Awesome, terrible, fantastic power lurking just underneath the surface of the ordinary and everyday and recognizable. This is what the sublime was to a child in the eighties.
And oh the allegory. Optimus Prime was the incarnation of all that’s good and noble in the world. He was honor and bravery and goodness and a truckload of solid whoopass. Megatron was a Miltonic satan, who knew that humans were weak and unworthy. But my favorite of all was Starscream, that wonderful Iago, who always has the knife hidden just behind his back and weighing when to strike even as he smiles and bows.
So. Thoughts on the movie.
I went in with little expectations. The cartoon wasn’t one of my obsessions during my childhood (that honor was largely reserved for Voltron and He Man/She Ra and My Little Ponies); I remember largely enjoying because I liked the scenes of the Decepticons bitching at each other. I, like many, cringed when the initial designes popped up. I find them largely hideous, with not enough straight lines or large blocks of color to focus the gaze—really about as easy on the eyes as magic eye posters.
They were, however, not nearly as hard to watch on a large screen. That’s a plus.
I was altogether pleasantly surprised on the whole. The first …half hour? Forty five minutes?…were made of pure awesome. We saw something intertwined in the story of the Transformers that the cartoon never properly accomplished: human drama. The scenes of our young protagonist at school, with his peers, with his parents, were humorous and entertaining and very, very /true/.
The movie was also particularly adept in its introduction of the Decepticons, particularly the introduction of Blackout and Megatron’s discovery. Blackout’s scene at the army base touches on one of the most fundamental premises of the horror genre—what makes zombie movies and invasion of the bodysnatchers so primally disturbing—the moment of cognative dissonance where one realizes that something familiar is malevolent. That primal human fear of betrayal. The Ravenloft rpg calls this a ‘malign paradigm shift’. Your comfortable, stable universe is not what you think it is.
Megatron’s discovery by humans seemed almost a homage to Lovecraft, with humans driven to explore the ends of the earth and find terrible, alien squidoo.
So, as I said, some parts of the movie were entertaining and /right/ in a way that the cartoon never was. However, once all the main Transformers showed up, it started skating rapidly downhill.
I would like to call for an official ban on movies using multiple plot threads if they can’t manage to keep them from collapsing into a giant, tangled pile of stupid midway through the movie. Now, like I said, I didn’t have much in the way of expectations for this movie, but the realistic human touches that were present in were quickly forgotten once, approximately, the men in black showed up. I think whoever on the story team that had any knowledge of military protocol checked out of the movie. But furthermore, the continuity was terrible. The fine art of having logical causes and effects was not so much with the happening.
There’s no logical reason for Evil Sector 7 Guy having any interest in Mikaela’s criminal record. Or for the military crew, who had encountered two transformers thus far who both blasted the shit out of them, to immediately leap to Protagonist Boy’s defense and demand that Bumblebee be freed. Some characters were simply crowded out of the script and given no meaningful presence late in the film, which begs the question if they even warranted their inclusion earlier in the film. Etc. It just dissolves into a massive bloated cgi clash of the titans.
And the ending scene in which our teenage heroes make out on Bumblebee’s hood while all the other autobots are standing around watching? So very wrong on so many levels.