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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » October 3, 2007
film review
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October 3, 2007 By Witold ¯ygulski   
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Michael Bay has earned himself a reputation as a Hollywood money-making machine, turning anything he touches to gold.

Ever since he made Bad Boys with Will Smith and Michael Lawrence in 1995, almost all his movies have made over $100 million at the box office. Critics found The Rock with Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage to be the most interesting, mainly thanks to the performances by the leading men. Armageddon with Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck was mercilessly derided by the critics, though the crowds that saw it did not really seem to mind. Pearl Harbor with Affleck and Josh Hartnett made equally big money for the producers, though even fans of war epics were reserved about the picture. Even the utterly infantile Bad Boys II drew millions of viewers to movie theaters around the world.

The only exception in Bay's career was The Island which he directed in 2005. Despite its somewhat more intelligent plot and Scarlett Johansson in the cast, the futuristic thriller ended up a spectacular flop. Bay needed to do something to repair his reputation on the market, fast. Rumor has it he was not initially interested in directing the sequel to Nelson Shin's cult The Transformers: The Movie from 1986, which he dismissed as "a stupid toy movie." But he quickly changed his mind and came up with another high-budget adaptation of the adventures of comic-book toys for kids. In the process, Bay got support from the U.S. Department of Defense, unprecedented since Black Hawk Down which Ridley Scott directed in 2001. The joint effort has resulted in a two-and-a-half-hour-long special effects extravaganza for little and slightly bigger boys.

With kids and adolescents as the target audience, the makers of Transformers did not bother about a stellar cast. The only relatively high-profile actors are Jon Voight as Defense Secretary John Keller (the Hollywood veteran played President Franklin Roosevelt in Pearl Harbor) and John Turturro as Agent Simmons.

It rests on up-and-coming Hollywood stars to carry the movie, most notably Shia LaBoeuf who recently appeared in Disturbia from director D.J. Caruso. In Transformers, he plays exactly the same role, that of an average teenager who suddenly gets thrown into a mad spiral of events beyond his control. While in Disturbia LaBoeuf fought a single enemy, a serial killer next door, now the situation takes on a much more global dimension. Sam Witwicky, the main human character in Transformers, finds himself in the middle of a galactic struggle between good Autobots and bad Decepticons.

Both groups can mimic mechanical objects used by humans, especially cars. The robots are fighting over an energy source which accidentally got lost on Earth over a century ago. The Decepticons are so determined to obtain it that they do not hesitate to attack the U. S. army.

The rest is a cliché. The young heroes help brave soldiers resist the extraterrestrial evil and in doing so, they are also protecting their new friends, the human-friendly robots. All this amid a deafening racket and a grand score by Steve Yablonsky, who previously worked with Bay on The Island. The camera does a frenzied dance interspersed with occasional static shots, a typical Michael Bay visual mannerism. Still, the audiences that come to see Transformers know exactly what to expect and so a great time is had by all.
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