Michael Bay's live-action vision taps fans' inner child


on July 06, 2007 by Tim Cogshell
Autobots and Decepticons ruled the television airwaves throughout the '80s and a good chunk of the' 90s, and there was even a previous Transformers film (1986's Transformers: The Movie ) that post-baby boomers (and a few who'd already boomed) remember fondly. The Hasbro toys-turned-animated series-turned-big-budget live-action feature film were high-concept from the start: Cars and other hardware that "transform" themselves into sentient robots from the planet Cybertron find themselves battling on planet Earth with puny, fleshy humans in the middle of the fray. The Autobots, lead by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen, who also voiced the original cartoon), are our allies and protectors, while the Decepticons and their leader, Megatron (Hugo Weaving, The Matrix films), would just as soon see us crushed—literally.

Aside from the details of the setup, including a fairly intense Decepticon attack on an American base in Qatar by the chopper/robot Blackout, this live-action version pretty much draws its storyline from the central narrative of the many Transformer incarnations, including one that had transforming dinosaurs central to the plot—the Decepticons' continuing quest to acquire the mystical Allspark talisman, believed to be a source of unlimited power for whoever possesses it. The film opens with Optimus Prime narrating the history of the Allspark. Though its origins are unknown, it has created life wherever it's been, including on the ancient planet of Cybertron.

One remembers being completely fascinated by this stuff as a kid (or a youngish adult), but mostly it was the really cool cars that turned into robots and crushed stuff that brought legions of young boys home from school (or office) everyday about 3 p.m. to engage in the ongoing, permanently cliff-hung saga of the Autobots and the Decepticons. Live-action notwithstanding, it pretty much works the same for the movie.

As for the live action—which of course is the only reason this film was made—it's pretty good. Director Michael Bay and his ILM team have, in fact, achieved something pretty impressive in the world of CGI and modeling. The bots are scaled properly, they have weight, and they don't overtly generate that "internal glow" that gives the lie to so much computer-generated animation. The human actors are adequate to the task; which is mostly running, screaming and plainly talking to blue screens. Whatever—Autobots rule!
Distributor: Paramount
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, Anthony Anderson, Megan Fox, Rachael Taylor, John Turturro and Jon Voight
Director: Michael Bay
Screenwriters: Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman and John Rogers
Producers: Don Murphy, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Ian Bryce
Genre: Science fiction action adventure
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor and language
Running time: 135 min.
Release date: July 3, 2007
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