“Bahaha … Transformers … beheheh … More Than Meets the Eye … BWAHAHA”

Straight from your childhood, it’s Adventures in Product Placement™, starring Shia LaBeouf! Now, we all know that Transformers is more my brother’s vintage than my own, but robots is robots. By the time that I realised Transformers had hit a cinema near me, I was almost excited to be seeing such a mystical beast, flown to me on the wings of other people’s nostalgia. This morning, I read a friend’s report: that it was the best movie ever (in terms of “pure distilled awesome”).

I’m not of this opinion, myself: it’s hard not to laugh at a movie that opens with “Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks Present … in association with HASBRO”. Contrary to my beliefs that it would be a terrible film, it turned out to be not terrible. It falls mainly in my “not exactly worth it” pile, and in a dead zone where I’m not entirely certain of its demographic: children of the internets, liable to pick the movie apart? Children of today?

I think that the answer may lie in the later scenes of the movie: Transformers is made for people who want to see Jon Voight fighting robots with a shotgun. If you want to see that you’re in for a wild ride, mister.

A long, long time ago, life was brought into this universe by a cube called the “All Spark”. The All Spark gave birth to the planet that Autobots and Decepticons lived on, but their warring ways led to that planet’s destruction. The All Spark made its way to Earth, and the Decepticons want it again. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) holds the key to the All Spark’s location and so it’s up to his trusty car – Bumblebee – to protect him before the Decepticons crush the Earth or whatever!

What one may notice about Transformers fairly quickly is that it has a large cast, and that very few of them have any flesh on their bones. Something else that will probably spring to mind, although this will take longer to compute, is that Optimus Prime doesn’t show up in the movie for about an hour and none of the Transformers talk until such time. Apart from the telltale colour schematics of Bumblebee and Optimus Prime, the damned Autobots are all grey and non-descript. Look, everyone! Jazz is getting into a fight! Wait, why does he just look like metal? This is a big issue: yes, these dudes are supposed to be in disguise, but they’re not supposed to be so incognito that they can’t even meet my eye.

So, the pace is not quite right, there’s a lot of shorthand characters inserted and there’s even a phantom George W. Bush (which makes me look forward to seeing whatever the implied president in action films will be come the end of ’08). What is right about Transformers? I’m not quite sure. I think that, two hours after the fact, I can barely remember this movie. I didn’t really like any of the Sam sequences, possibly because they seemed so overtly “straight” to me. I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie so thoroughly laden with teenage heterosexuality. Sam doesn’t pull off a Peter Parker high school nerd thing, he pulls off a faux ladies’ man sort of thing, which is how he ties into the Autobots and Decepticons knowing about him. For serious, the Transformers learned English from the internet, and even scouted out the All Spark from its transmissions.

What essentially transpires, apart from me having to endure a lot of Sam’s frustration and “smooth” moves on his inevitable love interest Mary Jane Mikaela (Megan Fox), is a standard issue set of explosions and unintelligible action, coupled with some fun “stealth” moves on the part of the Autobots (including an hilariously impatient Optimus Prime). It doesn’t really amount to much and it wasn’t my sort of movie. There’s nothing wrong or bad about it, it just doesn’t quite click. If a beloved Autobot dies, I want to feel like he was beloved. Likewise, if a boy falls in love with his car, then I want that love story to be epic, not “I drove in that fellow for a couple of days, he is my best friend ever”.

I can’t even say if fans will love the movie, because I’ve got no idea how well it ties into its source material. If you love Michael Bay explosive movies, and if you love Jon Voight with a shotgun, you could do much worse than Transformers. Just don’t go expecting Optimus Prime to be calling Megatron “Rocket Man” any time soon.

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