Heavy metal: Have a blast with a noisy toy

Posted: July 02, 2007

Transformers, the action-adventure based on the toys of that name, is:

(a) a ginormous monster-truck rally

(b) a feature-length GM promo

(c) War of the Worlds, Hasbro-style

(d) a gas

(e) all of the above.

Improbably - given that Transformers is a movie by Michael Bay (Armageddon), who punctuates his lightning-paced films with ear-splitting crashes of steel - it's e.

Wait, there's more. It's a heavy-metal opera with humor, 10-ton toys crushing 20-ton toys! It's that cutie Shia LaBeouf crushing on that hottie Megan Fox! It's America crushing on Shia LaBeouf! It's a boy who buys his first car and it turns out to be an alien robot! It's a preview of the 2009 Camaro! Alien machines that morph from tanks into Iron Giants! An armored intergalactic Super Bowl waged on the streets of downtown L.A.! Exclamation! Points! Necessary! because everything in Bayworld is insistent! And emphatic!

For those who either did not play with Transformers or had the good luck to miss the woeful 1986 cartoon of the same name, some background.

Transformers are robots from a galaxy far, far away, and come in two races. Autobots, like Optimus Prime, are Earthling-friendly machines with techno-tenor voices (they learned English from the World Wide Web). They only destroy those who try to destroy them.

Decepticons, like Megatron, are really angry 'bots braying in baritone. They like to destroy. Period. The warring races fight for the Allspark, a cosmic cube-configured battery that is the Transformer energy source.

The action opens in Qatar, where U.S. troops (led by Tyrese Gibson and Josh Duhamel) encounter marauding Decepticons and alert the secretary of defense (Jon Voight) as a chopper morphs into an armored tank which morphs into a dastardly 'bot that hacks into the DoD's top-secret computer files.

Then it jumps to Los Angeles, where we meet Sam Witwicky (played by LaBeouf, the Virtual Generation's John Cusack), an endearingly goofy 17-year-old jonesing for car and girlfriend. When his dad (Kevin Dunn), takes him to get a ride of his own, the junky mustard-hued 1977 Camaro emerges as Bumblebee, an Autobot with its radio tuned to Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" and other music that might get the school hottie, Mikaela (Megan Fox), in the mood to canoodle with Sam.

Carefully calculated to appeal across gender and generational lines, Transformers has two magnetic attractions. LaBeouf, 21, a self-deprecating matinee idol, draws teenage girls and their grandmothers. The Transformers (robots on steroids that morph into the Pontiac Solstice, the Hummer H2 and the GMC Topkick) are gleaming metal behemoths that grab guys of all ages.

Steven Spielberg is the executive producer of the film, which strikes a narrative balance between its tech-loving humans and anthropomorphic machines, and a generational balance between its tech-savvy teens and their clueless parents.

This bigger, louder, more frenetic version of E.T. is at its best when it situates the extraordinary in the middle of its characters' ordinary lives, as when humongous Autobots hide in Sam's yard so that his Mom and Dad don't notice.

As the overlong film builds to a final showdown where the warring Transformers noisily flatten downtown Los Angeles, some viewers might long for the comparative grace of Spider-Man, who bounces and belays off skyscrapers, rather than knee-capping them. While Bay succeeds in creating a seamless mix of computer-generated effects with live-action, the real treat of his film is the flesh-and-blood LaBeouf. He is LaBomb.


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://go.philly.com/flickgrrl/

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|