Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Transformers: Take 2

This'll be fun.

There's nothing I like more than mixing it up, especially over a piece of garbage as discussion-worthy as "Transformers" (you could write a COLLEGE THESIS on all the manner of ways this movie manages to suck) so let's get to it:

I've already got at least one fella in the comments giving me a hard time on points that certainly ought be addressed from my "Transformers" review. Just to open it up here, I'm going to post my response here on the public page (I will not, for netiquet's sakes, identify the fellow being responded to by "name" in a public post.)

"From your earlier reviews I can't help but think that you were going to hate this movie no matter what happened and there was nothing it could do to redeem itself in your eyes."

I was entirely honest and upfront about the fact that I was not exactly pre-sold on this movie. Thing is, that cuts both ways: As bad as I thought it looked, had Bay managed to make even an "okay" film I'd likely have been pleasantly surprised. Perfect example: I kinda liked "Delta Farce" mostly because it wasn't NEARLY as terrible as it looked like it'd be.

"There is a simpler explination. Michael Bay gets the audience."

Bay gets a PART of the audience, I'll grant. He's 100% hard-wired to the desires of 15-30 year old males who 's demonstrable ambition is to live their lives in an approximation of the Alpha Betas from "Revenge of The Nerds." Lucky for him, giving out cinematic handjobs to this demographic can usually net you a hit movie. But EVERY time he reaches beyond that, he fails. "Pearl Harbor" is one of the worst historical dramas ever made. "The Island" has the same standing in science fiction. And now we have "Transformers," a tragic low-point for Giant Robot movies. Even the cheapie live-action "Gundam" movie was better than this. "Robojox" eats it's lunch.

"For better or worse he understands that people often just want fun, pure escapism from their movies and he doesn't try to be overly pretenous unlike a lot of movie makers who seem to be too self absorbed with how "important" their films are."

There's an important difference between being "unpretentious" like Tony Scott or (to a lesser extent) Renny Harlin and being incapable of taking anything seriously like Bay. The only times his movies work is when they're big, noisy, nobody-gives-a-care gagfests, because thats the only level he seems to operate at. His movies aren't "rock and roll," they're the cinematic equivalent of Club Techno... rock has a SOUL. For pity's sake, the man couldn't even eke out believable weight and emotion out of PEARL HARBOR. Do you have any idea how much of an emotional/spiritual void you have to be to not appear moved by Pearl Harbor? That's like not tearing up during "Old Yeller" or "The Cowboys" times a thousand.

"My bias meter is going off. I mean, really the worst film? I liked it far far more than Pirates 3."

Pirates at least is counting on it's audience to be able to keep pace, IT'S comic relief is actually funny and THEIR "hot chick" is genuinely attractive.

"Besides, I thought we already had that movie. Why not just admit you wanted a live version of the first transformers movie."

Honestly, I'd have simply settled for a pretty-good 90 minute movie about one group of good robots-who-turn-into-stuff fighting bad robots-who-turn-into-stuff over a magical macguffin. That would've been just fine. Instead we've got a horribly-written, overplotted mashup of ID4, all Bay's other movies, "Mac & Me," "Iron Giant" and "Men In Black" with occasional action scenes featuring Transformers. Why are we wading through all of this idiocy about government secrets and military buildup and explorers and hackers and (seriously, think about this part) the hunt for ONE magic whatsit to help find ANOTHER magic whatsit? How POINTLESS does the entire 2nd act and all the "Decepticons hacking the military database" become once we realize that EVERYTHING everyone is looking for is conveniently kept in the same damn place?

"Sidelines? I don't have the hard numbers yet, but I'll bet you money bob that if you tallyed the the total film minutes with the total minutes of the transformers it'd be well over 50% (probably closer to 80)."

It doesn't matter if they're standing around in every frame if they're hardly consequential to the plot. This movie isn't about the Transformers, it's about "Sam" and his cliche'd "boy becomes a man" routine intersped with moments involving his plucky robot sidekicks. NONE of the Transformers have any personality or character aside from Optimus and BumbleHerbie... and Bumble Herbie's SUCKS. The opening narration of the film is talking about intergalactic, centuries-old war and alien civilizations... and we're supposed to be MORE concerned with whether or not LeBeouf is going to get to second-base with already-used-up-looking Maxim chick? Really? The whole "BumbleHerbie tunes the radio to help Sam get laid" sequence is some of the most teeth-grindingly horrible stuff I've had misfortune to see... a literal representation of EVERY fear I had about this movie.

"Well you've lost a fan with this."

I'll note that this was, apparently, in regard to my reference to Bay's "juvenille fetish for Army Stuff." The responder in question, however, has missed that I qualified that statement with the following: "when it came time to actually MAKE a serious movie about the Military, it was "Pearl Harbor" and he wasn't up to it."

But for the sake of clarification, I'll elaborate. Anyone who knows me or has read this blog can tell you that I'm far from an anti-military, especially AMERICAN military, guy. That big ass American Flag at the top of the blog isn't there for IRONY, kids. I love our soldiers. I respect our soldiers. And that's why Bay's use of them, here and elsewhere, often rubs me the wrong way. This is a filmmaker who looked at the unprovoked slaughter of American fighting men at Pearl Harbor and saw nothing but the chance for another fireworks display. He demonstrates ZERO regard for the humanity of his military characters, he just seems to think the gear and the fatigues and the additude is "bad-ass" and that HE becomes "bad-ass-by-association" for hanging out with them on set and getting the thumbs-up from the Pentagon. He's the Bush-in-a-flightsuit of action directors... except Bush was AT LEAST in a branch of the Military once. He's a poseur, and his "appreciation" of the Armed Forces is just a shallow, juvenille fetish for heavy arms and cammo-print.

"You basically just scream over and over "it's bad it's bad" without giving any real concrete examples."

So, you missed this part?

ME: "It features an awful screenplay, built on a flimsy structure and draped with some of the worst dialogue ever spoken even in Michael Bay movies. It's human characters are too numerous, badly developed and horribly acted - any actor who CAN give a bad performance is giving it here - while the mechanical ones are largely indistinguishable, uninteresting or annoying. If there's a misstep that can be made, it's made. Better movies are ripped off, interesting ideas are tossed aside."

And these, too?

"Amid all this, Bay also proves himself a singular talent at misusing good actors, coaxing a shockingly bad performance from John Tuturro and a shockingly dull one from Jon Voigt."

"Problem is, the focus on LeBeouf's story leads the film into it's most unimaginably awful territory: HUGE scenes that go on forever focus on the cutsie-poo "comedy" of Bumblebee helping not-yet-robot-aware Sam score with the object of his desire (Megan Fox in the role of Assembly-Line-Maxim-Hottie-With-No-Business-Trying-To-Act) by spontaneously tuning in love songs on the radio and other "Herbie"-like foolishness."

"Seriously, pages and pages could be written about the uselessness of all the extraneous characters, the shameless cribbing from movies WAY too recent and well known to be "okay" to lift from, and how craptastic the second act is."

Or even one example of how it could have been better.

One? I'll give you TEN:

1.) Lose Bay, who didn't want to make a "Transformers" movie and, despite the title, did NOT in fact make a "Transformers" movie. You probably don't even need a superstar director, someone competent and familiar with this kind of material like Ron Underwood ("Mighty Joe Young,") Joe Johnston ("Jurassic Park 3,") or even Stephen Sommers ("The Mummy") would be find, especially with Spielberg's oversight. Basically, find someone who's psyche doesn't resemble the male equivlanet of a Bratz doll and who at least realizes that there are other times of the day than midnight and sunset.

2.) With or without Bay, lose an hour. A FULL hour. If you're NOT going to make a full-on everything and the Cybertronian sink epic, 90 minutes is just fine - it'll FORCE them to get to point and not get lost in go-nowhere subplots ripping off two different Will Smith movies.

3.) Regarding #2: If you ARE going to go the "general audience" route, keep it nice and simple: No more than 15-20 (TOPS!) minutes in: "We're the good guys. They're the bad guys. We both want 'it.' If THEY get 'IT,' that's bad. We've got to stop them." And then that's IT! Begin Autobot vs. Decepticon war NOW. No ID4 "figuring out the patterns," no MIB guys, no "DaVinci Code" ancient symbols crap; just good against evil for the Big Shiny Whatever, and every time things get confusing pause briefly to explain Transformer lore to the kid.

4.) Pee jokes. Lose `em.

5.) If you're going to steal from "The Iron Giant," steal the sense of wonder, excitement and heart. Not the slapstick scene of hiding robots in the damn yard.

6.) The Transformers should be the stars of "Transformers." Everybody got that? No, that doesn't mean you make an all-robot "fanboy" movie. But you also don't just squish ID4 and "E.T." together and randomly plug robots in at the margins. Sam and the humans are the Autobots' sidekicks, not the other way around. Look at "Hellboy:" Yes, we have a "new agent" character who's mainly there to recieve exposition on behalf of the audience members who are unfamiliar with the source material; but the STARS are undoubtedly Hellboy and the other main guys.

7.) The little Jar-Jar wannabe recon guy? "Frenzy?" The one my viewing companion and I dubbed "Not Soundwave?" Lose him.

8.) Writers, listen up: Audiences can easily tell that Bernie Mac and Anthony Anderson's characters are black without having to make a full HALF of their total onscreen dialogue caricatured idiocy about "they grandmamas!" See also: Spanish Army Guy with "me mama, she have de GIFT, mang!" and the Indian call center guy. I was surprised you didn't have a Native American guy hanging around with a bottle of whiskey, too. Seriously, this has nothing to do with PC, it's just shitty writing. Do better.

9.) If you're only going to cast an actress for her tits and midriff, show the tits and midriff and then usher her offscreen. Meagan Fox, if this film is any real indication, cannot act and hasn't even been asked to try. If you want someone to ACT, there are plenty of much better actresses all over the industry who are also just-as if not substantially more attractive - though I'd hope most of them would have the good sense to avoid acting in Michael Bay movies.

10.) Quentin Tarantino using the theme song from "Battles Without Honor or Humanity" as Lucy Liu's entrance theme in "Kill Bill?" Clever reference. Michael Bay using Lucy Liu's entrance theme from "Kill Bill" as a trendy backbeat to a car-porn product placement shot for the 07 Corvette? No. Just... no.

So, that was that fella's turn. Anybody else?


Nate said...

Ok Bob, I'll get into the nitty gritty later (want to do a blog war? I'll be megatron lol ;-)

You should give a shout out to this though.

Couldn't agree more with the "in a perfect world" line but I think most of the review is spot on even after watching the movie.

(and as I've said before Kitsler explained why they don't have soundwave - would you really want a soundwave to show up which is unfaithful to the original character?)

Bob said...

"(and as I've said before Kitsler explained why they don't have soundwave - would you really want a soundwave to show up which is unfaithful to the original character?)"

I'd have taken just about anything over that irritating little "Frenzy" thing. How the eff did THAT happen? Did they re-watch the animated movie and say "See that 'Wheelie' guy? We need something MORE annoying than that."?

Thing about Soundwave is, he's mainly so fondly remembered because he was one of the more interestingly-concieved characters ("WHY does this guy act so much more like a robot than the other robots?") on the show. So I gather most of the fandom would've been glad to see him turn up in a more "logical" alt mode so long as the "robot" version had that same kind of groove going on (he could have for example, transformed into an especially large stereo system or a military "sound-blaster" vehicle without much effort.)

Anonymous said...

yeah so finally i see a bad review and i notice it isnt actually of the transformers movie but of how this dumb ass guy doesnt like michael bay and will pretty much give any movie he makes a bad review

real mature why not stop righting reviews and live a little because apparently your childhood wasnt the best in the world