I have to admit that when I heard that Transformers was going to be the basis for this Hollywood blockbuster, I had serious doubts. Basing a film on that old 1980s-era line of toys, comics and animated TV series, I thought, was truly scraping the bottom of the barrel. As it turns out, this film is, as the old tag line goes, "More than meets the eye." I haven't seen an action/adventure/comedy I've enjoyed this much since the first "Pirates of the Caribbean."
Transformers, for those who haven't been toy shopping in a while, are giant, alien robots that turn into cars... or cars that turn into robots 's take your pick. They're divided into good and evil camps, and a search for an all-important energy cube leads both groups to planet Earth where they battle for the future of humanity.
We get the first taste of the Transformers' awesome size and power when one of the baddies, disguised as a helicopter (Transformers can turn into all sorts of machines), dramatically wipes out a U.S. military base in Qatar. Here we meet Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel from the TV series "Las Vegas"), the film's military hero, who has to save his squad and get word to the Pentagon.
The real story, however, unfolds around high-school misfit Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), the great grandson of an arctic explorer whose 1903 discovery turns out to be pivotal to the plot. Sam is also buying his first car, a beat-up, yellow Camaro, which, he slowly discovers, is one of the good Transformers. During Sam's tragic-comic attempts to impress Mikaela (Megan Fox), the school jock's hot girlfriend, they both are caught up in the robot war.
What makes this film a joy to watch is the balance between high-speed action and clever, teen-angst comedy of the "American Pie" variety. It's loaded with powerful minor characters who bring even more comic effect, if not dimension, to the mix.
Director Michael Bay ("Armageddon," "Pearl Harbor") uses CGI to create some amazing fight scenes, though I thought that some of the action sequences overplayed the fast-swinging, chaos-of-battle camera angles, making it hard to tell which robots were getting clobbered. I also thought that the comic tone, established in the first half of the film, was hard to reconcile with the great, big battle scene at the end. At least we got to see parts of L.A. destroyed, and that can never be a bad thing.