This article was written by guest author Luis dos Santos.

They say all good things come to an end. After a series of successful cinematic adaptations of some comic classics (Batman Begins, Sin City, 300), Transformers definitely proves this old saying right. Michael Bay (Armageddon, The Island, Pearl Harbour) has a big contribution for this demise. He delivers in this movie his trademark action-driven directing style but clearly fails to grasp fine-art concepts such as plot depth, character development or precise editing timing.

The central plot involves the Autobots and their archenemies, the Decepticons bringing their robot war to Earth in search for a cube-shaped “All Spark” device which is powerful enough to create new robot life and destroy Earth in the process. The film starts when an American military base in Qatar is attacked by a mysterious and unknown enemy, the only survivors being Captain Lennox, played by Josh Duhamel (Turistas) and his team. Jon Voight (National Treasure, Pearl Harbour) plays the secretary of defense encharged of managing the situation. Shia LaBeouf (Disturbia) plays Sam, a pitiful L.A. high-school student and clich© character who offers Mikaela (Megan Fox from Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen) a ride in his first car, which incidentally turns out to be an autobot named Bumblebee, a character to whom Mark Ryan (The Prestige, Charlie’s Angels) lends is voice. After Sam being attacked by one of the Deceptions, Sam and Mikaela join forces with the Autobots, led by the legendary Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen (Winnie the Pooh) in the cast’s best voice performance), in an epic battle against the Deceptions under the commands of the menacing Hugo Weaving’s (The Lord of the Rings, V for Vendetta) Megatron.

After the somehow promising first 30 minutes, the movie starts to fall apart. The weak and unrealistic dialog is full of one-liners which seem target at a young adolescent audience. Transformers is an old and long series which has a relatively well developed story, full of ideas passible to be explored on a film. However, it quickly becomes clear that Mr. Bay wants to give us his interpretation of Transformers instead of continuing the storyline of the old animated series. The antagonism and strugle for power between Megatron and Starscream is a Transformers‘ strong plot driving mechanism, which has not been addressed at all in this film. The search for the “energon” resource was also left out and replaced by a never-heard-of-before “All Spark.” The original transformers where capable of deep emotional actions including, among others, treachery, loyalty, courage, cowardice. These ones seem more like ghetto guys, which hang around to help humans fight the battle against the Decepticons for them, instead of fighting it themselves. This makes the existence of the Autobots in this film almost superfluous and the whole point of the film dubious.

The film has major continuity and plot consistency flaws. For example, the opening scene, when an unidentified helicopter approaches an american military base, two jet fighters are sent to intercept it. In the next scene the helicopter calmly lands in the middle of the base without any further resistance nor explanation to what happened to the jet fighters. The editing style is also poor, confusing and erratic. At some times important scenes seem to have been completely left out, for example how Optimus Prime lost the final battle against Megatron.

Having plot holes, although undesirable, is somehow understandable in a feature movie. However, Transformers even has cinematic photography holes: a fight takes place during the day, when asked for backup from a military base it suddenly becomes sunset, and when the fighting jets come to help it’s daylight again! Extreme long shots and close ups are hard-cut into each other, in blatant violation of basic continuity rules, which could even be justified by the roughness of some of the battles, but ultimately just makes the viewer dizzy. All these distractions prevent even the most willingly viewer to achieve a state of suspension of disbelief and enter into the film. This film also borrows several scenes from other films like Batman, Terminator 3 (even Terminator’s leitmotif is there)!, Schindler’s List, etc. I’m sorry to point out the obvious to Mr. Bay, but it takes more than a cocktail of other film’s famous scenes in order to make a new successful film…

ILM’s loud aural and visual special effects is the only area where the film shows some spirit, with the robots displaying some contortionist skills in their unorthodox transformations. Unfortunately their shallow personality is also reflected in their uncharacterised visuals, making it difficult to distinguish between them: it is for example difficult during the final showdown to tell who’s winning or losing.

More than 20 years have now passed since the 1986 The Transformers: The Movie film and fans were rightfully waiting for a successful revival of the series in form of a good cinematic adaptation. However, Mr. Bay’s Transformers is a disappointment at almost all levels, except maybe for the special effects and is posed to enter the poll of the soon-to-be-forgotten films of Summer 07. Shallow plot, clich© characters, uninspired directing, unconvincing acting (Megan Fox topping the list) and Hollywood’s money making machine at its best.

Grade: C-


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