Movie Review: Transformers: The IMAX Experience
By Michael Phillips, Tribune Movie Critic
Some of us missed the "Transformers" craze by a few years, and we're just now getting up to slow-lane, crushed-by-fanboys speed on the matter of Autobots and Decepticons and a generation's worth of transmogrifying merchandise.
We are the ones coming out of director Michael Bay's extraordinarily destructive tantrum of a blockbuster thinking, wow: noisy. So much noisier than any other film this year. Here is a movie with the volume level of a sure financial thing. If I were 12, I'd be there opening weekend, though I'm not sure if the 12-year-old me would've enjoyed it, exactly. The film is more about submission than enjoyment.
The film's PG-13 rating ensures that millions of parents will mistakenly let their 6-year-olds see the film - which isn't a bad film, and is sometimes quite deliriously pretty good - because it comes from a beloved line of toys. Never mind that Shia LaBeouf, the nominal, non-mechanical star of "Transformers," has described Bay's achievement as "aneurysm-inducing." That's a compliment. In Bay's world, which is more about metal than people, every action sequence must be edited like a cinematic seizure and every extreme-telephoto image must be jammed headlong into the next.
The story cooked up by screenwriters Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman is essentially that of a boy and his Camaro, and how the Camaro helps the boy snag the hottest female in his class, an "evil jock concubine" played by Megan Fox. The car, which is one of the good robots in disguise, also helps Sam save the world, though downtown L.A. looks worse for the wear by the end. The climax of "Transformers" contains all that is proficient and slick and all that is drecky and soulless in Bay's work. The big fight goes on forever, body-slamming the viewer like a sweaty sumo wrestler, but now and then you find a little nifty such as the sight of a bad 'bot flicking an unfortunate screaming pedestrian against a parked, crushed car, much as King Kong tossed that unwanted blond extra back in 1933.
Those Decepticons shoot up our boys pretty badly in the opening battle set in Qatar. U.S. Air Force warriors do not know what they're up against, until computer hacker geniuses led by Anthony Anderson and Tasmanian-born actress Rachael Taylor, who must've had an entire craft services table devoted to her lip gloss, clarify the nature of the evildoers for the benefit of the secretary of defense. He's played by Jon Voight with a wide-eyed intensity that sends secret messages to the adults in the audience: Why am I here? Well, why are you here?
The audience for "Transformers" is there for simple reasons: To see robot-on-robot and robot-on-human and human-on-robot violence. Over and over, the military characters on screen bark orders to "bring the rain!" My favorite line comes when one of the Autobots asks another, why is this "primitive, violent race" worth saving, anyway? Because they make such walloping brainless entertainment, that's why. America will prevail, the film announces, even when we're under attack, even when our colleagues refuse to speak the official language on the job ("English, dude. English!"), even when the safety of our planet is threatened by telecommunications service calls handled by nose-picking people of color somewhere overseas.
There you have it: From "Armageddon" to "Pearl Harbor" to "Transformers," no one went to a Michael Bay film for sensitivity training.
Directed by Michael Bay; screenplay by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman; photographed by Mitchell Amundsen; edited by Paul Rubell, Glen Scantlebury and Thomas A. Muldoon; music by Steve Jablonsky; production design by Jeff Mann; produced by Don Murphy, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Ian Bryce. A DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures release. Running time: 2:23. MPAA rating: PG-13 (intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor, and language).
Sam Witwicky - Shia LaBeouf
Sgt. Epps - Tyrese Gibson
Sgt. Lennox - Josh Duhamel
John Keller - Jon Voight
Glen Whitmann - Anthony Anderson
Mikaela Banes - Megan Fox