More than meets the eye!
‘Transformers' rolls into theaters
(July 4) As a child sitting on the floor in my living room, I recall the images on the television screen with a stark lucidity reserved only for the most mystifying of childhood memories. Cars, planes, tanks, helicopters - they all turned into giant robots. Transformed, rather, like the title of the cartoon suggested.
Well, that was the 1980s, and now, 20 years later, those robots in disguise have made their way to the silver screen with some help from director Michael Bay ("Armageddon," "The Rock") and executive producer Steven Spielberg ("War of the Worlds").
For those of you unfamiliar with the popular cartoon series, "Transformers" revolves around two races of alien robots, the Autobots (good guys) and those dastardly Decepticons (never would have guessed these guys are evil, right?). Well, long story short - these robots come to Earth and assimilate among us by mimicking the technology we use in our everyday lives, thus transforming into automobiles and various electronic gadgets like iPods.
Of course, the robots (kudos to Industrial Light and Magic for jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring special effects) are the stars of this film, but the story needs earthly characters to give it a touch of humanity. So, at the center of this mechanized madness is Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), your average teenager eager to get behind the wheel of his first car - a peculiar, beat-up yellow Chevy Camaro bought from lot owner Bobby Bolivia (Bernie Mac).
Little does Sam realize that he is behind the wheels of Bumblebee, an Autobot that has been on Earth for years, playing guard dog in case any of those nasty Decepticons show up.
Sam attempts to impress cool girl Mikaela (Megan Fox), but his new car complicates things. Bumblebee's habit of playing the right song ("Sexual Healing," for instance) at the right moment only increases the awkward tension between them.
The machine really freaks Sam out when it drives away in the middle of the night and transforms into a giant robotic being with a bat-signal style light beam coming out of its chest.
Meanwhile, U.S. soldiers in Qatar have been attacked by one of the bad guys, a helicopter that transforms and destroys everything in its path. Secretary of Defense John Keller (Jon Voight, channeling Donald Rumsfeld) calls an emergency meeting to analyze the data but another Decepticon (this one small in stature, but evil nonetheless) has hacked into Air Force One's computer.
And here's where things get nuts. The Decepticons are after Sam. Well, they don't really want Sam so much as they want to find a discovery made by one of his ancestors, an Arctic explorer.
In order to understand the backstory of this ancestor, Optimus Prime (voiced beautifully by Peter Cullen) gives us a dose of Transformer history, explaining the Autobots home planet, Cybertron, was ravaged by a civil war between the Autobots and the Decepticons. In their search for an all-powerful cube called the Allspark, both sides learn that super-evil Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving of "Matrix" fame) crashed in the Arctic a millennia ago, and with him the Allspark. It just so happens that Sam's great-great-grandfather possesses an artifact that will lead to the Allspark's location.
And that's it. The plot is clean and simple. You're in for the ride of your life from this point forward. It's nothing but huge robot-on-robot action with tons of explosives and metal-lovin' mayhem, or shall I say "Bayhem," as Michael Bay seems to specialize in this kind of glitzy testosterone-fueled action. He shoots the robots like a sleazy porn director, making each gear and joint look like pure sex.
I would also like to commend LaBeouf for completely encompassing every geek's dream of being a hero and fighting alongside robots while getting the damsel. He plays the role of Sam Witwicky flawlessly and stands out as a shining comet above a star-studded cast. LaBeouf is the next big thing, kids.
This film is the jewel of a dull and lackluster summer at the movies. "Transformers" falls in line with other great, game-changing films like "Star Wars," "Jurassic Park," "Independence Day," and "The Matrix."
The special effects are top notch and push the envelope. If you are not dazzled and amazed by some of the spectacles flashing on the screen, then I can only conclude you have personally seen real robotic beings battling it out in the streets and cities of America.
If that's the case, then you, my friend, are one lucky person.
Don't joke yourself and say, "Oh I'll wait and catch that on DVD." You'll be missing out on a truly amazing theatrical experience. "Transformers" is visually arresting and a trailer truck-load of fun.
I got to be a 6-year-old boy again for nearly two and a half hours. You can't beat that.