As a child, I wasn't interested in the Transformers toys when they debuted. (Yes, I'm old enough to have been in grammar school when this toy line came out.) As an adult, I could not get into the movie Transformers. This film may be the perfect summer movie (if you take "perfect" not to reflect quality but rather completeness): tons of action scenes, blasting volume, based on a familiar property, hot babe, painful dialogue and forgettable story.

For the story, let's see. Nerdy high school student Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is buying his first car, but all he can afford is a beat-up yellow Chevy Camaro. He also has a crush on beautiful Mikaela (Megan Fox), who hangs out with jocks, doesn't know who Sam is despite their having numerous classes together -- and, of course, winds up in the middle of his adventure.

Let's leave Sam for a moment and go to the Middle East, where a U.S. military base is hacked and attacked by a giant robot-scorpion-thingy. The surviving soldies, led by Captain Lennox (Josh Duhmael) and Sergeant Epps (Tyrese Gibson), have to get their recording of the attacked back to the U.S. government.

Meanwhile, strange things are happening with Sam's car (as if its wrecking the other cars in the lot so it would be bought wasn't enough). Apart from driving itself, the car can turn into a giant robot called Bumblebee that talks only in sound clips from the radio. There are two groups of giant alien robots that transform into vehicles: the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, who want to protect humans; and the Decepticons, led by Megatron, want to use something called the Allspark to turn all machines on Earth into evil living monsters that will conquer the planet. (Seriously.) There's also a secret government agency run by Agent Simmons (John Turturro), Sam's grandfather having discovered the key to everything here, a vital item for sale on eBay...
This movie is the cinematic equivalent of, with a truly massive budget, grabbing a bunch of toys and mashing them together so they "fight" while little army men act as the humans in the middle of the battle. To his credit, director Michael Bay knows action, and Transformers can be quite exciting, whether soldiers are fleeing from a metallic sand scorpion, or when the Autobots and Decpeticons are punching, jumping, shooting, and doing gymnastics in the middle of a city.

Sadly that's about it for what I liked about this movie. The dialogue and story are clunky to say the least, with predictable characters (the outcast teen becoming the hero, the government jerk who gets his comeuppance) and painful attempts at humor (robots spouting their catchphrases, trying to hide around a house, and taking a (literal) leak on a jerk). Just about every character here is one-dimensional, and none are that interesting. It's as if the folks behind the movie knew there had to be something between action scenes, so they tossed in as little as necessary to fill the time before the next battle.

If you loved playing with these toys as a kid and always dreamed of seeing the Autobots and Decepticons slug it out on the big screen, Transformers is for you. As for me, I wanted something more that just action -- and I didn't get it here. Transformers was a huge hit and its inevitable sequel is out this summer, but to me it was (to quote a writer very far removed from this) full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Overall grade: D
Reviewed by James Lynch

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