Plot: Sam (Shia Lebeouf) is a hapless teen with dreams of a bad ass car and a hot girl to ride next to him, but that all seems like a distant prospect at the moment. He has been selling some family heirlooms online, as his grandfather was an explorer, so some of his belongings might spark some quick cash. Then Sam can use the income to buy a car and soon enough, a girlfriend is sure to follow or so he thinks. After he lists a pair of old glasses for sale, his life is destined to change, a transition that begins when he stumbles into a worn, but still quite cool classic car. Even the dealership is baffled where it came from, but soon Sam is behind the wheel and just as he dreamed, he later has the hottest girl in school as a passenger. But Sam’s new ride is more than a beat up old car, it happens to be a robot from another world, drawn to earth in search of an artifact that his grandfather’s glasses can help locate. As warring robotic factions arrive, will the earth survive the inevitable conflict?

Entertainment Value: Transformers takes the popular cartoon series in a darker, more serious direction, with a focus on a torrent of visual effects and big action set pieces, as you’d expect from Michael Bay. The visual effects look impressive at times, but the movie loses the magic of the Transformers, as the designs are bland and the personalities of the characters have been drained. Optimus Prime is even glossed over for the most part, so we have a crew of generic robots that look polished, but give us little reason to care aside from some mild spectacle. The action is the clear emphasis of Transformers, but even that comes off as disjointed and hard to follow, thanks to constant edits and camera jerks that make it a chore to watch the action at times. No matter how cool the visual effects and action sequences are, if you can’t tell what the hell is going on, those elements aren’t effective. The narrative here is fine, driven by the All-Spark, but at almost two and a half hours, this one overstays its welcome and then some. A thin story stretched beyond its limits, Transformers is too shallow for such a massive run time. I don’t long movies, but this is pure filler in most scenes.

The cast here is a solid one, but given the lack of depth and development, they’re not given much to do. Megan Fox is excellent in her role, which is to stand around and look hot, while Shia LeBeouf is passable, but not charismatic or fun to watch as our central role and main hero. He handles the hapless, comedic elements well, but falters when the movie tries to force in serious or emotional beats. But that is due in part to the script, which does little to set up those moments and if the material fails, there’s only so much an actor can do. The supporting cast has the real talent, but again, no one is given much of a chance to shine. Jon Voight, Rachael Taylor, and John Turturro all do the best they can and to their credit, make thin roles work well, but the script just fails to put their talents to good use. In the end, the movie just feels like an excuse to throw some CGI on the screen and hope the audience will be distracted, as there’s no substance or even well crafted popcorn thrills here. The visual effects are better than most from this period, but the camera refuses to let us bask in the robots, as it wants to constantly cut and shake, as if the audience has zero attention span. I found Transformers to be a chore to make it through, so I can’t recommend this one.

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