MovieBob - Intermission
Transformers Fanboy-Free Breakdown

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 1 Jul 2011 16:00
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The U.S. Military has a curious omnipresence in the series. Some of this can be chalked up to practicality - Bay is a stickler for details when it comes to hardware, official army personnel and equipment have to be formally okayed by The Pentagon, and that "okay" is frequently denied for films that depict the armed forces in anything other than a glowing light. It's said that Independence Day was largely denied use of real hardware because The Army did not like the story details involving the Area 51 cover up - supposedly, this why the Transformers conspiracy story uses the fictional "Sector 7" agency. But it extends into the thematic realm in the way The Autobots, supposedly the main characters, are constantly eclipsed in big action scenes in favor of human soldiers. An entire subplot in the first film is dedicated to a military unit fighting Decepticons in the desert, which serves almost no purpose other than to reinforce that the U.S. Army kicks just as much Decepticon ass as Optimus Prime does.

Revenge of The Fallen, certainly, seems to wear its vaguely Neo-Con leanings on its sleeve. A snively Government bureaucrat - a total dweeb, to contrast with the bad-ass manly men uber-heroes who get to carry guns, wear fatigues and chill with The Autobots - raises the (fairly logical, when you think about it) point of whether or not the Autobots staying on Earth is actually inviting Decepticon attacks. Optimus shuts him down, gravely intoning "What if we leave, and you are wrong?" When the film came out, presidential power in the United States had recently shifted from a regime that could politely be called "combat enthusiasts" to something slightly more contemplative, and similar arguments were taking place about actual, non-robot-oriented military activities. That scene seems to make it clear which side The Autobots were taking.

Dark of The Moon, meanwhile, could be interpreted as doubling down on the same sort of message. The film's big twist - that Sentinel Prime and Megatron weren't both heading to Earth to fight, but for Sentinel to surrender/team-up in order to end the war and save what was left of Cybertron - is a prelude to the same decision being made by the humans. The Decepticons order humanity to exile the Autobots, on the promise that doing so will lessen Earthling casualties. It is, of course, a lie - and Prime returns to lead a Troop Surge and teach mankind a lesson: that "The Enemy" can never be trusted, given ground and especially not negotiated with, the only solution is to "take the fight to them!" and wipe them out wholesale. If you're picturing a single happy tear sliding down Donald Rumsfeld's cheek, you're not alone.

Am I saying that Michael Bay, Hasbro, etc. intentionally set out to make a film that uses fictional stand-ins to advocate for aggressive, unending offensive war fighting? No, I'm not, but the implications are in there, and hard to miss whether intended or not.

Can Ken Jeong Do Any Other Characters?

Comedian Ken Jeong, late of The Hangover, has an expository/comic relief cameo. Do you suppose he plays a hyperactive nut with boundary issues who spits out hip-hop flavored dialogue with a caricatured Asian-American accent and mannerisms?

Gee, how'd you guess?

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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