A movie about giant toy robots shouldn't be anywhere near this much fun, really. I mean, c'mon. When I heard there was going to be a live-action Transformers movie, I pictured a debacle. Was Hollywood officially out of ideas? What's next, "My Little Pony: The Motion Picture"?
I take it all back. Transformers, it turns out, is the most sure-fire bombastic entertainment we've had in a summer of worn-out sequels. It's brainless, of course, but it's effortlessly good popcorn movie fun with some of the most dazzling special effects I've seen in years. And let me just repeat: Giant robots. Fighting other giant robots. If that doesn't set the 12-year-old boy in one's heart a-quivering, I don't know what will.
Michael Bay – director of The Rock, Armageddon, Bad Boys and other such airy cinematic action confections – isn't known for his artfulness or subtlety. But it's like he was born to make The Transformers, where all the Bay hallmarks – choppy bursts of violence, slow-motion explosions, patriotic he-men, burnished golden-skinned women – come into play in a grand pop-art tapestry of mindless action.
The plot isn't terrifically important – basically a search for a magical MacGuffin called "The Allspark," a cosmic cube very important to both sides in the robot war. The good robots and bad robots have been fighting for a long, long time, and now they've come to Earth to find their Allspark. Young Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) turns out to have an important clue to finding the Allspark, resulting in both Autobots (the good ones) and Decepticons (the bad ones) coming out for him. Even the beat-up yellow old Camaro Sam just bought turns out to be part of the action. It all adds up to an escalating series of set pieces, alternating with human subplots such as Sam's crush on a sexy delinquent (Megan Fox), and it culminates in a spectacular brawl in downtown Los Angeles.
I was a moderate Transformers fan back in the day – watched the cartoon, owned a handful of the cool toys – but have to admit I've never been a nut about it and couldn't tell you the difference between Generation 1 and Beast Wars to save my life. So changes like Optimus Prime's truck having flames painted on it and Megatron turning into a jaggedy plane-thing instead of a handgun don't really bother me. What matters with this kind of movie is the adrenaline rush, the laughs and the "wow" moments, and Bay delivers. You'll believe a robot can turn into a truck, or a plane or a boom box. The story has echoes of Independence Day with its mysterious government conspiracies and cast of quirky everyguys doing battles against cosmic menace, but it doesn't leave you with a vaguely unfulfilled feeling like that flick did.