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Shock and Awe, and some gripes
This movie is ACTION. I say this first because if you think this movie will be anything more than this, you will be disappointed on some level (as I was). Frame for frame this movie screams Michael Bay.
Now that's out of the way, there's a lot of stuff here that works and a lot that doesn't. It's a good thing that the robots do work. Seeing autobots and decepticons in glorious photo-realistic CGI is enough to wring out any childhood fantasy from anybody (not just boys from the 80s). Watching these robots move is to realize a revelation to what is possible with modern movie effects. Whether it's transforming on the move, bashing the living daylights out of each other, or just standing and talking, these guys alone make the movie work. And unlike the other blockbusters that have came out this year, these effects have a sense of weight that adds so much to the visual satisfaction.
As for everything else, well... that's when things start to go downhill. In typical epic fashion, this movie contains a sprawling cast. Along with this however, are a large number of writing and acting issues. With such a large number of underdeveloped characters, names are pretty much luxury. Also, most of the human related humor gags miss badly, which makes it hurt more considering a lot of the characters were unnecessary. Jon Voight's Secretary of Defense character completely baffles me, which makes me think that audiences responded positively to the President in Independence Day doing aerial dogfights. Any positives from the supporting cast (including the strange yet entertaining overacting of John Turturro) are outweighed by the large set of negatives.
However, the cast has got it where it counts. Shia Lebeouf plays an important part in selling the reality of the robots as the lead character Sam, and also carries an easy likability factor. Megan Fox's acting does a reasonable job bringing some interest to her character to beyond her looks. The voice cast also does an overall superb job. Peter Cullen IS Prime, and although his dialogue does border on the ridiculous, he always has a sense of gravity to his lines. Hugo Weaving also does an equally commendable job as Megatron (His booming entrance will forever be embedded into the minds of little kids everywhere). The rest of the transformers don't say much, which is a shame because I wanted to see so much more interplay between them (The taunts that Optimus and Megatron yell as their fighting is great stuff).
Another major gripe I have is Bay's ADD editing. Although it does keep the movie constantly moving, it creates some issues with continuity and distracts from some of the action (probably the biggest crime committed in the movie).
I could go on and on about the good things (Bumblebee, Frenzy) and the bad things (Anthony Anderson and his family, forgotten Barricade) and the downright weird things (Dubya's cameo, Sam's friend climbing in a tree). Overall, the film delivers where it really matters. Although I was disappointed, the amount of potential for the sequel (which just got greenlighted) just gets me giddy (is it too much to ask for a tighter script and better acting?)
(Also, the Autobot Assemble scene is one of the coolest things I've seen in theaters in years.)