The phrase ‘summer popcorn film’ is supposed to describe a film that will be damn entertaining. Damn, as in the strongest sense of the word. These films aren’t going to win Oscars for ‘Best Picture’, but they will be the ones that make you want to revisit theaters again and again. They are loud, they make you feel like a kid, they are typically insane, and they have you smiling through their entire running. Spider-Man 3 and Pirates 3 were supposed to represent the best of what popcorn films have to offer. Unfortunately, they fell quicker than a flaccid Ron Jeremy.
In comes Transformers, a film that fans criticized early thanks most in part to the fact that Michael Bay was sitting behind the camera. Say what you want about Bay, but the guy knows how to make one spectacle of a popcorn film. The Rock, Armageddon, Bad Boys II: all films featuring action sequences that make other directors envious. Sure, they may feature some cheesy dialogue, but, again, popcorn films are not made to win ‘Best Picture’. Transformers is no different in terms of characters and dialogue, but as a spectacle, this film is as ‘damn entertaining’ as films come.
If Transformers was titled Transformers and the Important Supporting Cast, one may then criticize the film for abandoning some character development in favor of meeting both the Autobots and Decepticons. Sam Witwicky (Shia) is one of the few characters that actually follows any kind of character arch. Though the film does concentrate most its time on the rivalry between Autobots and Decepticons, it does set aside some time for audiences to watch Sam go through some kind of action-enriched adolescence.
Before I get to the plot, let me point out that I have only a basic history of Transformers. Though I watched the animation when I was really young, I did not remember the Allspark, a concrete-slash-technological cube that gives intelligence (and the ability to transform) to just about any electronic device. Why it only creates evil robots – who come armed with cannons – I have no idea.
I can describe the film’s paper thin plot in two lines. Allspark somehow finds its way to Earth. Transformers known as Decepticons and Autobots come to Earth and battle it out for the sake of the entire universe. Okay, there is a little more to it than that, but I don’t want to give the few plot twists away.
What the story allows for is simple: absolute mayhem. Transformers teases us with quite a few interspersed action sequences and then ends on what may be the coolest demolishing of a city we have ever seen. The Autobots are made up of Optimus Prime, the leader, Bumblebee, who becomes Sam’s personal protector, Jazz, who has the coolest Samuel L. Jackson-like personality, Ironhide, armed to the teeth and capable of delivering the most awesome frontal attack we have ever seen on the bigscreen, and Ratchet. The action happens so fast that it is hard to say what moments of action Ratchet takes part in. He serves as a medic with the Autobots, though I can’t remember seeing him patch anybody up.
Though you will cheer for the Autobots as it is they who fight on our side, it is the Decepticons that look totally badass. Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons is huge! One can easily understand how a robot of this size keeps a band of robotic misfits under a single banner. Starscream flies around and kicks ass as an F-22 Raptor. Barricade, who is not exactly that impressive as a Ford Mustang police car, looks absolutely vicious in robot mode. Bonecrusher, though a clumsy vehicle, looks for any opportunity to throw down. Blackout, a military helicopter, kicks off the film’s first action sequence and makes an impression every time he arrives to battle. His guns don’t only blow shit up, but the shock from his gear sends vehicles flying. Scorponok was cool, but only served as a strong introduction to the action sequences to come. Devastator, an M1 Abrams tank on steroids, packs so much weaponry that it is thrilling to watch the Autobots try to take him apart.
So, yes, Transformers is more about the Transformers and the amazing battle sequences (that must occur around them) than anything else. Wait a sec, Transformers and hot chicks. Doing what Michael Bay does best, the director was sure to add Megan Fox (Sam’s romantic interest) and Rachel Taylor. While Fox’s character makes a fit, one has to wonder what God made hacker’s as hot as Taylor. Seriously, if computer nerds were as hot as she, I would be hanging out at PC clubs every night. Transformers is all about eye candy, and the girls make a welcome addition to that ensemble.
Speaking of eye candy, let’s talk action. Watching a jet crash into a building might be amazing in any other film, that piece of work serves only as background noise in Transformers. The film literally destroys an entire city with advanced robot weaponry. Whether it is Transformers falling into buildings, missiles striking buildings, or vehicles smashing everything they strike including concrete, the last thirty minutes of Transformers is like a live-action Rampage. You will see things here that you have never, ever seen in any film before.
By the time the credits roll, most everybody in the audience should agree to one thing: Transformers is the essential, no, quintessential popcorn film. This film is as ‘damn entertaining’ as it gets. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it kicks ass. It won’t win a ‘Best Picture’ Oscar, but it should easily take ‘Achievement in Visual Effects’. If a bracket were ever formed for ‘Most Kickassery’, Transformers would be a shoe in.