Now, this is what we call a summer blockbuster - it has all the requisite ingredients and then some. We’re talking about The Transformers. Heavy. Metal. We caught the movie at IMAX, which was undeniably the place to view it, since the 5-storey screen made these giants robots more, well, gigantic. I mean, people in the back row clapped when the movie ended, besides singing along to “What I’ve Done.”
You could tell the sleek, fluid movements and even cooler robot transformations were busting the CGI envelope, the kind the movie makers claimed wouldn’t have been possible barely two years ago. Whoa!
Since there’s nothing about the film that you do not already know (especially if you’re one of those geeks who still have a closet full of them figurines and toys) I’ll just skip the perfunctory plot points and reflect on the formula that’s made this movie such a crowd pleaser. Okay – some people were profoundly offended by Bay’s interpretation, but since I never grew up with that monkey on my back I only have this to say: this live version blew my socks off. Anyways.
Make the hero a goofy outsider
That would be Sam. Not just oddball goofy, he’s got to be a lovable, cute bundle of goof, nerdy and needy in the right places. The classic zero to hero formula. You know, someone all of us can root for because that guy on the screen is really Me and You.
Throw in a gorgeous chick
Mikaela Banes' the babe. That’ll match the key audience demographic – largely male, 13-25 years, with disposable income, media satiated, movie savvy, highly excitable, and babe hungry.
Make the gorgeous chick a girl with a dark past
So she has a shot at redemption, and because she’s so hot, you know she deserves it. So her juvie record gets wiped out in exchange for saving the world.
Make the girl smarter than the guy
PC. Well, this hot chick is an auto whiz who knows how to hotwire anything with wheels, and that ought to impress a lot of guys.
3G - Guy gets girl
Guys with big biceps and cars strike out and outsider-hero gets the girl. It’s a given, the cinematic equivalent to heavenly rewards and virgins in paradise .
Make it inclusive, cast minorities as minor heroes
Of course the world-class hacker is a black kid who of course lives a double life in a nondescript neighbourhood, as an overweight teen gamer with a video dance machine in his bedroom.
Slacker geeks save the world
This is where the audience sees how ridiculously out of it the old fogies are in the new world of high-tech intergalactic star wars, and why we should show our slacker sons and daughters some respect.
Show up those self-important government agents
That be John Turturro’s character Agent Simmons. Everyone (and not just postmoderns) loves to see authority stripped down and played out, and nothing does it better when it’s done for laughs. That’ll show those preening men in uniform a thing or two.
Ah, English accents - so sexy
Yeah, we just can’t get enough of the Queen’s English. Besides it makes techno babble that much more real.
* Note: I've since found out that the actress in question is Australian Rachel Taylor. Ah well. Not Queen's English, but Ozzie strine is sexy too.
Robots are sentient beings too
More. They’ve got to have a higher sense of morality, empathizing with puny earthlings who’ve lost theirs. Hmm. But when robots go bad, they’re really Decepticon bad.
Repeat after me: the world’s worth saving
And so it is. In spite of our blighted record and 2000 years of bloodletting, there is still some good in the world. As Optimus Prime says, no one but humans make the choice whether to live or destroy themselves.
Salvation comes from something or someone out of this world
We can’t do squat to save ourselves. Especially from a threat as ominous as Megatron, who could well be a metaphor for every conceivable evil. Only in the movies are we unreservedly told that if we are going to be saved, it has to come from a Higher Intelligence, The Force, a Superior Being, Neo, Optimus Prime. NB: it’s not Jesus.
But give some credit to human effort lah
Oh yes. Humanity, already labouring under a cloud of low self-esteem, needs to know that their die-hard heroics do score points in the final battle between good and evil. Theologically, that would be like synergism (as opposed to monergism).
And finally, finally. If you gotta save the world, play a little rock to go with it.
Not your dad’s music. Linkin Park. Nuff said.