Making the Grades
The blurred line between merchandising and entertainment is always a problem when a movie is based on a comic book hero, childhood toy or theme park ride. It's especially so when a manufacturing company like Hasbro has the rights to sell the action figures -- as is the case with Transformers. These gigantic robots from an alien planet are already overrunning store shelves.
However, the film itself may be better geared for an older audience. In the opening moments of the movie, a brutal attack on a U.S. military base in Qatar wipes out a whole squadron of pilots and most of the soldiers as well. All that escape is Sergenant Lennox (Josh Duhamel), USAF Tech Sergeant Epps (Tyrese Gibson), a handful of men and a young, local boy. Unsure of what hit them, the rag tag group makes its way across the desert sands to the boy's village in search of a phone to contact Defense Secretary John Keller (Jon Voight).
Meanwhile back on American soil, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) makes a family history presentation to his high school social class where he tries to hawk his grandfather's mementoes from a trip to the Arctic Circle. Sam's goal is to earn enough money to buy his first car and up his status with the girls.
What he finally gets is a mysterious, battered, yellow Camero with racing stripes. While it's not exactly what he hoped for, it still isn't long before circumstances find the beautiful Mikaela Barnes (Megan Fox) in the front seat beside him. Yet what Sam doesn't know, is the action in the Middle East is about to erupt in his own backyard. Only after he watches his used car morph into a robot does he discover that this alien transformer, Bumblebee (voice by Mark Ryan), has arrived on Earth, along other Autobots, to stop an attack by the evil Decepticons.
But ensuring world peace isn't all Sam has on his mind. Mikaela's bare midriff and short skirt ignite a heated, hormonal battle for the teen who is accused by his parents of self-pleasuring. Yet his rather clueless mom and dad -- who haven't even noticed the Transformers in the backyard -- are perfectly okay, even pleased, when instead they find he has a girl hidden in his room and immediately make incorrect assumptions about her presence.
However, any fantasies Sam might have are kept in check by the more imminent issues at hand. As the two alien armies rip up the streets, demolish buildings and leave a path of carnage behind them, the only hope for establishing peace appears to lie in the old pair of spectacles Sam has posted for sale on the Internet.
Profanities, an obscene hand gesture, vulgarities including some disrespectful slang names for women and an offhanded religious comment are coupled with brief sexual innuendo. Frequent gunfire and explosions are also portrayed throughout much of the story. While the violent depictions and sexual inferences may be more than parents want for the kids, older audiences may be impressed with the film's amazing special effects. (It took approximately 38 hours to render one frame of the CGI animation according to imdb.com.)
In this classic clash between good and evil, the Autobots help Sam discover there is more than meets the eye when it comes to vehicles... and people. Yet while the alien visitors make great sacrifices to protect the humans from the Decepticons, this former Saturday morning TV show has likely transformed itself well beyond the cartoon crowd.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Transformers.
There is more to Sam’s beat up clunker than initially meets the eye. What other characters have undetected traits? What does Sam discover about Mikaela’s past? Why do the transformers adopt secret identities?
How does Sam mature during the course of the movie? How does his attitude change toward his grandfather?