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Tim Gough takes a trip back to the 80s when men were men and robots were…er…cars

Published on July 26th 2007.


The 80s revival has been bubbling up nicely. First Die Hard returned, and now plastic robots from the 80s have been granted a digital makeover. With a Rambo sequel out soon, Indiana Jones 4 to follow and a Back to the Future sequel being mooted, you can be sure this ain’t over yet.

But for fear of evil head honcho Megatron getting in a huff, we’ll concentrate on from Michael Bay (who, incidentally, has a bad 80s haircut).

The film starts off with an explanatory voiceover for the uninitiated. For those of you who don’t know, the Transformers are made up of the following formula:

Autobots (good transformers) + Decepticons (baaad transformers) = The Transformers

Both sides of the equation hail from Cybertron where they battle it out to find the all powerful Allspark, a humongous cube providing unlimited power for anyone who possesses it.

For this movie (and its certain sequels) the Allspark has ended up on Earth, and the key to its location is held unwittingly by teenager Sam Witwicky (rising star Shia Lebouf). Cue an influx of earth-bound Transformers to either protect us humans, or massacre us in unrelenting pursuit of the Allspark.

A superb opening sequence sees an unidentified helicopter flying into an army base in Qatar. A few warnings later and all hell is breaking loose, with the helicopter not a helicopter anymore and top secret data disappearing from the US of A’s defence networks.

There’s not too many big names in this one. Jon Voight plays the stern-faced Secretary of Defence whilst comedian Bernie Mac cameos as a car salesman selling Sam his first car, which turns out to be a robot in disguise.

But no problem, for kids of the 80s, names don’t come much bigger than Optimus Prime and Megatron (leaders of the Autobots and Decepticons respectively), who naturally end up facing off in the best city-wide battle of good versus evil since Superman 2. It’s also great to see the filmmakers bringing back Peter Cullen to reprise his original TV role as the voice of Prime.

But that’s about it - the lead roles go to relative unknowns Shia Lebouf and Megan Fox.

Lebouf plays it with a cheeky charm last seen in Michael J Fox. This lad is destined for great things – you’ll see him soon in US smash Disturbia, and again in that small Indiana Jones 4 project.

Fox plays Sam’s potential love interest Mikeala Barnes who wears some slinky outfits and wiggles her hips - enough to have Sam’s eyes on stalks. In fact it’s after his car starts helping his pulling technique that Sam realises something weird is going on. When the car starts driving itself off in the middle of the night and turning itself into a robot at a junkyard, it’s safe to say his suspicions are confirmed.

Sam soon finds himself hiding the Autobots in his back garden, trying to keep them off his dad’s beloved grass and to keep his dog from urinating on them. The camp aspect that the Autobots’ arrival brings to the film is welcome and comes just at a time when you feel yourself asking it to lighten up a bit.

But it’s not long before there’s so much metal flying, contorting and shapeshifting across the screen that you’ll come out of the cinema two and a half hours later, highly impressed, but with your brain itself having transformed into a frazzled mush.

The special effects raise the bar again and this might be the benchmark for blockbusters to come as far as CGI goes.

Surprisingly, it’s not just frantic battles to save the earth. Michael Bay, he of brainless stomping actioners like Bad Boys and Pearl Harbour, might be the director, but it’s obvious that Steven Spielberg, as producer, is taking a hands-on role. Bay is kept on a leash, and the Spielberg influence is obvious in the story telling. All the signs are there, family suburban life, kid befriends an alien – sound familiar?

Fortunately the film has its robotically distorted tongue stuck to firmly in its cheek for things to get too serious.

Transformers is on general release.

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

JaneJuly 26th 2007.

looking forward to Indiana Jones already. and a new Back to the Future? tell us more

ChapalataJuly 26th 2007.

Thank god that directors aren't scared of remaking classics for us 30 somethings - bring it on !

GordoJuly 26th 2007.

Tim! You're back! I luuuurve you!

HelenJuly 26th 2007.

"Lebouf plays it with a cheeky charm last seen in Michael J Fox.........Fox plays Sam’s potential love interest Mikeala Barnes......."Michael J Fox in DRAG? What!?

janehaxon@yahoo.co.ukJuly 26th 2007.

helen - read the para above it - its explains that its Megan Fox playing the girl! besides though, have you not seen back to the Future 2? Michael j fox does a pretty good drag impression in that playing his own daughter

wayneJuly 26th 2007.

You're all weird

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