I finally got out to see Transformers today. Yes, I grew up with the cartoons, the toys and the comics. Yes, I even collected every comic book from the original Marvel series through the Generation 2 series (including the prologue in G.I. Joe) through the first round from DreamWave. But somewhere along the line I just lost interest, and ultimately sold off my entire collection. (On eBay, actually.)

But still, there’s some sort of primal thrill—at least for anyone who grew up as a boy in 1980s America—in seeing giant robots fighting each other. So I finally decided to catch it while it was still in theaters.

It was better constructed than I expected. They had a plausible reason for the Autobots and Decepticons to be on Earth, and they were very good about following up on exposition. Every gun that appeared on the wall was eventually fired, down to Sam’s eBay auctions, with one exception: I really expected them to blow up Hoover Dam.

Which brings me to the biggest gap in logic. SPOILERS follow, for anyone who, like me, has been living in a cave.

They have this Cybertronian artifact that everyone is after. It’s at Hoover Dam. Megatron’s a few rooms away, waking up from cryo. The Decepticons have infiltrated the base, and more are on their way. So they come up with this plan to smuggle the cube out and take it somewhere—I didn’t quite catch where, but I thought I heard something along the lines of “X city is 10 miles away”—and call in air support to get it to a secured location.

Now, Hoover Dam is at the edge of Nevada, in the middle of the desert. Las Vegas and Henderson are fairly close, but you can easily go out in the middle of nowhere.

So why would you instead drive 4-5 hours to Los Angeles? A major population center with millions of people you can endanger? And make your stand in the middle of downtown, in the middle of the day?

And how did the Decepticons manage not to catch up with them during the 3-hour drive through the desert, or the 1-hour drive through the Inland Empire and eastern Los Angeles County?

It only makes sense from a thematic standpoint—the outcome of this battle will determine the fate of humanity, after all, so let’s show them being endangered—or from a visual action standpoint. It’s a lot “cooler” and more intense to show giant robots knocking buildings around than fighting in the middle of the desert, and besides, they did that already in act 1. Strategically, though? Grade-A stupid.

And that leads to the second big gap in logic: the epilogue in which they’re dumping the Decepticon corpses at the bottom of the ocean so that there’s no evidence. What, so the thousands of people who saw them duking it out in downtown LA, not to mention the dozens (or probably hundreds) of deaths, are all going to keep quiet? Video taken on cell phones? Photos? You can bet there would have been news crews on hand, and even if they couldn’t transmit, they would have at least been recording.

Covering up the fact that giant robots were battling each other, special forces units with heavy artillery, and a freaking air force wing, would have been like covering up the fact that airplanes were involved in 9/11.

Well, the effects were good, and I had fun identifying scenery (flying around LA was nice, because they managed to get a really clear day to shoot, and you could actually see clear to Orange County in one shot). Some of the humor was good (I particularly liked zapping the Nokia, and attendant comments), but too much of it was forced, and some of it was just plain crude. I’m sorry, but Bumblebee “leaking lubricant” over someone was past the line.

Anyway, I’m glad I saw it on the big screen. There were a lot of great moments in it, but a lot of the film was just kind of tedious. It felt like they worked so hard on the details that they managed to miss the big picture. Which is kind of ironic for, well, a big picture.

5 thoughts on “Saw Transformers

  1. I felt a good deal of it was forced, as well, so I was incredibly surprised to see the immensely positive audience reaction.

    I must admit, though, that I laughed at BumbleBee’s lubrication scene.

    I didn’t think Megatron was dumped to get rid of the evidence, but I could be wrong. I missed a lot of stuff that others mentioned, later.

    Although I saw it twice, I think I was looking for different things that most folks. I wanted more nods to long-time fans. Megatron’s line about Starscream disappointing him, once again, was barely a nod. There were others, but there should’ve been more, in my opinion.

    I still look forward to the dvd, though.

  2. I remember the Secretary of Defense saying something about “no evidence” in that scene, and there was the news interview at the beginning of the credits with Sam’s parents, where they were denying the rumors of “alien activity.” So I definitely walked out of there with the impression that they were trying to cover up the whole thing. (Of course, that leaves open the question of why they were being interviewed, which may have been explained, but if so, I can’t remember.)

    I’m trying to remember other nods to long-term fans, and not coming up with much. Off the top of my head, the only one I can think of is the yellow VW bug sitting next to Bumblebee at the used car lot. Although the US military capturing Bumblebee fits with the first GI Joe/Transformers mini, and having Megatron hidden in a military base fits with the lead-in to Marvel’s G2 series (though in that case it was Cobra, and they weren’t studying him, they were refitting him). Hmm.

  3. The way I saw it, they dumped the “body” to the deepest part of the ocean too keep it cool, because they could not take it apart, an although it was dead, they didn’t wont to take any chances or what ev’

  4. Reading this as a flashback post: Apparently, it’s *not* LA, it’s a fictional city named “Mission City”, which, presumably, is much closer.

  5. Ah, that makes a lot more sense. I wish I could remember what it was that gave me the idea it was supposed to be Los Angeles, and not just have been filmed there. I have the vague recollection that they showed some landmarks or the skyline, though I suppose it’s possible I just recognized the mountains.

    There’s still the problem of keeping thousands of people quiet and suppressing all the footage, photos, etc.

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