In Theatres: 
Jul 03, 2007
Running Time: 
2 Hours, 23 Minutes

Despite my apprehension coming into this remake of what is arguably the most elaborate and popular commercial ever made, I walked out of Transformers wide-eyed and seemingly 7 years old again.  Paramount originally purchased the movie rights to that other childhood favorite, G.I. Joe a few years back.

After beginning their pre-pre-production, the war in Iraq broke out and the studio shelved the movie.  Hasbro, the toymaker behind G.I. suggested to the studio to adapt their other always-profitable and popular line.  So, the birth of Transformers was.  The early rumors were pegging this as another over-blown flop in the making.  Another attempt by Hollywood to capitalize on 80s nostalgia, defile it and go onto the next (as seen so readily in The Hulk, TMNT among others).

Director Michael Bay decided early on that he would be updating not only the look of some of the robots in car form but some of cars themselves.  The one thing going against Bay at the start of any of his movies (like his previous effort The Island) is his penchant for the hand-held camera (something his mentor, the wide-camera swinging Jerry Bruckheimer tried in vain to shake him of).  In Transformers, he found an outlet for this technique to not only work in an action movie but actually make the movie better.  Most directors won’t even recognize their shortcomings in CGI progression (assuming that, once they get there, technology will have improved to what their mind’s eye saw while filming), and very few will recognize it enough to make up for it while filming.  While Bay did see this coming while filming, he did not use the standard shadowing and darkness that has been so annoying abundant in films recently.  Instead, he chose to make the entire movie bright and shiny just as the cartoon was.  Using his shaky handheld (and bulletproof) cameras not only obliterates all the close-up shortcomings that CGI has yet to prevail, it brings you to the ground floor and into the action, something that is usually missing in these high-budget action spectacles.  You are not just watching the movie, you are living it with each character.

In one scene, you are following along with Shia LeBeouf as he runs a stretch of Los Angeles that can only be assumed at 3 miles.  Your adrenaline is pumping along with Shia’s Sam Witwicky character.  But, perhaps the greatest moment in this spectacle is near the beginning when Bumblebee and Barricade are fighting it out over the fate of Shia’s character.  When Barricade transforms in an instant into his Mustang police car counterpart (which is, surprisingly, the most bad ass car of the movie) and immediately jumps into driving mode, you will feel as though it is really happening.  This seamless transformation is the norm throughout the movie and there won’t be one moment that you will think they didn’t actually use real robots.

Transformers brings you instant action and never lets up.  Starting off with an amazing attack sequence on U.S. troops in Qatar, my jaw dropped and never went back during the course of the entire film.  Shia LeBouf shows why he has become the new it-person over at Spielberg’s Dreamworks studio.  Even in his small stature and non-traditional looks, he is able to easily carry this entire movie,  The shining part of LeBouf’s performance is during the non-action sequences as he brings his comedic charm and impeccable timing to every aspect of the movie.

The most surprising aspect of the movie is perhaps Michael Bay’s ability to bring such emotion into the fake CGI characters.  Before Bumblebee even transforms, you already love him.  And, at one dire point during the film, you may even get a lump in your throat at the expense of one of the digital characters.

The franchise (Paramount has already greenlit 2 sequels) has little room for improvement and, despite my enlarged expectations, Transformers came out above what I wanted it to be as I was left in utter awe of the special effects and my entire childhood brought to fruition.

Peter Oberth
Review by Peter Oberth
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