Cyberpunk Review » Transformers

July 12, 2007


Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 2007

Directed by: Michael Bay

Written by: Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (screenplay & story), John Rogers (story)

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Medium

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes:Very Low

Key Cast Members:

  • Sam “Spike” Witwicky: Shia LaBeouf
  • Mikaela Banes: Megan Fox
  • Defense Secretary John Keller: Jon Voight
  • Sector 7 Agent Simmons: John Turturro
  • Optimus Prime (Voice): Peter Cullen
Rating: 7 out of 10

SFAM Note - Change to Review: CPR now has a number of people doing reviews here. Inevitably, there will be differences over whether or not we think of something as being cyberpunk or not. In the case of the Transformers, Mr. Roboto feels that it is, but I do not (nor do many who listed comments below). I have changed the categories to reflect this (its being placed in the “It’s Not Cyberpunk” category), but the rest of the review is still Mr. Roboto’s.


Optimus Prime: Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.

Overview: Anyone growing up during the mid-80’s must have played with, or at least heard of, Hasbro’s Transformers and watched the animated series that began in 1984. Since then, the Transformers have attained a cult status among nerd types who dreamed of owning a muscle car or heavy duty pick-up that can transform into a kick-ass robot. Now, those fans have a live-action movie to go along with the animated 1986 movie from those heady first-generation days.

I went to see this movie, not expecting cyberpunk themes, but like Optimus Prime and Megatron colliding, BOOM! There they were, though some may say there’s a bit of a stretch for them. Like Alien, there will no doubt be some discussion about the themes and visuals and if the movie qualifies as cyberpunk.

Negative Impact of technology on humanity: Decepticons and the power-hungry Megatron will destroy Earth and the humans for the Allspark, and Megatron even shows his disgust for our species as he flicks a human away during the final battle. Also, the ongoing war between the Autobots and Decepticons could be a metaphoric warning about a possible future “robot war” on Earth.


Keller: We’re facing war against a technological civilization far superior to our own! Our enemy can take any shape! They could be anywhere!

Since America’s technology was based on Megatron, leader of the evil Decepticons, it makes our cyber-present sound like it is the seed of evil, forged by evil, for evil purposes. This origin of our technology causes the Allspark to turn ordinary electronic devices into transformer robots that attack humans.

Fusion of man and machine: There isn’t the deep, philosophical aspects of Blade Runner with this theme, but there are signs of lines between man and machine being crossed somewhere between Earth and Cybertron.

At the car lot, Bobby Bolivia (a cameo by Bernie Mac) tells Spike “A driver don’t pick the cars. Mmm-mm. Cars pick the driver. It’s a mystical bond between man and machine.” Spike and Mikaela interact with the Transformers like they were real, even though they’re just CGI animations added afterwards.

The Transformers themselves act sentient, even human like, with their own personalities. Optimus Prime acts like a real leader, keeping trigger-happy Ironhide in check, sacrificing Bumblebee when he’s captured to get to the Allspark, and even plans to sacrifice himself to protect the humans and destroy the Allspark if needed. There’s even dissension among the Decepticons, especially between Megatron and Starscream in their ongoing power struggle since their animated days.

What isn’t clear is if the Transformers were created by organic beings, or used to be organics, but found a way to transfer themselves into robot bodies, or if the Allspark just created the robotic race as the opening narration suggests. I would find it interesting to hear of the Transformers’ origins (creation or evolution?). Maybe a future “prequel” will deal with that.

Control over society: There doesn’t seem to be an “all-controlling entity” present in the film… until Sector 7 enters the scene.
Sector 7 was created by president Hoover when Captain Archibald Witwicky’s Arctic Circle expedition stumbled upon a frozen Megatron to keep the find secret. They reverse-engineered the Decepticon’s technology to create the technology of modern America and her military.

Story focuses on the underground: Mikaela has a juvenile record, thanks to her father showing her how to steal cars. Not much else here. Moving along…

Ubiquitous Access to information: Early on, the Decepticons try to hack America’s military systems, looking for information on the whereabouts of Megatron and the AllSpark. After Blackout’s attack on America’s Qatar base to access the military nets, the Pentagon tries to decipher the signal used to hack the systems. One of the analysts copies the signal to a memory card and takes it to a hacker friend she knows, who succeeds.

The Decepticon Frenzy, who first appears as a boom-box, furthers the hacking cause aboard Air Force One, and succeeds in obtaining information on Sector 7 and “Project Iceman.” He then uploads a virus that causes military systems worldwide to shut down to aid the Decepticon’s attack.

Autobot Jazz: What’s crackin’ little bitches?
Sam ‘Spike’ Witwicky: Where’d he learn to talk like that?
Optimus Prime: We learned Earth’s language through the World Wide Web.

Also, both sides learn of Spike and Captain Witwicky’s glasses from his posts as Ladiesman217 on eBay.


Cyberpunk visuals and style: The desert battle with Scorponok is probably the most cyberpunk visually, with all the sand and the primitive village hosting a high-tech battle between the Americans and a killer robot. There are scenes inside the Pentagon (a cyber-romanticized version) featuring rooms of computers to gather and analyze data. Many scenes take place at night in locations like junkyards and industrial parks. In the final battle in the city, Spike runs through what looks like a long-abandoned rail station. The scenes inside Hoover Dam could be called steampunk.

Do note the color schemes between the bot sides; The Autobots have brigher colors while the Decepticons have darker, militant paint jobs.


A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away… (Oops, wrong movie… My bad.) Optimus Prime narrates the opening of the movie; How the Cube of the Allspark gave life to Cybertron (well, ANY planet it came across), and how the evil Megatron tried to abuse its power. The civil war that erupted practically destroyed Cybertron and all life on it, and the Allspark was lost for thousands of years, until it was discovered on an unknown-to-them planet called Earth.

Captain Archibald Witwicky was leading an expedition to the Arctic Circle when he stumbled upon a frozen Megatron and accidentally activated his guidance system, causing the Decepticon leader to imprint the Captain’s glasses with the location of the Allspark. The glasses are now in the possession of his great-great-grandson, Sam “Spike” Witwickey, who is trying to sell them to buy a car.

Sam and his father, Ron “Sparkplug” Witwickey, eventually buy an old Camaro that helps Sam attract Mikalea Banes, who knows her way around cars thanks to her father.


What could be hotter than a babe who knows her way around cars?

One night the car drives away with Sam in pursuit, believing his car was being stolen. The car arrives at a junkyard and transforms into a robot that transmits a signal into space while Sam watches in disbelief. The next day, the car returns and Sam runs believing the car is stalking him. Sam encounters the Decepticon Barricade, in disguise as a police cruiser, who demands the glasses. Sam’s car transforms to fight the Decepticon off, and then reveals his role as guardian before taking Sam and Mikaela to the arriving Autobots and Optimus Prime, who reveals Sam’s connection to the Allspark.


Sam ‘Spike’ Witwicky: It’s a robot. You know, like a super advanced robot. It’s probably Japanese.

What follows is a race to get to the Allspark, followed by a huge city-wrecking mech battle between the deadly Decepticons and the heroic Autobots and American military, including survivors of Blackout’s attack in Qatar.


Robot Apocalypse? We never see the death and destruction of Cybertron, but it wouldn’t be hard to imagine it based on current human events. With two opposing sides fighting over a valuable resource, whether it’s energy or the Allspark, such Armageddons are always possible whether anyone wants them or not. And with the Transformers’ civil war now being played out on Earth, the humans may become unwilling victims of such an Armageddon, especially if the Decepticons win out.

But what about robots the humans will make? Advances in robotic and computer technology have made “human-like” robots more of a possibility in the near future. Future improvements in artificial intelligence can lead to learning machines, machines that can think and act for themselves, and possibly sentience like the Transformers. At that point, our robots may take sides to be human-friendly or anti-human. That could lead to a robotic civil war that could wipe humanity out and leave the planet unlivable, while the robots take their dispute to the stars, possibly destroying other sentient worlds and life forms.

Fortunately, we’re far from that robotic civil war, and the Autobots do keep Earth protected from Megatron’s lust for power and the Allspark. The final lines in the movie are spoken by Optimus Prime as he sends an invitation to his fellow Autobots:

With the Allspark gone, we cannot return life to our planet. And fate has yielded its reward, a new world to call home. We live among its people now, hiding in plain sight, but watching over them in secret… waiting, protecting. I have witnessed their capacity for courage and though we are worlds apart, like us, there’s more to them than meets the eye. I am Optimus Prime and I send this message to any surviving Autobots taking refuge among the stars. We are here. We are waiting.


Conclusion: While geared for the toy-line fans, Transformers does offer something for cyberpunks to think about, whether it was intended or not. There’s little question that it will be this summer’s blockbuster, but some might question if it belongs in the Parthenon of cyberpunk movies.

All I can say is: Do watch it and see if you also notice the cyberpunk themes as I did. It’s OK, it’s a pretty good robot action movie.

This post has been filed under Alien Movies, Android Movies, It's Not Cyberpunk! Mkay? by Mr. Roboto.


July 12, 2007

Pylon_Trooper said:

Good review! I really did think I’d be walking out of this movie with a foul taste in my mouth, but it ended up being just as much fun as Terminator 3. That’s probably as profound as I’m going to get here, but I just thought for rambunctious action SFX-fests, those two movies seem to fit quite well together on many levels.

July 13, 2007

Hammerjack said:

I’m not sure if I agree with calling Transformers cyberpunk. I loved Transformers, and I love cyberpunk, but I don’t think I can cram this movie in to that genre. To me, it feels too much like “classic scifi” with giant robots from space attacking. The plot sounds more like a pulp 50’s scifi than cyberpunk. When “fusion of man and machine” relates to a line said by a used-car dealer and “focus on the underground” relates to a character that has a juvy record… I don’t think it works. There is a “ubiquitous access to information” simply because it takes place in a day and age where the internet exists, and not even a romanticized view of the internet, it’s ebay. This is a great movie, but I don’t think I can call it cyberpunk.

SFAM said:

I’ve been on vacation so I haven’t seen Transformers yet. I will be seeing it this weekend, although I too am somewhat suspicious of this movie being cyberpunk.

Monolithic Angel said:

I think that it is a little farfetched to call Transformers cyberpunk, even when Mr. Roboto has issued some interesting points. But to be honest i’m not that keen to this particular incarnation of Transformers, i found it to be a little heavy on the ‘human’ side of things, even more so when we face the fact that the actual robots are the only strenght of this film.
But i guess that’s not so surprising when Mr. Bay sits at the helm, he boasts an alarming fascination for human relations in B-grade action blockbusters and he doesnt have the talent required to adress them even in a mildly decent way. In other words he sucks at this, too often we see him try to grasp the levels of human empathy displayed in the better movies of Spielberg only to see him fall flat on his face. And don’t get me started on the supposedly funny light feeling of this movie because it doesn’t exist. Masturbation puns and racist jokes just doesn´t cut it nowadays.
But i degress, it’s not a horrible movie at all, but it does drag on the middle, and the incompetence, patriotic mumbo jumbo and racist overtones that Michael Bay has acostumed us over his career just holds down the fact that it´s a great looking, entertaining, giant robot rumble movie.

But it´s just an opinion…

July 14, 2007

Made in DNA said:

I think this site is getting more than a little loose with the term ‘cyberpunk’. Sorry but TRANSFORMERS is NOT cyberpunk in the ANY sense of the word. Not even if you count the word ‘Cybertron’.

CorSaiR said:

hope that CR wont transform into an all/any movie review site.

Made in DNA said:

I agree. There are plenty of sci-fi movie review places out there already. I’d like to see CR stay a cyberpunk only site.

July 15, 2007

Caelum said:

the only good thing about this movie was the special effects

when the robots weren’t on screen i wanted to blow up the world

SFAM said:

OK, I just got back from Transformers. Mr. Roboto, I’m afraid I disagree. There is absolutely nothing about this movie which is in any way Cyberpunk. I do agree with the actual star rating though - the special effects were terrific. It had the regular insane plot holes for a Michael Bay movie but was LOTS better than his last flick - the Island.

But bottom line, this movie just isn’t cyberpunk. This takes place in the present, not near future, there is no focus on the underground, the use of information is all about magical hacking, and there is no negative influence of technology, as the transformers are aliens. Furthermore, the dispute is the regular cartoonish “humans are nice, we should save them / NO! They are gnats in the face of our greatness, we should kill them!” This is one of the main reasons I don’t consider any Mecha stuff cyberpunk. It’s all just superhero/Dragon Ball Z type combat. There is no social commentary. I am going to change the categories to reflect this.

And I do absolutely LOVE that others are starting to do reviews here - and I’m definitely looking for more people to help, but especially with movies, we definitely want to make sure they either are cyberpunk, or are in the “Not cyberpunk” category.

July 16, 2007

Made in DNA said:

I wouldn’t mind if this site had a ‘related-recommendations’ section (or something like ‘Robot Roundup’ or ‘TechnoThrillers’ or something like that). ‘not cyberpunk’ seems a little broad. THE SOUND OF MUSIC is not cyberpunk.

Burnt_Lombard said:

Well there is the theme of commercialization running wild. Bay’s movie are basically ads for other items. The product placement is always very blatant. The giant Coke ad that takes up the entire screen in Armegeddon. Playstation ads in the underground secret world of the island and of course in this one A Mountain Dew machine and an X-box becoming evil robots. He might as well make the movie.

Made in DNA said:

>>> He might as well make the movie.

I’d buy that for a dollar.

Funny. Frankly, I ignore commerical ad placement in movies. But then again, on a whole, I don’t watch TV, and even when I do, I turn off the commericals. A habit I picked up from my stepfather back in the 80s when the remote control was this loud, clicking monster with four buttons. I’m surprised it didn’t transform. Would kill to have it now. Talk about fun paraphanelia. But I digress…

Ghostface said:

how about an “almost cyberpunk” section too? lol

July 18, 2007

erc1452 said:

While I did not think “Cyberpunk” when I saw this movie, it was freaking amazing - easily 10 out 10.


Arjun Jassal said:

well the movie hasnt been released in India as of now. However, I really dont think it can be cyberpunk!! waiting for it nonetheless….

July 19, 2007

yonosoycase said:

Se ve buena, dicen que va ha ser la peli del año. ps aver 1que pasa

July 21, 2007

David Gentle said:

The best review I read of this movie was here:

“Once giant robots started kicking the shit out of each other, all was forgiven.”

August 2, 2007

Merzmensch said:

I haven’t seen “Transformers” yet, but after the descriptions, they aren’t Cyberpunk at all. Even more: cyberpunk has always various audiences and target groups: mainstream and underground. Mainstream is important for widely spreading of the cyberpunk work, and of course for the financial support. Underground is (imho) the real target group, because the philosophie and intertextuality of CP-work can be recieved and accepted by “underground” or non-mainstream recipients. That’s why “Matrix” was like impact, and “Matrix II+III” were soso (the sequels were very mainstream-oriented…)

“Transformers” seem to have only mainstream target group, this is a big commercial clip about Hasbro, produced by Spielberg. And the cyberpunk themas aren’t in it.

But: the trailer of other movie, running before “Transformers” is really really interesting: the “Cloverfield”-Project by JJ Abrams. It seems not to be cyberpunk, but the viral marketing actions around this movie are cyberpunkish (f.e. profiles of the fictional protagonists of the movie on Myspace, official or/and inofficial websites claiming to be inofficial/official etc.). This is intertextual interaction, and that’s cool.

August 31, 2007

Anonymous said:

transformers….la pelicula es de primera, ese!

November 27, 2007

Unicron said:

being a huge fan of TF since back in the day, as well as cyberpunk since i first saw blade runner as a kid….i would have to strongly disagree…. the movie was good, but not cyberpunk… the CLOSEST TF has ever come to cyberpunk was BeastMachines, and while its fairly close… its still neither here nor there…. just like this movie..good movie… just not for this genre

May 26, 2008

Anonymous said:

cool car owsm movie

Anonymous said:

love that car and loved the movie

Anonymous said:

love that car and loved the movie you guys should make a number 2

January 4, 2009

ard said:

you fuckin suck mother fuckess

January 6, 2009

Danag said:

It Was So Easy For Sam To Beat Megatron. All He Had To Do Was To Put The Cube In Megatron’s Chest. So Sam Put It. The Cube. In Megatron’s Chest. Megatron Was Defeated.

January 12, 2009

Danag said:

If Only Sam Thought Of Putting the Cube [in Megatron’s Chest] Earlier, The Movie Should Not Have Been Two Hours Long..

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