(CNN) -- "A movie studio," Orson Welles once said, "is the best toy a boy ever had."
Megan Fox and Shia LaBeouf run from destruction in "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen."
Michael Bay must know the feeling. In making a movie that's literally about toys -- "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" -- the director had access to a reported $200 million budget, the high-tech talents of Industrial Light & Magic and the It performers Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, reprising their roles from 2007's "Transformers."
Audiences, so far, have been excited. Fandango.com, the movie ticket-selling Web site, reported that it sold out more than 2,000 midnight and wee-hours showings of the film, which opened Wednesday.
MovieTickets.com, another ticket-selling site, reported that "Transformers" had broken into its list of the top 20 pre-sellers of all time, ahead of films such as "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Watch the Transformers make their change »
Passions have been running so high that a New York iReporter said that police shut down a Manhattan theater Tuesday because the waiting crowd -- which had been gathering for hours -- started getting out of hand.
But there's one group that's not impressed: those traditional killjoys, movie critics.
The film is earning a 21 percent rating at the review-aggregation site RottenTomatoes.com, marking it as one of the most poorly reviewed films of the year. (At rival Metacritic.com, it's not doing much better, with a score of 42 out of 100.) But what's really striking is the vitriol with which some critics are attacking "Transformers," to wit:
• Eric Childress, eFilmCritic.com: "The single worst film to be released thus far in the summer of 2009."
• Peter Bradshaw, The (UK) Guardian: "Like watching paint dry while getting hit over the head with a frying pan."
• Manohla Dargis, The New York Times: "Cretinous."
• Steven Whitty, The Newark (New Jersey) Star-Ledger: "Can you thwart a migraine for two-and-a-half hours?"
CNN.com's Tom Charity didn't think much of it either.
Even some of the movie's hoped-for audience -- the fanboys who have admired Transformers since the toys first appeared in the 1980s -- weren't kind. One CNN staffer compared it to one of the all-time bombs, the George Lucas-produced "Howard the Duck." iReporter "davidseaman" called it "the worst movie I've ever seen."
In a cheeky review, iReporter "Achiever" praised Bay "for his excessive use of the 360 spinning crane cam" and the frequent slow-motion shots of Megan Fox fleeing.
"I'm certain that scientists will be able to extrapolate many books on information in the field of boob jiggling," he wrote.
Of course, there were words of outright praise as well. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman, who gave the movie a B, hailed the Transformer characters for having "wizardry and grandeur." Newsday's Rafer Guzman enjoyed Bay's "obvious delight" in making the film. And iReporter Rajiim Gross described the film as "awesome."
In the end, none of these lines will matter. The only line Bay, producer Steven Spielberg and other Hollywood execs are paying attention to is, of course, the bottom line.
The first "Transformers" made more than $300 million domestically. If "Revenge of the Fallen" gets into that neighborhood, it will be another indication that giant robots can be readily transformed into cold, hard box office cash.