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TRANSFORMERS
U.S. Release Date: July 3, 2007
Distributor: Paramount (DreamWorks)
Director: Michael Bay
Writer: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci
Producer: Michael Bay (executive), Ian Bryce, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Don Murphy, Steven Spielberg (executive), Mark Vahradian (executive)
Composer: Steve Jablonsky
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, Anthony Anderson, Megan Fox, Rachael Taylor, John Turturro, Jon Voight, Bernie Mac
Running Time: 2 hours and 23 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor, and language)

Robot Battle Is a Bombastic Bore
by Scott Holleran

"All hail Megatron." If the bombastic, overstuffed Transformers had held to the serialized science fiction spirit that line from the movie represents, this Michael Bay blowtorch might have been compelling. As it is, and it is another computerized video game, this louder-than-life assault is distinctly un-cinematic.

Good and evil robots that transform into various entities come to earth and their alien mega-battle engages several humans in a wide-scale war over a mystical cube that provides their power source.

Watching the robots change is appealing in a sort of rock-'em, sock 'em battlebots way, though a key problem is the question of why they transform. Their powers are all-consuming, so it's hardly necessary for them to mimic earthly species and vehicles, such as cars, trucks and planes. One bad 'bot becomes a mechanical scorpion while taking on the U.S. military in the desert—one of several useless subplots—though its mission to kill would have been better served in any variety of other forms.

That products based on a kid gaining a sense of power from manipulating his toy do not translate into a story-based motion picture is the primary obstacle to this Hasbro line's adaptation to movies. Maybe that's why Bay, plowing through subplots and characters like a sugared-up kid in an arcade, drags Transformers through pointless scene after scene.

Like the automobile in NBC's Knight Rider or Herbie the Love Bug, a Chevrolet Camaro buddies up with a stereotypically hustling teenager (Shia LaBeouf). Like Disney's National Treasure, a backstory provides a dash of historical adventurism. Like Bay's overblown Armageddon, a gung-ho military team figures into the indestructibly unfocused plot. The only original component is the 'bots, and they're mostly relegated to a protracted confrontation late in the game.

With a tattooed, pierced Australian computer hacker, a heavyset black guy as the world's most proficient hacker and John Turturro as an overbearing federal agent in the genre's most overdone performance since Nick Nolte chewed scenes in Hulk, the only thing missing is foreign subtitles—but Bay tosses those in too, predictably plugging for an Asian audience.

Throw in Jon Voight as the picture's most interesting character—a defense secretary who prefers to let the enemy attack first before defending the United States—a pair of requisite parental imbeciles and a wandering Arab boy and you have a toy-based action movie that plays like an unedited recruiting demo for a self-sacrificial tour of duty in Iraq.

That doesn't mean Transformers is not exciting at times and the robot changes work in certain scenes, though that will depend on one's acceptance of computer-generated images as realistic. The troubled teen, sexy girlfriend in tow, is chased through a city that looks exactly like Los Angeles in a climactic showdown between big 'bots on both sides. Chief villain Megatron registers as the most powerful.

Everything in this catch-all movie is noticeably contrived, from incessant General Motors plugs—one expects to hear Bob Seger's Chevy theme "Like a Rock"—to the teenager's neatly arranged messy room and his t-shirt-on-long-sleeve-shirt fashion fad. The teen is like a composite generated by a youth demographics department—each characteristic feels fake. It is no surprise that the spectacular robotic war on earth—in which almost nothing is at stake—does not seem real, either.


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