I saw Transformers earlier tonight and I must say that I was highly impressed with the movie. I'm sure you've heard the hype surrounding it and I'm happy to report that it's almost entirely true. Whilst it does run a little long it's almost unnoticeable as the film seems to run from one action sequence to the next, pausing for breath every now and then. If you're a fan of Transformers, an action movie buff or just looking for some escapism then I recommend you go see this!
The plot of the movie should be mostly familiar. On the far away planet of Cybertron the Autobots and Decepticons have fought a war against each other for an age. The war is fought over the Allspark, a giant cube that is the source of transformer-like beings and can be used to create more from existing machines (all of which seem to be born with machine guns and rocket launchers, along with a penchant for destruction). The Allspark was lost at some point during the war and both sides have searched many worlds looking for it. Of course, it winds up on Earth, which brings the battle to our own little planet.
All of this is explained in the opening minutes by a narration from Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots. Optimus is voiced by Peter Cullen, the same voice actor as the original cartoon series. The voices for all the transformers are excellent, with similar voice modifications as the originals. In fact, the "transformation sound" used in the movie will be instantly familiar to anyone who has seen the cartoon.
From the opening the movie jumps right into the action with a Decepticon tearing up a U.S. Military base in Qatar. Here we are introduced to a group of soldiers whose story is followed during the rest of the movie. I did like that the audience isn't left wondering what the transformers look like and that, while given a contemporary appearance, they're still recognisable as transformers. The U.S. Military plays a large role in the film as there are various other characters introduced to try and deal with the Decepticon attacks on the military's computer networks (they're looking for clues to the location of the Allspark).
Perhaps the "main" character in the movie is Sam Witwicky, played by Shia LaBeouf, a fairly average high school student who, during the course of the events in the movie, learns about all the usual things – friendship, loyalty, courage, etc – and picks up a ridiculously hot girlfriend in the process (Mikaela Banes played by Megan Fox). It's Sam who proves to have the key to finding the Allspark so naturally he winds up in the middle of the transformer war and we're treating to plenty of scenes of him running away from giant robots. He is also privileged to be the first to say "more than meets the eye" which I couldn't help but laugh at.
One thing that struck me about the film is that I got a very strong Independence Day vibe from it. There are a lot of similarities to the characters and the plot, as well as being an epic action movie, so this probably isn't surprising. I think we could have done without the inevitable government conspiracy and top-top secret agency though.
The look of the film is very nice. The camera work during intense battle sequences is slightly chaotic, which lends an air of realism to the whole thing. The special effects themselves are simply fantastic – the computer generated transformers really must be the (current) pinnacle of computer graphics. If you're a die-hard purest and want the same looking transformers from the cartoon series then you're going to be disappointed but hopefully you just so rapt that there's a movie out that you won't care! I think the transformation shots are brilliant, especially the ones where there's some momentum involved – like Optimus Prime transforming while speeding down a freeway.
Acting-wise Transformers is solid. I don't think there's any real stand-out performances as there are so many characters competing for screen time that we're not treated to any great length of time on any single one. Sam does get the most coverage but, although I liked LaBeouf's performance, the character is just far too generic to really get anything extraordinary out of him.
Overall, an excellent film and one I highly recommend seeing at the theatre. If you're a fan of Transformers, you'll probably get some extra little references here and there which should increase your enjoyment. If you like action films you will not be disappointed by the number of crashes, car chases, explosions and machine gun rounds expelled. If you just like sci-fi then you'll probably get something out of the underlying plot and visions of giant robots. I give this film two thumbs up!