widescreen – Transformers roll out of geekdom

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Much like the original story of the 1984 cartoon, Paramounts Transformers tells of an age-old war between two vying sects (good guy Autobots, and bad guy Decepticons) of an intergalactic species of transformable robots. Following the destruction of their home world Cybertron, at the hands of Decepticon leader Megatron, both the Autobots and Decepticons arrive at Earth in search of something called the All Spark.

The Decepticons brazenly attack a military base in Qatar, and then infiltrate the computers of Air Force One in search of precious information that the Autobots already know: a young teenage boy by the name of Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) holds the key to the All Spark, and, therefore, the fate of the universe. Sam, of course, has no knowledge of this and as a teenage boy is primarily concerned with getting his first car so that he can get his first girl, classmate Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox.)

But when Sams car turns out to be the Autobot known as Bumblebee, he and Mikaela find themselves swept into an all out battle royale between Megatron (Hugo Weaving) and Autobot leader Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen, who has voiced the character since its inception), and Earths fate hanging in the balance.

Although this is a silly story based on an even sillier premise a species of warring robots with an evolutionary imperative to transform into vehicles? Transformers absolutely works. Whereas every other wannabe blockbuster this summer has strived to jam adult drama into improbable situations, and has therefore to some degree failed, Transformers fully embraces its cartoon premise and just goes with it leaving cares and worries in the dust as it rips up the road of good goofy fun.

Wisely, director Michael Bay, along with screenwriters Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, roots the film not on the giant robotic shoulders of Prime or Megatron, but on young Sam. With the movies surprising amount of sub-plot, LaBeoufs morality and geek-chic exuberance keeps the jumpy narrative centered. He, along with the fun supporting cast, gives the film a purpose beyond those pulse pounding robot action scenes.

And oh, what scenes they are. Retaining some of the original transforming noises of the original cartoon, the CGI animators of Industrial Light and Magic supply Transformers with utterly amazing effects that seamlessly render these robots into reality. The transformations are flawless, and absolutely gorgeous when utilized in mid-battle. Bay even exploits the CGI to spectacularly rework one of his trademark slow motion shots.

True, some of the scenes are framed closer than you might like, making it often difficult to determine which Autobot is fighting which Decepticon, but, come on, these are forty-foot tall transformable robots slamming it out with each other who cares which is which?

No doubt tempered by producer Steven Spielberg, Bays Transformers is a near perfect translation of geek nostalgia into mainstream entertainment. Bays penchant for explosions and popcorn-story cheese meshes well with the goofy source material, making for a movie far funnier than you would expect.

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