About twenty minutes into Michael Bay’s tent-pole blockbuster Transformers my eight-year-old nephew Bailey said, without ever taking his eyes off the screen, “Now, this is the good part.” What he was referring to was the first major battle between competing super robot factions Autobots and Decepticons. And he was right.
Sure, the film opens up with a slight bit of action, a transforming helicopter named Blackout destroying an army base in the Middle East, but since there’s no context yet, it almost doesn’t register. The army doesn’t stand a chance against the helicopter/robot since there hasn’t been any time to learn his weaknesses and Blackout gets the information he wants while eliminating most of the personnel and equipment. Once this bit of excitement ends, however, we move to the suburban landscape inhabited by our human star, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf). In the next twenty minutes or so, we get all the background we’re going to get (and, let’s face it, all we really need). All the plot point which are going to play out over the next two and a half hours are laid out and we’re strapped in for a wild ride.
Sam, it seems, is the key to the whole shebang. He has the map the robots are looking for in order to find the “All Spark,” the source of their power. If the Decepticons get hold of it, they can turn everything on Earth into an evil robot and thereby take over the planet. The Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, have come to Earth to stop them. Sam, along with new girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) and Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel), help out in whatever form they can, proving again and again that human spirit is worth saving.
But is the film worth seeing? If you’re eight, the answer is a resounding yes: “It’s got lots of action and it’s the best film ever!” Even if you’re older than eight it does have lots of action. And not much more. This isn’t a bad thing, mind you. I think this is one Michael Bay finally got right. Instead of doing something he’s not good at (i.e. tell a story), he focuses on the action and keeps only the barest minimum of plot, just enough to propel the sequences most of the audience is there to see anyway. And action sequences Bay does well. Well enough that an eight year old can sit, spellbound, for close to three hours. Sure, sometimes the effects move at seizure inducing speeds, and the Autobots are only differentiated from the Decepticons by the color of their eyes, so sometimes it’s not easy to tell who to root for, but overall, the effects are worthy of the admission price.
With that in mind, what little there is of the script still leaves a bit to be desired. Bay can’t resist cheap jokes (Bumblebee, Sam’s new car, can only speak through the radio and, ironically, only bad 80’s pop), visual puns, (Barricade, the evil cop car, has “To Punish and Enslave” written on his side) and the dialogue is laughable. But again, that’s not what you’re going there to see. If you want a solid script and great acting, odds are you’re not paying 10 bucks to see a Michael Bay film, but if you’re looking for a way to get out of the heat for a little while, go pretend you’re eight and enjoy yourself.
(Originally published at FirstShowing.net)