Dir: Michael Bay
*ing: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Jon Voight
Bet you didn’t see this one coming. Yes, usually this reviewer is entrusted with the ‘issue’ films – you know, so somber and ‘important’ they give you a nosebleed. But one needs a break from all that guilt-inducing righteousness now and then. After all, cod liver oil may be good for you, but nothing hits the spot like a chocolate shake. And I happen to like inflated-budget concoctions just as much as the next 14 year-old geek with an unnatural sci-fi fixation. To be sure, even among that fare, we usually prefer the darker, more intellectually challenging stuff, like Blade Runner. But at other times, we just want ‘em big, dumb, and soaked knee-deep in testosterone.
Which brings us to Transformers, the latest bazillion-dollar smorgasbord from Michael Bay, the prince of indiscriminate explosions. After wreaking cinematic havoc at Pearl Harbor, The Rock, and The Island, here he is putting the world into grave and immediate danger, with the tagline ‘Their war. Our world.’ As for the plot…
Ever get the feeling that your car has a mind of its own? Well, turns out that it just might. The movie, you see, is about these ordinary, everyday machines that transform into big-ass, ultra-powerful, um, machines. But that’s not lame because they’re from outer space and anything that’s from outer space is automatically cool. There’s also some sort of power gizmo they’re after and, during their quest, vow to protect us poor earthlings – put-upon teenager Sam (La Beouf) and high school hottie Mikaela (Fox) chief among them – from an evil, renegade band of… machines. Well, with a story based on a bunch of slightly weird toys and a cheesy 80s cartoon series, you were expecting Hemingway?
But as silly films with laughable plots go, Transformers is, well certainly not the best, but sort of the filmic equivalent of the little engine that could. It’s totally ridiculous but you gotta love it. It’s a couple of barrels full of fun, and as everyone knows, fun beats meaningful and coherent hands down any day. The first half, especially, gambols along winningly, with some inspired moments of humour that are laugh-out-loud funny – check out the overgrown gadgets trying to ‘hide’ from Sam’s parents.
But what’s an f/x movie without f/x? And the ones on display here are (mostly) pretty darn spectacular. The action set-pieces may be on the comme çi comme ça side – explosion is an explosion is an explosion – but the autobot transformation sequences are truly breathtaking and never cease to shock and awe. Really, it’s only when the movie stupidly attempts to get all serious and message-y that it lays a few leaden eggs, but those instances are easily ignored.
Transformers also has an ace up its sleeve in the person of Shia Labeouf, a gifted actor who has pints of charisma and an easy, guileless charm reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart, or Tom Hanks without the annoying earnestness. With another sleeper hit – Disturbia – under his belt this year, Labeouf is surely destined to be a big star, even though his parents are probably the only people on earth who can pronounce his name correctly.
By now, any and all silly puns about Megan Fox have been exhausted. As in, her name is Fox and, you know – nudge nudge, wink, wink – she also is one. So as one of those Pussycat Dolls might say, I won’t go there. Suffice to say, though, for all her histrionic abilities, she could just as easily have been called Megan Balsawood.
All in all, Transformers is 144 minutes well spent. I do have one gripe though. Why are all the transformers male? Über lunks with super-macho vocals to rival those of James Earl Jones? I mean, if a few of them were girls, they could have resolved all their differences over a shoe-shopping spree and been home in time for cocktails, without all that unnecessary unpleasantness. But I guess then it would have been a really short chick flick. And it would have been called Machine Sex and the City.