Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mugged by a fleet of trucks

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

I feel like I've just been mugged by a fleet of trucks. The bastards took my money and then just continued to run me over, again and again. Bastard trucks are like that.

I think it must be said up front that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is NOT a movie: there is no cohesive story at work, nor do any real characters inhabit the thing. When shit is not blowing up and the camera is not constantly circling* whomever is on screen, the "dialogue" is spit out like everyone is entering a John Moschita speed-talking contest. Even with the sub-titles on, it was hard to follow what everyone was blurting out.

I dare you to ask any ten people who saw this to explain the plot of the movie. I bet huge Vegas bucks not two of them would have the same summary. The most easily understood part is Sam (Shia LeBeouf) is going off to college on the east coast, leaving the world's hottest girlfriend that a nerd could get, Mikeala (Megan Fox), to lay around on top of motorcycles while skankily clothed at her dad's auto shop in L.A. I guess he's doing this because there are no reputable colleges in the Los Angeles area? For no reason a shard of the All Spark imprints some symbols into Sam's brain, which causes him to have what appear to be epileptic fits at inopportune moments, such as during physics class with Prof. Rainn Wilson. Apparently the evil Decepticons need those symbols to find the "Matrix of Leadership" which will activate the something or other and blow up the world, giving the Fallen said revenge. The "Matrix of Leadership" is also the most ridiculous name for any MacGuffin, ever.

There are several moments in the film - between loud, annoying action scenes - where the characters have to stop and explain the plot of the movie. This is usually called "exposition." Here it is simply called "bullshit." Practically every movie has a bit of exposition, but the rule of the cinema, being a visual medium and all, is to SHOW. We're told about the Dynasty of the Primes, and the search for Energon in the universe, and how the Fallen was once a brother Prime, but didn't renew his membership card, and about finding the Key and how they hide the Matrix of Leadership from the Decepticons, and watch out for the Sun Harvester, and to do this you have to do that, ad nauseum. The more they explained the more confusing the movie got.

As another prime (get it!) example of what a bullshit story this was, Sam finds the Matrix of Leadership, needed to resurrect the dead Optimus and which looks like half of the Glaive from Krull, but it immediately turns to dust when he picks it up. He bags the dust but is killed by Megatron before he can use it. Sam in death gets a vision of Autobot heaven (all together now: WTF?) and they tell him that "the Matrix of Leadership is not found but earned." Now this sounds like a really bad motivational seminar - one put on by Yoda. Sam is resusitated and the dusty Matrix of Leadership magically reforms itself into the Glaive-thing; it revives Optimus Prime, who then goes on to kick metal-ass and save the day. What a crock of Autobot-shit!

That's the real problem with this movie: the writers (Ehren Kruger & Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman) could and did make up ANYTHING that would get them out of the corners they were stuck in.

This is a terrible, nasty empty-headed movie. The visual effects by ILM were for the most part amazing - it really looked like giant robots were there on the screen with the human actors - but what the writers and director Michael Bay did with them is inexcusable (this is a movie only for people with Attention Deficit Disorder). Aside from the forest battle, the action scenes are largely forgettable (they were hyper-frenetic, all poorly staged and filmed - you could NOT follow the action). Everyone remembers the Imperial Walker attack (machines vs. men, sound similar?) in the snow in The Empire Strikes Back. You had a sense of where everyone was in the battle, you knew the stakes, you cared for the characters and you could follow the amazing action (plus you thrilled to the fantastic John Williams score). Aside from ILM's brilliant compositing in Transformers 2, NO ONE will remember this movie for anything because it has nothing to offer. Except a full body headache.

* The constantly circling camera, where it tracks around one character in one direction (say, counter-clockwise) as they say their dialogue, then tracks in the opposite direction as another character responds was so ridiculously overdone in this movie. There was at least one version where instead of a steadicam they used a helicopter for the circling shots (it was one of the major exposition bits). The circling camera is a Michael Bay trademark, but he overused it so much it became a howlingly funny parody of itself. Play a drinking game based on taking a shot each time Bay does the circling camera and you will be flat dead drunk less than 10 minutes into the movie. Pick any moment in the film and with just a few minutes the camera will be circling around someone.

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