by Simon Furman
(Discounted Paperback from Amazon)
In this sci-fi thriller, magnificent CGI-created machines fill the screen like the Titanic at its berth, trembling the theatre with bass-enhanced footsteps. By comparison elephants are dainty butterflies. The main problem here is that the transformable machines aren't the only thing that's robotic. The screenplay comes across as an animated outline.
Out in the reaches of space a planet-sized object known as the "Cube" languishes for eons in search of its source of life, the All-Spark. Finally sensing it on a planet known as Earth, it comes to conquer. Its entrance into our sphere of influence and culture soon results in the unleashing of near indestructible and very nasty metallic critters.
In a prologue, one such monster shows up as a huge scorpion that can burrow under the sands of the desert, where its intentions is to destroy a U.S. outpost in Qatar where troops are on patrol in the desert for security. When it shows itself and attacks, DEFCON 5 or whatever is alerted and Secretary of Defense John Voight and Pentagon brass scramble well armed jets. Once it's subdued, it's brought in for study and disappears entirely from the scenario of metallic villains.
From time to time, Pentagon concerns about an unknown enemy is brought in to keep the lack of defense theme alive. The "Decepticons" cleverly infiltrate and proceed to hack into the Pentagon mainframe, downloading all the files in 10 seconds, a task that would take (we are informed) a supercomputer several years. The person who divulges this info is Maggie (Rachael Taylor, "See No Evil"), a seriously beautiful blond analyst brought in from Aussie-land as part of a computer whiz team whose mission it is to protect the network against any kind of invasion.
Finally, the story shift to the main plotline in which troublesome teenager Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf - "Disturbia") is being pandered to by his quaintly demanding father by buying his first car for the lad at a limit of $4,000. For that amount Sam gets the keys to an aging, rusted yellow hot rod that comes with the unusual habit of driving him.
What Sam soon finds out is that his cranky wheels is actually a transformer, a friendly, the vanguard in a team that has appeared to defend humans and give them some hope of survival against the destruction intended by the Decepticons with the uber-villain, Optimus Prime, whom we discover captured and cryonically frozen by a new secret agency in the clandestine services, Sector 7, headed by a semi-serious martinet claiming overriding authority, Agent Simmons (John Turturro).
Additional subplots crowd into the format on a need-to-use basis. No hero left behind.
In the course of Sam's exploits he hooks up with the singeing Mikaela Banes (well-named Megan Fox, "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen"), at first only dreaming about taking her away from her football hero boyfriend. Let's just say transformations don't only apply to the machines, shall we?
The concept of machines that turn themselves into various form of rolling and flying stock, hot rods, tanks, trucks, jets, first appeared in 1980 in toys, cartoons and a comic book. Director Michael Bay "Pearl Harbor," "The Island"), working with screenwriters Roberto Orci ("Mission Impossible III," "The Island") and Alex Kurtzman (same) doesn't only run with it, he pretty much runs it dry with a 2 hour and 24 minute study in excess.
LaBeouf's energetic drive and sustained cuteness serves the concept well and one can only thank the director for his casting of not one but two intimidatingly outstanding looking women to feast eyes upon. Both are as fine to look at as for their performance levels. Neither should have any career difficulties after this male-intoxicating exposure. Both could just about name the magazine whose cover they'd like to occupy.
Voight fullfills the requirements of his character's high office in the stereotypical style of the script and with admirable domineering zeal while composer Steve Jablonsky pounds us with chest-penetrating low register emphasis in league with the audio department's determination to make us feel the sound as much as hear it.
By one measure, this action director got carried away. But it must be recognized that he knows his Bay-bots audience as one that will give him all the space and self-indulgence he needs to carry out his high-volume boxoffice mission. Even I enjoyed it on some primitive level.
~~ Jules Brenner
The Two-Disc DVD