TRANSFORMERS 2: MULTI-ANGLE REVIEW
Surprise, surprise!!! When it comes to movies so loved by the masses and so hated by critics, like Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, it really seems like it throws reviewers into a divisive whirlwind. Most critics decide to have fun ripping out its guts and putting the innards on display for the world to see, since their opinion on a film like this will not even bite a chewable chunk out of the box office receipts. Some critics simply get depressed that they even have to comment on the film. Others just give in to the crushing pressure of the sad truth: that the entire planet thinks this is “good.” There are even some, possibly, that actually enjoyed the movie without prefacing their delight with “for what it was…” So, to try something new, I am going to attempt a review from 4 different angles.
(***There are NO SPOILERS or plot descriptions either…but if you really, really want those things, then here you have it: Robots Fight, Shia LaBeouf and a hot chick run a lot.***)
ANGLE #1: NORMAL
I wholeheartedly enjoy some Michael Bay movies, I even love one or two as superb action escapism. Transformers 2, however, is barely a movie and is honestly beneath even Mr. Bay. What we have here is a serious, mind-numbing, failure to communicate. This film breaks the singular cardinal rule of all truly great escapist films, the one detail needed to rise it above just being a “series of events” to “generic fun”…a through line! We need some semblance of a cohesive understandable story arc for the characters, no matter how cliché or simple, to keep some emotional attachment to what is happening. Michael Bay’s opus might be the most confusing big-budget mess ever put to celluloid, couple that with the fact that all the robots look almost exactly the same and all the geography during action sequences are like metallic scramble eggs and there is NOTHING to hang on to.
Armageddon, Bad Boys 2, The Rock, these are art-films compared to Transformers 2, if not just because they have a somewhat competently written story. They might have bland plots, and Hollywood-ized characters, but there is meat to grab onto as you watch them, you actually care what’s going to happen next instead of just assuming that something is going to happen next because the credits haven’t rolled yet. Remember all the negative hoopla about Death Race when it was released? Well that film, much like the original film it was based on (and Mr. Bay’s early films) is pure action exploitation. I fully admit to loving Death Race. Was it a good film? No, not really. Did it have a comprehensible story line and action geography? YES!!!It was one hell of a good time, due in no small part to the fact that the audience could grab onto the simple plight of Jason Statham’s character to take them through the action. It was clear who was good, who was evil, and where it was all going. Escapist films don’t need to re-invent the thematic wheel; they just need to use it. I don’t expect Taxi Driver when I buy a ticket for Bad Boys 2, Commando, or Death Race, I just expect to know what is going on. I just defended a Paul W.S. Anderson film. Deal with it.
Every human character in Revenge of the Fallen literally talks like they are in a Micro Machines commercial. Rain Wilson’s cameo is the only human-speed dialogue delivered through out the run time. Wait, I take that back, Tyrese Gibson had the honor of delivering this earth shatteringly bland comic-relief-nugget during a pause in the narrative:
“I don’t like that guy…he’s an asshole.” – Tyrese Gibson, Actor, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
That quote is pretty much the amount of effort that went into all writing on this film; it feels like it was written off the cuff as the actors stood in front of the cameras looking at tennis balls. It does sound like a derivative criticism to say there is no acting in a movie like this…but there was almost 0% thespian craft! That isn’t a slight against the cast, it’s the fact that they must have been directed to deliver all dialogue as if the characters were on speed pills. The scene where Shia arrives in his college dorm is edited and delivered so fast that it’s hard to believe it’s not a satire. It needs to be seen to be believed, but it’s still not worth the ticket price.
John Turturro, once again lowering himself, is at least somewhat comprehensible as the wacky former government employee. That still doesn’t help the fact that one of our most gifted and underrated actors alive today will be remembered by a generation of kids as “that funny guy from the transforming robots movie.” Which brings out my very real concern for an entire generation of kids that think this thing, Revenge of the Fallen, is what a movie is suppose to be. There is no doubt that there is amazing special effects here, used so much and so naturally that the word desensitization doesn’t even suffice. Confusing, meth-addict, explosion-porn like this will rob an entire generation of their patience to watch and enjoy all the beauty, wonder, craft, and greatness in the history of cinema. If they continue to suck at the tit of movies like Transformers 2 as they grow they will be unable to tolerate films like Apocalypse Now, 12 Angry Men, Blade Runner, A Fistful of Dollars, Papillon, Schindler’s List, or The Great Escape and so on and so forth. They won’t even be able to tolerate old action, exploitation, or escapist movies. All those films are nothing but boring, unwatchable, intellectual-tests to anyone raised thinking the definition of cinema is incomprehensible CGI filled nightmares that placate the masses and prove their worth with money instead of art.
There are personal friends of mine, 30 year-olds, that have admitted that they have even been corrupted by the special effects and lightning pacing of today’s cinema, to the point that “old stuff” just puts them to sleep. They are in their 30’s, imagine someone still impressionable growing up in this cinematic climate. We live in an age where an actor like Shia LaBeouf is the “IT-Boy.” Think of how much things have changed since, say, Dustin Hoffman was the “IT-Boy.” Hoffman was young and new in Hollywood, but he was making masterpieces, SUCCESSFUL classics, like Marathon Man, Straw Dogs, The Graduate, Papillon, Midnight Cowboy etc. Now I didn’t live through the 70’s, nor did I even exist in the 70’s, but I got to ask: What were they doing so right back then that we are doing so wrong right now?
ANGLE #2: CRITIC “BLURBS”
(Written by me, out of context. In fact, no context exists)
“Bay’s newest opus is akin to a 2.5 hour long car crash. One that has a plot. I think.”
“Revenge of the Fallen plays like punch to the nose. It starts out of nowhere, confusion strikes, then the rest of your time is spent trying to stop the bleeding.”
“Like watching someone slowly separate your legs from your body using scrap metal.”
“I eagerly await the porn version, Transporners: Rear-end of the Ballin, which will sadly have more believable dialogue and a tighter plot.”
“…and to think that in 2009, so many years later, our modern day Ed Wood, Bay, is not only gratuitously funded, but heavily successful.”
“I’m getting old.”
“Not since Claude Rains in 1933, has someone, so convincingly played the invisible man in a leading role. Well done Mr. LaBeouf. Blandness achieved.”
“Excuse me Mr. Bay, what just happened? Was that a movie?”
“So fleeting and hollow that it should be called Revenge of the Forgotten.”
“Why waste your $8? Stay home and watch soft-corn porn and a demolition derby on cable.”
“The time it must have taken to animate each little movement of every little part of each complex robotic character for a film that fails on such a deep level as this one is enough to push any legitimate film fan to suicide.”
“The cinematic equivalent of white noise.”
“…a multi-million dollar travesty for the video game generation, and they will love it.”
“So big, so epic, so enormous, so empty, so obvious, Michael Bay is no idiot. Congratulations on this summer’s best practical joke.”
“I fell asleep. Twice.”
ANGLE #3: SARCASM
Is this all you got Mr. Bay?!?! That’s it? Severe disappointment is the only word that truly describes Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. After the boring first movie, which was filled with exposition, humans, and moments of pause, I was hoping for a cinematic correction by Bay. Did he not learn his lesson, even though the first one was a hit?
Once again we have another movie filled with human characters talking, hogging screen time, giving exposition, and generally making the audience fall asleep. Michael Bay’s intense artistic ego even goes so far as to make the robots themselves spout off crucial plot heavy dialogue in a time wasting effort that takes away from the fighting. I know what you are saying…what do you want? Blood from a rock? Yeah! I want blood from a rock, A TRANSFORMING ROCK!!! I want two hours of unbridled hellish war with not a human in sight. I want galaxy-sized robots, foaming motor oil at the mouth, fighting each other with boxing gloves made of black holes. I want a 900 billion dollar monument to chaos that looks like anthropomorphic robotic-volcanoes erupting satanic-jizm backwards into the earth’s core. I want an orgy or pure kinetic hell flowing over battlefields filled with mechanical nightmares. I want to see robotic-nazi-sympathizing-puma-shaped-demons and Michael Bay himself jousting each other simultaneously at light-speed in full renaissance regalia. I want no-dialogue, except for a series of digitized grunts that can’t be heard over the Linkin Park soundtrack that is intentionally peaking the theater’s speaker system. I want a plot that spans the timeline of infinity, yet fits into 2 hours. I want trillions of robotic minions, each with hundreds of thousands of moving parts, fighting wars on the surface of Alpha Centauri…all fully rendered in such extreme detail, in such a wide shot, that it simply all just looks like filmed fire.
I want Michael Bay to go so overboard with Transformers 3: Universe Explosion, that the United Nations arrests him for crimes against humanity due to the gross waste of natural, financial, and human resources that they feel has directly contributed, via neglect, to the deaths-by-starvation of billions. Until then, however, it seems Bay is content making these boring, little art house films.
ANGLE #4: BITTER
[see "NORMAL" above]
Okay, that last angle was a cheat. Sorry, couldn’t help it. Thanks for reading!
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