Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf, "Disturbia") needs a small percentage of the cash and an A in one class to capitalize on his dad's (Kevin Dunn, "The Black Dahlia," "All the King's Men") promise of a new car. After relating his great grandfather's exploration of the Arctic Circle, salesman Sam offers his ancestor's specks via eBay listing and convinces his teacher to give him the grade. What Sam doesn't know is that those glasses are what cause his car, a 1976 yellow, striped Camaro, to lure him on the used lot - they hold the secret of a centuries old war between the evil Decepticons and the good guy Autobots of which his car is one. They are "Transformers."
Laura's Review: C+
This may be the first film released by a studio in conjunction with a toy company (Hasbro). Director Michael Bay ("Bad Boys II," "The Island"), never known for subtlety, transforms the popular 1980's toy line into a loud, flashy, goofy mashup of a movie that plays like "Gremlins" as really big hardware. The "Mission: Impossible III" screenwriting team of Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman have concocted a three stranded plot but Bay's inclination towards visual excess strands his actors in two of them. The film opens with a bang as a ghost chopper lands at a foreign military base. Just as its identity is striking home (the 4500x is a known casualty), Bay shows us the trickery that is its pilot before the thing rejiggers itself into a deadly, marauding 'bot. Back in DC, Defense Secretary John Keller (Jon Voight, "National Treasure") and his men are trying to determine the cause of the loss of their entire base as Sergeant Lennox (Josh Duhamel, "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!"), USAF Tech Sergeant Epps (Tyrese Gibson, "2 Fast 2 Furious," "Four Brothers") and their special ops team escape into the desert and try and make contact. When they are attacked by a giant, metallic scorpion on the outskirts of a village, they procure a cell phone, relay the thing's picture, and call in air cover. Meanwhile Sam is pining after Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox, "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen") and soon after his car brings them together they quickly witness its transformation into 'Bumblebee' but a police car turns into attacker as well. They're saved and discover the plight of the Autobots from their leader, Optimus Prime (voice of Eeyore, Peter Cullen), and their need to recover the giant cube Allspark before the Decepticons do. It's location, apparently, was lasered into those antique glasses, but as Sam scurries to find them, he, Mikaela and his mom and dad are taken away by Sector 7 Agent Simmons (John Turturro, "The Good Shepherd") to the secret compound beneath the Hoover Dam that has housed the cryogenically frozen Megatron, discovered in the Arctic all those years ago. Bay keeps the military exercises riveting and there is no denying a final showdown between Transformers good and evil is exciting to watch, if overlong, but his instincts fail him elsewhere. The Witwicky clan's sitcom situations are directed to a hysterical pitch - one can practically envision LaBeouf over emoting to his bluescreen and Bay has the distinct dishonor of eliciting John Turturro's worst performance ever. The Government subplot pairs a wooden Voight with a stiletto-healed 'analyst' (Aussie Rachael Taylor, "See No Evil") who is the most unbelievable scientist since "The World Is Not Enough's" Denise Richards. Maggie goes for backup to hacker Glen Whitmann (Anthony Anderson, "The Departed") whose home life shadows that of car salesman Bobby Bolivia (Bernie Mac) - something straight out of Medea country. The bots may look cool and while their transformations while speeding down highways packs an adrenaline rush, the special effects are of the speed edit variety - you never get a sense of how these things are really built. The Autobots are all designed with a level of cuteness in mind (think "Robot's" Rodney Copperbottom) and given dialogue reminiscent of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A 'joke' featured in early trailers where one climbs out of a swimming pool too small to have contained it only to be asked if it is the tooth fairy is a groaner extraordinaire. A sight gag of the Autobots 'hiding' on the sides of the Witwicky home works well, however, as does Sam's pet 'Mojo,' a Chihuahua in a cast. The Decepticons do convey menace, but that final battle is staged for the filmmakers' convenience more than logic. As Sam is directed to take the cube past Megatron to the top of a tall building, like a runt receiver pulling an impossible end run, one can only wonder why U.S. Government copters have any chance of reaching him first. The climatic solution, Optimus's sacrifice stood on its head, feels like a cheat, an answer so obvious it should have been the goal all along. "Transformers" is a big blast of a popcorn movie that will please non-discriminating fans and take its place in the pop culture pantheon, but Bay never even tries for consistency of tone and leaves his flesh and blood heroes looking tinny indeed.
Robin's Review: C
If I were a kid who grew up playing with Hasbro’s Transformer toys, watching the TV series, playing with the video games and reading the comic books, I would be delirious about the release of the latest in the “Transformers” franchise. At least that is the impression I got from the audience of children and their parents who burst into applause and cheers as the credits began to roll. I, who was not a kid that did any of the above things growing up, felt like I was being released from prison. I have to admit, the writer of “Transformers 3,” Ehren Kruger, shows some originality, at least in the beginning of this noisy, colorful hodge podge of CGI robots of various shapes and sizes doing battle with one another or mankind. The film starts out with Earth’s first deep space contact in the early 1960’s and JFK’s declaration that man will land on the moon before the end of the decade. Cut to Apollo 11 as it descends upon the lunar landscape in what turns out to be a secret mission to find an alien spaceship that crash landed years before. Then story (and intellect) is dropped and the 3D CGI takes over. I was subjected to over two and a half hours of visual and aural cacophony that did not entertain me and only succeeded in giving me a throbbing headache. I reviewed the first “Transformer” film (and gave it a C but predicted that the fans would love it – I was right on both counts) but could not even sit through the second. I was not looking forward to #3 and expected nothing more than a rehash of the previous Michael Bay spectacles. And, that is exactly what I got. When you look at the amazing cast that peoples “Transformers 3,” you expect to see some good thesping. With the likes of veterans Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, John Turturro, Kevin Dunn and lesser stars such as Patrick Dempsey, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Alan Tudyk and Ken Jeong (doing his usual Ken Jeong thing) you should expect a lot from this sequel. Then again, this is a Michael Bay film and expectations should never be high. The great cast is relegated to mostly background characters and the mechanical creatures and all of their battling takes over the film. Unfortunately, the stars of “Transformers 3,” Shia LeBeouf and Rosie Huntington-Whitely, are as two dimensional as the plethora of mechanical characters that surround them. LeBeouf reprises his role from the first two films and simply goes through the motions as the CGI takes over the story. Newcomer, former Victoria Secrets model, Huntington-Whitely, is stunning eye-candy but the only reason for her to be here is to replace previous Transformers babe Megan Fox, especially her lips, as the damsel in distress. Claims have been made by the filmmakers that this is a brand new “Transformers” and the last hour will blow your socks off, at least if you are the aforementioned kid. For me, the last hour had me checking the time every few minutes and wishing it would end sooner. A 154 minute run time is okay if the story is epic and the characters believable, sympathetic and real. Neither of these qualities can be used in describing “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and the filmmakers should not be bragging about the last hour. Instead, they should find a way to cut the film by that hour. I might have liked it better. The fans, though, are going to love this film and flock to the box office to see it.