Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Much like its animated forebears, Michael Bay's Transformers functions as an extended advert for action figures. Since Bay is such an accomplished hyper-tasker, the film also finds time to promote the ailing fortunes of the floundering General Motors and serve as a recruitment drive for the various arms of the American military.
Tutored at the heel of 80s cocaine guzzlers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, Bay's response to underdeveloped blockbuster writing is to insert on-the-fly snicker prompts. It's as if the director anticipates a disengaged, grumbling audience. Zone out during that exposition? Here's a dick gag to keep you blinking. Acting is likewise affected, the mood manic and indulgent. Bay's idea of character development a Saturday Night Live aside that's run on two minutes too long. Shia LaBeouf's calamitous, mugging entrance has Megan Fox rolling her eyes into the ground. Yes. That's your leading man.
Marrying an 80s boy's toy franchise to a Terminator 2: Judgment Day style chase adds up, but threat is undermined by the incessant non sequiturs and the prolonged absence of any peril generating robots. Presented as an interchangeable mass of evil, the Decepticons lack distinct personalities. Each individual's acts anonymously build into a wider sense of antagonism, but no characteristics emerge. We never settle on one memorable player - they're all just gun metal titans firing blindly.
Arch-foe Megatron, the crux of all transformer conflict, gets a marginal amount of screen-time in the third act. Freshly thawed from an icy slumber, he contents himself zipping about as an alien jet screaming his name at the bemused humans. Unfortunately these transformers are little more than a series of indistinguishable ILM tech-demos. That said, the Decepticons do provide Transformers' most indelible moments - street-level glimpses of flight-bots Starscream and Blackout rapidly reconfiguring then peeling towards the horizon are brief joys in this vapid whole.