Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Squalor: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (In Which Everything Transforms but my Opinion)

The first Transformers film, contrary to box office numbers, was no great work of cinema.  You know this and I know this.  Even in the wide world of action films it was an overblown, over-budget celebration of mediocrity.  In spite of its delusions of grandeur, however, it somehow wormed its way into being an inarguably massive success. So, it was no surprise that the sequel, Revenge of the Fallen, ascended to higher heights upon its release a few weeks back. This was, of course, even with a pitiful critical consensus, a brutal throttling by the fists of Roger Ebert, and negative word of mouth.  It's a trend in movies this year: the worst movies dominate the box office while the decent ones flounder...but maybe that's a subject for another time.
I wasn't planning on watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. At least, not until it was released on Blu-Ray, and even then, I could probably hold off for a solid year. There are good reasons for this, if you happen to be me. The first is that I find Shia LaBeouf to be an irritating, loathsome excuse for a leading man. I've said it before, but whoever decided that he be handed a role in every action movie made in this decade needs to be shot at close range. The boy is a chipmunk-cheeked, grating embodiment of Woody Allen's worst traits.  A tumor on Woody Allen's testicles.  His face registers surprise well, and this is why the world has decided to embrace him as an "actor".  That's what I think of Shia LaBeouf.  End subject. But he's not the only reason I'd considered avoiding Transformers.  The second problem is named Michael Bay. They call him a director, but that's a lie.  Bay can't seem to get a handle on plot. He can start out with a story that seems clear, but then, mid-way through, he decides ten other complicated, half-formed ideas need to be introduced that will double the length of an already too-long movie. He's pulling stuff out of his ass, wiring it with explosives, and serving it to you on a $200 million platter.

Are you willing to partake of Michael Bay's $200 million robotic golden shit? You probably are, and you will probably like it. You won't like it because it's a great cinematic achievement or because you can follow the plot (because you can't, believe me), but because your senses will be so thoroughly assaulted that you will be numb and submissive. You will think, in the dark of the matinee, "yes. me like film. me completely block out real world for long time. Mmm talking robots.  Mmmm things go boom. Neat!  Me like.  Me watch Bad Boys II now."
No, Virginia, you don't "like".  And no,  it wasn't "neat".  You're dizzy and suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and blunt trauma amnesia. You've been so thoroughly lulled by shifting heaps of CGI scrap metal that you've forgotten this was the most boring display of frenetic excitement you've ever seen. You've forgotten the illogical cuts from robot/boy conversation to Megan Fox stripping down behind the garage. You aren't sure which Decepticon was which. Perhaps they're all the same one. Why do we have to merge the spark with the matrix? Why do we need the Fallen if we can already cause so much damage? If the Allspark gives Transformer life, and something already was a Transformer, can a Transformer be stuck in its transportive disguise and revived by this piece of the Cube? Is the US Army the only army in the world capable of dealing with Transformers? If an Autobot falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a noise?
I feel like i'm usually pretty good at parsing through movies.  I was that annoying jerk kid who explained Donnie Darko to everyone in high school and I once furiously typed up my interpretation of Inland Empire after a late night show.  Apparently, Richard Kelly and David Lynch are no match for the webs of deep mind fuckery woven by Michael Bay, because I'll be the first to admit that I have almost no idea why most of the action in the last 45 minutes was happening.  Repeat: no idea. Nary a clue outside of Autobots and Decepticons fight because it's their job as mortal enemies.  I don't really feel qualified to discuss this movie. So, let's just say this isn't a review and you can take that how you will.  If you want the opinion of an expert, i suggest you ask the twelve year old boy who's completed the internet research and bought the collectibles. That kid knows. He knows what Michael Bay was shooting for and he would like more cleavage shots, please.
Me? I have a theory. My theory is that roughly 10 years after the fact, Bay finally got around to watching The Matrix. Then he also saw Stargate. It was a pretty big year for Michael Bay. Then Michael Bay, sly trickster that he is, was like, "if I mix elements from these into a movie with giant robots, no one will know! Cue evil laughter. That's my theory. So if I can just connect ancient aliens being responsible for the pyramids with having a matrix that needs to be merged with a spark, I'll be pretty close to figuring out what happened. The problem is, unlike Sam Witwicky and Daniel Jackson, I'm not that interested in deciphering hieroglyphs.
The thought I'll leave you with is this: unless you're a special effects junkie, the place for this movie to be consumed is at a drive-in or an empty showing. Conversation, especially if it veers towards the MST3K variety, is pretty important if you want to avoid being sucked into the mindless vacuum of Michael Bay's imagination.  No one wants Stockholm Syndrome. You'll especially need your own rapier wit when confronted with the blatant racism of the gremlin-faced ghetto bots (I wish I were joking).  All that aside, Optimus Prime and Bumblebee are still awesome. They are the bright spots of the film, and if a third movie is made (as it undoubtedly will be) I would like to see them band together to work at annihilating the human race.  Ahem.  It's also worth mentioning that the CGI effects have improved as well, and many of the battle sequences move at a slightly slower pace that allows the viewer to distinguish between Prime and Megatron with more ease than the final showdown in the original. The last nice thing i can say? Shia LaBeouf is just a little more fun when he's having a mental breakdown.
Be forewarned, if you're one of the millions who thinks they hate Megan Fox, just wait until you meet Isabel Lucas.

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