"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Transformers: a lot to meet the eye

OK, so thanks to Ammianus Marcellinus getting me entangled in an incredibly thorough debate over Iraq that I'm sure generated widespread and impassioned indifference to all but the two of us, I've spent little time in my own corner of the blogosphere which, again, I bet no one really noticed. Ah well. I throw this one out there simply to keep this piece of cyberspace from gathering dust.

I went to see Transformers last week on a little man-date with a couple friends, and my expectations were fairly low. Michael Bay does one thing - mindless violence, large fireballs, and hot women - and does them in one of two ways - fun, fast-paced intensity or tediously bloated. Several reviews painted his newest offering as more along the lines of Pearl Harbor than The Rock. But, to my pleasant surprise, two and a half hours of huge robots wailing on each other (and any humans who got in the way) passed not only quickly, but with enough excitement to make me want to drop another ten bucks just to see it on the big screen one more time.

The plot is pretty spartan - there is a mystical energy source which the Autobots and Decepticons fought over, destroying their planet in the process, somehow it wound up on Earth, an awkward teenager unwittingly holds the key to finding it, and both sides are ready to pick up where they left off on Cybertron to get it - but the script itself is light-hearted where necessary and carries little of the foul, bludgeoning humor so typical of Bay films (Spielberg's hand is visible in the background). The main (human) character is quite likeable, believable, and suitably noble while being out of his depth. The robots themselves occasionally act like adolescents instead of the last members of a millennia-old civilization, but pull off enough gravitas in the end to remind us of their ancient roots.

As for the action - this is a summer movie par excellence. There were a few times where so much was going on that I didn't quite understand how we got from point A to B, but most of it was powerful, over-the-top, and occasionally just: awesome. Like watching a Decepticon take a running start chasing after his prey, leap a hundred feet in the air while transforming, then slamming to the ground as a police car at a hundred miles an hour. Or having a truck turn into a massive automatron, do a 360-spin with the grace of a gymnast in the air to avoid a missile, and then hit the deck as a truck again. The greatest moment, however, was a sequence that showed the awesome power of a military air-ground team in taking down a bad guy (in this case, a scorpion-shaped robot, but hey, the concept is legit). So Air Force special ops grunts are laying down fire from behind cover, and it's not working. So they mark the target with smoke and call in the A-10s, who come in cannons blazing and rockets shrieking. But that's still not enough, so they bring in a frigging AC-130 gunship to lay down cannon and howitzer fire. Dude, that's not even fair. And I admit to a certain professional pleasure in watching a 53 start the whole movie off (and, sure, it starts it off by transforming into a Decepticon and wasting a whole U.S. base, but man, you never see 53s in the movies. It's always jets this, jets that, jets come and do a Fox-3 to save the day. Whatever: Maverick might look cool, but the sucker can't hover).

So, for anyone looking for mindless, popcorn-munching summer entertainment, this flick's a winner. Nothing takes your mind off the world like watching your childhood playthings come to life and beat the snot out of each other in a way you could never really duplicate in the sandbox. And never fear, Michael Bay left plenty of room for a sequel. And they had stuff off the new Linkin Park album in the soundtrack. Smiley face.

1 comment:

Meghan said...

you really need to include my husband on your man dates to see these silly little movies. You're going to have to come up with some transporter device so I don't have to even so much as hear about these movies!