Years ago, my little brother and I would watch afternoon cartoons, and one of his favorites was the Transformers, one of the first toy to TV cartoon franchises to take off. The giant robots changed into everyday mechanical objects, which was cool (except that the 50-foot Megatron, leader of the Decepticons, somehow managed to change into a hand-held sized pistol). My brother still has the entire set of the first-run toys. I was too old to collect the toys, but I did enjoy figuring out how to change them back and forth without breaking them. A feat that becomes increasingly more difficult the older one gets.
Now, thanks to advancements in computer animation, we can enjoy fully textured photo realistic depictions of these robots on the big screen. This week, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the third installment of the series, opened to mixed reviews but still big box office bucks. The entire series seems to fall flat with the critics who complain that the story is somehow lacking while they applaud the special effects. The critics obviously don’t get it.
“Transformers” was never about telling a deep or even significantly relevant story. Many people make movies that draw the viewer in while peeling back the layers of humanity to lay bare they soul of the hero and evoke deep resonance with the viewer. “Transformers” is not one of those. It doesn’t even pretend to be. “Transformers” is about the kid in all of us playing with our toys.
My brother and I—as kids—would develop our own little scenarios for the robots to experience. We staged their epic battles and we determined who won and who lost. Watch a couple of boys playing with toys as they swoop the toy jets in by hand and utter the “pow pow” sounds out of the corners of their mouths and then tip the enemy toys over with the other hand. This is what is going through the minds of most 30-40 year old men who watch “Transformers.” It’s about reliving a cherished childhood memory. Watching our imaginations made cinematic on the big screen and now in 3D to boot.
Does “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” tell a good story? Eh. It tells a story. Sure, there are some obvious plot holes and some scenes thrown in to try to tie the abundant action scenes together (with mixed success), but it does follow the formula of protagonist/antagonist and building to a climax with a resolution. But more to the point, it is fun.
The effects are mind blowing but the best thing about this film is that it is only the second live action film I have seen that actually looks good in 3D. Avatar is still the standard by which 3D will be measured, and all other live action 3D fails miserably to measure up, but “Transformers” was actually well done in 3D.
Go see the movie. Go with a man who is approaching middle age and watch a 13-year old appear in his seat once the battles begin. Don’t be surprised if he makes the transforming sound or even goes “pow pow.”