That would have to be the single most relevant word in a description of Transformers. Throughout the 144 minute movie I was subjected to a relentless cacophony of stomping, scraping and crushing metal. The sound designers must have had the time of their lives (or lived through the worst of nightmares) getting this film primed for release. I don’t even want to know how many audio tracks they were working with before mixing down. A lot of the robotic manifestations rely on the sound, more so than usual considering the dizzying flurry of special effects.
The robots do look pretty cool, and the transformations are nice, which is a pretty important part of the concept, I guess. When it comes to the actual action scenes, however, the film starts with a bang and never comes back down. There isn’t much sense of escalation, except for the fact that when it comes down to the final battle the robots yell out dialogue whilst pummelling each other, in that most gratuitous of cinema traditions that refuses to die. Often the visuals are too much. Mark, I’m sure, won’t be impressed. Other than the slow-motion shots, the robots’ movements all to often resemble a blur of metal sweeping past the camera.
This is a Michael Bay film, in case you didn’t realise with all the scenes filmed at sunset and bouncing, exploding cars, and I guess it is really the perfect (ahem) vehicle for his talents. Mammoth, loud and stupid is what Bay does best, and though I’ve never been his biggest fan, I can appreciate that he does it well. The sheer idiocy of the Transformers premise would be a disaster in anyone else’s hands, but somehow with Bay in control it all makes sense. Almost.
Shia LaBeouf is quickly becoming the saviour of the almost-shit movie. His performance in Disturbia was much better than the film itself, and in Transformers he somehow manages to make the dodgy lines and crappy exposition interesting, funny and even cool. Megan Fox, on the other hand, doesn’t do quite as well. Her character has nothing interesting to say, and whilst she might have the (FHM, Ralph, Zoo Magazine) looks, her character couldn’t be blander. About the only exciting thing about her are the ridiculous inconsistencies.
The adults are a mixed bunch. Josh Duhamel (looking suspiciously like Timothy Oliphaunt) does a good job, and you know exactly what kind of film you’re in whenever Jon Voight uses the phrase ‘DEFCON delta’. Then you have Rachael Taylor’s horribly grating super-Aussie accent (I swear Hollywood pitch shifts our actors) and two actors playing the same African American stereotype. (Three guesses as to which of the robots won’t make it to the end.) The entire cast does pretty well considering they probably had to do a lot of acting to invisible robots that wouldn’t come to be until post-production.
But is it any good? Well, yes and no. It’s deliriously dim-witted and full of awful scenes, bad dialogue and hardcore militarism (anyone who has a thing for modern weaponry will find this more than adequate stroke material)… but it also happens to be a lot of fun. I’ve always said that Armageddon is my most hated film, despite friends telling me I simply needed to chill out and enjoy the stupidity of it all – and maybe that’s what happened with Transformers. There’s something pure about an 80s kids’ cartoon created to sell toys – no pretension, just full-on capitalism – and this firmly grounds Bay’s work in the realm of the spectacle. Nothing more, nothing less than big, dumb fun. Noisy too.Rating: