SYNOPSIS: Giant, sentient robots have landed on Earth, searching for a powerful device that could enslave all on the planet by using our technology against us.

GOSPEL FILTER: Do you remember the scene in This Is Spinal Tap when Nigel is talking about the amps going to 11? That’s what kept running through my mind as I saw this movie: This thing goes to 11. I’m not a fan of director Michael Bay, but despite his best efforts, I enjoyed this movie quite a bit. Part of it may be because I fall squarely into the age group that played with Transformers a lot when we were kids, so my tolerance level was amped up.

This summer blockbuster has everything your teenage boys are looking for: Cool giant robots? Check. Lots of over-the-top action and mayhem? Check. Improbable plot? Check. Beautiful girl who falls for the goofball? Check. Unfortunately it’s also got a number of juvenile sex jokes — including an uncomfortable discussion about masturbation. There’s also a scene involving a urinating Transformer — it’s as weird and unnecessary as it sounds.

Shia LaBeouf is great in his role as Sam, the hapless teenager who buys a car, only to find out it’s actually a giant robot from outer space. Anthony Anderson is also great in his turn as a funny, reluctant hacker forced to work with the government. The rest of the cast, however, is either given no character development (Josh Duhamel), or is downright awful (I’m looking at you, John Turturro). Even the robots all blur together. I could often only distinguish Bumblebee — and that was because he was bright yellow. One bright spot was the fact that Peter Cullen reprises the voice of Optimus Prime — it was a blast from the past when he said, "Autobots…roll out!"

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Director Bay went for action above all here, but that comes at the cost of plot holes you could drive Optimus Prime through. Despite that, there’s room for some discussion here.

The theme of good and evil is at the heart of the movie: The Autobots are "good" and the Decepticons are "evil." The first few minutes of the film explains that there’s a device called the Allspark, which is the origin of the Transformers race. Megatron wanted the power of the Allspark for himself and staged an uprising. Sound familiar? This might be a good time to discuss something not often brought up in church: Satan.

To take this even further, Optimus Prime is set up as a Christ figure. Without giving away too much of the "plot," Optimus offers to make himself a "necessary sacrifice to bring peace to this planet." The world may want us to be our own personal saviors, but teenagers need to know Christ is the most important sacrifice ever made — and the only one that can save us.

One of the catch-phrases of the Transformers of my youth was "More Than Meets the Eye." Sam’s love interest Mikaela seems to be nothing more than a snobby, pretty face at the beginning of the film. But we go on to learn she’s had real pain in her life, and she turns out to be more than she seems. Talk with your teenagers about appearances, and how there may be hidden depths to people if we’d only get beyond the surface.

Another theme is that of chances taken. At one early point, Mikaela has a chance to just walk away from this adventure. But Sam asks her if she’ll ever regret "not getting in that car." Taking chances can be a risky, dangerous, and exhilarating experience. Your teenagers should be aware that there is a time for taking chances, and a time for playing it safe.

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor, and language.

Discussion Questions:

  • Do you believe Satan is real? Why or why not?
  • What do you know about him? Explain.
  • How is Megatron similar to Satan? How is he different?
  • Why do people want power so much?
  • Who in our society would you consider powerful? How did they get that way?
  • Why do you think Optimus Prime was willing to sacrifice himself for our planet?
  • Have you ever sacrificed something for a greater good? Explain.
  • Would you still make that sacrifice if you knew people wouldn’t appreciate it?
  • Why do you think Jesus sacrificed himself? Do you think he had to, or did he have a choice? Explain.
  • Sam’s biggest dream was to get a car. Is that your biggest dream right now? If not, what is your dream?
  • Are you someone who takes a lot of chances? Why or why not?
  • Do those risks usually end up good or bad? Explain.
  • How do you determine when is a good time to take a chance?
  • Do you believe appearances can be deceiving? Explain.
  • Why do people base so much on appearances? Is that fair? Why or why not?
  • What would people think of you if they judged you based only on your appearance? Would that be accurate? Why or why not?
How service-minded are your teenagers? Take this short quiz to find out!

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