Metal mania- “Transformers” is the summer blockbuster surprise
Trust no one who denies that a Transformer– for example, a vehicle that turns into a fighting robot– is one of the coolest toys ever. Anyone who thinks the days of Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs were more thrilling needs to have his popcorn checked. Transformers are Erector Sets on steroids.
And there is a suspicious tone to the negative reviews circulating around the film version of “Transformers,” which one can only surmise is primarily Michael Bay backlash. As a director, Bay is responsible for the forgettable “Bad Boys” films, and for “The Rock.” But don’t forget he also made “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor,” and “The Island”– each of which had moments of inspiration and are probably better than you remember them.
But only critics hold “director grudges,” and that’s one reason why audiences will make “Transformers” a huge hit. The other reasons are the casting of likable and talented 21-year-old Shia LaBouef (potentially the next Tom Hanks), the surprisingly wry humor sprinkled throughout the film, and some of the best CGI effects ever produced. Those looking for a compelling storyline or profound character development have walked into the wrong movie. That’s why they call it an ACTION movie Harriet, and “Transformers” is over two hours of non-stop rock ‘em and sock ‘em mayhem that almost anyone can enjoy.
Youngsters will be mesmerized by the Autobots, the good guy robots like Optimus Prime who are trying to save earth from the destructive ways of bad ‘bots known as the Decepticons. Teens will like the streetwise presence of protagonist LaBeouf as high school outcast Sam Witwicky, and the somewhat hip comedy involving typical teenage girlfriend (Megan Fox) angst and some funnier than expected moments involving Sam’s square parents (Kevin Dunn, Julie White). Oh, and hunky Tyrese Gibson and Josh Duhamel shine in roles below their talent level (not necessarily a bad move for this type of film), as U.S. soldiers adding to the eye candy.
Baby Boomers will appreciate some of the film’s retro touches like the songs a ’69 Camaro plays in order to set the mood for Sam and his girlfriend (“Baby Come Back” and “Sexual Healing”), but without too much material that would make them squirm if their teenagers were sitting next to them.
Such “something for everyone” leanings might make for benign fare, but the darn movie is so fast-paced, the action so relentless, and has a nearly perfect humor-to-combat ratio that “Transformers” is an overachiever of a film that practically defines the term “summer blockbuster.”
The major complaint is (surprise!) the film’s length. Less clamor and clatter, especially in the final showdown, would have enhanced the film’s overall impact. As it stands, it’s still satisfying– less filling but tastes great.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor, and language.