Nearly identical to movie, but still fun to read
A race of intelligent mechanical beings follow a vital life source to an unknown planet orbiting a sun. The planet’s inhabitants, small fragile humans, have no idea what is about to befall them as these robots who are not only titanic in size, but can also take the shape and form of any electronic device or vehicle man-made, make Earth their new battleground. With a movie all about giant robots waging their war on Earth, who better to direct the Transformers live-action movie than Michael Bay, a man who is all about war, the U.S. Military, and explosions. Granted, Bay is not much of a writer, so Alan Dean Foster took on the responsibility of writing the movie’s novel.
The Autobots and Decepticons have arrived on Earth searching for the All Spark, an object that can bring life to Transformers, that was cast away from their planet of Cybertron during a war that has lasted for millennia. The coordinates to the All Spark’s location on Earth are imprinted on a human’s glasses, glasses that have been passed down and now belong to the human’s great, great grandson, a young teenager named Sam Witwicky. Now, the Transformers’ war wages on, humans caught in the devastation, yet willing to aid the Autobots so that they may reach the All Spark before the Decepticons do.
Foster’s adaptation of the Transformers movie is incredibly close to the film with just a few additional scenes added in. Normally, this would be a bit of a letdown, for fans read the adaptations for new content; however, Foster made Transformers his own. Like Transformers: Ghosts of Yesterday, Foster’s knowledge of science fiction shows in his writing and, with a few alterations, he tweaked a few of the interactions between the humans and the Transformers, mainly the Autobots.
For the past 30 years, it has been difficult for fans to remember that the Transformers are, indeed, robots. It is easy to see what they are, but their personalities, for the most part, are more human-like. These human personalities are what people have fallen in love with in the cartoons, movies, comic books, books, etc. that have been released. However, Foster tried a different approach, a more realistic approach: he gave the Transformers (again, mainly the Autobots) robot personalities before arriving to Earth. This made the encounters between the Autobots and humans very intriguing. One memorable scene from the movie is when Sam and Mikala first meet Optimus Prime and the other Autobots. Foster had Optimus speak Chinese to Sam and Mikala before English, for it is one of the more dominant languages on the planet. Another difference in this scene is the fact that Optimus and Megatron are the only two Transformers with definite names. Other names like Jazz, Ratchet, Ironhide, Bumblebee, etc. were created upon arriving to Earth so that humans could more easily identify them. This was very similar to the 1990s cartoon Gargoyles where Goliath was the only one with a name. Of course, this first meeting scene is different than that of the movie, but it is interesting how Foster experimented with it and made it his own.
Like in the movie, the humans are the more dominant characters which is a letdown, considering the movie and the book are titled Transformers. The human aspect is fascinating for it shows what humanity would do if creatures such as giant transforming robots were to arrive on Earth, but it takes away from the fantasy and science fiction of the movie. Transformers is not the only movie/ book to have the dominant human aspect: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Godzilla, Pacific Rim, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are just a few of the movies/ books named after the characters, yet not enough of these characters are seen throughout the film or book to appeal to the audience. Some of these human scenes (mainly scenes with Maggie and Glen) also seemed a bit rushed in Foster’s adaptation, almost like he had struggled writing them and just assumed those who read the book had seen the movie (and more than likely, readers have).
Aside from the human aspect dominating most of the story, Foster’s adaptation of Transformers is a good addition to bookshelves for fans both old and new. It is a fun way to watch the movie in one’s own mind if a TV is not available, with some added content (i.e. longer chase/ fight scene between Bumblebee and Barricade, more realistic meeting between Autobots and humans, etc.). The talented Foster shows his skills in writing, captivating his audience from page 1: “There are other entities Out There, however, for whom a million years is a simple, measurable, comprehensible passing of time. Beings made of sterner stuff both mentally as well as materially. Intelligences straightforward yet vast, to whom our petty everyday concerns would be of no more concern than are those of an ant to a strolling human” (Foster 1). Readers who are unfamiliar with the Transformers may or may not like Foster’s adaptation, but fans of the original show as well as anyone who loves giant robots will find entertainment in not only Bay’s movie, but Foster’s book as well.
Originally published at www.examiner.com on September 16, 2015.