reviews...
Metalmaniac666 7/2/2007 4:05:32 AM
Great review! Can't wait for live action movies made from Thundercats, M.A.S.K or He-man. Or the animes Space adventure Cobra or Starzinger/Spacekeeters
EvilMonkey 7/2/2007 6:25:56 AM
HA!! M.A.S.K. I forgot about that one. It was made for Michael Bay. It's what he's been working towards. Funnily enough both Thundercats and He-man are both in the works, or at least being discuused.
DarkJedi_home 7/2/2007 6:52:39 AM
I bet 100-1 odds, Evil Monkey...that He-Man goes all the way through production and gets made... While...Thundercats falls into development hell and is never released at all. :) Jarrod Sarafin
maverickrenegade 7/2/2007 10:12:10 AM
i knew this would get high marks from this site, no doubt because it probably rocks. but i am still skeptical of this film for a few reasons! 1)How are they going to cram all that into one film? 2)How is michael bay NOT going to ruin this for me? i agree with the sleeper that LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD should have gotten higher marks too.
wiredmass 7/2/2007 11:13:01 AM
Imagine that, another typical Mania review. Why is it that this site always has to spoil the whole story instead of just reviewing the movie? I'm done with this site. You suck and so do your reviews!!!!
mbeckham1 7/2/2007 11:47:27 AM
Don't Get Me Wrong. I hope this ovie kicks ass as much as the A indicates. But I have wonder does--cornball w/great special effects--add up to A . I mean if that's all it takes why is Spider Man 3 getting panned by so many people. Why does Pirates get a C from EW and a D- from one of the fan reviews. I'm not trying to bitch about this review or reviewer. Actually in actually mentioning the plot this review is a lot better than many I've seen. It just seems like everywhere I look people are talking about how great this movie is, while neatly avoiding discussions of characterization, whether the plot has holes in it. The very things everyoneb talked about with Spider Man 3, Pirates 3 and even Fantastic Four 2. With Transformers, the unwritten rule seems to be, as long as the FX are good the movie's to be considered great. A tren which unfortunately remindes me of movies like Independence Day or Armagedon. Everyone was so jazzed about them when they came out, then a year later when those groundbreaking FX started looking a little dated, everyone who loved them started saying they crap. Again, eexpect it's, ope it's bette than fun, but the plot described here does not make me think Raiders of the Lost Ark. A movie that still kicks ass, decades after the digital FX revlution, for solid acting and storytelling. But hey, if it that good, I'll eat that crow and enjoy every feather.
BryanWay 7/2/2007 11:48:37 AM
I was fortunate enough to be invited to the premiere, and I'd say it's an A- The comedy was sometimes a bit overwhelming, although it's good to know that the writers and stars didn't take the material too seriously. The effects were literally jaw dropping in some places, and Bay's direction isn't as distracting as it usually is. His use of slow motion is actually perfect throughout. I'd go to see this again.
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