In this season of summer movies, few movies will gleefully target and pander to it's audiences with politician-like precision as obviously as Transformers: The Movie. We're talking broad strokes with bright crayons. Much like its male protagonist Sam Witwicky, this is a movie that wants to be liked by everyone and tries hard to win over ALL its audiences.
GMC executives should be thrilled because Transformers is a two and half hour long commercial and their cars never looked so shiny and cool. Like Justin Timberlake, Transformers brings the sexy back to American cars.
The military will be ecstatic because the movie is an effective military recruitment device. Soldiers, primarily represented by Josh Duhamel, are portrayed as kick-ass heroic family men. There are long sweeping panoramic shots of fighter jets, helicopters, tanks and aircraft carriers set to an overly dramatic Jerry Bruckheimer-esque musical score. If its ginormous and flies, floats or rolls, it's in this movie.
Fans of Transformers toys, comics and cartoons will be cheering up and down the aisles because there are numerous in-jokes and references to the Transformers canon. Transformations have that wonderful ee-ee-woo-woo sound and halleluiah, Optimus Prime sounds like Optimus Prime. Mainstream vindication for love of all things Transformers… priceless.
For men 18 to 40 years-old, along with the endless parade of grown-up boys toys, Megan Fox lives up to her namesake. She's drop dead gorgeous with a body (which seems to glisten with sweat for the duration of the movie) that elicits as much heart-thumping applause as when a car turns into a giant robot. And in case she's not your type, Australian beauty Rachel Taylor is thrown in for good measure. Fox and Taylor are not only attractive, but they also portray strong and competent female characters that aren't just sitting on the sidelines waiting to be saved making this movie agreeable to the Oxygen network crowd as well.
Moms and dads will be satisfied that while the action is intense, there's no blood or gratuitous violence to fret over and there's some comedy and slapstick (surprisingly some bits that involve the Transformers) in case you get bored between all the rockem' sockem' action.
For liberals, President Bush gets tweaked a little and there's some vague message about the dangers of government secrecy and the right to freedom.
For conservatives, there's also a vague message about sacrifice and fighting for what's right.
For black folks, there's Tyrese Gibson and Anthony Anderson reprising the hot-head and smart brother roles that they've portrayed in dozens of other movies.
The only thing that wasn't represented in Transformers was a kung-fu-fighting Asian hung-up on wires, but that's what sequels are for.
Yet for between all the campaigning, recruiting and shilling, there's a story to be told and akin to other summer movie blockbusters, it's got all the usual sci-fi implausibility and plot-holes, but it's serviceable in maintaining a brisk pace so you don't have time to think about them (a trademark of any good action sci-fi movie). The movie also does well to add brief, but human elements to the fold so this isn't one big robo-fest and is remarkable in how it is able to navigate not only a large ensemble cast of human actors, but also a large group of Autobots and Decepticons. The story nearly implodes due to the character overload, but it manages to make just enough sense for audiences to marvel at the one thing that matters the most: the Transformers.
With all the bonus making-of features and director's commentaries available on DVDs, there's very little movie magic left in Hollywood these days, so it is a major accomplishment when Transformers is able to make its audience's jaw drop and elevate the level of special-effects in movies. Trying to fully explain what makes a Transformer transforming so awe-inspiring would require a thesis, but in a sentence, it's just wondrously sublime and fun to watch. The action sequences in this movie are all-caps CRAZY and really defy conventional descriptions. With each Transformer looking so complex and mechanical, you would think the sheer act of making these enormous robotic behemoths move would be technically impossible, but what's amazing is how the filmmakers are able to make the Transformers duck, dive and dodge effortlessly in spite of the huge scale.
The Transformers themselves are really the saving grace of the movie. Without them, this would be a formulaic movie that is so commercially crass that it boldly tries to be all things to all people. So in essence Transformers is really like Bill Clinton in that his agenda isn't all that different from any other politician, but he's charming and you just like him more than the other guys. Transformers without the Transformers would be just-another-summer-movie.
As a Transformers fan myself, I could knit pick at several things, but overall it's hard not to be impressed by the movie that Michael Bay was able to put together. The movie panders a bit too much, but it does so genuinely so in this one rare instant, I actually enjoyed it. Optimus Prime for President!
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