Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Save Yourselves, It's Too Late For Me!

It often takes a momentous event to bring someone out of retirement. Ali, well past his prime, took a fight he shouldn’t have for insane amounts of money. Randy Couture came back because he realized he was still better than the fighters he left behind. Jordan came back because he still had a lot to give, although nothing left to prove. And Bruce Wayne came back in The Dark Knight Returns because he was needed. That’s the category I fall into right now. As I pour out a movie review- my first in years- it’s the Dark Knight’s un-retirement that feels most parallel to my own. Not that I would ever dream of comparing myself to Miller’s single greatest creation (with all due respect to Sin City , Ronin, et al). No, it’s the REASON he came back that I identify with. The planet was going to hell. There was trouble… serious trouble. The likes of which the populace of this world was unprepared for. I’m speaking, of course, about the evils of Transformers.

First off, allow me to make a complaint that is actually no fault of the movie itself. It really grinds my gears (kudos to those of you to catch the first of my many obscure references that pretentiously make me think I am so damn clever) that the plot device is actually called Allspark. It sounds so much like AllSpice that every time they said it, I could think only of a cowboy hat wearing, oil mongering, “W” loving hick sitting eagerly down to dinner with his redneck family. But that’s beside the point.

“More than meets the eye,” indeed. But not in the way you’re thinking, not in the good way. No, this is more than meets the eye like a hot chick you meet at a bar that turns out to be a transsexual.

Curse you, Michael Bay . You tricked me again. It’s bad enough I fell for The Island- even after having known it would be horrible, reading countless reviews that said the same, and having dodged its theatrical release, only to fall victim instead to an HBO showing some 2 years later- now you suckered me into a movie that I honestly believed was going to be good. I have been awaiting this since the first teaser trailer hit. And this… this is how you repay me? You’re dead to me Fredo! I mean, Bay!

And about that trailer, the supposed footage from Mars … with this movie, you not only ruined Transformers, but also ruined what could have been a great premise for a different movie- the disappearance of the Mars Rover. Mars isn’t exactly on the way to Earth, why did one of the Decepticons stop there?

However, I have to love the irony of the trailer. Think about it: Transformers teased us with a vague, uninformative trailer that nonetheless piqued our collective curiosity, and the movie fucking sucked. Yet the movie itself features a similarly ambiguous trailer that is generating quite a deal of buzz, for an as-yet-unnamed JJ Abrams movie, that I can only imagine will live up to its hype just as much as Transformers failed to do so. See, Bay? That’s how you do that.’

But as for the movie in question, its really my own fault. Look at the track record: The Island need not be addressed again; Bad Boys I and II- sucked (go watch Lethal Weapon for a true buddy-cop movie); Armageddon- horrible; Pearl Harbor- atrocious; The Rock- garbage. Yes, I said it. The Rock was miserable. Don’t let Sean Connery fool you into thinking otherwise. The Rock had another overrated element besides Bay- Nicolas Cage. He hasn’t made a decent movie since Raising Arizona, other than the acceptable Face/Off and the entertaining Adaptation, although those owe more of their success as motion pictures to their respective directors, who didn’t so much work with Cage as they overcame him. Rather then go too far off on a tangent (too late?), simply consider that I could write a thesis on how depressingly bad Cage is. He named his son Kal-El, for fuck’s sake!

Where were we? Oh, that’s right- Transformers sucked ass. It did live up to its title (if not its hype) as it “transformed” my Sunday afternoon into a pile of crap. It transformed my sense of wonder into regret. It transformed 150 minutes (that’s right, 2 ½ hours… way to twist the knife, Bay) into mental anguish. I suppose at this point I should thank all of you (sarcasm highly implied if not inferred) who either failed to warn me, or worse, sought to find humor in my suffering, much like playing a practical joke on a friend.

Was it really that bad? IMdB has it rated at 8 out of 10 based on 43,000 votes. Could so many people be wrong? Valid question, but considering who won the popular vote in 2000 as opposed to who has been leading our nation into a downward spiral (not un-reminiscent of Enron), I think the answer is obvious.

I think this movie should’ve been called SuperBad (the literal meaning, not the hipster ironic version of the phrase), but that title was taken. Worse, a sequel is already in the works. Damn you Hollywood !

The hardest thing about trying to review Transformers (yes, we have finally reached the actual review) is that there is literally too much wrong with this movie to individually point out each flaw. As a counterpoint, and to refrain momentarily from the negativity, allow me to point out a few (very few) high points:

* The only truly funny line was delivered by Bernie Mac, something about busting his grandma in the head with a rock. Beyond that, his very character and scene epitomized the cheesy, forced nature of the movie.
* The robots looked fucking cool. The initial attack by Blackout on the military base, and the ensuing desert skirmish against Scorponox (is that right? Does it really matter?). But that positive leads us to a larger negative. This movie was like CGI Porn. Forget the ridiculous plot and the sub-standard acting, and get to the damn action!

Sadly, that’s really all the good I can recall. The bad is so intensely pervasive, I’m almost not surprised that so many people fell for this cinematic Trojan Horse. I was dumbfounded at the amount of cheering I heard, as well as the sheer worldwide popularity- not only in reviews, but in box office gross- that this movie has been receiving. Initially I was reminded of the tragically humorous Lemmings and there mad dash over the edge of a precipice simply because all the other Lemmings are doing it. As the movie progressed, and I recalled that humans (allegedly) have a much higher intellect than those darn cute, albeit doomed, rodents, I was more inclined to think of this as some sort of massive recreation of the Milgram experiment, wherein the damage inflicted was psychological. But no, that’s not quite right. I most closely identified with the last remaining human in Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, eerily arriving at the horrifying conclusion that everyone else in the theatre, and perhaps the world, had been systematically replaced by a pod person. Damn you again Michael Bay ! It still just doesn’t make any sense… I could only glance suspiciously around the theatre and wonder “Did everyone drink the Kool-ade?”

The laughs were so forced, it was almost embarrassing- not just for the script but for the people who actually laughed at the stale jokes and 7th-grade-school-play-style telegraphed deliveries. Some of the most memorable, if not worst, offenders included “The parents are annoying, shall I take them out?” the clearly juvenile-demographic targeted references to “Sam’s happy time.” The pathetically childish “Stop lubricating the human,” with the concept of ‘lubricant as metaphor for urine’ apparently seeming so funny to Michael Bay that he used it twice. The detective, who seemed taken straight out of a Will Ferrell movie, and his innocuously silly questioning about ‘Mojo’ (“Is that what the kids’re takin’ these days?.”) The slyly smug, wink-wink references to eBay. The inept India CS rep for long distance calls- a joke so overused I don’t even hear it at open mic nights at the Comedy Store. Frenzy nonchalantly “walking” from the plane across the tarmac.

As much as the laughter felt forced, the artificial gung-ho, get-the-audience-fired-up rhetoric was even worse. I know I can’t be the only one who smirked at Shia’s little “In fifty years, do you want to look back…” speech. I’m actually laughing now as I write this. Just as bad was Megan Fox’s (who, as the cliché-ridden bad girl with a troubled past, is decidedly not hot, by the way; anyone who thinks otherwise is probably just a victim of the Great American Hype machine) “I’ll drive, you shoot!” And of course, the sagaciously laughable Witwicky family motto, finally finding it’s place in tough-guy, ass-kicking history “No sacrifice, no victory.” Well, attending this movie was my sacrifice. What is my victory?
The acting was equally miserable. Although Shia Labeouf was actually spot on in his over-the-top acting, totally fitting into the smarmy cheesiness of the movie’s atmosphere and tone, everyone else seemed to be actually taking themselves, and this catastrophe, quite seriously. The unnecessary and laughable auditorium full of Young Adult Geniuses seemed so… I don’t know. This movie is depleting my vocabulary as much as it depleted brain cells. I kept expecting one of the college kids to crack under the White House mass recruitment pressure, stand up, and yell “It was the Delta House! They did it!” I am most disappointed in John Turturro, my indie-movie idol. It was as if he kept thinking he was Al Pacino. I was on the edge of my seat waiting, knowing, that he was about to unleash the Heat classic “That robot’s got a GREAT ASS!!! And you got your head ALL UP IN IT!” But no, I was again disappointed. Voight was so hammy, I half-expected him to address the camera with yet another impassioned “If you see my baby Angie, tell her we’re worried…” speech. I was impressed, however, with the contrived “I’m not leaving here without Bumble Bee” line delivered with a straight face. Nice!

* The product placement was just bad, as, for example, our computer-geek heroine displayed her assigned product with such command, I can’t help but wonder if she was discovered at an actual commercial audition.
* Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely willing to overlook flaws and suspend disbelief in support of an unrealistic movie. I consider Starship Troopers a classic. But when you let me down on so many levels, in such rapid succession, I am forced to nitpick the details I would normally accept:
* The world’s best hacker plays Dance Dance Revolution in his grandma’s house?
* Why do the robots even have a humanoid form? Is that a universal form of life?
* Why do they have human facial features, teeth, eyelids, etc?
* Why do they have mouths? Or speak out loud instead of over radio waves? And why do they speak out loud, to each other, in English?
* Why do the little ones speak Jawa?
* Why is every “new” robot (created by cube) evil?
* Why did Frenzy survive beheading and go on to change into a phone, but Bonecrusher, Jazz, etc were “killed?”
* And why “Bonecrusher?” Robots wouldn’t know what a bone is.(And then Michael Scott says "That's what she said!")
* How did Megatron know English? He’s been frozen for “eons.”
* Why were Autobots sometimes unconcerned about Shia’s folks spotting them, other times trying to hide?
* And why was Shia so concerned about hiding them from his folks? They were all over the freakin’ news and everybody else in the world saw them too.
* Why did the robots have any type of visual perception at all? Scientifically, the human spectrum of vision is the least efficient way to capture visual media. Bumble Bee shining the Transformers bat signal? Come on… who’s even going to see that outside of a 20 mile radius? Use a radio signal.
* They learned English from the web, but thought a dog was a rodent? And apparently Jazz learned not only the language, but black dialect and mannerism, too. “What’s crackin’? This looks like a cool place to kick it!”
* And of course, thay killed the black guy.
* Megatron can survive space, but not the Arctic ? Do you know how cold space is?

By the time Optimus delivers the wooden “You left me no choice, brother” line over a fallen Megatron, I’m not even sure if he’s saying “brother” like Hulk Hogan does (“Listen up, brother…”) or if they were actually brothers. At this point, I wouldn’t even care, anyway. If you must see Transformers, go see Knocked Up, then catch the last 30 minutes of this movie. That’s all I got.