Transformers



Tonight Michael Bay helped me channel my inner 14-year-old.

But before I get to the goods, I want to talk about the insane teaser I witnessed along with half of downtown Hollywood at the Arclight Cinemas on this steamy July evening.

The first preview opened with a flicker of the logo for Bad Robot, the production shingle founded by my Great Producing Idol, JJ Abrams. Neat, I thought. A new movie from JJ, perhaps a teaser for Star Trek 11? At first it seemed like a commercial of some kind, but remembering we were sitting in the upscale Arclight, where seats are reserved and annoying ads are banned before trailers, we knew this was...something.

The entire teaser was shot in a camcorder point-of-view at a New York City apartment during a rooftop going-away party for a young guy named...Jeff...or Jack...or whoever. Young twentysomethings smile at the camera, wishing their friend good luck with his future endeavors. Woo-hoo, party on.

Then, a rumbling. An earthquake? The camcorder catches some partygoers screaming, a ball of fire coming from downtown Manhattan. A roar fills the air. Everyone runs down a staircase and onto the street where pandemonium takes over. A giant explosion from downtown sets everyone into a greater frenzy. Suddenly, a flaming object falls from the sky and crashes into cars - it's the freakin' head of the Statue of Liberty.

FROM PRODUCER JJ ABRAMS...

The words appear when everything cuts to black.

1.18.08.

I nearly wet myself. What just happened? What the hell?

We just saw the BEST. DAMN. TEASER. OF. THE. YEAR.

According to Firstshowing.net, it's a top-secret project our Boy Wonder has been working on, a monster movie in the vein of Godzilla that is entirely shot home-video style...The whole film will consist of first-person accounts during an attack on New York City, a la Blair Witch Project. Do we see the monster or not? Who's the star? Is Cloverfield really the name of this movie that won't hit theaters until January? Apparently not; just a working title.

I can't remember the last time I was this strongly affected - by a friggin' movie teaser.

So, back to Transformers...

I get it. Boys love their toys, and grown-up boys love to see their toys come to gleaming CGI life and square off in a downtown metropolitan area - smashed cars, rubble and all.

In what appears to be an alien invasion movie that makes Independence Day look like Braveheart, Michael Bay seems to have created the Abercrombie & Fitch of action movies - sweeping, colorful Americana shots, hot Aryan bodies, and patriotic grandeur accented by a thundering score that's been recycled and remixed from his previous blockbangers.

In other words, it's the definition of cinematic eye candy, an onslaught of action sequences that slightly raises the bar for special effects. This is a movie during which the audience giggles when the token hot chick opens up about her "troubled" childhood, growing up with a car thief for a dad (a laughable attempt at establishing unnecessary character background). It's a movie in which the good aliens adopt the English language (more like lingo) in order to communicate with humans (one Autobot crushes a parked car and utters "My bad."). It's a movie in which helpless government officials run around the Pentagon and hesitate to put their trust in a wise-beyond-his-years teenager who happens to be the descendant of an Arctic explorer and holds the key to stopping the bad aliens (Shia LeBeouf, practically carrying the entire film as he dodges bullets and his sitcomy parents).

Then there's the trademark Michael Bay freeway chase, and this one's an eyeful. Robots rumble and tumble off a ramp onto oncoming traffic. It's hardcore metal-on-metal, and everyone in the theater, mostly fanboys and new recruits, ate it up.

While watching this on the big-screen I couldn't help flashing back to twenty years ago when Masters of the Universe opened in theaters, and the joy I experienced seeing my childhood fantasies fleshed out on screen. It felt as if I were transported back to the 80s last night, soundtrack and all (Deja vu is about to hit big time; Warner Bros. is already developing a live-action He-Man).

Transformers is loud - and proud of it. It knows it's dumb, you know it's dumb, yet there you are, sitting in your seat, fingers covered in popcorn grease, gleefully yelping during the crazy battle scenes.

It's unapologetic junk ready to be consumed by red-blooded, prepubescent boys and twentysomething manboys, and that's the genius of Michael Bay, the biggest manboy of them all. If you blow it up, they will cheer. No wonder Dreamworks teamed him up with Optimus Prime.

It's a match made in Hasbro heaven.

H.P.M.

P.S. - Thanks to JJ Abrams's little teaser for dwarfing the entire main attraction.

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