“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.