Thursday, June 25, 2009

Transformers 2

All things going well, you'll see a full review from me... soon. But since there's only so much time in the world, a few immediate things:

#1: You're off the hook, "Batman & Robin." This is the new bar, the absolute bottom-rung of blockbuster filmmaking. One of the worst films I hope to ever see. There are no words to describe it... ineptness on a grand scale, not a single solitary working part. It's a monument to everything wrong not only in Hollywood, not only in filmmaking, but in the world... in human nature... in life itself. The production of this film should be considered a kind of crime against the human race, something that everyone involved will one day have to answer for someday, in some way.

#2: As to the film's single-biggest "issue" in the media at the moment, r.e. "The Twins." For those who've not yet seen or heard, the most-prominently-featured "new" Transformers are a bickering matched pair who... well, there's no other way to say this properly... they're Robo-Sambos, mechanized versions of the black "minstrel" stereotype from the turn of the century. As far as I'm concerned, there is no arguing this point - it's not even as abiguous as Jar-Jar might've been. They have big-lipped, google-eyed, floppy-eared monkey faces, they speak in exaggerated ebonics, they stumble, bumble and fight among themselves, they joke about being illiterate and one of them has a single gold tooth. It is without exaggeration the most horrifying racist caricature I've seen (unironically) onscreen in my lifetime. There's no justifying this, no parsing it. If you really needed more evidence as to the absolute cancerous effect of Michael Bay upon Hollywood, you have it now. I can only take some solace that the outrage over these characters might be what it finally takes to bring him down.


white templar said...

i agree sir. completely. this movie says a lot of about the state of things. Bay represents a large section of society today. and that should scare the crap out of everybody who goes through the experience of Transformers 2.

Bob said...

The thing about Douchebags - which Bay is one of the ULTIMATE examples of - is that they never reveal how loathsome they are right away. In fact, usually they seem like fun "life of the party" guys until you're around them long enough to catch the ONE over-the-line thing that throws the rest of their evil into stark relief.

seraphmaclay said...

Oh, this movie was bad...oh so very bad. I mean, the only thing it did well was expose Megan Fox's assets to the camera, and there's too much of it. And the only reason I went and saw it, is because my best friend dragged me to it. I hate Michael Bay. He's made only one film worth watching (and that was more because of the actors, specifically Scarlett Johansson, than him). And the Twins were horrible, I agree fully on that, as well as on relieving Batman and Robin from the worst status. Now excuse me, I'm gonna go watch real Transformers and forget about this abomination. Spike, you're so much more awesome than Sam.


Aurabolt said...

Oh, it wasn't good. That I agree with. In my opinion, it wasn't horrible, but it was bad. Bay ruined some good chances with the story to make all kinds of fans happy, young and old, he still has a shitty actress play a love interest, and a rising star play an completely inept character. He also made the Twins, which no self-respecting animator would EVER have written in seriously...and finally Bay screwed up Starscream. AGAIN.

That being said, it was an action movie that people are going to see for the action factor. Sure, it was way too busy, but that's how it goes, right?

PatmanForever said...

Having seen the movie, I now have composed an image that properly describes my feelings towards it. Please excuse my crappy MS paint job.

There we go.

Vincent said...

I thought this movie was awesome. It gave me exactly what I wanted: Optimus Prime kicking ass in numerous fight scenes.

As for the Twins, OH MY GOD get a grip! Whether or not they have 'monkey faces' is completely subjective. Personally, I didn't think they looked at all simian. They were googley-eyed, but so are a lot of the other Transformers, like Frenzy and Wheelie. They spoke in ebonics, but so what? As we learned from the first Transformers movie, the Autobots researched humankind on the internet, and are able to take on human-like personas. The Twins just happened to take on the personas of a couple of black gangstas. Is there a problem with that? Are the Transformers only allowed to take on the personas of white middle-class professionals? Was it wrong when Jazz took on the persona of a street-wise black man in the first movie? Black gangstas exist. Many of them speak in ebonics. It would be racist NOT to allow their personas to be adopted by some of the Transformers. Yes, they were illiterate, but not because they were 'black'. They were illiterate because they were a low-ranking pair of grunts. I doubt that even Ironhide or Ratchet could have read the hieroglyphics. For God's sake, they needed to track down the oldest Transformer in the world to deciper the hieroglyphics, so why are we so shocked to see that the Twins can't read?

Face it, Moviebob, you never gave this movie a chance. You hate Michael Bay (so do I, except for his work on the Transformers movies), and you hated the first Transformers movie. You would have entered the cinema expecting to hate the sequel. And surprise, surprise, you give it a negative review. But comparing it to BATMAN AND ROBIN? REALLY? Jeez... Talk about biased. Batman and Robin had no redeeming features. At least the Transformers sequel had a large cast of beautifully rendered CGI robots kicking each other's asses. That's got to count for something, which means it's got to be better than Batman & Robin.

Revenge of the Fallen definitely shits all over Terminator Salvation. Salvation had one good action scene (the chase during the 2nd act). The rest was a big yawn fest. Revenge of the Fallen at least kept the audience engaged, and kept upping the adrenaline. Salvation never managed to top the adrenaline levels from the 2nd act chase scene, so the movie just petered out lamely from then on. Honestly, Bob, if you gave Salvation an okay review, you should really give RotF an okay review. The only difference is that RotF took out the gravel-voice macho bullshit from Salvation and replaced it with puerile adolescent humor bullshit.

Bob said...


Here's the thing: The Twins aren't, from where I stand, a Jar-Jar type situation where it's an original creation that "might be construed" as a racial caricature. The Twins are a "transformers version" of a VERY specific type of cartoon/caricature figure prevalent in the late-19th/early-20th century usually called a "sambo" or "minstrel show" character. Google those terms.

Mudflap and Skids are not "similar to" sambo-figures - they ARE sambo figures, only made out of car parts. The intent of their creator is largely irrelevant - if you draw a rabbit but don't know what a rabbit is, you're drawing is still a rabbit.

The Twins ARE a revisitation of old racist caricatures, and it appears that Bay is to blame for them. Which only leaves two options: The man is either a closet racist (unlikely) or a clueless idiot (probably.)

Aurabolt said...

Yeah, I see what you mean now, and I've seen this kind of character played straight and deconstructed before. Those two should never have been there in the first place in my mind; I don't recall them even being a part of the series in any way.

Clearly Bay is making bad decisions for character concepts, that part is clear. However, it has been a long time since the forties. Outside of what I call "media historians" like some of us and those who follow patterns in their television watching, are people going to notice? Hell, some of the young audiences would (wrongly) associate the Twins with recent role models in music and popular culture.

FistfulOAwesome said...

I'll save a major comment for the "Escape To The Movies" of Transformers 2, but suffice to say that I'm not surprised this movie sucks. Michael Bay is an Idiot.

Justin said...

Looks like Micheal Bay transformer movies are no more.

just google Michael Bay quits transformers for more.

Vincent said...


When you replied to my first comment, all you did was restate you claim. You didn't support your claim with any arguments, and you didn't address any of my arguments. Simply stating or restating a claim and telling someone to 'google it' is hardly persuasive.

I saw RotF for a second time tonight, and I paid special attention to the Twins to see if there was any racism to be found. Once again, I found none. In fact, I walked away even more convinced that the claims of racism are incorrect.

First of all, their facial features. Their facial features are indeed exaggerated: big eyes, big ears, big teeth. Why? Because the Twins are aimed to please the small kids in the audience. Whenever a movie contains kid-friendly characters, these characters have exaggerated physical and facial features. Think of The Lion King, for example. The Lions all looked quite realistic (for cartoons). But the Warthog (aimed at the really young kids, complete with fart gags) had a huge head, a massive snout, and a relatively small body and legs.

And their voices? They speak in a gangsta style because, let's face it, that way of talking is amusing. Movies, music videos, stand-up comics, all these forms of entertainment (whether produced by black people or white people) have drawn upon 'black' slang or 'black' ways of speaking because it's different, and things that are different are always more fascinating or fun. All those white-guilt-suffering liberals need to take a deep breath and realize that it's OKAY to laugh when Skids and Mudflap use phrases like "punk ass" or when they call leo a "pussy". They're just acting out the gangsta persona which is a massive part of contemporary pop culture ANYWAY (just watch MTV for five minutes).

Their illiteracy: John Turturro's character explains that the hieroglyphs that the Twins were unable to read PREDATE the Autobots, therefore NO AUTOBOT could read them. That's why they needed to find a DECEPTICON - Jetfire - to read them. Yes, the twins said "we don't do too much reading", but why would they? They are WARRIOR ROBOTS, not scholars.

I honestly believe that those who find the Twins to be racist are the same people who find racism everywhere. These are the same people who thought RE5 was racist because of the trailer (yes, I saw the GameOverthinker episode and I agree that the finished game had racist elements such as the female character's alternative costume). What next? Perhaps we shall declare that the movie 'In Bruges' in racist, because the only Americans in the film are loud, foul-mouthed, and absurdly obese. Therefore it perpetuates negative stereotypes of American people. Perhaps the videogame 'Heavenly Sword' is sexist, because you play as a woman and spend most of the game killing men (paralleling RE5 where you play as a white guy primarily killing black guys). Maybe the Disney film 'Mulan' is also guilty, because the loud, obnoxious dragon sidekick has an overly American accent, thereby exploiting the stereotype that all Americans are loud and annoying.

Where does it stop? The simple truth is that racial and gender stereotypes can be found anywhere, and they're mostly benign because their used in the spirit of fun and humor.

And btw, I did actually google 'Sambo'. I searched for google images of 'Sambo' and I found nothing that resembled the Twins. I saw plenty of images depicting people whose skin was completely black, and who had big red lips and big afros. I didn't see any big ears, I didn't see any big teeth (just big lips), and I didn't see any big eyes (at least, the Sambo characters' eyes weren't any bigger than those of non-racist cartoon drawings). And no gold teeth either. And the only time I've ever seen gold or diamond teeth has been in rap music videos, in which black rappers FLAUNT their blinged-up teeth for all to admire. So... I can't see any similarity to Sambo characters and I can't find any racism. Again, to summarize: the Twins have big eyes, big teeth, and big ears. The Sambo characters have big lips, jet black skin, and afros.

Bob said...

"Outside of what I call "media historians" like some of us and those who follow patterns in their television watching, are people going to notice?"

That's the problem: Young people WON'T notice or know that it comes from anywhere, which means that through The Twins this loathsome form of racial-caricature will now keep on living. A fitting legacy for Michael Bay - "The Man Who Brought Sambo To The 21st Century."

Alex Howard said...

Wow, Vince, you're pretty determined not to see what's in front of your face. But guess what? It's the 20th anniversary of Do the Right Thing and I just got finished convincing the people who'd rather ignore racism than deal with it that Jar Jar Binks is a minstrel show over at the Escapist. So, lucky for you, I didn't get my fill over there, and can enlighten you.

I haven't seen the movie (you couldn't pay me to sit through a two and a half hour Michael Bay butchering of one of my favorite cartoons), but I've watched clips and examined the CGI images of the Twins, and just from those alone, the Twins are definitely, absolutely, without-a-doubt, modern minstrelsy.

Look, your research was flawed. Big ears, big teeth, big lips have all been trademarks of the Sambo character. The idea of such depictions were to dehumanize blacks by exaggerating features to remind people that they were akin to monkeys, and thus more animal than human (and thus the phrase "porch monkey"). Thus, the Twins, which have all three, are conforming to this stereotype.

The use of ebonics as their speech pattern also helps drive home that these are intended to be representations of blacks. "Gangsta-style" as you call it, is used almost exclusively by non-whites, and even then, mostly blacks in an urban setting, or those seeking to imitate such blacks. And I'll tell you something else: ebonics is only inherently funny (as you seem to indicate) when you A) don't know anyone who talks that way, largely because you don't know any black people or B) you don't live in a city or urban environment. A usually follows from B.

The illiteracy, which is also a common feature of minstrelsy as it is a stereotype born out of the fact that blacks were prohibited from learning to read and write during slavery, and then had severely limited tools with which to do so until Brown v. Board of Education (and still do, for the most part), isn't a dismissible thing just because it's dismissed in the movie. Here's the thing, the line isn't that "We can't read that particular set of characters" it's that Mudflap and Skid don't read. Full stop. Period.

Look, I know you can recognize stereotypes, because you do an admirable job in that paragraph in which you knock RE5, In Bruges, Heavenly Sword, and Mulan (although, apparently you're not too hot at figuring out racism, or sexism. "American" isn't a race, if anything, it's closer to an ethnicity. See, America has an immigrant identity, meaning that we encompass a large variety of races. So yes, In Bruges did play off a commonly perceived American stereotype in Europe: that all American tourists are fat and violent. Personally, as an American, I'm willing to let Belgium get a little shot in, because hey, we have all the nukes. Also, Heavenly Sword isn't sexist because you're a woman chopping up men: it's sexist because you're a generously endowed woman chopping up men while wearing what's essentially only one sleeve and a bra and a strategically placed strip of cloth.)

Vincent said...


I’m so glad you are here to ‘enlighten’ me. Always amusing when someone who hasn’t seen the film has the arrogance to think he can offer a better interpretation that someone who’s seen it twice. Nonetheless, I shall respond to your points:

Even if I were to concede that the Twins physically resemble minstrels (which I don’t), their speech and behavior is NOTHING like that of minstrels. They act EXACTLY like modern-day black gangstas, of the kind you’d see in rap videos or buddy action flicks. How can the Twins represent modern-day minstrelsy when AT MOST they look physically similar to minstrels?

I didn’t need you to remind me that the Twins have exaggerated features. I acknowledged that in my previous post. But the reason why the Twins have exaggerated features is the same reason why the Warthog in The Lion King had exaggerated features: to appeal to the young kids. Why do you think super-deformed manga/anime characters have so much appeal? Do they ‘dehumanize’ people too?

I also didn’t need you to remind me that ebonics is used almost exclusively by blacks. Yes, I know that. Yes, the Twins undeniably possess black personas. So what? Why can’t a couple of Autobots possess black personas? Must every Transformer sound like an ‘average joe’ white American soldier? Was Jazz racist in the first Transformer movie? Wouldn’t it be racist not to allow some of the Transformers to take on black personas?

You claim that ebonics is only funny when one doesn’t know any black people or doesn’t live in an urban environment. This claim is patently false. For example, MANY black comedians speak in ebonics and their shows are often attended predominately by black and/or urban-dwelling individuals. Just take a look at a Chris Rock DVD and see how many in his mostly black audience go into hysterics when he does his “Woman, quit hasslin’ me, I just got home, now shut cho mouth and gimme mah big piece o’ fried chicken” routine. You need to face the fact that many black/urban people are just as amused by over-the-top gangsta antics and ebonics as anyone else.

You claim that the Twins can’t read. This makes it especially clear that you haven’t seen the movie. The Twins NEVER claim to be fully illiterate. The Twins say, and I QUOTE: “We don’t do too much reading”. And why would they? They’re a pair of warrior robots stranded on a foreign planet far from their home world of Cybertron. What exactly are they supposed to read? I’ve never seen any of the Autobots read, for that matter.

You claim that I ‘knocked’ RE5, In Bruges, Heavenly Sword, and Mulan. Actually, I didn’t knock any of them. I simply demonstrated that one can argue that almost any film/game contains stereotypes, if one looks hard enough for them. Yes, I know that ‘American’ isn’t a race, it’s a nationality (not an ethnicity, lol), but since the phrase ‘nationalityism’ doesn’t exist, I hoped people would understand what I meant and not nitpick. But along you came to split hairs, so I’ll give you a proper example: The new Star Trek film could be accused of racism, because the only Asian character in the film is scrawny and geeky, but also very good at martial arts. Talk about stereotypical.

You didn’t need to defend In Bruges; it’s a great film. It’s not bigoted, even though people with no sense of humor could make the argument. That’s my point. You can make the argument that it exploits stereotypes, just as you can make the argument that Transformers 2 is racist. The question is: is the argument worth making, and is it valid?

If RE5 was meant to be racist because a white guy was killing hoards of black guys, then by direct analogy Heavenly Sword must be sexist because a female was killing hoards of males. The (flawed) logic is the same in each case. And yes, Heavenly Sword is also sexist for the reasons you mentioned, which weren’t relevant to my analogy.

auratus said...

I'd like to think he wasn't openly trying to create a racist image with Skids and Mudflap, that it was just a case of bad judgment. Regardless, People ate up "how high" and they'll eat this up too.

As for the movie itself... CRAP. This movie costed 200 million dollars to create. That is more money that I'll ever make in my entire life, why did it suck so bad? I will hand it to them that Jet fire was one of the most well written, and actually interesting characters in the film, though. Aside from the racist imagery, the swiss cheese story line, the writing is what got me the most.

- Why did the obligatory "Beaurocratic asshole" character have to spend a full 3 or 4 minutes of exposition? Couldn't the Decepticons have found the spark another way?

- Why is Optimus so merciless lately? Sure, it's a war and all that, it was a war back in 1984 too, but Optimus didn't shoot decepticons in the face, hell, he didn't even shoot fucking MEGATRON in the face! Here we have him saying things like "Any last words?" He'd reprimand his autobots for acting like that, in fact, he DID in the previous film. I'd accept the change, if they gave us some context.

- Why can't Bumblebee talk? I know they want him to be like ET, but it's just stupid.

- The conspiracy douchebag. Why was he even in this movie? There's absolutely no purpose for him. They couldn't even get his personality right. Was he a Casanova? Was he a conspiracy buff? Was he a Shaggy-like coward? He was like 5 archetypes in one.

- I don't know about anyone else, but I saw the "Generic Hottie #4 is actually a Decepticon" a mile away. It would've had a chance if she wasn't just a clone of Megan Fox.

- Script was crap. "Give me your face?" Why not more witty dialogue, like Jetfire's quip about his grandfather being the first wheel?

- Why wasn't Frank Welker casted as Megatron? This goes back to the first movie, but he has more dialogue now. Who ever is voicing Megatron sounds just like Welker's Megatron. That's just something that kind of bugs me. That and Soundwave's voice had no Vox... that's what we remember Soundwave for, he didn't sound like Dr. Claw.

tyra menendez said...

vincent: you are a rationlizing racist. maybe you aren't even aware that you are racist, but you are.
the fact that you're defending these characters at all, is evidence enough.
asking for bob to support his argument, is like asking for for evidence that the sky is blue: it's obvious.
personally, i suspect that bay is both a closet racist and a moron.

Vincent said...


All I see is assertion. No evidence, no argument. The most efficient reply to your claims is "Says you".

It's odd that you call me racist when you know nothing about me, except that I do not share your interpretation of a movie. Perhaps you are the moron.