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Director: Michael Bay

Producers: Don Murphy, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Ian Bryce

Written by: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving

Rating: or

For those who weren’t kids or parents during the ’80s, the Transformers are a race of robots from the planet Cybertron who assume the shape of everyday mechanical objects to hide in plain sight while continuing their ancient feud on earth. The benevolent Autobots are led by goodie-two-shoes Optimus Prime (Cullen), who is the sworn enemy of Megatron (Weaving) and the evil Decepticons.

The robots (when clearly displayed) are amazing, truly the very definition of the word spectacle. In jaw-dropping cinema moments, only the first unveiling of the dinosaurs in (Executive Producer) Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park comes close. After seeing them transform it was entirely believable that any piece of machinery might in fact be a robot in disguise. Unlike Spielberg, who let us gaze in awe at his digital creations, Michael Bay is fueled by an ADHD editing style and just can’t wait to show robots blowing stuff up RIGHT NOW! Michael Bay is the real star of Transformers without any doubt. His presence in the director’s chair overshadows everything else, even the mighty Optimus Prime. Every frame of film carries his signature, and that’s not really a bad thing. A movie about giant robots fighting is well served by Bay’s appetite for excess.

Many with fond memories of the Transformers animated show fear that Bay, like George Lucas before him, will crassly defile their childhood in pursuit of a few million dollars. Transformers does feel like an advertisement, but not for the toys like the original series. Here the products for sale are General Motors vehicles (The Camaro that Bumblebee transforms into won’t be for sale until 2009!) and military hardware (not available for sale in the U.S. at this time). It’s cool to have full military cooperation, but the film lags with too many shots of fighter crews scrambling to their jets or helicopters flying out of the sun.

With all this heavy hardware the movie scarcely has space for any flesh and blood. Nonetheless it tries to fit three plotlines into its overlong running time. The only one of any interest is about young Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) and the sporty yellow Camaro he uses to pursue high school hottie Mikaela (Fox). During non-robot moments LaBeouf’s performance injects humor to prevent the film from dragging. The other stories merely take up space that could be better occupied by butt-kicking robots.

The flaws in Transformers are trivial in comparison to what it delivers. Watching it was seeing into the mind of a child imagining a fight between Autobots and Decepticons. When the robots were on screen the illusion of the movie was unbreakable and the rapture of the audience was complete. If you were a kid during the ’80s or are a child right now don’t hesitate, rush to theater with the knowledge that in Michael Bay’s hands this piece of your childhood is waiting for you just like you remember it.

—Woodrow Bogucki

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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