In 1984 toy manufacturer Hasbro released the Transformers, and as part of its marketing strategy, commissioned a Marvel comic strip and an animated TV series that became an instant children’s classic. A lore was created in which two robotic alien races, the good Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, and the evil Decepticons, headed by Megatron, do battle. An animated film featuring these metallic chameleons was made in 1986. Two decades on and Michael Bay (The Rock, Bad Boys) has created a live-action version that has made more money in its first week than any other non-sequel film in history at the US box-office.
It’s easy to see why. The special effects are extraordinary. The transformations of the vehicles to robots are without fault. The protagonists, young Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and Mikaela (Megan Fox) are pleasing on the eye and have problems that any teenager can relate to. All Sam wants is a cool car but when he gets one his life is, err, transformed.
Yet Transformers also shares many of the problems that have afflicted most blockbusters in this rather lacklustre summer season: it’s way too long, especially in the final third, in which narrative momentum, plot and characterisation are curtailed to pave the way for one bloated action sequence after another, and a side plot involving computer hackers is atrocious. But ultimately, for what it is, the film succeeds, largely because there really is more than meets the eye. (Kaleem Aftab)
General release from Fri 27 Jul.