(2 of 2)
The first half of the movie is padded with lots of lame comedy with Sam and his parents, and some desperately unfunny stretches, with John Turturro as a federal agent, that try to channel the deadpan wit of the first Men in Black movie but get only static. As with Titanic, where during the first hour and a half audiences were whispering, "Sink the damn boat," one has to sit through reels and reels of story before the humans step aside and the bots do battle.
Two things I liked: the legend on a Decepticon police car, where instead of "To protect and serve" it reads "To punish and enslave"; and a smartly designed mid-film shoot-out in the Qatar desert between the airmen and some subterranean bad-bot. Underground monster attacks don't often work well in movies (Dune, Tremors), but these creatures' movements are sneaky, snaky and scary; they dive out of and back into the sand like porpoises of the Sahara.
Cool choreographic ideas are what's missing from Act Three: the confrontation of the Autobots and the Decepticons. I couldn't detect an idea, or much ingenuity, in action scenes that felt overlong and oversize. Maybe, like Godzilla in the 1998 U.S. remake, they're just too big. The bots were more fun, and had more to do, when they were disguised as cars.
You might conclude that, after almost a hundred years of banging bumpers, American movies had run out of things to do with cars. That's not true, as was proved by last week's auto-neurotic action film, Live Free or Die Hard. The Bruce Willis picture showed off some brain-melting car stunts clever and crazy, and plausibly attached to the (clever) story and the (crazy) main character. The action in Transformers is divorced from the characters; the actors are frequently photographed staring up, in simulated awe or fear, at events that the effects techies were putting together somewhere else.
Divorced from reality, even movie reality, Transformers becomes an action film in traction. Its relentless product placement makes it seem like a 2hr. 22min. General Motors commercial. And the film has just enough collisions to be a crashing bore.
The original version of this story misstated the names of a character and an actor, and had incorrect information about the desert attack.