Wow, it’s been quite a long time since I’ve posted — so what better way to get back in to the swing of things than a half-assed movie review of Transformers 2? Actually, “half-assed,” might even be too strong, but since the reaction has generally been so negative — most cuttingly by Charlie Jane Anders — I thought I’d push back a little bit. Sayeth Anders:
Critical consensus on Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen is overwhelmingly negative. But the critics are wrong. Michael Bay used a squillion dollars and a hundred supercomputers’ worth of CG for a brilliant art movie about the illusory nature of plot.
Now, this is true as far as the criticism goes. The “central” plot — if you’d like to call it that — is so unimportant to any enjoyment of the movie as to encroach, if not land firmly, in the territory of porn narrative. But like porn, summer blockbusters aren’t typically known for clever, well conceived plots, much less ones that give you pause. Even a classic like Gladiator didn’t really make you think. So for me, the vacuity of the plot wasn’t the central problem. The issue was simply how lazy the entire venture was.
Rather than innovate new methods of explosion porn, Bay just blew more shit up. Rather than find new ways of creating compelling battle sequences, Bay just rendered them (literally) too fast and complicated to follow. Rather than create truly witty dialogue, Bay resorted to cock and ball jokes with a healthy dose of animal sex. Rather than develop characters, Bay introduced a cast of ethnic stereotypes so baldly racist it prompted an article by the Associated Press. I mean, there was almost nothing new, much less remotely creative about the entire movie.
(Incidentally, one of the explanations given for the inexplicable racism is that two of the more egregious robots in question, Mudflap and Skids — basically the Amos ‘n’ Andy of Sci-Fi — are not in fact caricatures but “alien robots [who] learned about human culture through the Web and [are] ‘wannabe gangster types.'” Of course, the fact that the characters admit to illiteracy makes the “learned on the interwebs” explanation at least a little less plausible, as does the decidedly simian appearance of the robots, gold teeth, and the fact that it’s impossible to tell if someone is a “wannabe gangster” and not simply a stereotype when no “real gangsters” exist to offer context. Bay also suggested that the voices were largely improvised. I wonder though, if the design and editing processes were also an exercise in extemporaneous comedy.)
That said, it wasn’t horrible to watch; after all, cock and ball jokes and copious explosions can be entertaining. But when an entire movie is predicated on cliches, it’s just not going to be anything memorable.