The StoryFollowing a brief bit of narration in which the backstory of the Autobots and Decepticons is revealed, Transformers focuses on the story of high school student Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and his desire to own a car. Sam’s dad has promised he’ll help buy him his first car if he can raise some cash on his own and if he delivers a report card studded with As. Sam's so anxious to own a car that he even resorts to using eBay to try to sell some of his great-great-grandfather’s possessions which the famous explorer used while making an important discovery in the Artic.
Meanwhile the United States military is drawn into the battle after their base in Qatar is attacked by a helicopter that shape-shifts into a super nasty robot. Further attacks on the military and civilians, along with an infiltration into Air Force One’s computer system, convince military intelligence and the Secretary of Defense John Keller (Jon Voight) that there’s more going on than meets the eye. The military readies to go into battle against an enemy they’ve never seen before and one they have no idea how to crush. Everything comes to a head as Sam, Mikaela, the US military and the Autobots face down Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving) and the Decepticons.
If there was ever a question of whether Shia LaBeouf can carry a film it’s answered in the affirmative with Transformers. Acting opposite tennis balls on poles, LaBeouf’s comic timing is impeccable and even his delivery of the more serious lines of dialogue is utterly believable. LaBeouf’s appealing without being a pretty boy and he’s the glue that holds the entire film together.
Fox hangs in there during the action scenes although it’s evident the foremost reason she was cast was because she’s drop dead gorgeous. Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson play Army Rangers who survive the initial attack in Qatar and who help lead the charge against the Decepticons. Duhamel and Gibson take a serious yet playful approach to their characters and it works.
John Turturro’s deliciously funny as a federal agent who knows more about the robots than anyone on the planet due to a secret government project he’s been involved with called Sector 7. And Jon Voight adds a certain gravitas to the production by playing it totally straight, or at least as straight as possible considering the fact the film is built around a toy line.
What Worked/What Didn't
I didn’t expect to care about the robots (I’m a huge Bumblebee fan now) and I also didn't expect Transformers to be so hilarious. It's not advertised as a comedy but if it were I'd be willing to bet more women would check it out. That’s not to say the film doesn’t treat its subject matter with respect. While Bay and writers Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman do take liberties with the characters, they never stray from the essence of the popular toys.
The Bottom Line
The fast-paced action leaves you without a second to catch your breath and longing for a remote control to rewind and slow down the fights and transformations. There’s so much going on and Bay doesn’t let up once the film enters the third act. But even if you can’t tell exactly what’s going on, it’s incredibly entertaining to watch. The wizards at ILM worked their magic in new and astonishing ways and the result is a film in which huge robots have their own distinct personalities. If it weren’t for their bulky metallic frames, these robots would almost seem human.
First and foremost Transformers is an action film, but it’s also surprisingly touching and uplifting. The sides are clearly defined and the battle between the Autobots and Decepticons will leave you drained but cheering.