Sunday, December 27, 2009

How Many Words Are There For Suck? -- Reflections on "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"

I remember reviewing the first Transformers film a few years back and I wrote about how at the age of eight I was able to create more interesting stories about robots in disguise than Michael Bay. After watching the abysmal Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, I don't feel like much has changed. If anything, I don't think I gave the younger version of myself enough credit; I was imagining better shit when I was in diapers.

Recently I was reading one of my favorite websites about the TV show "LOST," called One of the writers, Marc Ormander, gave a link to an YouTube video series about why Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was so godawful. It was a seven part series; approximately 70 minutes is spent breaking down where Phantom Menace went wrong. I could probably do the same for the woeful Transformers movies, but instead I'm just going to share five reasons why this film should have stayed up Michael Bay's ass.

1. The confusing story.

I don't know what happened to action films over the last ten years, but it seems they are getting more and more complicated. I'm still trying to figure out the storyline to the last two Pirates of the Caribbean movies. For whatever reason, filmmakers have come to believe that a story has to have several plot threads to sustain the audience's interest. So, they weave together three or four storylines into the kind of ugly-ass tapestry your aunt made for you that you only pull out when she comes to visit.

Transformers 2 (which is what I'm going to call it from now on) is a "prime" (get it--get it) example of the needlessly complex plot. Let me see if I can break it down for you.

Storyline #1: Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf) is leaving home to go to college, but before he goes he finds a sliver of something alien that downloads lots of ancient shit into his brain. He begins to act like a fucking mental case, drawing symbols with cake frosting on tables and stuff. Soon after, he gets called back into action by Optimus Prime, refuses, but eventually has to fight anyway.

Storyline #2: An ancient Decepticon called The Fallen is trying to rise again. The bad robots do a lot of bad shit to help him come back.

Storyline #3: The U.S. government is having second thoughts about being involved with the Autobots, so they send an asshole bureaucrat to get involved with the Army/Autobot project so it can be shut down.

Storyline #4: Sam and Mikaela (Megan Fox) are fighting to see who can say "I love you" first. Oh, to be young and in love again while facing imminent death at the hands of killer robots.

On the surface, none of those plots seem too difficult to follow, but add to them a bunch of returning characters, a few new ones, a couple dead-end subplots, and poor editing. Now you've got yourself a pile of steaming confusion.

2. Fucking logic!

A few questions: 1) If there is going to be an Army/Autobot taskforce to bring down Decepticon intruders, why do soldiers get to join them? The movie opens with a bunch of needless deaths.

2) Optimus Prime tells Sam that he's needed, and this is before anyone actually knows that the kid has all that alien mumbo-jumbo uploaded into his brain. What, exactly does he need Sam for? To apply some Armor-All to his chassis?

3) If Decepticons can transform themselves into humans, like the one that tries to fuck Sam in his dorm room, why do they even bother pretending to be machines? Seriously. All Bumblebee seems to do when there's nothing to fight is sit in Sam's garage as a Camaro.

4) Why do Sam's parents act more adolescent than he does? Come on! Mom doesn't know the brownies are packed with pot? She's a goddamn Baby Boomer!

5) While Egypt's under attack by Decepticons, Autobots and U.S. Military, where are the Egyptian troops? Is the Egyptian government okay with the U.S. fighting over its air space? I'm not a military expert, or anything, but I think it's safe to assume that the Egyptian government might take exception to a gigantic robot tearing off the tip of a pyramid while U.S. fighter planes fire missiles at it.

6) How are Sam and Mikaela able to run across the desert, up and down sand dunes, and not break a sweat? And how is Mikaela able to do all of this in white pants without getting them dirty? Were the producers afraid that by putting dirt on her, Megan Fox's ass would blend into the background? On second that I think about it, that's not illogical at all.

3. Cardboard, anyone? Anyone?

I thought the characters were pretty shallow after watching the first film, but you'd think with two movies, there might be some more time to learn something about Sam, Mikaela and crew. After all, the run time of the second film is 150 minutes -- two and a half hours.

No. Nothing new to add. Sam is still an uber-geek who is in over his head, but has leadership qualities. Mikaela is still the hot love interest who screams his name when he falls down, goes boom. Mom and dad are still mom and dad -- lovable, quirky, and funny because they look like old school parents while talking about sex and (unwittingly) using drugs.

The Decepticons are still evil. The Autobots are still good. Some have personalities. Some don't. All the personalities are stereotypes. The movie is called Transformers, yet none of the titular characters is even remotely rounded. They fall into two categories: heroes and comic relief. Some, like Bumblebee, are allowed to be both.

So, for 150 minutes we have to watch a bunch of fucking robots beat the shit out of each other and we don't know any of them well enough to have a rooting interest outside of "Hey, he's an Autobat, so I should root for him." It's like watching boxing, or UFC. We don't really know the fighters -- they're just muscle bound men hurting each other. The difference between Transformers and UFC, though, is that a UFC cage match doesn't last longer than ten minutes.

4. Fighting without consequence.

Back in the late 1980s, early 90s, Marvel Comics released a comic book called "Damage, Inc." The premise was simple: who cleans up after the superheroes? After all, when Spiderman and the Green Goblin fight, they tear up downtown Manhattan. We're talking broken windows, defaced buildings, new potholes. Someone has to do the job, just like someone has to clean the kitchen after all the cooking is done.

The Transformer movies have a similar problem. Who cleans up after them? They fight and fight, and no one seems to give much of a shit. Sure, in the first half hour of the film, there's talk about a situation in Shanghai that got out of control, but it never gets worse than that. Cleaning up after these robots has to cost the government -- and the taxpayer -- a lot of money that could be better used for buying golfing trips for our nation's finest politicians and their lobbyist buddies.

In addition, a guy like Sam is allowed to enter a battle zone, and is given blind trust from trained soldiers. I know this is just a movie, and I've got to roll with it a bit, but when you compound this with all the other leaps of faith, it just becomes too much after a while. I can only turn my mind off when Megan Fox in on the screen, her boobs bouncing as she runs.

5. Skids and Mudflap -- the "homey bots."

I know it's been talked about already, but how do you not mention these vile creations? They are the robotic cousins of Jar Jar Binks. Most of the transformers in this movie are about as personable as concrete, but these two just exude personality. They're bots from the hood, representin'. They have gold teeth and speak like theys keepin'-it-real. And on top of it all, they don't know how to read. But theys the good guys, so its 'aight.

Fuck! If I were black, I'd be looking for Michael Bay's address on the Hollywood Map of the Stars. Where the fuck does he get off creating two robots that embody every negative stereotype of the hip-hop culture, right down to the lack of literacy? Hell, I'm not black, but I'm still going to look for his house the next time I'm in Beverly Hills so I can...can...

Nothing, I guess. It just makes me sick that a motherfucker like that can make millions of dollars perpetuating negative black stereotypes. I thought we were beyond all of this. As long as people are willing to shell out money for tickets, though, laugh at the jokes and act like it's no big deal, then I guess we'll never be.

So, those are my five reasons for hating this movie. There are more, of course. And I know lots of people will disagree with me, but that's because they've been trained like Pavlov's dogs to enjoy anything with a fighting ghetto-bot.

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