As I write this, the hour is late, and I’ve just seen Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I prefer to call it TROTF, because that sounds funny when you say it aloud. In print it doesn’t look so funny. It looks more like the abbreviation for one of those anxiety-inducing, soul-destroying, opportunity-preventing standardized tests. By comparison to which, the movie is quite enjoyable. Otherwise, though, it’s exhausting. So if I seem a little punchy, you’ll understand why. The summer’s second loudest movie about giant robots to date, TROTF does at least have the advantage over Terminator Salvation, and everything else, of being the first stupidest. To make it, the dubiously distinguished Wesleyan University alumnus Michael Bay pointed many restless cameras at Megan Fox, Shia LaBeouf and the computer-rendered shapes of several confusingly configured machines, then blew a bunch of stuff up.
Does saying these things make me seem old and spiteful? I’ll have you know I’m squarely within the TROTF target demographic. For I, like many of my kind, was a child of Hasbro. In fact, without Transformers toys, I don’t know what my middle-class Clinton boyhood would have been like.
Probably better socialized, for starters. During the transition from grade school to middle school, the Transformers became a wedge issue when a friend who’d outgrown me--or maybe just wanted to seem to have put away childish things himself--let it be known with derision that I still played with them. Well, it hadn’t occurred to me to stop. Anyway, I can’t remember if the stigma took (uh, it’s not like I’d been cool to begin with), but I know the betrayal stung.
And so to him I now say: Yeah, well, the joke’s on you, dude, because now Transformers is an enormously lucrative motion-picture franchise and a worldwide sensation--and plenty of people our age are still playing with them.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to say again to a certain young woman, wherever she is, that it was indeed rubber cement she found on my desk that one day in fifth grade--not, as she so reprovingly suggested, boogers. That false accusation still incenses me. For what does a man have if not (his memories of Transformers and) his reputation? To think that I’d have left my own boogers just lying right there on my desk. No. I’d have eaten them. Duh.
But I digress. It’s late. I’m punchy. Back to TROTF, and the joke being on my former friend.
No, OK, you’re right: The joke still is on me, because for all my emotionally retarded proto-adolescent fixations, I somehow lacked the presence of mind back then to imagine a future in which emotionally retarded proto-adolescent fixations would sustain 144 minutes of moviegoers’ attention, plus a few more minutes of mine, too long into the evening thereafter.
Had I known better, and played my cards right, maybe I could have met Michael Bay while he studied at Wesleyan and my father taught there, then written my own loud, long, stupid Transformers scripts and sold him those. Then I’d have the last laugh, and I dare say it would be an even more satisfying laugh than the one I get by saying “TROTF!” aloud to myself at the kitchen table in the middle of the night.