“Kicks Much @$$”

All summer I’ve been in search of the perfect popcorn movie. 300 was a great fix and was enough to tide me over for a while. Hot Fuzz was a highlight and hinted at what I was longing for. Finally, however, a movie has hit the spot: Transformers. In a lot of ways, Transformers was little more than the best of the Japanese monster/robot shows I grew up watching (Space Giants, Ultraman, Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot); or, the better to not date myself, it was like the best parts of Jurassic Park except with killer robots.

Make no mistake, this movie is a complete testosterone fest: big guns, big cars, big planes, big boom. So much so, I had to coin the term guy-gasm, those jump out of your seat reactions to over-the-top action sequences; and there are a number of those moments during this movie. You expect a Michael Bay production (The Rock, Armageddon, the Bad Boys franchise) to be loud and full of bang, but it seamlessly blended CGI action with real world surroundings. The dizzying direction, with fight scenes as incredible as they are imaginative, the spectacular car chases, and the giant robot shoot outs all hit the right notes.

The intense action starts right from the beginning and doesn’t let up. The story generally focuses on Shia LaBeouf’s (Constantine, Greatest Game Ever Played) hilarious portrayal of Sam Witwicky, a slightly off-kilter, stopping-just-short-of-being-a-nerd guy whose efforts to catch the vacuous object of his affection, Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox) isn’t going well. Things improve once a mysterious car comes into his life. We get to see many of the various “species” of Transformers (please don’t make me go all 80s nerd on you) as the Autobots (um, the good guys), led by Optimus Prime, wage war against the Decepticons (the bad robots), led by Megatron (there, you made me do it) – all in pursuit of the All Spark (which for some reason, reminded me of a Rubik’s Cube, but that might be more of my 80s nostalgia talking).

“For a time, we lived in harmony.” –Optimus Prime

It’s funny that the main spiritual tie-in about the movie involves the idea of angels. Megatron comes off as the prideful first among equals who leads a faction of his host in a rebellion which costs them their home. He would be a created being, the most powerful of the spiritual “principalities and powers,” the highest of what some cultures would call a god. Yet, like his Autobot brethren, they are free moral agents who also make choices and have actions which have consequences in our world. The consequences for humanity are manifold as what we see as evil is the collateral damage of humanity and creation being caught in a cosmological battle of cosmological forces.

“Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.” –Optimus Prime

Bumblebee, the yellow Camaro who, as a Transformer, communicates through pop culture references is Sam’s personal guardian angel. Optimus Prime all but charges his fellow Autobots with the mission of being angels who hide in plain sight, watching over us, in secret.

“At the end of this day, one shall stand, one shall fall.” –Megatron

Sure it has its share of “there’s only one person who can” plot contrivances (and, frankly, where would we be without young, pretty people?). And sure, black men spend a lot of time yelling at their (grand) mommas in this production. And sure, the movie is a paean to product placement (you could turn spot the sponsors into a drinking game, but you’d be drunk before the first half of the movie). However, Transformers is absolute noisy fun with more laughs than most comedies released this summer. And I’m not just saying that because I grew up with the comic books and the cartoon series. It’s at least a three guy-gasm movie which now has me day-dreaming about the possibilities of a G.I. Joe, Thundercats, or He-Man movie.

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