3 Stars – Wholesome
Sometimes the formula makes the film. Although Michael Bay’s film “Transformers” offers little that is novel or unexpected and instead follows the tried-and-true formula of the comic book genre, the end result is a very exciting, entertaining, endearing and enjoyable journey into the world of sentient machines. In addition to the obvious battle between good and evil, there is romance and danger, self-sacrifice and courage, with the future of Earth resting in the hands of a teenage boy and girl. There are government secrets of alien life and daring soldiers whose abilities can protect us from any threats. There is teenage angst with the usual insensitive handsome jock and the misunderstood beauty who is “more than meets the eye” with her skills and troubled past.
For those who know the Transformers as toys with that catchy advertising slogan of being “more than meets the eye,” the film is a reminder of their mechanical ingenuity and marketing skill. For those who enjoy the genres of science fiction and action films, the symbols are also familiar. One example is the “cube of life,” which is a nod toward the Borg of Star Trek fame. But instead of being an assimilating collective, it is the source of machine intelligence and life, able to transform a cell phone into living, metallic life. Another example is the secret government agency protecting the presence of alien life only to become the victim of its own secrecy.
As is true of the Spiderman films, the central character is an insecure teenager, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), whose love for a beautiful classmate, Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox) is hampered by his dorky appearance and style. In this instance, Sam’s importance comes not from an atomic spider bite but from being the grandson of an arctic explorer who uncovered a metallic giant the government called “Iceman,” because of its frozen state.
What the government doesn’t know is that this sentient machine is Megatron (voice by Hugo Weaving), the leader of the evil Decepticons who has followed the cube to earth and intends to turn all of earth’s machines into an evil mechanical army to kill all humans and conquer the universe. Fighting the Decepticons are the Transformers, whose leader Optimus Prime (voice by Peter Cullen) has come to protect the earth and the universe from the Decepticon’s evil plan.
The most endearing of the Transformers is a little Camarro named Bumblebee (voice by Mark Ryan). Making contact with Sam and helping him with his romantic designs on Mikaela, Bumblebee is central to the story and provides the personal connection which makes the Transformers accessible.
“Transformers” is a film of surprisingly enduring quality. Its simple message of goodness, love and courage is needed in a day when the lines are often blurred and the struggle is not clearly defined. Perhaps this little tale based on toys of times past will truly help transform all of us.
- The line between good and evil is often blurred in our day as we demonize one another across national and religious divides. How do you think films such as this help or hurt us in our real-life struggles?
- The fascination we have with our machines becoming increasingly capable of mimicking intelligence has created a whole genre of science fiction. Do you believe machines could ever become sentient? Why or why not?
- The gift of life within the machines comes from a powerful cube whose energy is different from anything we know on earth. Do you believe there could be such an energy in the physical universe capable of giving life? Where do you believe life originates?
- The romance which Sam and Mikaela experience is orchestrated by Bumblebee because of Sam’s ineptitude. This insecurity most teenagers feel is contrasted to the arrogance of Trent (Travis Van Winkle), the handsome, football jock with a hot car. Sam assumes that if he had a hot car, Mikaela would choose him instead of Trent. How has this way of thinking impacted you?