Movie Review #787: ‘Transformers’ features Michael Bay’s signature taste for exhilarating action, but it lacks the heart that made the mecha series so popular.

By Red Stewart

Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Rated PG-13 (contains sci-fi violence, profanity, suggestive dialogue)
144 minutes

I didn’t grow up with the original Transformers series, but I did watch the 2002-2004 Transformers: Armada television reboot, and I loved it. The humor, voice acting, action, and cel shaded animation all came together so beautifully, and you could tell the creators put a lot of affection into making it to the point where it honestly has aged pretty well. I imagine this must’ve been how people felt with the original Transformers show (indeed, Optimus’s death in the 1986 movie continues to bring back sad memories from any child who viewed it back then).

Unfortunately, for all its technical expertise, Michael Bay’s live action debut of the franchise simply lacks the heart that made the brand so popular and nostalgic. I’m sure everyone is familiar with the story by now: the war between the sentient machine races of the Autobots and Decepticons (lead by Optimus Prime and Megatron respectively) expands from the planet Cybertron to Earth; both searching for a MacGuffin called the AllSpark. Caught in the middle of this fight (among many others) is Sam Witwicky, a high school student who knows the location of the AllSpark due to his grandfather’s glasses imprinting the location years ago when he was exploring the Arctic Circle.

Though having some plot holes, the synopsis is pretty consistent from beginning to end. Because there were several human main characters in Armada, I personally wasn’t bothered with new humans being incorporated into the film’s story, and, to be fair, Shia LaBeouf hadn’t gone insane yet so he’s likable enough here. Supporting roles by Jon Voight, Josh Duhamel, and John Turturro are realized to a decent extent and yes, Megan Fox is clearly here just for eye candy.

Michael Bay’s trademark visual style makes for some epic fight scenes between the giant robots, but they seem so empty at times. Compared to 2013’s Pacific Rim where you could tell del Toro loved the material, Bay is obviously handling things for a paycheck and even described the franchise as a “stupid toy movie”. I’m not trying to diminish his talent by any means, but he was wrongly chosen by Spielberg for this project.

“Transformers” is a “what you see is what you get” type film that unfortunately settles for artistic splendor over genuine creativity. Don’t let its atrocious sequels fool you into thinking this film is good. ✴