Our childhood toys are all grown up. For the record, my Transformers were never this violent. They lived, worked and played happily beside the likes of Strawberry Shortcake, a gaggle of Care Bares, He-Man and Barbie, of course. Optimus Prime was content hauling My Little Ponies, not fighting off my brother’s evil Decepticons.
But in Michael Bay’s world, these alien robots are destructive, vengeful and too large and cumbersome to acclimate to a human’s environment. They’re loud, they’re scary, they’re monsters. Our toys have come a long way, baby.
In Bay’s 2-1/2 hour live action film, the honorable Autobots and the sinister Decepticons choose the Earth as their battleground — searching for and then fighting over a magic cube that has been hidden here for centuries (or, at least since Hoover was in office — the explanation was kinda just thrown in near the end as to create a motive for the transgressions). With the help of human friend Sam (Shia LaBeouf) and his classmate crush Mikaela (Megan Fox), the Autobots successfully locate the cube, but soon have the Decepticons and U.S. government on their tails.
Messing with a generation’s nostalgia can have consequences. Here are my beefs: The dialogue and storyline, at times, seem secondary to the massive transforming machines. Too many minor characters and unnecessary subplots often clutter the momentum. (What is up with the scenes featuring the young scientists hired to de-scramble the Transformers’ code? Dumb.) And the obvious corporate sponsor, General Motors, totally “transforms” the very essence of sidekick Autobot Bumblebee, who was a yellow Volkswagen Beetle in the original 1980s cartoons, not a banged-up 1970s Camaro with cheesy black racing stripes.
Despite these qualms, the film still captivates and keeps the quick-action pace people expect from summer blockbusters. Stars LaBeouf and Fox, as well as Josh Duhamel, provide the much-needed human element in the film — you know: feelings, fears … extreme vulnerability compared to these large killing robots. Expect LaBeouf to be a household name about this time next year.
“Transformers” won’t make every ’80s fanatic brat happy, but it definitely gives us a glimpse of how our toys were supposed to act … perhaps what happened after the lights went out at bedtime. Might explain what happened to my Starscream’s left wing.
BY SARA HAVENS