transformersWhen it was first announced that a ‘Transformers’ film was being made many people were skeptical, including me, regarding how good could this adaptation possibly be. The concerns were numerous, from will whoever’s making it screw it up? Will the robots look real? Will the essence of the series remain intact? Will the characters bear any resemblance to their animated counterparts? So on and so forth. I figured this movie, like so many others of this magnitude, would simply gain a little momentum and then fade away into the depths of development heck. That was until the announcement came that Steven Spielberg (director of “Jurassic Park”) would serve as Executive Producer, while action director extraordinaire, Michael Bay (“The Island” and “Armageddon”) would be the one sitting in the director’s chair on a movie that could prove to be every 80’s kids dream come to life (real actual Transformers) or simply another fond childhood memory trampled upon by Hollywood types that ruin everything (the live-action flop, “Masters of the Universe”).

“Transformers” begins when a young teenager named Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) purchases a car from a local car lot, in hopes of impressing the girl of his dreams, Mikaela (Megan Fox). Unbeknownst to Sam is that his car is not just any regular car, it is actually an Autobot named Bumblebee who was sent to Earth to find the All-Spark before the evil Decepticons can get their hands on it. However, the Decepticons, including Starscream, Barricade, and Devastator, were already on Earth, and are quickly becoming aware that Sam unknowingly holds the key to finding the All-Spark. To stop the Decepticons, Bumblebee enlists the aid of his Autobot compatriots Ironhide, Ratchet, Jazz, and their leader Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen). Now, the Autobots and Decepticons continue their war that began so long ago on Cybertron, but this time Earth will be there new battleground.

Director Michael Bay and Executive Producer Steven Spielberg have done what some thought impossible. They managed to make a live-action ‘Transformers’ movie and it was absolutely spectacular. With a fun and engaging story that featured humor, action, romance, and some of the most pulse-pounding action set pieces, “Transformers” is the epitome of what a summer blockbuster is supposed to be. This film easily bypassed all fan expectation, including my own. After I saw the initial previews I thought the movie would be good, but I had no idea it would be this much of a thrill ride.

Director Michael Bay was by far the best choice for helming such an audacious action/adventure movie. By now it is pretty clear; no one blows up stuff on screen as well as Michael Bay. What’s also impressive about what Bay has done with “Transformers” is that his budget was less than that of “Spider-Man 3” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” (separately, not combined), but truth be told, “Transformers” is a much better movie all around than either of those two wound up being. Surprisingly, even with a more restrained budget, Bay still managed to put more visually exciting sequences on the screen than either of those films (in my opinion), and he did so using a mixture of computer generated imagery, practical effects work (an actual full-size replica of Bumblebee was built for use in some scenes), and good old’ fashioned explosions that will knock your socks off. Now that’s impressive! What it all boils down to is that Bay knows what his audience wants to see, and he seems to know how to deliver virtually every time.

A movie focusing on walking and talking transforming robots would be nothing without astoundingly realistic CGI creations to adorn the screen. For this task the talented men and women of George Lucas’ acclaimed Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), produced some of the best computer generated imagery I have ever seen on display in a feature film. ILM created such realistic looking robots, even taking into account the effect of weight and gravity (watch the fight sequence between Optimus Prime and Bonecrusher on the streets of Los Angeles to see an example of how these two components are used), plus reflections, tiny cracks, and imperfections covering the robots (seen in any close-up of the Transformers), that you would swear that these robots were actually real. This movie’s visual effects work is truly a benchmark for the industry.

The actors assembled for this movie consist of a fun mixture of veterans (Jon Voight and John Turturro), rising stars (Tyrese Gibson and Shia LaBeouf), and relative newcomers (Megan Fox and Rachael Taylor). Each member of the cast did an outstanding job of keeping every aspect of the movie exciting, even when the Transformers weren’t on the screen. The onscreen chemistry between Shia and Megan was a nice addition to the movie, and made their blossoming romance much more endearing. Adding to that was the fact that Bumblebee served as Sam’s wingman was an especially sweet and funny touch to the dynamic. With the release of this movie, in conjunction with his other film in 2007 the thriller “Disturbia”, Shia LaBeouf has proven that he easily has what it takes to carry a film, and is fast becoming one of Hollywood’s most sought after talents.

Of course, all of these components together would have all been for naught without the excellent voice-over work provided for each of the Transformers. It was a great treat for the fanboy in me to have Peter Cullen reprise his iconic role as the voice of Optimus Prime (the only actor from the animated series that returned for this movie). Without his recognizable voice giving Optimus life, the character just wouldn’t have been the same. Hugo Weaving (‘The Matrix’ trilogy) was a fine choice for Megatron, although his voice is not so easily recognized due to a hefty amount of digital remixing to make him sound more mechanical, but he still did a good job as the evil leader of the Decepticons. The rest of the voice actors were not as recognizable, in terms of other work they’d done, but they were all equally solid in their performances. Together these actors made each and every one of the Transformers just as memorable as their two leaders.

As summer blockbusters go, “Transformers” is truly one of the best. It’s an excellent visual effects extravaganza that is extremely entertaining and features a great cast, a strong story that sets the stage for even bigger things in future sequels, and some of the most incredible action you will see in a movie. This is one action film that is a definite must see!

“Transformers” is rated PG-13 for violence, brief language, and mild sexual humor.