Tickets to the Bardo: More than Meets the CGI

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I always opted to play with my He-Man or Thundercats action figures over my brother’s stash of Autobots and Decepticons when I was younger. Or I would spend my time melting my Muscle Men’s faces off on hot lamp bulbs (you know, if they lost a match that I choreographed--what, I had a healthy imagination when I was a kid).

Transformers never really did it for me. I mean, they start off as trucks, cars and other s***... but all they do is turn into robots. Machines turning into machines. It just didn’t compare to a dude who looked like a cat, and hung out with a chick that looked like a cheetah. Or a guy with a skull for a face. More fantasy for me than sci-fi, back in the day. But this movie...well. It makes me wish I played with those stupid toys instead of sorting through my Garbage Pail Kids trading cards.

Like a Bangkok hooker, my mouth was opened the entire time of the movie. My jaw was sore. And so was everyone else’s in the theater. Forget Spider-Man 3, forget Fantastic Four 2, and all the rest of the lack-luster summer popcorn flicks that fell embarrassingly on their faces--this is where it’s at.

At first I was hesitant, thinking the whole movie was going to be laced with enough CGI to sink the Titanic, and the all too familiar "Bayisms". And I’m not going to lie to myself, at times it was; but it was much, much more than that. Put it this way, I want to watch this movie again. It’s been a while that I’ve actually wanted to go back and see the same movie twice in a theater, but in this case, I’d definitely be ok with the notion of paying $8 for the movie ticket, $3 for parking, and $10 on snacks.

The movie starts off with mention of the Allspark, an all-powerful Rubik’s Cube that can create sentient life from mechanical devices. Decepticons want it to enslave humanity, and the Autobots want to keep them away from it. And it’s here on Earth, with Shia LaBeouf in the middle of it all. But the real star of the flick was Bumblebee, who, had no lines, but convincingly conveyed each of his emotions through radio tunes and various gestures (for example: to show his extreme dislike of all things Authority, ‘Bee urinates for about a minute on a federal agent’s head--silly federal agent man).

Fortunately, ‘Bee is introduced from the get-go. Shia’s dad wants to buy him a car, and low-and-behold, his dad buys him an old crusty yellow Camero that, while in the parking lot, uses various modes to literally destroy all the other cars/options in the P.O.S. parking lot. So, Shia’s stuck with the ‘Bee.

Once this happens, the audience then gets rampaged from all sides--all senses--when the rest of the gang is introduced. The Autobots consist of main man and ultimate badass, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen himself, no less!); slick talkin’ and movin’ Jazz; trigger-happy Ironhide; and Ratchet, the wet nurse. Of course it’s really the Decepticons that are seven shades of awesome. Blackout, Scorponok, Frenzy, Barricade, Starscream, Bonecrusher, and Devastator, are for the most part, bigger, stronger and more aggressive than the good guys. Upsettingly so, Megatron is really only "alive" for the last thirty minutes of the movie, due to being kept frozen under the Hoover Dam. But the damage he does do in that timeframe is beyond remarkable. "I AM MEGATRON!" he yells the minute he’s unfrozen. So. Wicked.

The writing was spot-on, actually. It surprised me. It was clever, sharp, and paid adequate homage to the ‘80s cartoon. It definitely outweighed what one has come to expect from Michael Bay movies: extreme, epic close-ups, lovers kissing with the sun setting in the background, and all the other little unnecessary gag-inducing, clichéd touches. Thank God that only happened a few times; I woulda died if this movie tuned into "Armageddon 2".

But it wasn’t just the writing that surprised me; it was obviously the Richter Scale-breaking action. This movie made your heart beat the way God wants it to --BOOM BOOMP! BOOM BOOP!--and all you wanted was more. Optimus Prime hands a Decepticon his ass, Scorponok hands some army soldiers their collective asses, and Megatron hands Jazz his ass. Lots of ass being handed around in this movie. But honestly, wow. It’s unreal, and I can’t--no, I don’t want--to explain it. You’ve got to see it for yourself. And you too will be a Bangkok hooker.

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