Took the kids to see the Transformers movie tonight. It's not a franchise that I grew up with, of course, but my two older nephews were into them when they were kids, and so I was aware of them even before my son started watching the more recent cartoons a few years ago.
But I gather that there is a whole generation of twenty-somethings – maybe even thirty-somethings – who went to see the movie with a sense of worry, even trepidation, that it would stamp a great big metal foot all over their memories. And I gather that, largely, for them, it did not. I had heard quite good things about it (or I thought I had); and the trailer looked great.
So I was mostly disappointed. I didn’t hate it all the way through; nothing as extreme as that. I was just disappointed at how weak and overlong it was; and mainly by the American-military porn. A great deal of it was showing the fantasticness and coolness of American military technology. I’m not sure that’s really what I want to see in a film I take my kids to (though as it also revealed that all human technology came from reverse-engineering the frozen Megatron, they may have been sending mixed signals).
Also, since it starts with a US military base in the Middle East being attacked (by a giant alien fighting robot, and in Qatar, admittedly, but still), you might reasonably expect there to be some political point. But there wasn’t.
Unless, perhaps, it was this. The grunts (actually Special Forces, so I’m not sure we should call them grunts) were shown as cool, professional, skillful and competent. The secret government agency in charge of crashed alien artifacts, and the FBI, were shown as feeble, useless and pathetic; easily outwitted by a couple of teenagers and, err, a group of giant alien fighting robots. So, soldiers good, government bad, or something.
Also, one bit that really surprised me was when Megatron and Optimus Prime were fighting: Megatron turned into a plane, Optimus Prime grabbed him, and together they crashed into the side of a tower block and slo-mo’d all the way through it and out the other side. 9/11 can’t be as raw a wound in the American psyche as I had thought.
We could have done without the whole teen romance thing, but it’s an American summer blockbuster, so what can you expect? And we could have done without at least half an hour of the start.
It’s also incredibly visually noisy, and the Transformers themselves, especially the Decepticons (the baddies) are so similar when they’re in robot mode that it was really hard to tell what was going on at times.
But then, what was going on didn’t really matter that much.
The kids enjoyed it though, and it was a nice treat to end the summer holidays with; but since we started them with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and middled them with The Simpsons, I don’t think it really stands up.
Still, it’s definitely been ‘The Summer of Film’, as they were calling it in the trailers a while back.