Action director Michael Bay has called the shots on some of the biggest (definitely the loudest) box office smashes in recent history, but has he being directing the same movie over and over again? The Rock, Bad Boys I and II, Armageddon and Pearl Harbour all exhibit the Michael Bay constants: swooping, swirling shots of our heroes looking intensely into distance, the overbearing patriotism, heart-rending military speeches and any excuse to get the Stars And Stripes into shot. Bay fans will be happy to know that Transformers continues the trend. Opening with a prologue of a robotic voice telling us something about a cube, we cut to nerdy Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) trying to sell his grandfather's artefacts to buy a Camaro to impress high school belter Mikaela Banes (Fox). Little does he know that the Camaro is actually Bumble Bee, an Autobot who is on Earth to search for a cube that will help defeat the Decepticons, an evil race of robots. Sam's grandfather glasses, which Sam is hawking on eBay, somehow hold the secret and both the Decepticons and Autobots need them to complete their mission of annihilationfreedom. The opening hour is fun - possibly the funniest Bay movie yet - as Transformers indulges itself in a little Brat Pack homage with the talented LaBeouf doing his best John Cusack impersonation (it helps when the rising star is a dead ringer for the '80s uncrowned king of unrequited love). Once the plot gets moving and the action sequences kick in, however, Shia et al are elbowed to the side to make room for the towering robots and the movie loses its heart, humanity and humour in the process. We aren't given a chance to get emotionally attached to the robots, as we only see them flying, firing rockets, crashing into buildings and kicking seven colours of paint jobs out of each other. Bay and his writers (whose CV won't exactly whet the appetite when they include Catwoman, The Core and The Legend Of Zorro) keep the ball rolling throughout and even when the action quietens down from time to time, everyone pitches in to make us laugh with LeBeouf and Turturro coming out on top in the quip race. Once everything is set up and we know what's what, the movie stays in a holding pattern as it builds up to the climatic street battle, which takes over the final half-hour. This is the movie's showcase and although Bay pulls out all the stops, it does tend to get a bit Power Rangers-esque with the Transformers moving like they've just finished shooting the latest Michael Jackson music video. But what has to be the biggest disappointment is that the actual transforming could have been cooler - way cooler - than realised here. The 12A rating is a warning sign to fans of the original cartoon series; Transformers certainly hasn't matured and is aimed solely at twelve-year-old boys.
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