Part 2 in my Shia LaBoeuf: the Scourge of Cinema double-bill sees him taking on giant, transforming robot aliens as he attempts to save the world using a weird little cube, and cop off with Megan Fox. I’ve got no historical connection to the Tranformers
franchise, as I neither saw the cartoon series or the animated feature from the 80s, and I’ve never played with any of the toys as a child. So unlike many people, I feel that so far my childhood has been unmolested by Michael Bay, something I was afraid I’d no longer be spared from with his intentions to paint his own brand of ridiculousness onto the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
, which I think now has been fortunately abandoned.
I first saw the film in cinemas five years ago, when I was barely 20. At that point, I must have been just on the outside cusp of the film’s target audience, as I thought it was amazing. At that point in my life, Michael Bay was something of a favourite director of mine – I even liked Pearl Harbor – and a film that followed cars transforming into robots and beating the scrap out of each other, interspersed with eardrum-bursting explosions, comic cameos and gratuitous shots of Megan Fox bending over an engine at sunset was of course going to do nothing but good to my barely-older-than-teenage mind. Now, however, I see the film for the hollow, disorganised, puerile mess that it truly is.Granted, I’m no longer the film’s target audience, but this is my review, so I’m giving my opinions. This film is stupid. I’m on board for a story about robots from outer space that can somehow transform into cars, planes and, um, a stereo, but unfortunately most of this film is about Shia LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky, a typical the-only-character-LaBeouf-can-play annoying, dumb every-kid stereotype with embarrassing parents, mediocre grades, stupid friends, a crappy car and a complete and utter lack of charm and charisma. As always, LaBeouf plays an annoying tit rather well, as you’d expect from having had so much practise. It transpires that Sam’s great-grandfather was an Arctic explorer who discovered the allspark – the movie’s maguffin that is capable of creating new transformers – and Sam holds the key to it’s whereabouts, because somehow a map has been engraved into his ancestor”s spectacles. Ludicrous. Two warring tribes of robot aliens – the human-loving Autobots, led by Optimus Prime (voiced by series original Peter Cullen), and the world-conquering Decepticons, led by Megatron (a wasted Hugo Weaving) – somehow learn that Sam has the glasses, and trace his location using eBay. Of course. Along for the ride is Megan Fox’s Mikaela, the girl of Sam’s dreams who is clearly from such a broken home that her family is unable to replace the clothes she clearly grew out of some years ago.
There’s also a couple of sub-plots involving the squad of marines – a Michael Bay trademark – who initially encounter a Decepticon attack, and attempts by the government to decode a message recorded from the bots. Each of these strands involves barely fleshed out caricatures instead of actual characters – the marine who sporadically speaks in Spanish even though no-one else understands him, the immature ‘world’s greatest hacker’ with his irritating dance-gaming friend – and does anyone else remember when Jon Voight was a respected actor, and not reduced to offering dry exposition as the Secretary of Defense? The government strand featured one of my biggest pet peeves in films. The film focuses on a group of hackers. This group is predominantly made up of guys who look like hackers – they’re overweight, scruffy, and generally appear socially awkward. And of course the one who’s better than all of them is played by Rachael Taylor, who looks like a supermodel. There is no girl in the world who looks like that and knows how to hack. I’m aware that of all the things in the film that don’t make sense, this is relatively minor, but it’s something that has always annoyed me.
This kind of films lives or dies by the CGI, and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s damn impressive. There are some sequences that look absolutely bad-ass, most notably the opening Scorpiok attack, and a massive-scale battle between both sides at the end. Starscream, the Decepticon who is able to transform into a jet, has the coolest moments, especially when he transforms in mid-flight and swings on a bridge during a strike on the Hoover dam, so in those respects the film has some enjoyable moments. The problem is that in a film for which the entire draw is robots hitting each other, there’s just not enough of it. At one point, the robots are in the middle of a catastrophic fight, yet we are left watching Voight and the hackers searching for some microphones and using morse code.
There were a lot more attempts at juvenile comedy than I remembered from my earlier viewing, and very few of them were gratefully received. At one point, a diminutive robot capable of transforming into a machine attempts to walk nonchalantly passed some people looking for it, and it tries to cover it’s face whilst walking! This is not comedy, nor is it clever, it;s just stupid. There are many more scenes like this – an Autobot ‘lubricating’ (peeing) on John Turtorro’s government agent, Sam’s asinine chihuahua Mojo, everything LaBeouf does – and the only comedic scenes that really do the job are those involving Bernie Mac as a car salesman, and Kevin Dunn and Judy White as Sam’s all-too-familiar parents.
If the idea of giant metallic creatures from space beating each other up has you foaming at the mouth with excitement – and at times this is a category I’d class myself in – then you’ll probably like about half this film. If you’ve recently had a lobotomy or are a prepubescent male, then you’ll probably like the other half. If not, just leave it alone.
Choose life 5/10