In my partner and I’s Summer of Superhero, Transformers 3 was going to be a bright spot (if you haven’t caught on by now, I’m a huge action/superhero movie fan). Filmed with 3D cameras, T3 was the first 3D movie I’ve seen that was worth the extra bucks and uncomfortable glasses.
But, that doesn’t mean that T3 sidestepped some major fails.
1. Megatron, the evil leader of the Deceptacons, makes his home in Africa, while the good Autobots reside in America. Because, you know, it can’t hurt to reinforce that white people = good, people of color = bad. I get that they needed a far out of reach of people place to make Megatron reside, but were the safari shots necessary?
2. Newly cast as The Hot Girl, the character of Carly is used for little more than a hot body swathed in white (why is she always in white??). Her first entrance follows her bare feet as she tiptoes across the room toward Sam and the bed, and then sweeps up her legs to show that she is nearly naked. Only after all of this do we find out she’s actually pretty brainy — in a typical action movie sort of way. She worked for the British embassy in a high enough position to be in the White House and now manages a collection of cars — the implication I guess being that she’s some sort of personal assistant. She’s paid well and pays the rent, a point which undermines Sam’s masculinity and we are constantly reminded of throughout the movie (BTW, Sam’s parents are disappointed that he hasn’t found a job in DC after 3 months of searching. Thank you T3 for showing how hard it is to get a job out of school, and reminding me that society thinks I suck for not having a job yet).
3. Carly’s character is restricted to doing the normal action movie Hot Girl things: screaming ‘Help me!’ and standing around in six inch heels and wearing tiny dresses. Points, though, for putting Carly in jeans and a tshirt for the big action sequence, and letting her run in flats (in each scene where she runs, she’s in flats, when its a long shot of her standing or cowering in a corner, she’s in heels again. I mean, I know when I’m being held hostage by the man allied with the evil robots who are about to bring destruction to planet earth and enslave the human race, I would definitely put on heels. Because there is no way for me to look hot while being practical. Just saying). The movie does let her buy Sam more time by engaging with Megatron in order to stop the threat to Sam and Optimus, but she does so by insulting Megatron’s masculinity, by insinuating that he is less of man if he doesn’t get up and fight.
This is one of my biggest problems when watching the superhero movies I love so much. The women characters are only there to act as eye candy. When I watch an action movie I want the women characters to be as kick-ass as the men are. And there is a way to do it right — in Thor, for example, Natalie Portman’s character gets into scrapes and ends up being saved by the manly Thor. But her character is crazy smart, running her own research project, and she participates in the saving of the world. She doesn’t stand around waiting for Thor to do things, she accepts his help in furthering her own goals. Plus, she’s played by Natalie Portman, who is a pretty kickass woman herself.
Transformers 3 just doesn’t let its women characters get that far. Each of the three women in the story play into some stereotype. Carly is the hot girl way out of Sam’s league, but who is with him anyway. Sam’s mom is the ‘happy wife happy life’ woman with her husband wrapped around her finger. Mearing is the no nonsense woman in charge, who won’t listen to the sense of the men around her. And these are the only three women given significant dialogue.
Aside from these three main points, the movie is good as far as action movies go. The action scenes are pretty good, the plot is followable and feasible given the pretense of alien robotic life, and the characters respond how we would expect them to respond. Of the three transformers movies, this one is my least favorite, with the least amount of story.
*As a disclaimer, my knowledge of Transformers is restricted to this series of movies only. I did not follow the 1980s series, nor any other movies made of the Transformers. I have vague memories of boys wearing Transformers tshirts in Kindergarden, and know that it was cartoon on when I was little.