Transformers. Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, and Josh Duhamel star in a film written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and directed by Michael Bay.

Director Michael Bay resurrects an ’80s cartoon franchise created solely to sell toys and delivers a $150-million summer blockbuster that is, itself, a commercial for plenty of other things besides toys. Think General Motors, the United States military, and Mountain Dew, to name a few. And yet, Transformers will appear cynical only to the most earnest viewer. This is a film astutely aware of its own reason for existence.

But enough dilly-dallying: Transformers is a movie about robots from outer space that come to Earth to battle over a cube which is responsible for the beginning of life. Along the way, there’s a predictable teen love story, a Donald Rumsfeld impersonation from Jon Voight, a hilarious cameo appearance by John Turturro, and a lot of explosions. Michael Bay’s previous features-such as Armageddon, The Island, and Pearl Harbor-should give you an idea of what you’re in for. This is a car commercial at feature length, a sound byte that becomes a subplot, and a parade of ethnically stereotyped characters existing within a nonsensical plot.

Nothing that happens in this movie makes much sense, and it is not supposed to. You get what you pay for: state-of-the-art special effects, caricatured performances from all the living actors, and predictably silly performances from the computer-animated heroes and villains. This is Michael Bay’s America in the year 2007, and if you find it to be depressing and vacuous, then you haven’t paid attention to the devolution of U.S. culture during the last 20 years. Just as commercial hip-hop is the only contemporary music that is honest enough to reflect the superficiality and selfishness of modern American culture, so too is Michael Bay one of the few commercial filmmakers to acknowledge the haunting emptiness of public discourse. It’s a beautifully choreographed sequence about military operations that aim to exterminate human life and a hawkish administration looking for an enemy. Michael Bay doesn’t just create the movies America wants, he gives America the movies it deserves, and Transformers is his crowning achievement thus far.


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