Thursday, June 25, 2009

Transformers 2

Ok, so Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen isn't really worth one of my long-winded rants, but it certainly merits a post, especially considering how long it's been since I made a public one. Julian and I had a long chat abut the movie over a few post-viewing drinks last night, so I'm going to try and get out some of the things we discussed on paper, erm, the internet...

Oh, and spoiler warnings, as per usual

So right off the bat I want to express my extreme repugnance for Michael Bay's apparent sense of humour. I hesitate to call it childish because I give children more credit than that, and considering that I'm a cynic that's saying something. The fact that Devestator had huge robot testicles was pretty bad, yes, especially considering that it came during a "dramatic and climactic" sequence of the film. Worse than that were the firery farts that some of the little robots let off periodically, in particular the little Decepticon, Wheelie, who became Megan Fox's horny pet for the bulk of the film. The best representation of Bay's toilette/sexually-immature humour, though, was the blender-bot that got created in Sam's kitchen when he dropped the shard of the allspark cube: the thing had a minigun mounted in its (his?) crotch like a raging hard-on, ejaculating bullets in a gremlin-esque spectacle of irreverent violence, crude humour, and complete disregard for anything that could be called the art of film making.

That last bit kind of sums up Bay's Transformers films as a whole, really.

Beyond all that was the overtly racist humour of the thing. I'll be honest and say that it didn't quite shock me as much as it seems to have bothered all the other reviewers I've read online, but that's not because I didn't find it distractingly repugnant during my viewing of the film. On the contrary, I turned to the people on either side of me and made those "semi-nervous I can't believe I'm seeing this shit" kind of jokes during the film. But I came into the movie expecting that. In the first Transformers film the Autobot Jazz was likewise an amalgamation of black stereotypes, they just weren't such obviously unflattering ones. I was bothered then, and I was bothered in this sequel, but the moment that bothered me the most was when they visited the meat shop and showed the black butcher with bad teeth, visually linking the twins to an actual black actor. That part was a bit more than I was expecting, and certainly more than I was willing to let Bay get away with.

But then, what does all this really tell us? That Bay is racist? As if that's news. In a similar vein, it's really not even worth it to talk about how Bay's camera work often makes it impossible to tell what's going on. I feel like that dead horse has been beaten enough. Bay's classic flaws are all here, warts and all, the above issues are just ways in which they have been expanded upon, magnified. What is worth talking about are a few other aspects of the narrative.

I should confess here that I am a Transformers fan. I watched the original cartoon before school while I was growing up, and later watched the entire Beast Wars series, had a few toys, etc. I am not what I would call steeped in the Transformers mythos, but I do have a sense of it. With that in mind, I think that there's a tragedy to this film insofar as it could have made two very competent action films had the franchise been handled better (and note that I'm not saying by someone else). The story that was told onscreen could have been split in two right at the point when Optimus is killed in the amazing forest sequence.

The movie is like an hour and a half long at that point, and there have been a number of action set pieces, all of which could have been expanded upon, and the return of Megatron is in and of itself a development worthy of a film. He's the Cybertronian harbinger of death, him coming back to life is a big deal, and when he compliments this by then killing Optimus fucking Prime, he proves it. Ending a film on this note would pull a classic Empire Strikes Back type move, leaving the audience bereaved and on a sad-note, but after a wholly satisfying climax that has a heroic sacrifice. It's green across the board really. The second movie would then surround the quest to resurrect Prime, AND bring the Fallen into the picture as a total bad ass who brings the war to public attention. This change in the game is also worthy of a movie in its own right, and so it's sad to see these two stories truncated and combined in an unfulfilling and excruciatingly lengthy way. So there's that aspect of poor planning and franchise running.

Ok, this is quickly becoming one of my long ass rants. I'm going to take a bit of a break, think about whether or not this is worth coming back to, and order a pizza. I'll probably be back soon, I have the real meat of what I want to touch upon yet to come.

In the meantime, while I go away for the weekend and let the remainder of this rant ferment, check out this hilarious "review" of the movie over at io9:

Oh, and you should also check out this actual review over at, it's the best thing I've read about the film anywhere and one of the best things I've read online in a while now. If there's one good thing to come of all this (oh come on, the whole affair is irresistibly fun) it's that I now know the name of Maryann Johnson

It seems that everyone is reacting to the absolute atrocity that is Transformers 2 by trying their best to sound intelligent and aware despite the fact that they've watched a movie that clearly isn't. I guess it's kind of a panicked reflex or something, and I'm definitely falling prey to it. Oh well...

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