For centuries, two races of robotic aliens – the Autobots and the Decepticons – have waged a war, with the fate of the universe at stake. When the battle comes to Earth, all that stands between the evil Decepticons and ultimate power is a clue held by young Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf). An average teenager, Sam is consumed with everyday worries about school, friends, cars and girls. Unaware that he alone is mankind's last chance for survival, Sam and his friend Mikaela (Megan Fox) find themselves in a tug of war between the Autobots and Decepticons.

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You know you're watching a Michael Bay movie when men of action strut in slow motion in front of a helicopter against the rising sun…

When hero and heroine express their love by fingertips touching in close up…

And when a Los Angeles freeway looks like a big kid's playing smash 'em derby with real cars. It's all served up with a camera that's constantly prowling and edits that assume the audience has ADD.

Bay's style has been widely criticised, even inspiring Team America: World Police, a feature-length parody from South Park's creators.

But love him or hate him, Michael Bay is the perfect filmmaker to turn a cult toy franchise into an action spectacular.

Fans should be pleased with the results because he's turned the action figures and subsequent clunky animated series into a fleet of fierce, mostly believable robots.

Thanks to executive producer Steven Spielberg, there's also a human dimension to the story.

Sam Witwicky is the American teen who discovers his first car – a beaten up old Camaro – is actually a robot protector – an Autobot – against the evil Decepticons, who're set on wiping out humanity. The shades of ET and Back To The Future are unmistakable, and actor Shia LaBeouf – last seen in Disturbia, next in Indiana Jones – makes the character warm and funny.

LaBeouf's charm, the film's sense of discovery and its first three action set pieces, make Transformers' great fun to begin with. But then we get stuck with awkward robot wisecracking scenes, boring computer hacking sequences and lengthy exposition about government conspiracies, secret agencies, encoded spectacles and a giant life-giving cube.

The final robot vs robot vs human showdown – stupidly set up by the heroes in the middle of LA – is undoubtedly amazing. The special effects set a benchmark and you've got to admire Bay's ability to co-ordinate so many elements in one frame.

Problem is, apart from Sam, I didn't really care about the other stereotypical characters stuck in this furious battle. There's also no rhythm, no chance to breath – it's just an onslaught. For me, what started exhilarating wound up anesthetising.

This rates three stars as big dumb fun, even if it could've been 30 minutes shorter and 30 IQ points smarter.