Well, it was pretty much what i expected. The highest compliment I can give this movie is to say that it isn’t terrible. It’s mindless summer entertainment, built around explosions and cool mid-air CGI transformations, (some of them inserted into recycled footage), rather than any sort of plot or character development. You could totally go to the bathroom at any point during this movie and not miss anything important. My husband remarked that a lot of the dialogue sounded like video game blurbs; somewhat random, generic “let’s go fight!” or “here’s what we need to do next” instructions. (To see my raw notes, including a lot of bad lines, click here.)
Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is a whiny college grad looking for a job. Maybe some of us can relate to the job-hunting part. And maybe some of us were incredibly irritated at having to watch him complain for the first twenty minutes about how he doesn’t have an awesome job or car, being jealous and angry with his girlfriend (I’m just going to go ahead and refer to her as Sex Symbol, which is an accurate description of her role), and not appreciating that she is supportive. He feels like he deserves so much more than he has. He keeps trying to remind people that he’s a hero, and he has a presidential medal to prove it.
He’s ungrateful and unwilling to humble himself. And even though he ends up taking a less-than-desirable job for about a day, he doesn’t ever exemplify the Biblical work ethic, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,” (Colossians 3:23). He could also stand to take a lesson from a true hero that will be exemplified on the big screen in a week, when Deathly Hallows comes out. If you’ve read the books, you know who I’m talking about. A hero that is never thanked or praised, and who remains silently steadfast anyway. (I can’t wait!)
Anyway, this movie has really, really, bad writing. That makes it harder to analyze, because it doesn’t really have much of a purposeful message or any consistency. It doesn’t even stick with the themes it brings up at the beginning; many of them aren’t resolved. Does Sam end up getting the recognition and job he feels like he deserves, or does he learn to accept his position and stop being so annoying? I couldn’t tell you. But that isn’t the only thing that’s unclear at the end. **SPOILER ALERT** So when their planet goes away, do the Decepticons just give up, or die? It appears to be resolved, but is it? How? I thought they still outnumbered the Autobots, because they beamed a whole bunch of them in, and if the destruction of the home planet destroyed them why don’t the Autobots also die? Whatever. Explosions! Something vague about America and freedom! **END SPOILER**
I would say the worst thing about this movie message-wise is the sexism. The camera consistently ogles Sex Symbol, (it doesn’t even pan up to her face until she’s been onscreen almost a full minute, lingering instead on her pantless legs and backside.) She’s perpetually dressed in tiny tight clothing and heels, while Power Woman (head of National Security, I think) is an ice queen who hates to be addressed respectfully as ma’am, (because, like, how can a woman be in such a powerful position if she’s actually, you know, womanly?) Also, Sam’s mom is a complete idiot. So there are your choices for female representation in this film. Thank you, director Michael Bay. To be fair, a lot of the male characters are also flat and stereotypical. I mean, I didn’t even like Sam! He’s just whiny and arrogant. This is a terrible movie character-wise in general! My husband said, “Well, it’s about the Transformers, primarily. The people are just to set the story up,” but I didn’t feel like Optimus, Sentinel or Megatron were fleshed out (haha) any better than their human counterparts. Their relationships are told through dialogue rather than shown.
I guess Optimus is kind of a good role model, because he is committed to defending the humans and their planet when he doesn’t have to be, just because his mentor “taught me that all creatures deserve to be free,” but I didn’t find him compelling. His motivation isn’t really clear, he doesn’t get any character development, he’s just the good guy so he does expected good guy things. **SPOILER ALERT** Except for the part where he just flat-out kills Sentinel, his supposed mentor and beloved long-lost leader, who admittedly turned bad but is now literally begging “Optimus, no!” I think, again, it’s just poor writing. It’s easier to kill him and end the scene than introduce complexity, compassion, a discussion about how he could be rehabilitated or what a just punishment should be. I guess he did betray the Autobots, but still…it seemed like a cruel moment for Optimus. **END SPOILER**
So, to sum up, this movie is about entertainment, and not story. Oh, I almost forgot; it’s also about revisionist history lessons, and Transformer-related conspiracy theories regarding the Apollo 11 moon mission and the Chernobyl disaster. Real-life astronaut Buzz Aldrin makes an appearance as himself, so apparently he is not as offended by this fictionalized version of history as the ones who say he never went to the moon. (He once punched a guy for saying that).
I can’t even think of a clever line to end this with. That’s how little content is actually in this movie.