Saturday, June 27, 2009

More Transformers thoughts...

Okay, I was actually planning on avoiding this, as I don't want to sound like a broken record. However, I just can't keep away from this topic. I think it's probably because of my deep affection for the source material.

First of all, let's get something out of the way. Whenever I criticize the first Transformers movie, I get remarks along the lines of, "It's an action movie! It's not trying to be Shakespeare." I find it funny that anybody who knows me would say something like that to me. Since when was I a person who solely saw character-driven art house films? I am a fan of action movies. I own all of the Die Hard movies. I own both Predator movies. Dammit, I'm the guy who defended Punisher War Zone and I doubt that I'll last the summer without watching Blade II again. I get it, already! Please stop acting like you're telling me something I don't know. Beyond that, my response is as follows:

1. Action and good storytelling are not mutually exclusive. I will submit Iron Man, The Dark Knight, The Bourne Trilogy, and many others as stories that emphasize action but do not sacrifice storytelling, characterization, and dialogue. Shoot, Shakespeare's tragedies contain action, and his characters have been discussed and dissected for centuries. So, a failure to create a coherent story is not forgiven because it's an action movie. Now, you may very well be able to overlook it, but that's another argument.

2. I still disagree that the first film even works on a mindless entertainment level. When you can't tell what the heck is happening, and all you see is explosions, then that's not good. There is an art to directing and editing action, and I still think that it fails even on that level. I have yet to hear anybody present any sort of counterargument to this.

Obviously, I'm not going to see the new one. Unlike the last one, which had mixed reviews, this one is being panned pretty thoroughly. Not only that, but the negative reviews are scathing, to say the least. And yes, I do trust movie critics more than I do the average person. It's for a similar reason why you should trust an English teacher to judge an essay. Sure, there may be disagreements amongst them, but generally speaking they know a successful one better than the average Joe.

So, why not just not see it and leave it at that? Why do I feel compelled to write about it? What is it about this movie that's making me so damn frustrated?

A big part of it is that I keep reading Facebook status updates that read "Transformers was the best movie!" The best? Best? I'm sorry, but if you think that, then I really don't know what the hell it is that you pay attention to when you watch a movie. Granted, these are mostly teenagers and people in their early-twenties (in other words, students and former students) who are writing this. It's also true that my taste in movies was pretty bad at that age too. Still, I don't think that I threw the word "greatest" around nearly as much as most teenagers I know. Basically, whatever movie they liked last is "the best". Next year, they'll see some other dumb movie and that one will be "the best." So far, I've heard that 300, Spider-Man 3, and the Thomas Jane Punisher movie have all been "the best".

I will make some concession here. I realize that sometimes a movie is enjoyable BECAUSE it's bad, and I realize that there are probably people out there who like it due to its very awfulness. I get that. In fact, the things that I love about Predator 2 are probably more along the lines of its faults than its good attributes. I'll even grant that there are some people who can appreciate a really good movie but then still like Transformers. However, this is not the impression that I'm getting from a lot of people - and this includes some adults that I've met. They really, honestly, genuinely believe that these movies are "good." When you ask them what's good about it, they really can't tell you. You'll get answers like (and I exaggerate only a little) "Megan Fox is hot!" and "It had lots of action!"

And I'll say it again, what also bothers me is that these movies have taken what's a pretty hokey concept (although it pains me to admit that) to begin with and then dumbed it down. What's up with the Jive-talking Transformers who can't read? (According to the screenwriters, that's not the way they wrote the characters.) What's up with the Transformers having testicles? (I read that in a review.) What's up with Bumblebee peeing on a guy? (That was in the first one.) Do people really find that funny? Obviously, they do.

I guess what it all boils down to is that this movie is a cynical exercise. It's not like they tried to make a smart action film but somehow failed along the way. It's not like they concentrated so much on getting the action right that the plot and characters took a back seat. It's like they're deliberately trying to make a piece of crap. They're purposefully aiming for the lowest common denominator, and it's sad as to just how low that is.

If you're thinking of writing a response along the lines of, "Yeah, but Lance - it's an ACTION movie!" then please read what I actually wrote.

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