(It's a song by the Dead Milkmen)
It's the first two words that popped into my mind when I thought of the review I'd write for Transformers. This movie rocked my ass off. Don't listen to any naysayers complaining about Michael Bay, about how it wasn't true to the original Transformers story, how Shia LaBeouf is a former Disney Channel douche, and especially don't listen to any technical nitpicking on how the Transformers work or any other such geekery. This is a movie, folks, not a "story for the ages" or a "once in a lifetime experience" or any other sound bite platitude that might be uttered by David Manning or any other fictional movie reviewer. It's a movie: you go with some buddies (not a real good date movie - unless you have a SO who is as much of a Transformers geek as you are), get some soft drinks, some popcorn, go, sit down, and enjoy the ass-off rocking.
By the way, this review has minor spoilers sprinkled throughout, but in my humble opinion, there are no major spoilers to be had, no Earth-shattering surprises or plot twists here, and anything I say is likely something you've already heard about it so don't be too afraid to read it if you haven't seen it yet.
A local movie reviewer here in St. Louis, Missouri said that if you want go to see a movie where a bunch of giant robots kick the crap out of each other then you'll like it and if you're a die hard Transformers fan you probably won't. Don't listen to him. I am about as die hard as you can get, I at one point had had most of the toys and had seen every single episode at least twenty times, and let me tell you I thought it was an excellent big screen, live action send-up of that old 80's cartoon we all knew and loved. I don't think it was necessary - and probably not appropriate - to be super faithful to the original story. There was enough of it in the movie to satisfy me. You had the basics: the Optimus Prime-lead Autobots and the Megatron-lead Decepticons were in a war on Cybertron, it was very destructive, and they brought the war to Earth and in the process Sam Witwicky (played by LaBeouf) befriended Bumblebee, who in the movie was indeed a Bitchin' Camaro. So what if he wasn't a Volkswagon Beetle? I, for one, liked that change. In fact, in one of the many tongue-in-cheek references to the old cartoon, when Sam is on the car lot checking out Bumblebee as a rusty old Camaro he is right next to a rusty old yellow Beetle. I appreciated that.
So what is the plot, then, of this updated story, you ask? Well, like I already said, there was a massive war between the Decepts and the Autobees that laid waste to their metallic haven and the cubicle "Allspark" - the equivalent of
Alpha Trion Vector Sigma (thanks Walter) from the cartoon - the thing that can make new Transformers and give them life - was jettisoned out into space. Thus began thousands of years of searching by both sides to retrieve it. And guess where it ended up? Good ol' Terra, of course.
Megatron was the first to land on Earth - thousands of years ago - crash landing into the Arctic, to be found in the late 1800's by an explorer who just so happened to be Sam Witwicky's great great grandfather. Or great great great. I dunno, that's not important. What is important is that Megatron and the Allspark end up in US military hands. Meanwhile, in present day, the Autobots and Decepticons finally figure out where both are and the alien invasion begins. Just like in the comic book and cartoon Sam ends up with Bumblebee before he realizes his first car is actually alive, but when he does he befriends him. But the Decepticons' first encounter with humankind is far, far less nice. Blackout, who transforms into a MH-53 Pave Low helicopter (I had to look that up, it wasn't easy to figure out the names of all the Decepticons), wreaks havoc on a US military base in the Middle East and kills all but a handful survivors, lead by Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel from the TV show Las Vegas). And a scorpion-like Decepticon wreaks havoc on the survivors when they sought shelter in a nearby village. Both were hell bent for leather on getting data on what the military knew about the arctic Iceman (Megatron) which has been an ultra secret project for nearly a century. This was of course to find their wayward leader and the Allspark, which the Decepts would use to transform all of Earth's machines into more Decepticons and wipe out the humans.
Meanwhile the Autobots, who introduce themselves to Sam and the girl he is trying to bag named Mikaela Banes (played by a sexy Megan Fox), need to get an old pair of his great great great grandfather's glasses which somehow was encrypted with the coordinates of the Allspark. Oh and the Decepticons want that, too, once they successfully hack into the US military's network and find out about it. This leads to harrowing chase scenes (what action movie would be complete without one?).
The introductions of the Autobots is done by none other than Optimus Prime, voiced by Peter Cullen, who has always been Prime's voice way back to the original cartoon which I thought was teh awesome. Of course he transforms into a semi, and like I already said Bumblebee is a bitchin' camaro, ratchet is an ambulance, Jazz is a silver/gray customized hardtop Pontiac Solstice (in G1, however, he was a silver/gray Martini Porsche 935 Turbo), and Ironhide is GMC TopKick C4500 pickup truck.
The Decepticons included the aforementioned Megatron (who was some sort of flying thing when he transformed) and Blackout, Starscream is a jet (F-22 Raptor), Devastator is a tank (not a big robot made from six Constructions), and Frenzy who is essentially a stereo/cd player who successfully hacks into the military network aboard Airforce One (the smallest Decepticon). Frenzy was originally supposed to be Soundwave, who was originally supposed to be the tank, but this was rethought and Soundwave was reserved for a future sequel.
As for the rest of the story, well Megatron breaks free from his frozen imprisonment and both the Autobots and Decepticons duke it out in an urban setting for the Allspark, bringing about mass destruction as they fight over the Allspark in one of the best action scenes in a movie to date. I'll let you see for yourself how that ends but you can probably can figure out which side wins if you've ever seen a single episode of the series.
Anthony Anderson played a hacker (Glen), partnered with Rachael Taylor (Maggie Madsen - pretty girl #2 in this movie), who could figure out the Decepticons' signal, in a subplot that wasn't all that necessary. AA was pretty funny, though.
Speaking of funny. The were plenty of comedic moments which had kept the audience in stitches, including a precious cameo by Bernie Mac (the car salesman who sells Sam Bumblebee), and Shia LaBeouf was actually very funny and I think he has a future as a comedic actor with his dry-humour delivery. And then there's that scene where the barely-seen but heard President Bush requesting a Ding Dong while Frenzy is hacking his airplane's computers. And I liked how the phrase "More than meets the eye" was worked in that only flirted with cheesiness. Another excellent subtle nod to the original cartoon is where Optimus says to Megatron in the final battle "One shall stand, one shall fall," which he also announced to Megratron before their final battle in the original Transformers animated movie.
I have to mention John Voight was great as the Secretary of Defense, his acting top notch as usual.
All-in-all, this was one exciting, action-packed, funny, great Transformers movie. I don't care how much you all think Michael Bay's other movies sucked, he hit one out of the park here. And I am looking forward to the next one, which I hope he also directs.
Autobots... transform and roll out!