Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dreading the Transformers Sequel

I’m a fan of the Tranformers. If you were a boy in the 80s you pretty much had to be. Well, you could also be cool and popular instead, but such pursuits are not entirely up my alley. So when I found out Michael Bay was making a big-budget, balls to the wall Tranformers flick I was pretty excited. I mean it is Michael Bay, so you don’t expect it to have the little things, like a plot, but when release day arrived I told myself all I wanted was 120 minutes of giant robots kicking the shit out of each other. (I’m not sure if I’m stealing that phrase from the review to which I’m about to link or if the writer stole it from me, but in either case we were oh-so-close to being completely in-synch with our expectations of the first film.)

Unlike that writer, I immediately decided upon seeing it that I was wrong. Just seeing giant robots kicking the shit out of each other was not nearly enough to justify two hours of my life lost to that epic turd. It was close. Oh so close. The effects, were indeed, amazing, but the plot, which needed to be merely unobtrusive, was a miserable experience that recalled some of the most inane storytelling since Attack of the Clones. I mean seriously, the scene with the robots tip-toeing outside Shia’s house is the stuff that migraines are made of.

So when I heard there was a sequel forthcoming (an inevitable event given the box office numbers of the first), I said a silent prayer to myself that this time they would spend just a token effort on having a story that could stand up to something a third-grader might write. When the previews started coming out I was not encouraged.

Then, today, I read this review, from Massawyrm, at Ain’t it Cool News. I know people like to poo-poo AICN reviews, but I don’t; at least, not when one of their main guys is writing it. (This list includes guys like Massawyrm, Quint, and, yes, even Harry Knowles.) Usually when one of these guys writes something, even if I don’t end up agreeing with it, I can appreciate their perspectives. These guys are legit film freaks, and I love that about ‘em. Say what you will about their insights, but their enthusiasm for the medium cannot be questioned and because that comes through in their writing, I really enjoy reading what they have to say about any film I’m interested in.

So what did Massarym –who praised the first miserable flick- have to say? Yeah, it’s pretty bad…

Here Bay magnifies EVERYTHING bad about the first. You thought robot pissing was weak? Check out robot farting, robot crying and giant, clanging robo-testicles. Oh yeah. Michael Bay wanted his big cast iron balls in the film and there they are, dangling off of Devastator in one of the film’s defining dramatic moments. I guess he couldn’t get away with a giant, limp swinging cyber-phallus, so he went with the next best thing.

With regards to the story…

And before you try to point out “isn’t that every Michael Bay movie,” let me say: no, it isn’t. He’s never been this completely incomprehensible. It’s like the script was written in one sitting on a Morphine bender, with the writer nodding in and out of consciousness, thinking that he’d already written what happened in his dreams and simply picking back up where the dream left off.

And then the one thing that drove me truly batty about the way the first film was shot is apparently alive and well in the sequel…

But the action…the action has to be pretty awesome, right? Um. No, actually. This time around it is even harder to discern than before. Bay puts all the focus on the humans whenever possible, with the giant robots doing all their fighting in the background. Most of the time the fighting is so fast and furious that it is a series of digital blurs – the audience left unable to discern which is the Autobot and which is the Decepticon.

This one just kills me because I always thought the camera during some of the first film’s fight scenes was inanely placed. You’ve got Prime and Megatron facing off in a battle royale and where is the camera? With some dumb blonde who’s not even a character in the movie freaking out by their feet? Do I care about this woman? Is she who I want to see when two heavy-weights are going toe-to-toe? Does seeing her there add any element of humanity to the flick (which I have to assume is the goal)? No. No. No! All it does is take me away from what I want to see. I can’t believe Bay apparently went that route again in the sequel. It was the single worst thing about the action scenes in the first movie. This is a story about giant frigg’n robots. What the peons in the streets are doing doesn’t matter to us. If you want us to see the human toll then show us the aftermath of it all when the fight is over.

What really pisses me off about all this is you could do something legitimately cool with a live-action Tranformers franchise and this is so not it. It’s just a waste of potential. What’s worse? I’ll probably end up going to see it anyway, if for no other reason than so I can come back here and eviscerate it myself. At least that will be fun.