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24 Feb 2007

“TRANSFORMERS” (USA 2007) ****

Directed Michael Bay

In an episode of the reality TV series ON THE LOT, which features upcoming filmmakers competing in weekly elimination competitions with the ultimate prize of a million dollar development deal at DREAMWORKS, guest judge director, Michael Bay (THE ROCK, ARMAGEDDON, BAD BOYS, PEARL HARBOR, THE ISLAND) emphasized style and the need to always pull the camera back while filming.  His comments are well put into action in the latest summer Hollywood blockbuster, the eager-awaited TRANSFORMERS based on the TV series and comic book. There are lots to be observed in the background of each scene, be it flying debris, explosions or some neat trick.  Style is foremost in almost every segment.  Although the film may not make sense at times, TRANSFORMERS contains much (and I mean much) to please the eye.

That the film makes little sense is of no surprise.  It is based on a teen fantasy based once again on the age old fight between the forces of good and evil.  The war is fought on some planet called Cybertron, led by the good Autobots (led by Optimus Prime).  The fight is down to the ownership of a talisman called the Allspark which somehow – you don’t want to know how or why – lands in the Arctic, the exact location of which is engraved in Spike’s (Shia LaBoeuf from DISTURBIA) grandfather’s glasses.  The script by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (who have written among them, the screenplays for THE ISLAND and STAR TREK) build on more subplots that include a romance between Spike and Mikaela (Megan Fox), desert fights, high-school jinx and more culminating in a climatic over-the-top grand fight between the Autobots and the evil Decepticons. During the events leading to the discovery of the Allspark, Bay introduces characters like Sergeant Lennox (Josh Duhamel), Secretary of Defense (Jon Voight) and the crazed and most intriguing top secret Agent, Sector 7, Simmons (John Turturro).  “I have never heard of Sector 7,” one character remarks.  “You never have and you never will”, retorts Agent Simmons.

Despite the impersonal nature of the plot, the script embodies neat American nuances of the typical family.  The choice lines thrown between Spike and his parents (Kevin Dunn and Julie White) are laugh-out loud hilarious.

Bay steals the style and imposes the mood and atmosphere of classic films ranging from old spaghetti westerns, Japanese King Kong and Godzilla schlock to speedster films.  The special effects are phenomenal.  Watching speeding vehicles transform into robots smashing other cars and trucks on the highway is stunning.

TRANSFORMERS is Hollywood kitsch at its best.  The film had the audience at the promo screening cheering and eventually applauding at the film’s conclusion.  And with reason!  Full of action, style and with minimal content, the film deserves four stars for proving Michael Bay does best at what he knows best.

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