Screenwriter: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Shia LeBeouf, Megan Fox, Jon Voight
Running time: 144 mins
Pulling off a decent live action movie of Transformers was always going to be a tough proposition. Sure, there's huge capacity for endless computer-enhanced scenes of fighting robots and destruction, but a proper cohesive film needs more than that. It needs a sustained narrative drive and some kind of emotional core to keep us enthralled. Alas, Michael Bay's effort aims high but falls short of the mark.
Setting events on present day Earth was a bold move designed to give the proceedings more impact and the opening scenes of an evil Decepticon slaughtering a US army base bode well. The sheer spectacle of these magnificent robots, seamlessly clicking from shape to shape is breathtaking. Their purpose on earth is for the two contrasting forces to fight it out for an all powerful Cube, that must be kept from the frozen Megatron at all cost. A nerdy young lad with some serious family history holds the key to keeping Earth teeming with human life...
At 144 minutes long, Transformers nosedives into tedium far too early on and only manages to reinvigorate interest when the robots start pummelling each other. Even then, the novelty does start to wear out and the action occurs so quickly that it's hard to keep track of just who is doing what. It feels like a twisting heap of metal tangled about at times, making it hard to cheer on the good forces in the face of Decepticon evil. Furthermore, attempts to liven up the meandering narrative with some injections of humour fail dismally. The writers seem incapable of delivering any much needed quirky humour, with a painful Bernie Mac cameo not helping, and this serves to distance us more from the film.
However, attempts to bind the loud, loud destruction (complete with perfunctory thumping rock soundtrack) with a romance between the two seemingly chalk and cheese protagonists fall flat. Geeky Sam (Shia LaBeouf) and wannabe WAG Mikaela (Megan Fox) hook up in the fight to aid the good Autobots, with their increasingly amorous relations punctuated by cheesy shots of hand holding and a sickeningly schmaltzy smooching scene during the denouement. The gushing soundtrack makes one reach for the sick bag. Director Michael Bay still hasn't learnt how to handle emotions after coming similarly undone during such scenes in Armageddon and Pearl Harbour.
Transformers is a battle against good and evil that ultimately turns into a fight to stay awake for those who want more that loud bangs and flashes in a film. With some taut editing and a director better at dealing with emotional content we could have had a cracking, if somewhat dumb movie. What was delivered will no doubt send merchandising sales spiralling into orbit, but sadly at the cost of countless brain cells popping through after nearly two and a half hours of tedium.