Transformers is big, loud and dumb — I mean, it’s a film based on a cartoon that was based on a toy, for crying out loud — but when it’s this much fun, who really cares? But it does tend to lose a lot of its impact on the small screen. Director Michael Bay wastes no time getting straight into the action — character development doesn’t really matter a lot when you’ve got a bunch of giant freaking robots to play with. Less than five minutes in, a team of American soldiers in Qatar comes under attack from a rogue helicopter gunship, which turns into Blackout, one of the evil Decepticons. Blackout latches on to the military computer at the base, sucking out all the top secret data. Yup, there’s actually a plot.
The Decepticons are searching for a piece of technology from their home world. It's called the Allspark, and can give life to machines. The Allspark is somewhere on Earth, having crashed into the Arctic wastes back in the late 1800s (so why are they only looking for it now?) And, of course, the good guys — the heroic Autobots (yay!) — also want to find the Allspark, to stop the Decepticons getting it and destroying the human race. Into the mix comes American teen Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf), whose Dad helps him to buy his first car — a rather beat up 1976 Chevy Camaro. You guessed it, the car turns out to be Bumblebee, who’s a sort of forward scout for the Autobots (yay!). And by one of those wonderful Hollywood coincidences, Sam’s grandad was the explorer who led the expedition that found the Allspark. Wow, who would have thunk it? The storyline has shades of Spielberg’s classic ET — boy befriends strange alien and tries to protect it from the nasty US government. But this time the strange alien is a giant robot that can turn itself into a cool Camaro and can certainly take care of itself. And he’s got a bunch of giant robot mates to help him, led by Optimus Prime — played, in a nice touch, by original voice actor Peter Cullen. Throw in a hot schoolgirl (Fox), a slightly mad government agent (a standout performance from Turturro) and a bunch of giant robots that beat the crap out of each other while tossing around the odd knowing reference to the internet and the like, and you’ve got an action ride that barely lets up.
Michael Bay’s got a knack for turning out big, action-heavy flicks full of poorly-drawn characters, absurd plot and clunky dialogue. But you know what? This time it actually works in his favour. Rising star LaBeouf imbues Sam with enough energy and charisma that you’re carried along on his adventure, cheering for the little geeky guy to save the day and win the girl. There are a few dumb plot points and plenty of cheesy lines; but when the seamless CGI kicks in and you’ve got Optimus Prime (yay!) and Megatron (boo!) going at it mano a mano (robot a robot?) then all of that doesn’t matter and you just sit back and enjoy the biffo for what it is — big, loud, hardcore entertainment.
EXTRAS ** An uninspired and uninspiring selection that's really less than meets the eye. There's a director's commentary with Michael Bay; 10 behind-the-scenes featurettes, mainly filled with talking heads; trailers; and concept art. There are also a few Easter Eggs: a fake Hasbro commercial for the "all-new Bay Bot"; a casting session for the dog, Mojo; and Michael Bay's cameo — being plucked out of a Mercedes by Megatron, a scene that was cut from the final film. But we don't get any deleted scenes or a gag reel, which is a shame because it would have been fun to see those robots fluffing their lines ... I'm sorry? What do you mean they're not real?