Transformers (2007)At a U.S. military desert base in Qatar, a helicopter reported shot down in Afghanistan mysteriously appears. Ordered to land, the chopper suddenly morphs into a gigantic robot and proceeds to hack into the military network, which is quickly cut off by the soldiers. Enraged, the ‘bot destroys the rest of the base and deploys a giant robotic scorpion to kill a small group of surviving solders, led by Capt. Lennox.

In Southern California, teen Sam Witwicky has scraped together enough money (as well get his GPA high enough) to buy his first car. To his dismay, his dad, Ron, takes him to a used car lot where one can count the number of cars still running on the fingers on one hand. His disappointment is soon quelled, however, when his eyes light upon what appears to be an early 1970s Camaro, despite the fact that the dealer, Bobby Bolivia, has never seen the car before in his life. But there is more to this particular Camaro than meets the eye: not only does it demolish all the other cars on the lot to get bought by Sam, it even helps him woo beauty Mikaela Banes, whom he’s known since grade school. That evening, however, the car suddenly takes off, and Sam pursues it to an abandoned lot, where it turns into a giant robot and beams a signal into space…

In Washington D.C., Defense Secretary John Keller announces the base attack to a group of signal analysts, with their only clue: a sound made as the military network was being hacked. One of the analysts, Maggie Madsen, begins to suspect that the signal does not originate from any government or person on Earth even as another attempt on the network is made…this time from Air Force One. Again the connection is severed, but this time a clue is discovered: a pair of glasses being auctioned off on eBay that belonged to Capt. Archibald Witwicky, whose journey to the Arctic Circle was cut short by a mysterious discovery that left him blind and insane for the rest of his life…and which Sam had set up in part to earn some quick cash.

Unable to convince Keller of her findings, Maggie takes a copy of the signal to Glen, an old hacker acquaintance of hers to help her decipher the signal, but it only brings more questions than answers, to say nothing of bringing the FBI down on their heads.

All of this activity and much more is brought to the attention of a secretive branch of the U.S. Government known as Sector Seven which has not only recovered what Archibald “discovered”, but has hidden it in Hoover Dam (the actual reason the dam was constructed) and used it to reverse engineer all the technological progress since the late 1940s. But even Sector Seven (including Agents Simmons and Banacheck) have no idea of what is really happening – that Earth has become the battleground between two different groups of sentient robots, the noble Autobots and the warlike Decepticons. For centuries their war has raged, completely devastating their home world of Cybertron, and now it threatens all of Earth, with humanity caught in the crossfire…

screenplay by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
story by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman & John Rogers
directed by Michael Bay
music by Steve Jablonsky

Cast: Shia Lebeouf (Sam Witwicky), Megan Fox (Mikaela Banes), Josh Duhamel (Capt. Lennox), Tyrese Gibson (USAF Tech Sgt. Epps), Rachael Taylor (Maggie Madsen), Anthony Anderson (Glen Whitman), Jon Voight (Defense Sec. John Keller), John Turturro (Agent Simmons), Michael O’Neill (Tom Banacheck), Kevin Dunn (Ron Witwicky), Julie White (Judy Witwicky), Bernie Mac (Bobby Bolivia), W. Morgan Sheppard (Capt. Archibald Witwicky)

Voice Cast: Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime), Darius McCrary (Jazz), Robert Foxworth (Ratchet), Jess Harnett (Ironhide/Barricade), Hugo Weaving (Megatron), Charles Adler (Starscream), Reno Wilson (Frenzy)

LogBook entry and review by Joel Calhoun

Review: I’m sure I speak for a lot of people when I say I was a bit skeptical when this film was announced, especially when I heard that Bay (who has often been called one of the most hated men in film today) was tapped to direct it. I won’t go into detail about it here, only that Bay is better known for choreographing mayhem than he is at developing believable characters.

Still, the cast (a mixture of old faces and new ones) do okay, even though they are playing essentially second fiddle to a bunch of CGI added in at post-production. Top of the newcomers is LeBeouf, who already had appeared in two previous flicks (the CGI Surf’s Up and the teen thriller Disturbia). In many ways, his is the most central character in the narrative, quickly getting in over his head even as he rises to the occasion.

Visually, the transformations of both ‘Bots and ‘Cons is nothing less than amazing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the FX earns an Academy Award nomination. (Whether it will win will probably depend on what else makes the ballot.) One scene in particular that stands out is Prime’s initial appearance, shifting from tricked-up semi to towering robot – wow. One thing that Bay emphasized to the FX staff was to make the transformations as realistic as possible; that may seem an odd stance to take in film with giant robots, but for the most part the FX staff seems to have taken his advice to heart.

One of the biggest surprises of the movie is that Cullen, who had voiced Prime in the original animated series, reprises his role for the first time in almost two decades. Even Bay, who had all the surviving voice-over artists re-audition for their respective roles was forced to admit that Cullen was perfect for his role.

In the end, while it’s not going to be remembered as a classic, it’s very effective at what it does, entertain a wide swath of viewers for two and a half hours.