So I thought that X-men and Green Lantern were going to be the only modern movies I was going to review this year…after all even those two only meet a bare minimum of philosophical value. I certainly did not think I would be making deeper comments on Transformers (hell, I was worried I wouldn’t even enjoy it) but then I started seeing some of the reviews and the issues and lines that people were complaining about within the movie…and I had no choice but to respond.
Okay, let’s get the review out of the way. Obviously not an Oscar contender (or it wouldn’t be in a decent year…I’ve taken a look at the movies coming out in Oscar season and so far I’m less than impressed). However, this is still a very enjoyable film. This has more character development than the previous films, it actually makes Optimus a character, a plot that doesn’t get dull, Megan Fox is thankfully gone (hopefully never to be heard from again), and a huge action sequence that despite its length doesn’t get dull or tedious. The good guys win, the bad guys die. Two and a half hours of fun. It is worth paying the $10 to see it.
Now, onto the deeper stuff. First it’s sad that nowadays that patriotism is so few and far between in movies it actually stands out when you see it. There are three scenes in this film where Michael Bay prominently shows an American Flag. Three!This comes off as pure patriotism. Isn’t that sad? That where just showing a few flags has so much power. Have we really reached that level? Anyway, between the rather well shot scenes of the flag (Bay may not ever be a great director, but he does know how to frame a shot) and the clear implication that next to giant robots there is no organization more worthy of unmitigated admiration and respect than the United States Armed Services, specifically the Special Forces, there is a clear strain of love for this country. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen come off as the heroes they should in this movie…again something we don’t see enough of these days in film.
Then there is that great line as the final act starts “The day will never come when we forsake freedom.” Beautiful, clear, simple…and morally right. You know the exact opposite of what we’ve been getting from the White House for the last few years. Again why do we get so few lines that actually show what this country stands for…one begins to see why this and not Captain America got the 4th of July spot.
Next, and here is where I start getting angry, several blogs I saw complained about one of the best lines of the film. When Optimus Prime shows up, after having faked his death, he has a clear statement of how they will deal with the Decepticons. “We will kill them all.” Some people apparently have a problem with this. They claim that it makes Optimus into a sociopathic killer. They then complain about how many of the bad guys he kills. Uh-huh. I’m sorry that some people feel that the attitude of defeating the villains who are hell bent on global enslavement and genocide is a bad thing. Maybe someone should have reminded these liberal whiners that the Decepitcon plan also called for strip mining of the entire planet, then maybe the liberals would be upset. Should Optimus’ line have been “We will hug them all”? There are three ways to deal with very evil people. Reason, imprisonment, killing them all. Reason with them, given that this was the third attempt at global destruction, you’d have to be an idiot to think that you can reason with creatures this evil (like the U.S. government somehow thinks it can do in this movie when they expel the Autobots and are then shocked, shocked that Decepticons don’t keep up their end of the bargain). Generally speaking, any group that takes names based on the word Deception probably shouldn’t be trusted. (Submit is also a word that should tell you this group is up to no good and probably needs to be opposed). So any reasonable person would realize reason is out of the question. With humans you can put very evil people in prison. Where exactly are you going to put the two-story giant robot so that they can’t escape? So I guess the only options left are lose and submit to slavery or, gee, “We will kill them all.” It is a line that recognizes that we need to finish this, make this the last battle in this war, to prevent even future suffering. Keep in mind it has taken Optimus a long time to get to this point. He has given chances to the Decepticons to just leave and he seemed to have no interest in following them. He just wanted to live on Earth and be left alone. When that was not an option, when it was clear it was a choice of us or them…wow he made the choice it would be the good guys who survive. How terrible and immoral of him.
Other complaints I have seen is that this was not the Optimus Prime of our childhoods. That this film perverted a great character my generation once looked up to. This bothers me a little that adults seem to be idolizing cartoons a bit too much, but I’ll deal with it all the same. I remember Transformers The Movie fairly well but don’t recall the episodes with absolute clarity. However, as I recall Prime used to get his ass kicked regularly in the old show and it was often through cleverness and teamwork alone that the Autobots won. This had the advantage of teaching the basic morality that might does not make right to children, but let’s be honest here; we don’t need to constantly see our hero get his ass handed to him. And then shall we all forget that the Prime in the cartoon movie died (which was why we were all less than shocked when this happened in Revenge of the Fallen). But unlike a children’s TV show, morality in a slightly more adult format (slightly) requires that there is loss, there is death, and a real hero will make the choice that if it’s between the innocent and guilty, it’s a clear choice as to who has to die. The complaint seems to be that Optimus enjoyed the killing he dishes out in this movie…really? He may not show mercy to those who don’t deserve it but if you watch the movie, notice how he throws his gun down in disgust at the end of the film. This is a character who has been pushed to his breaking point and just wants the war over and who has finally reached a point where he is willing to do what is necessary to ensure this won’t happen ever again. As for the lack of mercy being a perversion of the old character, I would remind everyone this is not the first time Prime has reached a point that he just wants it over, or as is stated in the cartoon movie, when Megatron begs for mercy. “You, who are without mercy, now plead for it? I thought you were made of sterner stuff!” (Then again that movie did go to some pretty dark places for a children’s film—but in it Rodimus Prime also seemed to understand the kill them all philosophy is the only way to get to peace premise). And then he was about to kill Megatron. So really this is in line with the old character.
Now only if U.S. foreign policy could admit that there are some belief systems out there (the Taliban just for example) that can never be reasoned with and that the only option left is “We will kill them all” to defend the innocent.
Finally there is that moment that had every geek in theater squealing. When Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) justifies his acts of genocide, tyranny and evil with the famous line “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” The movie points out quite honestly that this line of reasoning that argues in favor of the majority, the race, the masses as a justification for some of the worst evils in history. This points, in a roundabout way, that while when it is a simple choice between helping the many or the few, it’s a logical choice to help the many…but that the corollary to this idea is that the needs of the ALL never violate the rights of the one. All forms of tyranny, communism, fascism, socialism are based on the perversion of the needs of the many at the expense of the rights of the few. All try to say they are the best for the masses, but nothing hurts the masses more than the willingness to sacrifice the rights of the one against their will.
There were a few flaws to this movie such as the cheap humor at the beginning and the fact that Alan Tudyk’s character should have said “I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar” when hacking into the computers, but other than that it proved to be the most enjoyable of the series and far deeper than I would have expected.