R046 Transformers

(2007, Action-SciFi, color)


Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett

I guess what this movie is trying to say is: “Vroom, vroom, ba-dow!”

Rating: ****

In a nutshell:

Shapeshifting robots fight over a magic cube.


All we need is a little energon, and a lot of luck.I could try to summarize this for you in greater detail, but since there’s no discernable plot, it wouldn’t do any good. All you need to know is that Autobots are good shapeshifting robots that turn into cars. In contrast, Decepticons are bad shapeshifting robots that turn into everything else—which, confusingly, includes cars. As you might imagine, these two factions fight a lot. On the Autobots side we have Prime (the Peterbilt truck), Bumblebee (the Camaro), and Jazz (the most racially insensitive CGI character to grace the silver screen since Jar Jar Binks). On the Decepticon side we have... You know what? Never mind. I was a fanatical devotee of the original cartoon series, and even I had a hard time telling them apart. Especially when they were all crashing into each other in robot form.

These interchangeable robot aliens all want a vaguely defined MacGuffin called the Allspark, which I’m pretty sure is a magical cube that brings machines to life. Horny teenager Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has a handy map inscribed on his great-grandfather’s spectacles. This leads to a secret government base at the center of the Hoover Dam, guarded by a scenery-chewing John Turturro. There’s also a girl played by Megan Fox, and a bunch of cinematic (i.e. fake) hackers, a bunch of folksy soldiers, and John Voight as the United States Secretary of Defense, but none of them seem to have anything to do with anything.

Anyway, everyone meets up for about an hour of robot-fighting mayhem, after which the good guys somehow win. In the epilogue, Prime narrates a lot of portentous nonsense to the stars while Sam and the girl make out on Bumblebee’s hood.


What's a MacGuffin?I’ll say this for Michael Bay: he knows how to pace a film. On the surface, at least, Transformers is the very model of a modern CGI thriller, jammed end-to-end with heroic battles, larger-than-life effects, and nonsensical SciFi jargon. The movie clocks in at one hundred forty-four minutes, and unless you have sensitive ears, you will not feel it pass.

Of course, if you do have sensitive ears, you’ll spend at least two thirds of it curled into a fetal position, silently praying for your own death. Mr. Bay is well known as a purveyor of overlong ‘splosion movies, responsible for such tympanic assaults as Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, The Island, Bad Boys, and Bad Boys II. While the superior pacing of this film puts it above those just mentioned (at least, above the ones I’ve seen), continuity-wise Transformers is a significant step backwards. Supposedly continuous sequences switch abruptly from day to night between jump cuts. At one point, a pair of dueling robots leaves a land-bound freeway only to tumble several hundred feet off a previously unseen overpass. Even Armageddon made more sense than this.

Also, the story that all this noise supposedly serves is incoherently silly, leaving the characters high and dry—since nothing anyone ever does makes sense, no one can have any possible motivation beyond “the script told me to.” Even with this in mind, every last character depicted is a moron who reacts to every situation by behaving in the broadest, most illogical manner.

'I'm with stupid.'  'Hey, me too!'(The two exceptions: Bernie Mac as Bobbie Bolivia, a flamboyant used car dealer who recognizes Bumblebee as bad for business, and gets the hell out of the movie as fast as possible. Also, Agent Simmons, who is a moron, but John Turturro recognizes this and plays him as someone who makes bad choices out of bona fide idiocy.)

For Rifftrax purposes, though, a film doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to be exciting, and the standard trio of Mike, Bill and Kevin are on hand to keep it funny. Kevin leads off by summarizing the film as “an ear-shattering hellstew of confusing images.” After the sixth or seventh consecutive chase through an abandoned warehouse, Mike notes, “The warehouse business is thriving, but the night watchman industry could use some work.” Near the end, when the boom box robot has accidentally decapitated itself, Bill observes, “There’s an inherent design flaw in the boomerang ninja star.” Yes, the movie’s bad, but it’s bad in a fun way, and the commenters capitalize on this for one of the funniest tracks available.