Story Summary: Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons! With the search for the life giving Allspark coming to an end, the Autobots (led by the wise and noble Optimus Prime) must face down the Decepticons (ruled by the nefarious Megatron) to prevent them from acquiring the all-powerful cube. Aiding the Autobots in their mission is the human teenager Sam Witwicky. Sam holds the key to finding the location of the Allspark and so holds the fate of all mankind in his hands.
Transformers is classic narrative filmmaking in every way. Save for the science fiction aspects and alien robot invaders, Transformers could stand in for any number of films; you have a hero, (who Michael Bay sets up as a likeable kid just trying to find his place in life), a dream girl whom the hero desires, the stereotypical jock whose purpose is to make life as difficult as possible for the struggling hero, a problem that the hero is unwilling at first to confront, a mentor to guide the hero, a villain (with the requisite henchmen), the death of a likeable character, and a climatic ending battle that seems to solve all of the hero’s problems.
After the initial setup, and as things start to look desperate for our forlorn Casanova, a glimmer of hope arrives in the form of a rusty, beaten down 1976 Chevy Camaro. From this point, we the audience, learn of the Autobots, Decepticons, the Allspark Cube, Sector 7, and a vast array of government conspiracies and cover-ups. The main plot is fleshed out and we can now see where things are headed. The action steadily increases with jokes and lighthearted moments thrown in to break the tension every so often. This all leads to the dramatic conclusion where the inevitable battle ensues between the good Autobots (led by Optimus Prime), and the bad Decepticons (ruled by Megatron) with the human side of the equation doing what they can to help the Autobots and save the Allspark.
There is nothing pretentious about this film and it makes no apologies for its lack of original storytelling. The whole film is stamped with the Michael Bay style (big explosions, roaring car chases, and seemingly misplaced comedic moments) and follows the Hollywood formula of over-the-top special effects and flashy edits which seems to be the accepted norm for the modern, attention deficit laden viewing public.
With Transformers struck with what appears to be the common Hollywood ailment (typical of most big budget blockbusters) of all fluff and no substance, how can it raise (as of the writing of this review) $295,112,996 in just 11 days? The answer is simple really, it takes the whole Hollywood formula and opens up a can of alien robot whoop-a** on it!
No big budget blockbuster as of yet has delivered what Transformers has in terms of character attraction and special effects that enhance the story instead of just carrying it along. The robots don’t even appear until about a quarter of the way into the film yet all the human-only scenes are engaging and compelling; the filmmakers do well setting up the audience to care for and cheer on the Transformers fleshy counterparts.
The computer generated robots are almost as human as the real actors. The animators really captured emotions and physical movements better than any other film to date. The mechanical faces show sadness, fear, hate, and despair with as much ease and realness as someone who has studied acting all their lives. Also, not only do the robots interact with the environment around them, the environment reacts to the robots as if they were real. The ground shakes and gives way under the immense weight of the alien visitors and buildings crack and crumble when they are subjected to the robots careless leanings or intentional destruction.
If the folks who vote on the Oscars do one thing right this year, it will be to pick Transformers for Best Sound Effects Editing and Design. Even over the spectacular visual feats preformed by the masters at ILM (Industrial Light and Magic), the sound team really pulled this film together. If ILM can capture what giant transforming robots would look like in the real world, the sound team (led by sound designer Erik Aadahl) exactly captures what these metallic transmigrifiers sound like. Every spinning gear and crunching step sounds real and natural. When, towards the end of the movie, the Decepticon Starscream jumps in the air and transforms, he blasts off with such fury and determination that you swear it was actually happening. The sound not only fit the image on screen it made me think “Hmmm, so that’s what a robot sounds like when it transforms into a jet and blasts off!”
Seeing this movie was a family event for me. My wife and two boys went with me and we all loved it. This is the first movie we saw together that got everyone excited and on the edge of their seats. I had a vague remembrance of the old cartoon back in the ‘80’s and my wife never really watched the show at all. My boys have only seen brief bits of the Transformers cartoon from one of its recently failed incarnations. None of this impeded our enjoyment the movie. In fact, I think it helped because we had little or no preconceived notions of what to expect or what to look out for. This is another reason I think the movie has been so successful; anyone can enjoy it, even if you’ve never heard of a Transformer or couldn’t tell Bumblebee from Frenzy.
Even with the somewhat clichéd storytelling and predictable plot devices, Transformers delivers a fun time at the movies. It succeeds where so many other summer blockbusters fail because it understands the source material and has fun with it. At no time does it try to be something beyond what it is; a giant robot battle royale! I went into Transformers knowing little of the characters and storyline and expecting to see a modern version of Independence Day or some other special effects laden popcorn flick. Transformers fills the time between opening title and end credits with interesting characters (both human and alien), groundbreaking visual and audio effects, and a compelling story. Transformers takes all of the pre-conceived notions we have regarding big budget blockbusters and turns them into something worthwhile and endearing.
The classic Transformer tagline of “More than meets the eye” not only refers to the robots themselves but of this movie as well. It gives to the audience more than is expected and provides for a fun and very entertaining 2 hours and 20 minutes.