Saturday, July 21, 2007

Transformers: A Review (Seriously!)

This is a review of both the book and the movie, Transformers. I was recently in Books a million and saw a display for the new movie Transformers. Actually, the display was for a novelization of the movie by Alan Dean Foster. If you don't know Alan Dean Foster he did the novelization of at least the first Alien movie (and I think more), Krull, a bunch of original Star Treks, Pip and Flinx, Outland, the Spell Singer series, and about a bazillion more. If you read, you have probably read something from Alan. Transformers, the book:

  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; Mti edition (May 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345497996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345497994
I was a fan of the transformers in my late teens when they first came out. I've always been a fan of comics and cartoons. As a fan, I decided to pick up the book and give it a read. My son wanted to see the movie (he is a HUGE fan) so I figured I could use "research" as an excuse to buy it. If you don't know the premise, it's fairly simple. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away a battle raged between intelligent cybernetic beings on a planet called Cybertron. The good beings are, being autonomous, Autobots. The bad guys, being deceptive, are Decepticons. Combined are they Cybertronians? Cybertrics? Cybertronner? The war between good and evil starts to destroy Cybertron so the All Spark, the special energy cube that gives life to inanimate (but only complex inanimate) objects, is ejected into space to prevent Megatron (leader of Decepticons) from getting it. Megatron goes after the cube and after thousands of years, both arrive on Earth. Eventually the good guys follow, followed by additional bad guys. The story is about the search for the All Spark, the battle between good and evil and two horny teenagers. Sam Witwicky, bumbling teenager, manages to, ineptly, steal the girlfriend of the ultra-macho, footballer bad guy. The girl, Mikela, is poor where Sam is solidly middle class. In the meantime, the Men In Black, are tracking Sam and Mikela down and the Secretary of Defense is trading witty banter with a green haired punk rock computer genius (in the book anyway, the same character in the movie is an attractive blond with an British accent). The movie ends in a crescendo of robotic violence of epic proportions. I'm not sure how many more cliches could have been squeezed into a single novel/movie. The weird thing is, it works. The novel is better than the movie but only because Alan Dean Foster is a master and he can spend more time building the characters. An example of the time spent on characterization is this bit from an early scene in the book:
Later, as they cruised back toward town, her voice rose above the hum of the Camaro's engine as the car coasted down a hillside road. Sunset muffled the light but did nothing to mute her continuing rant. "I cannot believe I am here," she was saying. "You can duck down if you want," Sam suggested helpfully. "It won't hurt my feelings." She flicked her eyes at him. "Duck down? Are you crazy? Not with you, in your car. Here, in this situation." Leaning back against the headrest, she implored the heavens. "This serves me right. God, I've got such a weakness for hot guys." So this is what grandma meant when she used to talk about someone making her feel knee-high to caterpillar, Sam mused as he mumbled a response. "Yeah, that, that is a weakness."
The story is enjoyable on many levels. My four old, whom I did bring to the movie with me, was only impressed with the last 15 or so minutes. I, on the other hand, read the book in about 8 hours and then two weeks later was held spellbound for the entire two hours and twenty three minutes. The other audience members, who seemed to range from young teen to elderly, were also spellbound. The theater resounded with applause in several places and the applause lasted for several minutes at the end.
This movie/book combination has something for everyone. Drama (teen angst, alien invasion, politics, world war), humor (the way the autobots talk, computer geek inside jokes, Sam's slightly tipsy mom and his "special time"), special effects (transforming giant robots), military jargon, and so much more. Some of the humor is decidedly adult but much of it is straight at the teen demographic. Maybe it's just because I am an old fan but I would be willing to see a part 2, if there is one. Want to take odds that there will be? Alan Dean Foster has written a prequel to the movie, Transformers: Ghosts of Yesterday (Transformers (Ballantine Books)). I plan to buy this the next time I am in a book store. If you need a book to while away a lazy weekend or if you have a few hours to burn on a movie, you could do worse than Transformers. LewisC