2007-07-20 / Columnists


'Transformers' - Heavy Metal Moneymaker
Review By Robert Snyder

Leave it to Steven Spielberg to beat out the slew of summer blockbusters. He does it as executive producer of "Transformers," a combination of "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial," and "Terminator," with a load of product placement.

The film broke the box office record, earning more than $27 million on the Tuesday opening before July Fourth and seems well on the way to being the season's biggest moneymaker. If you're a teenage boy or GM or Hasbro exec, this is good news.

Originated in Japan and first appearing on-screen as an animated feature, the "Transformers" concept involves trucks, cars, helicopters, cell phones and anything with metal that can shift shape into robots. Here, the robots are from outer space and are searching for a home and an all-important cube that has special powers. Of course, while some robots are good and human-friendly ("Autobots"), others are bad and anti-human ("Decepticons"). In the middle is the Spielbergesque "geek" teen, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), whose dad buys him a 1970's Camaro. The car ultimately serves as his E.T. friend and conscience, helping him pick up a hot, outof his-league girl, Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox), before revealing itself to be Autobot Bumblebee.

There's another subplot concerning some macho American soldiers (Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson) in Qatar, who encounter a malevolent helicopter that turns into a scorpion-type robot and wreaks havoc at a military base. U.S. Secretary of Defense John Keller (Jon Voight) is alerted, as a smart sexy Pentagon intern Maggie Madsen (Rachael Taylor) steals a classified computer disk to decode an Autobot signal with the help of a comic hacker.

However, this plot filler is secondary to the crash-and-clang action between the robots, which takes up most of the almost three-hour movie and is the reason Spielberg has his eye on parents' pocketbooks.

In the destructo-department, Director Michael Bay ("The Rock," "Armageddon") delivers, even providing more humor than in his Jerry Bruckheimerproduced movies. Particularly funny is the banter between the gigantic Autobots when they hide behind Sam's house as the boy b.s.'s his folks.

Go see "Transformers" and help Spielberg, Hasbro and GM make lots of money entertaining teens.

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