Sunday, July 8, 2007

Bubblegum Tastes Sour


Am I not to have any fun this summer?

Honestly, the expectations bar is set pretty damn low now. I just want to be entertained. I just wanted to see something cool. Is that too much to ask?

I went to see the biggest piece of bubblegum the summer has to offer yesterday. I unwrapped it and popped that thing into my mouth waiting for the sweet sensation to overtake me and send me on my happy movie-going way. But the bubblegum was hard to chew. And my taste buds were taken aback to find out that this was not raspberry, my favorite flavor. It was sour apple. I don't care for sour apple. Not one bit.

Alright, enough with the cute analogies. Transformers was not good. I had been warned by several of you, but I walked into that dark theater anyways hoping for the best. And I got the worst. So shame on me. The Michael Bay dog has bitten me several times now and I keep going back to try to pet it. But now it makes sense to me. After all his movies, it finally makes sense to me. Michael Bay should not be directing features. I know that sounds a bit obvious to those of you who hate him most. But it's true.

I'm in advertising so I had heard of Michael Bay long before his ambiguously gay action partnership with Jerry Bruckheimer. Michael Bay was one hell of a commercial director. One of the best. His eye for entertainment in a 30 or 60 second time frame was unbelievable. He could cast just the right kind of character. The hero with the square jaw that looks good dirty and casts a nice silhouette against a bright red burning sun. The quirky guy with the buggy eyes, the silly hair or the crazy glasses that you would recall in the 15 seconds he was on your TV screen. And the girl. The beautiful girl with the perfect belly and the hint of peach fuzz around the belly button that with a little misting, and the light just right, you had one heck of a sexy shot. There is no depth to these characters in his commercials because you have no time to establish them. So you have to make them big, boisterous and completely on the surface. That, my friends is Transformers to a tee. All style and no substance. And although it was Michael Bay, I was hoping for a bit more.

Shia LaBeouf plays Sam Witwicky (everyone in the movie mispronounces his last name. Isn't that cute?) His performance is simply perfect if you have the attention span of about five seconds. Everything this kid does is quick, loud and anxious. Every line is delivered as if he's on the verge of screaming. I wanted to smack him. His dog is a cute little something or other that looks interesting enough to be in a movie. The dog has a broken front leg. We don't know why it's broken and the fact that it's broken has no bearing on any of the story. Again, it's just an interesting visual device to spice up an otherwise played story. In a 30 second commercial, a little dog with a cast on his front leg would be very funny. In a two hour and thirty minute action movie, it's stupid. Megan Fox plays Mikaela Banes. She was cast because her stomach was perfect. There's a scene where she helps Sam restart his car. She lifts the hood and we get a good gander at that stomach and suddenly I thought I was watching a Diet Pepsi commercial and instead of Megan Fox, I was looking at Cindy Crawford. The rest of the characters are about as deep and completely forgettable. I know this is a science fiction movie, but please make some attempt to create a somewhat real character. Why spend all that money to make the special effects look real if you're going to have the real people be so fake?

So what of the robots? Of course they look incredible. Was there ever any doubt? But they get lost in all the fast-paced hoopla and I often found myself wondering who were the Autobots and who were the Decepticons. I will say that despite my confusion, the fighting at the end was pretty incredible.

The rest of the movie is composed of slow motion shots and helicopters against red suns and soldiers walking down tarmacs getting ready for the fight. Everything that looks good in five second increments. Everything that would look great in a commercial, but looks disjointed and pasted together in a full-length feature. I often found myself asking why some of these scenes were even included of course knowing that they were included for no other reason other than they looked cool. But unfortunately, Transformers was not cool. And for $145 Million dollars, my robot better be frickin' cool.

13 comments:

pacheco said...

I found myself only liking teh slow-motion parts -- because those were the only parts I could actually see the robots! Everything else might as well have been a jumble. The whole point of the film was the visual feast of giant robots duking it out, but it was all lost because someone was obsessed with moving the camera.

You mention commercials. As the cars drove to their destination before the final battle, Michael Bay kicked into commercial mode, because every angle, every movement, every flash-to-jump-cut was straight out of a car advertisement. As it happened, I leaned over to my girlfriend and said in a low voice, "The new...Dodge Intrepid."

You call it bubblegum, Piper, but I'll stick to calling it popcorn. I usually like popcorn, but too much leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Ray said...

Amen, Piper.

Maybe we're just gettin' too old, because every guy under 20 years old has been mocking me for reviling this film.

You forgot to mention John Turturro in a career-ending "performance." Disastrous.

I realize that it's a movie about giant robots, but can't it have just a little realism and seriousness?? I mean, Star Wars was a kid's movie filled with things called Wookies and Millenium Falcon's and Death Stars, yet it played with its mythos in a serious way.

Here, instead, we get Autobots pissing on people.

My bad... UGH ...

Piper said...

Pacheco,

You're absolutely right. The action was so fast, I couldn't pick anything out.

Ray,

I had a whole section on how shamed Turturro should feel for doing this movie. He strips down to his underwear and he's wearing a goofy shirt and goofier boxers? Come on. Surely he has something better coming across his desk.

And I completely forgot about the Transformer pissing on someone. This movie just went to 11 on my hate meter.

JA said...

Thank you, Piper, I HATED this movie too, and felt just like you did - why do I keep going back and seeing Michael Bay movies? I keep fooling myself there will be something worth seeing - easy to do in the summer when my brains are addled by sun - and always walk out of them ANGRY. What a piece of total shit.

But speaking of commercials, what about the product placement in this movie? That five-second shot of Smart Blonde Girl's hand tilting a Panasonic disc to the camera in close-up for no other reason then to show the word PANASONIC? Or that Mountain Dew machine turning into a Transformer that shot bottles of Mountain Dew out of its guns? WTF???

The thing thats truck me unexpectedly about the movie was how BORING it was. Because you could never really tell what was going on with the action scenes and you weren't invested the slightest in anything happening with any of these cardboard cutout characters it just went on and on and got louder and flashier and more idiotic by the minute until I nearly slipped into a coma.

Damian said...

And yet the really sad and frustrating part about all of this, for me anyway, is not only that Bay is making another lousy product but that people are buying it en masse Once again, Bay has managed to pull the wool over so many eyes and the movie earned 155 million dollars in its opening weekend. People may say I'm "too harsh" on the man or his movies, people may blame me for being "close-minded" or not being able to simply "have fun" at summer popcorn movie, but I am just thankful that I eventually learned my lesson about Bay sooner rather than later. Once burned shame on you, thrice burned shame on me.

Piper said...

JA,

You're right. It was all around crap.

Damian,

And you are right as well. The public shovels out money for this shit in hopes that it might truly be entertainment. That's why weekend grosses are so important. It's not the longevity of the film anymore, it's how much money they can make before everyone figures out what a piece of shit it is.

Sheamus the... said...

I am a pretty anti Bay fan but I enjoyed the movie. I guess I am getting soft in my age because sometimes I just sit back and enjoy something for entertainments sake not looking for the wrongs and enjoying the rights. It seem to help enjoy movies more. But dont get me wrong...I have my beefs with the movie.

Ted Pigeon said...

Great review, Piper! You summed up Bay beautifully, and I think you really got at why I am always so enticed by the promotions for his movies but find the movies to be the total opposite of the desire I felt in the promos. Bay is great in really small amounts. The attention span of his visual, narrative, and stylistic style only sustains itself in really small increments. But, like you, I still find myself wanting to see it. I know everyone assures me (rather intelligently) that it's not worth my time or money, I'm still flirting with the idea.

Piper said...

Shea,

You write your comment as if to say that I didn't try to sit back and enjoy the film. But oh man did I try. I tried hard. But the Autobot pisses oil on a guy Shea. He pissed oil. Come on. I can sit back and enjoy Die Hard. That's a truly entertaining film. It isn't going to win any Oscars. I didn't have to decipher complex equations. I could turn my brain off and enjoy myself. Where did we all go so wrong? Summer action doesn't need to be heady, it just needs to be good. And this was not good. And I tried to like it. I really, really tried.

Ted,

I don't know that I would say that I do very good reviews. But thank you anyways. These are just my thoughts about what I saw. And you are correct that something happened to Bay along the way. I could stomach Bad Boys and The Rock. But not this.

Neil Sarver said...

I agreed with you review.

And, honestly, I don't think it's gotten anything to do with me getting old. I'm sure that affects some of my views on some things, but here all I wanted was to entertain the kid in me with a story about giant robots fighting... and I got a movie about a bunch of damn people! Lots and lots of people, hardly of whom would I have watched a robot-free movie about and I can't imagine anyone else would have either.

If wanting my giant robot fighting movie to be about the giant robots and their fight is now some kind of sign of maturity and/or intellectual superiority, I'm not sure I can continue on in this world.

Piper said...

Well said Neil. You are correct that there were way too many humans and not enough robots. Damn. Where were my robots. I was promised robots.

Sheamus the... said...

HA HA...well I am glad you tried man. But in the words of yoda..."Do or Do not, there is no try". Some movies I just commit to enjoying before I ever see them. You should ask me about the Descent sometime. And you are right...a robot did piss on a guy. I remember sighing to myself and thinking...that just happened.
Here's three cheers for movies and the right to have opinions. If we dont have that then what the hell are we bloggin for anyway. Keep it going.

Piper said...

Shea,

Couldn't agree more.

So do you like The Descent or hate it?