Well, keep your vampire weddings, I'd rather go back and see more stuff explode. And the Transformers song (from the 1984 TV cartoon) keeps running through my head. (Two red Transformers inhabit my bookshelf to this day). I remember the cartoon, I was 29 when it appeared; a 29 year old woman training horses, doing living history, camping in mosquito infested salt marshes, backpacking, and randomly knocking guys upside the head with rattan broadswords. I loved Saturday morning cartoons, and this CARtoon was one of my favorites. Why? It was obviously designed for 12 year old boys with a technology fetish.
Or was it?
The thing I liked about it was the characters, the eternal Battle Between Good and Evil. And now, looking at it from the perspective of an artist/writer with a fascination for myth and legend, I see it's mythic roots.
The first thing that comes to mind is an archetype I can't quite put a name to. I saw it in the Jungle Books (Kipling's version) which I read as a kid. I wanted to be the kid in the jungle with a bear, a wolfpack, a black leopard and a thirty foot python for buddies (take THAT mean girls!). Or Bud whose best buddy was a dolphin named Flipper. Or the boys who had Big Black Wild Horses for buddies (Joey and Fury, Alex and the Black Stallion, Zorro and Tornado). I caught a glimpse of it again with Arnold's Terminator ("Cool! My own terminator!") in Terminator 2. Sam (boy) and Bumblebee (Autobot) are the same pair.
The next thing is the archetype of the Shapeshifter. Every culture has stories of shapeshifters. Animals who become people, people who become animals, and beings who are both, or somewhere in between. Some Native American Coyote tales seem to star a humanoid who is called Coyote, or maybe it's a coyote who can talk, or is it a being that looks like Wile E.? Shapeshifters trick humans into better behavior, help put the stars in the sky, awaken the first humans, teach, lead...
Early humans had only to look around them to see shapeshifting at work: the egg that becomes the nymph that becomes the dragonfly; the tadpole that becomes the frog; the nut that becomes the tree. Old tales tell of barnacles that become geese, horsehairs in the water trough that become worms (admittedly, their grasp of natural history was a little vague).
Easy to transform those legends, adapt them (shapeshifters are adaptable) to our technological world.
And finally: our relationship with technology. I hate it, I loathe it, I detest it. OK, not entirely, I need the computer, the digital camera, the car, the van, the pickup truck, the microwave. I just don't understand them (despite occasionally catching the hilarious and helpful "Car Talk" on NPR); they are as alien as autobots, and less friendly. I can relate to the (hysterically funny) scene in Dark of the Moon where Sam's cheesy car breaks down and he pounds on it in frustration. You can have a conversation, an argument even, with Bumblebee, but not with a cheapo hatchback. Lots of films, from Matrix to Terminator to Star Trek, have dealt with our relationship with our technology, and whether we are using it wisely, or whether it is out of control. Humans, as storytellers, tend to anthropomorphize; animals (talking animal fairy tales, bedtime tales, and cartoons), trees (see Tolkien and CS Lewis, and JK Rowling, whose trees didn't talk so much as whomp), forces of Nature (all those Greek, Norse, Celtic etc. Gods and Goddesses), psychological archetypes (more Gods and Goddesses). Surrounded by technology, with most of us clueless as to how it actually is made or how it works, we anthropomorphize it.
...and its two sides, dark and light; Decepticons and Autobots arise from the collective unconcious, playing out our deepest fears and triumphs on the big screen. Superficially, it's a 3D CG cartoon, a boomfest of big cannons, bigger explosions, buildings crashing like the Titanic (while our doughty heroes scramble, unscathed, through oceans of shattered glass). If you look a little deeper, you catch references to our deepest cultural scars: 9/11. Falling towers, paper fluttering down like snow, evil lurking under the sane surface of the mundane world, leaping out and catching us by the throat when we least expect it. I lost count of how many times someone said "Let's roll!" But that's what faerie tales do; they address our fears, failings, obstacles, triumphs. They point the way, they give us hope.
That said, Transformers is a bit more than just two hours of explosions, of awesome effects, incredible mind-boggling animation, Shia LeBeouf's cute self (or the sleek runway model, running from danger in ridiculous high heels, for you guys), muscular military guys, daring stunts, stuff crashing and burning, giant robots crashing into each other, cars crashing into each other and giant robots, stuff blowing up.... there is actually character development. While many of the characters are pretty loosely sketched (Hot Girl, Beefy Warriors), many are archetypal. Optimus Prime is the iconic Hero King (even to his long-legged, broad torsoed build). Wang is the iconic Geek Science Guy (with some seriously hilarious quirks). There's a young warrior who is the first to volunteer for the "kamikaze" mission, he manages to make us care for the few moments he's onscreen.
And finally, there's just A Boy and His Car. Sam and Bee are the core of it, the buddy team we all want to be part of. The Boy who nobody takes seriously until he proves (again) his great worth as a hero. The Man who finds himself helpless against huge odss...and finds a way. The bumbling autobot who is somehow more human than many flesh and blood actors.
Wish my car would do that....
Well told story is well told story...the rest is just shiny paint and a flame job.