The whole Transformers series (this is the third installment) is based on
the original Hasbro toys, where boys with toys could “transform” trucks
into robots (and back again) by mechanical manipulation. Kinda creative.
And now that we have all this computer graphic imaging (CGI) technology,
in 3-D no less, it’s just a lot of fun to watch these transformers constantly
morphing, complete with sound effects, and then we concoct some grand
comic-book-type plot where the fate of the universe hangs in the balance,
and we’re all set for the kind of animated violence where you have lots of
explosions and mayhem and destruction, and then the good guys win in the
end. Simple, right?
Not quite. It turns out that there are good guy and bad guy robots, and also
good guy and bad guy humans. The good guy robots, called Autobots,
lost the civil war on their own planet, and the other Cybertronians, called
Decepticons, are now wanting to conquer the earth so they can make slaves
of all the hapless humans. And, of course, there are some “turncoat”
humans (Patrick Dempsey, we hardly knew ye), but the Autobots are friends
of the humans, including our unlikely hero Sam (Shia LeBeouf), the young
man who previously helped save the world (with a medal from President
Obama to prove it), but now has a hard time even finding a decent job.
Now, just for kicks, we have this back story inserted of how the 1969 Apollo
mission to the moon was surreptitiously supposed to investigate the crashed
spaceship that was discovered on the “dark side” of the moon. It seems
that there was evidence of an advanced alien technology, which, it turns
out, was Cybertronian. But the American politicos have been covering it
up for years, even keeping critical parts of the story from their friends the
Autobots. But it’s all coming home to roost. The Autobots discover that
not only were there power sources available that the humans hid from them,
the Decepticons are counting on the turncoat humans to lead them to those
power sources, which will bring the Cybertonian civil war to earth, with the
earthlings as the collateral damage.
Confusing enough? Well, it’s all really just an excuse for a lot of cool
graphic imagery and a lot of explosions with sound effects. In fact, there are
so many combat sequences that the story is practically lost, but no matter.
We just want Sam to rescue his girlfriend Carly (the stunning English model
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) and also save the world, not necessarily in that
What’s interesting to think about is the question of whether – as we are
even now developing the “thinking” machines (like IBM’s “Watson” that
can now beat any human at chess – we might eventually build machines
so lifelike they will have their own wills. If so, will they decide the world
would be better off without the humans? Just wondering.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is co-pastor of United Presbyterian Church, Greenville,