The Red Right Hand
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TRANSFORMERS
More Than Meets The Eye

Director
Michael Bay

Starring
Shia LaBeouf
Megan Fox
Josh Duhamel
Tyrese Gibson
Jon Voight
John Turturro

I am fairly certain most reviews for this particular film will start in one of two ways:

"I have never seen the cartoon, watched the 1984 movie or played with the toys [for whatever reason]. I have little attachment or previous association with this brand, so I am coming at it from a new perspective." Or "I remember being seven years old and my mother brought home my first Transformer. Having watched the TV series for years, it was a magical experience."

To avoid being dull and unoriginal, I will lean away from both openings. Yes, when I was a child I was obsessed with Transformers. Looking back the plot was never that original, the evil Decepticons would show up and try to find new ways of making energon cubes, probably at the expense of human life and the good-guy-Autobots would defeat them; then Megatron would bad-mouth Starscream, turn back and curse Optimus Prime. Copy. Repeat. It was entertaining enough. Despite being an avid fan, I had no qualms with 'flames on Optimus' or 'Optimus having lips' or 'Megatron's teeth' or 'differing from the G1 designs' anything stupid like that. All I really cared was that it looked good. I'm sure, as an established critic, that statement alone may diminish my reputation somewhat. To be honest, I went in the screening and didn't expect to see some deep, heart-felt, clever story about intergalactic strife; I expected a Summer action flick by Michael Bay - big, loud, incredibly stupid and cheesy but visually astounding. This is precisely what I got.

For those who are completely baffled, allow me to explain. According to this film, the 'All-Spark' is an alien device that brings inanimate machines to life. The strongest machines on the planet Cybertron were Optimus Prime (keeper of another, similar All-Spark, called the Matrix) and Megatron. Megatron rebelled, forming the Decepticon faction and started a war with the peaceful Autobots. During this fight, the All-Spark was lost in space and crash landed on Earth, thousands of years ago. Running along side this story are two human-based threads. The first is set in Qatar, following a group of soldiers [Duhamel/Gibson] fleeing the first Decepticon attack. The second (and more rewarding) follows geeky Sam Witwicky [LaBeouf] as he buys his first car and tries to hit on the school's bad-girl-hottie, Mikaela [Fox]. These two threads are brought together by the introduction of Defence Secretary Keller [Voight] and Section 7 Agent, Simmons [Turturro]. Essentially, the Decepticons find a link to their leader, through Sam, and set about hunting him down. Sam's car (the Autobot, Bumblebee) protects him and introduces him to the other four Autobots.

The film itself is incredibly simplistic and plays on a slow, cheesy, comedy-driven opening, adding a few second act revelations and a large third act showdown. In principle, I hate Michael Bay. I hate his stupid spinning cam shots, his damn sunsets and his bloody fixation with Los Angeles. Despite this, I enjoyed Armageddon (to an extent), both Bad Boys films, The Rock and The Island. In this respect, I'm fairly certain I'm a middle class Michael Bay action junkie - meaning, I own a few DVDs but I don't tell anyone. The man still annoys the hell out of me but there will always be the likes of Paris Hilton to distract my rage. As far as the film goes, it's an entertaining, big budget film with little substance; having said that, the visuals are phenomenal. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End had an estimated budget of $300,000,000 and looked jaw-dropping. Transformers had a paltry budget of $150,000,000 and looked better. Simply put, these are the most beautiful effects I have ever seen.

If I had to make a comparison, in terms of scope, popularity and visual wizardry, I would say Transformers is most akin to Jurassic Park. The science and the story were more of an excuse to show a mass audience, cool, 20-30 foot creatures from the past and the whole thing ended rather abruptly after a big final showdown. I must admit, I hold a special place in my heart for Jurassic Park; it's just one of those films that came out at the perfect time for me. 70's geeks have Star Wars, 80's geeks have ET and 90's geeks have Jurassic Park. Thanks to this film, a new generation of nerds will have another geeky blockbuster to hold high upon their mantle of nostalgic hits.

Release Date:
27th July 2007

The Scene To Look Out For:
Well, I didn't like the soldiers in the desert thing. Don't know why, just didn't. I pretty much hated anything with the 2D Megan Fox. I also had issues with the almighty John Turturro's scenes but we'll ignore that for now. Let's go with Air Force One. There are two reasons for highlighting this particular scene. The first is the President asking for Ding Dongs (as we don't have Ding Dongs in the UK, I just thought it was slang for a blowjob or something... who'da thunk it was chocolate?) and the second is the closing of the scene as the annoying little Decepticon, Frenzy, is scurrying about the runway tarmac, going seemingly undetected, despite being an all-singing-all-dancing-all-spinning cutlery set.

Notable Characters:
As much as Transformers has going for it, it also has a heap of problems; poor character development, typical clichéd one-liners and a story that holds as much weight as a duck with a cold. However, amidst the turmoil of astounding effects and piss-poor dialogue is the ever-charming Shia LaBeouf. I've followed this guy's career for a while now. The TV appearances were fairly good but it was his role in Constantine that sold it for me; he has an air of young Tom Hanks about him - I swear that line will be repeated a thousand times. His performance is quick, witty and well-delivered. The fact that he's two years younger than I am depresses me a little... but I can't hold that against him, can I? Sure... I liked Anthony Anderson... he kicked arse and had a fat dancing cousin.

Highlighted Quote:
"Oh, don't be like that, Mammy! If I had a rock I'd bust your head, bitch... she's deaf, you know"

In A Few Words:
"It's shallow and stupid but my God was I entertained. I was giggling like a little boy and I'm not embarrassed to say that... well, maybe just a little"

Total Score:
7/10


Matthew Stogdon