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By Chad Lee
07-04-2007, 10:51 AM
Sam Witwicky has one goal: get a car. This high school junior needs it to attain the ladies and has been eBaying everything he can from his grandfather's collection so as to get the money. When he finally gets enough, he buys a Camaro. But apparently it's Satan's Camaro, as it starts to chase him down. He's saved by a girl from his school who doesn't even know he existed, and they find out that the Camaro may not be possessed by Satan but a much more benevolent force. The Autobots and Decepticons have brought their battle to Earth, and Sam has the touch. He has the power to save Earth and the Allspark, but can only do it with Optimus Prime and Bumblebee by his side.

I've enjoyed the Transformers over the years, but primarily on the toy front. I hate to say it, but the only Transformer shows I've watched throughout are Beast Machines and Armada, not the highest points of the franchise. I have loved the toys and enjoyed the Dreamwave comics, but I've never have been the crazy biggest fan. To me, it's just giant-ass robots (something I'm inclined to like) fighting and transforming.

All that aside, I can safely say that Transformers is one of the best films I've seen in years.

Much of the cast is excellent. Shia LaBeouf pulls off Sam perfectly: He knows when to say the right things to the right people and is believably awkward. Megan Fox as Mikael brings a great female force to the movie and makes you feel a little weird about being so hot in the movie despite being in high school. (And then I realized the actress is only a year younger than me, and put the shame to the side). John Turturro plays up his awkwardness, and Jon Voight is the generic "government straight man" until he picks up a shotgun. The military characters play their roles right, though they almost feel tacked on to the movie to make it more "Michael Bay"-y.

Even though the Transformers themselves are mostly CG, they definitely "act." Bumblebee, the star of the movie, has very few real lines, what with his voice being destroyed in battle so that he has to use his radio to communicate. So the animators animate his thoughts with simple actions like playing the right song at the right time. Optimus Prime, the other primary Autobot, is wonderfully voiced by Peter Cullen though the characterization seems to be slightly off; I can't remember any of the other Optimus Primes demanding that someone hurry up. But when he declares "one shall stand, and one shall fall," along with his possible options at the end, you know this is the right man. The other Autobots blend into the background with only a few dozen lines each, and the Decepticons get very little screen time outside of battle. While Hugo Weaving voices Megatron appropriately, his role could have easily been picked up by Frank Welker.

The film succeeds on two levels: action and humor. The first half, which is more comedic as it puts the pieces in place, features Sam trying to understand why his new car keeps disappearing, trying to chase him down, and playing songs at the right moment. But when a Decepticon, in a classic bit of oddity, demands to know if Sam is an eBay user, the movie shifts into the action plot and the rest of the robotic force inevitably appears. The battles are well animated and give a great sense of the insanity that giant robot fights would be in real life. Of course, the last time we saw giant CG robots on the big screen (except for the failure that was Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow) was in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie, and technology has definitely advanced in the last twelve years. As for the comedy, I don't recall a joke that was forced or fell flat. And the action is so frenetic that you don't even have time to cheer for the heroes.

Remember how Spider-Man and X-Men revitalized the comic book movie? I fully expect Transformers to kick-start a giant-robot movie theme. Scenes of MBE-01 seemed more reminiscent of EVA Unit-01, right down to the harness and scale. Neon Genesis Evangelion could definitely get farther into production, assuming Transformers does decently well at theaters. We'd definitely get Transformers sequels if the stars align correctly, and if Disney wanted to throw their hat in the ring, they could do a 20th Anniversary Power Rangers. Theoretically, I could see a political action thriller being made out of Gundam, and Voltron filling out the fantasy function.

Go see the movie, enjoy it, hope it leads to more. Just avoid the Mountain Dewcepticon.
 
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