Transformers 4 and the fungibility of all things

4 July 02014


— Published exactly as drafted one year ago —

On the 4th of July I found myself delayed with a few hours to spend alone in rainy Providence, Rhode Island, so of course I engaged in some great American commerce and acquired admission to a showing of Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth in the franchise.

I love Transformers movies. My favorite review of the second said it “looked down on over-the-top as if from a great height.” The screen is its own place: the last retconned the whole space race into a kind of contrived alien-artifact backstory. And this one might generously be said to address the nature of creation itself. The scope has metastasized; it’s not about cars that transform into robots anymore, it’s about transforming anything into anything — the fungibility of all matter.

That’s the dream, right? We have enough stuff, it’s just not the right sort of stuff. Transforming lead into gold, ordinary people into heroes. Like money facilitates trade by obviating the double coincidence of wants, transformium obviates an even more fundamental co-incidence: that of what I have and what I want.

We’re getting pretty good at that. Money transforms into movies, render cycles into popcorn. I am listening to the Transformers soundtrack as I write, which I condensed out of the air upon exiting the theater and which an electromagnet in my phone transformed into vibrations in the air, which my ear canal then re-encoded into electrical signals, which then transformed into bad writing. Truly an age of miracles!

We created the transformers. [history] but the cumulative budget of the four films has been $TK. the transformers command the capital, and the capital commands us.

that is freedom; to dissolve the bonds is to rearrange the relationships among things. as we liberated america from the crown, we have liberated proton from proton,

social mobility is all about transformations. equal opportunity and freedom to choose leads to diverse outcomes. equal opportunity implies we are made of the same stuff.

i thought i bought a ticket to a movie. i might’ve confused the power relationship. transformers bought my time, and my capital, to feed its insatiable thirst to create more transformers. optimus prime has already won. that is freedom.


Major spoilers ahead!

Over the course of the film, Optimus Prime discovers that he has a Creator, and that He has put a price on Prime’s head. In the final moments, Prime bids Earth and its petty strife adieu, blasts off like a rocket into deep space, and announces to his Creator, “I’m coming for you.” He thus establishes himself as a deeply Satanic figure:

[quote about leaping up from Hell bound for Earth]

Only in a universe all made of the same stuff can the created destroy the creator.

(See also Lord Asriel’s conquest of The Authority/Metatron.)

monism: in an atheist monist universe, the creator and the created are made of the same stuff, and one can transform to surpass the other

optimus prime is like satan in paradise lost. pl is predicated on god’s nature being fundamentally on a different plane, and the folly of satan’s conflation of like images with like essences. but milton was wrong. a proton can vibrate into a neutron.


Transformers, in framing the eponymous protagonists as aliens, asks, “are we alone?” They’ve been hiding among us, robots in disguise. But the true novel alien life form of our time is exemplified less by a Transformer than by Transformers itself.

as corporations gain power blah blah and everyone debates corporate personhood blah blah, our creations rebel against us; that is the age of extinction referenced in the subtitle.

this is the twilight of the rule of multicellular carbon dna organisms, the dawn of a new breed.

this new beast is coming to command hordes of people, as we command hordes of cells. we created it, but we do not control it. when the courts debate corporate personhood, this is the battlefield — but it’s an exercise in futility. the corporations laugh at our rulings. we can no more stop their ascendance than the rock could stop the germplasm, no more than the microbes could stop the fish.

in geologic time, this will come to be seen as the age of the superorganism. the age of the meme, of religion, of the state. the age of the corporation. the age of TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

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