The live-action adaptation of the Transformers franchise must have been created through some kind of awesome, sci-fi adventure alchemy, no doubt achieved by adding a dose of the original '80s cartoon, a dash of Michael Bay's signature action style, and a pinch of Spielbergian wonderment. And each of these components is injected into the mix perfectly. If Bay knows anything, it's how to reduce us to hyper, enthralled 14-year-olds, and he's an unrivaled master of constructing the action-packed cinematic worlds that make us love movies like this in the first place, full of metal-grinding action sequences and midriff-baring smart-but-tough girls wearing fake eyelashes and six coats of lip gloss. Meanwhile, the Transformers themselves are crafted with fantastic precision, both in personality and in appearance (with the best and most realistic CG yet), reviving our childhood awe and delight with a classic tale of great power, of good and evil, and of giant robots who kick major ass.
There was much trepidation among the original show's fans when it was announced that, due to a corporate tie-in with GM, many of the characters would be transforming into different vehicles than they once did. For instance, Bumblebee, a smaller Autobot who's young, spunky, and cute (despite also being a noble soldier who now speaks through the radio because his voice was injured in battle) has always fittingly transformed into a yellow and black VW Beetle -- except now, he turns into a Camaro. The muscle car of choice for high-school football players everywhere might not sound like the right alternate form for our beloved Bumblebee. But the truth for Bumblebee, as well as for all the Transformers that experienced such makeovers, is that the characters are so spot on, the cosmetic changes don't matter. If there's anything the filmmakers seem to understand, it's the distinct personality of each one -- there's even a nod to the bitter rivalry between Megatron and Starscream from the original series, despite there being less time in the film to get to know the Deceptacons. This is all extremely gratifying for Transformers devotees, but it's also very helpful for newcomers to the franchise, who are given the chance to get to know and love the film's heroes.
It would be just plain tragic not to acknowledge what it does for the film to have original Optimus Prime voice Peter Cullen reprise his role. Cullen sounds like a cross between a badass action hero, the guy who does the movie trailers, and God. His voice, in combination with the actual character of Optimus Prime, creates the ultimate giant-robot incarnation of the archetypal warrior king: full of bravery, emanating wisdom, and frequently transforming into a kick-ass Mack truck. In Bay's universe, Optimus and his Autobot comrades find a perfect landscape for their epic struggle to defeat those who would use their power for evil. It's not just a universe of fast-paced power and style, but also a universe that inspires even cynical viewers to recapture a childlike delight in entering a world where humanity's own magnificent saviors are 50-foot-tall robot aliens that turn into cars.