Reviews

Transformers (2007)

The point here is excess. For 144 minutes, the film pummels and pounds, delivering explosions, combat troops, speeding vehicles, computer codes, giant robots -- and more explosions.


Transformers

Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Jon Voight, John Turturro
Distributor: Dreamworks
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: Paramount
First date: 2007
US Release Date: 2007-07-02 (General release)
Website
Trailer
You're going to see these cars as the heroes. You're not going to see the other actors. These cars are the stars, literally, in the movie.

-- Dino Bernacchi, GM's associate director of branded entertainment ("GM hopes movie will transform sales," AP 2 July 2007)

Why are we fighting to save the humans? They are a primitive and violent race.

-- Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen)

You'd expect a summer action movie directed by Michael Bay, CGIed out the whazoo by Industrial Light and Magic, and based on toy cars to bring the noise. And indeed, Transformers does exactly that. Big and boomy, it filters faux nostalgia, fiery explosions, and irksome stereotypes to achieve completely seasonal combustion.

The point here is excess. For 144 minutes, the film pummels and pounds, delivering explosions, combat troops, speeding vehicles, computer codes, giant robots -- and more explosions. By the time it reaches its final extended fight scene, Transformers' multiple climaxes have overwhelmed any preceding storyline, leaving viewers awash in sound and visual effects, so much crashing, shooting, roaring and flaming that it's hard to know who ends up where or why any of it matters.

The movie begins with a brief gesture toward plot, when an opening voiceover offers cursory backstory: some time ago, the good Autobots and the bad Decepticons fought over a "cube" that has the power to "create worlds and populate them with life," and in the process, destroyed their own planet. Just how the robots have selected earth as a destination is unclear, but they do arrive in time to disrupt a seemingly ongoing war in the Middle East (at least US Air Force troops are stationed there, specifically, near Qatar). A Decepticon disguised as a helicopter assaults a unit that includes the very buff Sgt. Epps (Tyrese Gibson), the stalwart Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel), and the chatty ACWO (Aircraft Control and Warning Officer) Figueroa (Amaury Nolasco). As Lennox looks forward to holding his new baby for the first time and "Fig" is taunted by buddies for his use of Spanish and "magic voodoo powers," the robot descends with a fiery fury, blowing up buildings and vehicles and menacing a cute little Arab boy, whom the troops make it their business to rescue (yay Team USA!). The men launch instantly into raucous action mode, making clear their knack for killing large mechanical objects.

The plot here splits off into two other strands, first to Secretary of Defense John Keller (Jon Voight), who gathers together great minds to decode the odd sound made by the robots ("This is way too smart for the Iranians," they deduce). At least one of these minds is housed inside a lithe young body: the brilliant Australian Maggie (Rachael Taylor) takes a few quick looks at the problem and knows not only that they will need to take up "quantum mechanics," but also that she needs to secret away a copy of the code to her geekboy mentor Glen (Anthony Anderson). (He wears a Clinton Portis jersey, and first appears yelling at his off-screen grandmother, then goes on to display both video-gaming and donut-eating prowess.) Their efforts lead to the discovery of a super-secret US government project, "Sector 7," which has been examining a bad robot who crash-landed in the Arctic decades ago, eventually identified as Megatron and eventually voiced by Hugo Weaving.

The alien STARSCREAM goes on a destructive rampage

Maggie's very brief show of world-saving expertise is complemented in the film's third sorta-storyline, involving high school students. Scantily clad jock's girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) has her own skills, notably pertaining to cars. This enhances her appeal to classmate Sam (Shia LaBeouf), whose father has just bought him a 1976 yellow Camaro -- from a dealership run by the disconcertingly buffoonish Bobby Bolivia (Bernie Mac). Really an Autobot named Bumblebee, the car conveniently conks out, enticing Mikaela to fix it and granting Sam a thrilling look at her midriff ("I'm cool with females working on my engine," he gushes).

The boy-girl relationship, however, is secondary to the boy-car. On discovering that Bumblebee is in fact a self-transforming robot ("My car stole itself," he sputters to the 911 operator, while watching that car stand up), Sam is initially alarmed but then, entranced. And once he meets the other Autobots -- including red-and-blue-colored leader Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) and "black" Jazz (Darius McCrary), who uses street slang and throws gang signs -- the boy-car story overshadows all the others. (There are, it should be noted, no girl robots in Bay's "updating.")

Sam Witwicky (SHIA LaBEOUF, center front) turns to an alien, OPTIMUS PRIME, (rear) for help

Sam provides commentary on the action (following an Autobons versus Decepticons battle, he gasps, "This is easily 100 times cooler than Armageddon!") and helps defeat those wily Decepticons, in part by running his own deceptions against his mom and dad (who remain blissfully unaware that he has a set of shiny macho robots hiding in the backyard, even as one of them whines, "The parents are very irritating. Can I take them out?"). When Sam's mother (Julie White) at last notices his post-battle appearance ("Why are you so sweaty and filthy?"), he puts her off by speaking something like truth: "I'm a child, a teenager!" (She then asks if he's been masturbating in his bedroom, connecting the dots for you, if not her wholly embarrassed son.)

It's a clever enough response, exasperated and ironic, because of course he doesn't see himself as a typical teenager. When at last the gigantic showdown comes, he's fully embraced by the team and aligned with the troops (who make it home from the desert in time to save the US from invasion) as well as squads of government agents. "Everyone's a solider now!" exults Lennox as the last -- long, rowdy, incoherent, spectacular spectacular -- battle begins. Optimus rallies his robots by declaring their purpose. Even if the humans do look awfully primitive and violent, he's got a global -- no, a galactic -- view. Declaring his absolute judgment and the intrinsic virtue of bringing democracy to all planets, he announces, "Freedom is the right of all sentient beings." Except, of course, the Decepticons. Evildoers only have the right to punishment, again and again and again.

5

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image