Transformers (2007)

(In theaters, July 2007) After years of laughing and pointing at everyone whose childhood was brutally violated by Hollywood’s nostalgia cash-grab, Transformers is my turn in the victim’s seat. Hence my divided expectations: I wanted to see big transforming robots fight it out on screen, but I also wanted to be able to scream and cry that this was a suck-fest. Thanks to Michael Bay, all of my expectations were fulfilled: The film does feature giant transforming robots fighting it out on screen, and it’s also one of the most disappointing action pictures of the year. At its best, Transformers is a mean and lavish techno-thriller in which humans do their best to fight against a robotic alien invasion. At its worst, it’s either a so-called comedy in which the robots have sub-moronic IQs, or a mish-mash of CGI without shape or coherence. Prepare to be dazzled and stunned in your seat as the film keeps flipping between best and worst. There is certainly a lot of money on screen. Unfortunately, the design of the Transformers themselves is too complicated to allow for a good representation of their heft and bulk: all we see are CGI moving pieces without any physical presence. This makes the chaotic action scenes even more difficult to follow: at time, the movement across the screen is meant to be the action, but all we’re left is an impressionistic idea of action without reference. I realize I’m sounding like an old crank when I say this, but trust me: Transformers grabs Armageddon‘s place as “Most obvious proof Michael Bay’s must stop chugging Energy Drinks”. Otherwise, well, the lowest-common-denominator comedy is painful, and the film can’t be bothered to keep all of its subplots straight. Too bad: one of the film’s most enjoyable element is a CGI-free performance by John Turturro as a man with far too many secrets. It all amounts to a pretty mixed summer blockbuster, one that will have as many fans as detractors for exactly the same reasons. I got to see my favourite toys duking it out on screen and I got nostalgic trauma out of it. Life is good.

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