I can't believe I'm about to write this, but the Transformers sequel isn't as bad as the critics say. It really isn't. Especially if you are a person who never really got into the original animation series. Such a person might be dazzled by the sheer spectacle of 3D cars and planes turning into massive robots. A person unburdened by the history of the Transformers brand would probably care less that virtually all of the characters are so radically redesigned, both in appearance and personality, that they bear little to no semblance to the source materal. That won't matter to them.
But it matters to me. As a kid I was loyal to the original series. I knew all the charcters. I knew their strengths and weaknesses. Their designs were simple and easy to recognize. Even their voices were so singular that I knew who was who without seeing them. But I am not the intended audience.
Michael Bay did not set out to make a Transformers movie. He set out to make an action movie that merely uses the Transformers brand. With such an agenda, he's not obligated to evoke nostalgia by keeping the designs even remotely true to the source material. In fact, with the exception of Optimus Prime and Bumble Bee, the remaining autobots are so much new inventions that I can only wonder why Bay decided to stick with their original names. The Deceptions seemed more inspired by James Cameron's Aliens than by the original characters. They are also so generic in appearance and complicated in detail that they are pretty much anonymous. Especally in battle. When a deception is killed, it's difficult to know who just bit the big one. Nor do you care. Unlike, the original series, the Transformers as characters is less important than the Transformers as spectacle. They are show pieces. Eye candy. Enormous targets for shooting at and blowing up
The plot slightly echoes the original series. The Transformers need energy -- or energon as it is called -- to remain functional. The Decepticons know a way to get said energon, but it involves destroying the sun. Bad news for humans. From here you would think it's the Autobots who are going to stop them from this. But no. Again, Michael bay is not making a Transformers movie. Just an action movie. So it's really the humans -- that is, the United States military -- who are going to stop the Decepticons. Here is where Bay returns to his comfort zone. By diverting this back to a human driven action movie, he can revert to those cliches that make such movies what they are: Type-A male soldiers who are quick on thier feet, quick with their tongue and always in control. Schmucky government beuracrats with flawed rationalizations about what's really happening -- and who will get their just desserts served to them by the Type-A clever soldiers. You'll see more of this than you will actual big scary robots (it's not necessary to call them Transformers anymore).
Oh, and then there's Sam Whitwicky (or however you spell his last name) and his girlfriend. And since this is an action movie, theirs is an action-movie romance. This means all of the eye gazing, and lip puckering is there, but without the sincerity of a real drama. Amazingly, this fast-forward love affair is where Bay devotes a lot of his attention. So I can't believe I'm about to say this: the real problem with Bay's Robot movie is that it takes far too long to get to the spectacle. Sure, he opens with one. But that's a given. All action movies open with action. It's part of the formula. But after the big bang opening, you have to wait about another hour before the second big clash between the robots
When it does come, though, boy what a ride. The big scary robots are fun to watch when they're slugging it out.