Transformers Animated: Transform and Roll Out – A Review

“Cybernetic Angels”

Riding the crest of popularity from last summer’s movie comes Transformers Animated: Transform and Roll out. There are now several groups of fans who won’t be pleased: fans of the Michael Bay movie, fans of the comic, and fans of the original series. There have been character redesigns and changes to the mythology folks have come to know in order to reboot the property as a cartoon series. Nothing fatal, much like when we first saw the manga-style versions of the Teen Titans and were caught up with apprehension.

“You ever get the feeling you were programmed for something more?” –Optimus Prime

The movie felt like three episodes of the series masquerading as a movie (handy since that’s the way it will probably be cut when aired on television). It opens with a clip for the original show (Generation 1) and has a younger Optimus Prime lamenting his place in the greater scheme of thing. He’s a recent graduate of the “Autobot Academy”, not the experienced leader we’ve come to know. Like the Cylons vs. the Humans in Battlestar Galactica, the war between the Autobots and Decepticons has been over for a long time and no one knows where the Decepticons are. Through a series of events, including the discovery of the AllSpark and the arrival of Megatron, the Autobots end up in Detroit, the robot manufacturing capital as fifty years from now robots become the new slave labor. We’re introduced to Sari in the Shia role as well as Optimus Prime’s team of fellow heroes: Ratchet, the medic and old war veteran; Prowl, a loner, dark ninjabot; Bulkhead, the team big bot on campus; and Bumblebee, the youngest and “innocent” member. The band of heroes battle an Earth created threat (the second “episode”) to be regaled as heroes and then they square off against Starscream, who has been delightfully highlighted in this movie.

“But remember, we’re all cogs in the great Autobot machine. A machine that’s stronger as a whole, than any one component part. Together we can move mountains.” –Optimus Prime

The spiritual heart of the series remains the same as the movie. The Autobots vs. Decepticons plays out like the battle between angels and demons largely unseen by humanity, except that in the future, the reality of both is brought to the forefront. Megatron, as well as the backstabbing Starscream, 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, the Transformers are free moral agents who also make choices and have actions which have manifold consequences in our world, as what we see as evil is the collateral damage of humanity and creation being caught in a cosmological battle of cosmological forces.

“Heroes are the ones who make the hard choice.” –Ratchet

The Autobots then set themselves up, and are welcomed as guardian angels for humanity, living by their code of respect the source of life and protecting it at all costs. They go about their mission, as a reporter describes, of “repairing damaged structures and damaged lives with their reassuring presence.”

There is plenty of action in this re-imagining, enough to cover a multitude of sins. It’s not great, but it’s certainly entertaining. In fact, this review would have been posted sooner, but I didn’t even get to touch the DVD for a week. My eldest son saw me take it from the package, snatched it from my hands, and sequestered himself in his room (posting his little brother as lookout). “When do we get more?” was his only question. Squarely aimed at the under-teen set, Transformers Animated: Transform and Roll Out seems to hit its target demo.

Transformers – A Review

“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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