Although the subject of this post is not just a film, but a toy series, cartoons, books, comic books, video games, etc. I am going to mostly reference the movies, as this is a Faith and Film post. Today, I’m going to talk about the spiritual story hidden in everyone’s favourite robots in disguise, the Transformers.
Hasbro brought out their line of transforming robot/vehicles in the 80’s and probably had no idea of the massive cultural impact they were about to make. Growing up, I don’t remember many of my friends NOT having several Transformers. The cartoon was created to further market the toys, and the story of the Autobots and the Decepticons was further fleshed out. In 2007, Michael Bay released his Transformers film, portraying the alien robots in live action. This was then followed by two sequels (with another possibly coming out next year), cementing the Transformers in the 21st Century.
Yet, it was not until the last time I watched the first movie, a couple months ago, that I realized I had heard the story before. The battle between the Decepticons and the Autobots was not particularly original, for it only had put new terms on a very old story. I realized that the Transformers are analogies for angels!
For many, this might take a minute to sink in. I’ll give you a minute…
For those still with me, let me run through the story, drawing out the similarities between Hasbro’s transforming toys and a major part of Judeo-Christian spirituality.
On another world, far away, intelligent beings that are completely unlike humans exist. They are not made of flesh, but of steel (just as the angels are of spirit). Everything is peaceful and harmonious, until one of the beings, Megatron, desires more power and leads his allies, the Decepticons into battle against the Autobots. This coincides with the Christian tradition that Lucifer, greatest of the angels, led a rebellion of angels in Heaven. And like the angelic counterparts, the Transformers continue to battle into the present.
Both the Fallen Angels and the Decepticons end up on earth. The result? The possible destruction of humankind. For the Decepticons, the destruction of earth is merely a byproduct of their search for the Allspark, but the wicked intention is clear: the Decepticons are the demons of this story.
Even Megatron’s name bears a striking resemblance to the angelic scribe of Heaven: Metatron. This angel is recorded in Medieval Jewish tradition as being the biblical Enoch after God transformed him from a man into an angel (not recorded in the Bible, but attested to in extra-biblical literature). He sits near the throne of God, writing down whatever God and the angels need written down. While the characters are completely different, the similarity in names in noteworthy, at least.
The Angels and the Autobots arrive to protect humanity. They fight tooth and nail to stop the villains from destroying human beings. They see themselves as hidden guardians of our people, willing to risk all to keep us from harm. The Autobots are led by Optimus Prime, who, like the archangel Michael, the commander of Heaven’s armies, is often depicted wielding a powerful sword.
Many Christian traditions also hold to the idea of personal guardian angels. We see Bumblebee taking care of Sam throughout the movies, helping him battle alien robots and get the girl of his dreams. Even when the mission is over, Bumblebee requests to stay with Sam to guard and protect him. Sounds very guardian angel-like to me.
Finally, the spiritual realm is hidden to most of humanity. I cannot claim to see spirits, angels, demons, or anything like that. I know people who can, but for most of us, it’s not a reality we get to experience. In the same way, the Autobots and the Decepticons are hidden from humanity in their vehicle forms. They are “Robots in Disguise.” Their actions usually take place far from the eyes of the public, with few “miraculous” interventions happening in densely populated areas.
You may not find this particularly enlightening, but it’s just one example of finding the “big story” hidden in the movies we watch each week. I hope, as we continue to look at films through the lens of faith, that you will start to see more of the meta-narrative in the weirdest of places. When you do, let us know. Because the more we see of God in our daily lives, the closer to Him we can become. And that’s a wonderful thing.
Autobots, roll out!