a critiQal film review Transformers (2007)

Plot: Sam Witwicky (LaBoeuf) is caught up in a war between two sects of a highly advanced alien race - The Autobots and The Decepticons - when they discover that the location of a powerful cube that could shift the balance of power in their war is etched on a pair of glasses Sam received from his grandfather.

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Like most of our fellow movie lovers who didn’t get to see this film in theaters, we were excited when we heard that the summer’s biggest blockbuster, Transformers was making it’s way to DVD as one of the many this October.

We both fondly remember “The Transformers” (TV) and the toys from our childhood (although I am a bigger fan of both), and had heard rave reviews from both guys and gals about this updated non-animated version. But, would this be another Spider-Man (2002) type fiasco, where we were the only ones who didn’t enjoy the way Hollywood trashed our childhood pals, or would we instead be eager to jump on the ever-growing bandwagon clamoring for a Transformers sequel? We couldn’t wait to find out.

While most of the humans were given only brief nondescript acting sequences (mostly to give more time to the robots), the filmmakers of Transformers did pay attention to the performances of Shia LaBoeuf and, to a lesser extent, Megan Fox. Shia, who started out rather humbly on television before appearing in Holes (2003) a few short years back, has seen his career grow in leaps and bounds ever since. With performances in everything from Constantine (2005) to I, Robot (2004) to the more recent Surf’s Up (2007), he is starting to build quite the impressive resume.

And Transformers again shows why – he is one of the few able to share the audience with the robots as a partner, rather than seeming to fight them for screen time. Maybe this is due more to the filmmaker’s firmly establishing him as the main star of the film more than anything else. Be that as it may, he still manages to keep the viewers interested in his plight as the film continues, despite getting off to a bit of a rocky start with the viewers in the beginning of the film.

Megan Fox, as LaBoeuf’s love interest in Transformers, manages to handle herself quite well in the film, partly thanks to a juicier role than the typical “helpless female” usually touted in guy flicks (although that’s becoming less and less of a must in action films since Linda Hamilton’s kick-butt hero in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)). Her character, while a bit stuck-up at the beginning, manages to turn into quite a major player, culminating in her ingenious reverse-tow-truck-driving technique later on in the film.

Of course, with a film about everybody’s favorite robots in disguise, most of the other humans take a back seat to these monster machines – and the Transformers pick up the slack and then some. With amazing special effects making them more lifelike than most could ever have imagined, and the support of Peter Cullen returning as the easily recognizable voice of Optimus Prime, the Transformers capture the attention of the viewers from their very first scene – and never let go. As lifelike as any of the humans around them, these gigantic machines strut their stuff on the big screen, and the audience will love every single second of it.

And, like any blockbuster Michael Bay film, the special effects don’t end there in Transformers. The action is fast, intense…and always impressive. And Bay never forgets about the size of these technological creations, reminding viewers in vivid ways even during the course of major fight sequences. During one ferocious battle, Megatron (one of the evil Transformers) gets up from the rubble, dusts himself off…and spies a human running away from him. Muttering, Megatron casually flicks the human as one would swipe at a fly, sending the person flying across the street to crash against a car. While this sequence must have been incredibly complex to shoot, Megatron’s actions bring the idea of his vastness to the viewer on a more personal level with his common fly-swatting gesture. Suddenly, the viewer can remember the last time they shooed a little bug just like that, and imagines themselves in the little bug’s shoes.

The plot also helps bring Transformers to viewers on a more personal level. As all of these gigantic robots converge on one rather shy, but otherwise average teenager, it helps bring the Transformers to a more personable level, just as it did when King Kong focused his attention on just one girl, rather than a bevy of beauties.

Unlike some other translations (we’re looking at you Spider-Man (2002)), Transformers tries to stay as true as possible to the original cartoon series. Even when something new is introduced, there is something about them that is reminiscent of the original series. One major new character introduced is a smaller Transformer, but he can be tied back to the original series as a new imagining of one of Shockwave’s mini-Transformers, even down to the boombox he transforms into – which, as fans may recall, is what Shockwave transformed into in the original series. Another newer invention is a gigantic cube, but that can also be tied back into the original series as the reinvention of the electron cubes the Transformers were always fighting over.

This homage to it’s past will keep fans of “The Transformers” (TV) rejoicing, while new and old fans alike will thrill at the fast-paced action spectacular that is Transformers. These “robots in disguise” are a site to see, and they don’t disappoint at all. Let’s just hope the sequel is able to either expand the roles for the human element to give them a chance to act – or narrow the human element down to let a few actors (which will hopefully again include Shia and Megan) to really shine along with their mammoth co-stars.

In the meantime, however, be sure to pick up Transformers on the 2-disc Special Edition DVD. Otherwise, you won’t get any special features aside from a video montage and the teaser trailer. And with a special effects blowout like this one, who doesn’t want to see some behind-the-scenes footage?

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