Transformers is a great summer action flick. I saw it Monday night at a sold out 11pm showing. Its US immigration policy subtext is not so subtle. [spoilers]
— Part 1 – The Evil Alien Invasion —
Aliens show up.
No passport. No visa. No border patrol. Just falling from the sky.
Bad aliens that kill people, attacking American soldiers, breaching security. They are here to destroy our lives.
They look strange. They hide among us, online and off, often in plain site. Walking down the road, is that a car or a killer? A Nokia N93 or a fire spitting monster?
Easy movie making: a few minutes of slithering, exploding violence set up the first wave of aliens as bad guys. Prime the xenophobic pump.
— Part 2 – The Nice Aliens —
Good aliens show up. Only a handful.
You get to know them as people, as individuals. They wear bright colors, apologize for stepping on the grass, exercise restraint, crack jokes. Some have trouble speaking English but connect through pop culture. They wear all-American GM trademarks.
They help our hero get the girl.
And these good aliens serve with the U.S. Army, earning the right to stay when the war is over.
Harder movie making: at least half the film spent defining characters, relationships, showing the humanity behind alien masks.
— Part 3 – Humans Respond —
At first all aliens look alike, are treated as bad guys. We see good guys captured, threatened, held without warrant, and tortured.
Only when humans personally intervene, risking their freedom for alien friends, are the good aliens freed to fight the bad aliens.
Even then, the good aliens are forced to hide their true natures, to stay in American costume, to assimilate.
— Part 4 – Themes —
Explicit Good fighting Explicit Evil. (The movie’s marketing emphasis.)
Appearances can be deceiving.
Xenophobia is easy. Compassion is difficult.
Resolving the tension between who we really are and how we portray ourselves is worthwhile.
You need a car to win a girl’s heart.
— This Transformer Blog Post Sponsored By —
Good guy product placement: eBay, GM cars (Chevy, Camaro, Pontiac Solstice, Shelby GT), Motorola, The Strokes, My Little Pony, Lockheed (F-22, F-117 stealth fighter, C-130 gunship), Xbox-360, Sirius radio, Pepsi, Apple computers and cinema displays, Burger King, Panasonic, Furby, Hostess Ding Dongs.