Monday, June 27, 2011

Transformers - The Dark of the Industry

It comes this week - the latest Transformers film. You know it's going to suck. I know it's going to suck, and yet I can't shake the feeling that in a moment of weakness, even the most cynical viewer is going to rationalize, "Well, if I'm going to see it, I might as well see it on a big screen. And they're really pushing the 3D hard on this, claiming it's nothing like we've ever seen before. I mean, James Cameron is hyping this and that guy's ego is so huge he almost never hypes a project he isn't directly connected to.'

"And hey, AMC has half-price showings before noon. What could it hurt?"

I beg you, don't listen to that voice. I hear it too. There's a part of me that keeps thinking, "Well, I'm probably going to tear this thing a new one, so it would only be responsible journalism to be informed about it. But I'd better see it in 3D just so I'm coming from an informed place if I put the lie to Bay's hype."

And then I remember the $6 (half-price screening, remember) I spent on the previous Transformers film and how halfway through the film, I couldn't remember a less pleasant experience in the theater since a forced viewing of WR's Mysteries of the Organism in film school. And THAT film featured a nearly-ten minute sequence of an artist making a plaster cast of a well-endowed man's erect member. At one point, the scene cuts from an excruciatingly long medium shot of the process to an extreme close-up with an angle that could have only been taken from between the prone subject's knees. The gentleman's urologist likely has never gone in as close for an inspection as this camera did.

And even then, the experience of enduring that sequence was only slightly less uncomfortable than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. At least it was over in ten minutes or so. (Though other parts of this film were still excruciating to get through.)

So as you're tempted to catch a few hours of air conditioning this week, do yourself a favor and remember just how bad the previous Transformers movies were. If you keep going to the theatre, it'll only encourage them to make more.

If you're so motivated, post in the comments your reasons for attending or skipping Transformers: Dark of the Moon.


  1. As big a Transformers geek as I am, I have to try not to encourage Bay further by coughing up cash for this. Even if I crack, I definitely won't be going 3D, because as far as I'm concerned it's a passing fad which Hollywood uses to try and breathe life into a lot of really dull movies.

    There's a part of me that hopes this time they got it right. I know they haven't. But... there's hope, ya know? And it has Shockwave in it. Shockwave was cool.

    Ultimately, I'll let weight of critical opinion decide, which is unusual for me. If the reaction is dire, I'll pass. If someone reputable sees something better in it than the last two, maybe, just maybe, I'll chance my arm.

  2. As Bill Martell says (more or less) rather than just attacking Michael Bay perhaps you should be looking for the reason *why* these films are popular.

    Isn't simply saying "they're crap" in the face of massive audiences, at best, disingenuous? And not exactly an analytical approach.

    (And arguments like "audiences are stupid" don't count either.)

  3. Having discussed Martell's point here I'm quite familiar with them, but that's not at all the topic in this post.

    Also, saying "this is crap" is a completely different topic from "why is this crap popular?"

    What I was discussing is that there are plenty of people out there who thought the first film was crap, thought the second film was even worse and are still pondering buying tickets to the third. It's pretty telling when the filmmakers have pulled out all the stops to really hype the 3D more than any 3D film since Avatar. It's also pretty telling that many profiles of Bay or the film include strategic mea culpas for the previous installment.

    It's pretty telling that between the critical drubbing the last film took and the backlash against 3D that's very much in evidence, the studios are worried that the audience might not buy their snake oil this time.

    This is my effort to reach people on the fence. If you hated the first two films, don't rationalize going to this one. If this thing opens huge and you bought a ticket, you've got no room to complain. I'm with radiantbyss - wait for the reviews, and if you can, wait until the second weekend.

  4. Of course it looks terrible. I shall see it seven times. CURSE YOU NOSTALGIA

  5. I'm actually really looking forward to this. I know they're not good movies, but they're big and fun and stupid. I know they don't make sense, I kind of feel like EVERYONE knows they're awful. But they're also awesome. Michael Bay's style is headache inducing, yes. But it's a style that he's earned with years of consistently awesomely bad, big, stupid movies.

    I'm not an idiot, this isn't an IMDb board. I just don't think you give these movies enough credit as pure popcorn.

  6. I LOVE Jablonsky's music though. It carries a lot of the nonsense.

  7. I'm not going to argue about how bad the Transformers franchise is, but for having seen the first one in the theater and maybe a third of the second one on a flight, I know I won't be going to see this one. Even in 3D.
    However, I think the first one was an incredibly well designed piece of propaganda with highly politicized objectives. And from the writer's perspective, that is very interesting.
    Yes, there are giant robots fighting each other over crowded streets of LA (or Chicago for the upcoming one), yes, there are explosions left and right, yes, there are lame attempts at humor and yes, there are BS feel good moments, but mostly this is entertainment crafted to convince us that this country is the best on Earth (for no obvious reasons other than it is) and that the best way to see it is by driving a brand new American car.
    When the first movie came out, it really felt as a Detroit-backed production as the US auto industry was on the verge of shutting down.
    I know the following is true of almost every blockbuster, but those movies also are a very powerful recruiting tool for the military; the army sure looks better in there than on CNN or even on the US Army commercials.
    It feels as if part of the Defense budget is dedicated to financing those films.
    The first movie's opening scene was all encompassing and welcomed everyone on board, just to be sure they were not leaving anyone out of the equation.
    Every joke is based on a supposedly cool, laid back look at the world where never becoming an adult is seen as the ultimate achievement.
    I think this is a very interesting step for pop culture, no matter how painful it is to watch.

  8. You guys are a hoot.

    The first Transformers is pretty good. The second one is not good, but it's still entertaining.

    Begging people to not go see this movie, especially in 3D is, weird. 3D is here to stay. It's already over, battle lost. People like the 3D when it's done properly. Studios like it because it brings MONEY into a DYING industry. If you love features, if you don't want them going the way of the dinosaur against videogames, the internet, etc, you have to embrace this technology.

    So quit bitching and write some stories that can use 3D to tell the story in ways 2D couldn't.

  9. I am going to see it. Why? A I loved the first movie, and B: Because, in my humble opinion, there is no other American Director who can compose an Action Scene like the Big Bay. His rotating camera use and forced deep perspective draw a lot of inspiration from Japanese Anime - which does action better than any other film genre on the PLANET - again in my opinion. Most western action scenes strike me thus: Wide shot. Cut. Close up. Cut. Wide from a different angle, maybe from above or behind to be "dynamic" cut. Close on a fist/gun/ sword etc. Cut. Repeat and re-rinse. YAWWWWWN. I'm pumped anime is making its presence more and more felt here, as Western Action filmmakers have a lot to learn from Anime directors like Katsuhiro Otomo and Shinichiro Watanabe. Now if only we could combine Bay's action skills with a director who cares about the Character and Story element as much as his action scenes... Wouldn't that be a movie.

    Oh and Im convinced the military provides Bay with weapons grade amphetamines with which to shoot his movies. Thats how these behemoths are always on time and on budget. I don't know why this is posting me as Anonymous. My Name is Shane everyone. Hello.

  10. Funny review of Transformers from an entertaining critic:

  11. I'll just wait until I can get both DVDs for free at the library. Good or bad, the library will eventually have it. Heck, the most anyone has to pay for it is 25 cents for a hold fee. (And 25 cents a day if you return it late.)

  12. "3D is here to stay. It's already over, battle lost."

    Not even remotely certain at this point. This summer has shown that American audiences are rejecting 3D and that at least four major 3D releases (Pirates IV, Kung Fu Panda 2, Green Lantern, and Cars 2) and saw their 2D grosses outpace the 3D.

    In fact, 3D likely hurt the gross of Pirates IV.

    Real D has seen their stock fall greatly.

    Though he tries to put a good face on it in this article, Dreamworks chief Jeffrey Katzenberg admits it's a very tough time for 3D, saying, "The audience has spoken, and they have spoken really loudly."

    This backlash is why Paramount and Dreamworks have been pulling out all the stops trying to convince people that "no, really... we've totally be playing you for fools with all the cash-grab 3D releases but THIS is something special." They've held junkets that all bug begged journalists to assure their audiences that the 3D in this film really works - because it's all riding on this film. If Transformers 3 continues the trend we've seen this summer, it'll be a huge nail in 3D's coffin.

  13. You don't have to tell me twice, Zuul.

    But, I'll let the people that like these films enjoy it. Have fun, enjoy the action. It's not for me, but I've long ago accepted that I'm rarely riding along with the majority.

  14. I enjoyed the first Transformers film. It was stupid, but relatively solid, Summer blockbuster fare.

    The second one, however, was one of the most painful and horrible films I've ever watched. It is so cloyingly stupid, so random, so poorly put together, so bloated and messy... It's one of my 10 least favorite movies. It goes beyond bad and beyond boring and beyond poorly made. It actually does violence upon the mind.

    So no, I will not be watching the third one. I'll give it the 10 minute test when I can see it for free on TV.

  15. I loved Transformers 1. I understand scheduling was a huge part of the sequel's problems, but I was still entertained. I will be seeing, and likely enjoying, the third installment.

  16. Okay, Transformers 1 was an awesome action flick. The second... actually one of the worst movies I've ever seen. The third however looks okay. So yes I will be seeing it, lol. Sorry, Bitter. I won't be paying full price though if that makes you feel any better.

  17. I love this guy's analysis of Transformers 2:

    people see Transformers the same reason they vote for bad candidates; it's a thing that they think they're supposed to do and the campaigns are so overbearing that people feel like their choices are limited. Also David Mamet has an interesting theory about how studios that promote big budget films, in a sense, "flatter" the audience via fixating on big budget and fetishistic gratuity.

    I've began to notice a lot of defense in favor of transformers; most do so by attacking or questioning the people who speak badly against it. it's different from Inception last year when its fans were genuinely passionate about the film and argued over its merits. I personally find that odd, and it speaks for people's weariness towards criticism, rather than merits of the film itself.

    It's like Transformers 3 has come to symbolize what some people consider the ultimate bad film while others consider it the ultimate scapegoat for a certain crowd (nobody seems to actually enjoy it - though some will objectively admire it for its length and its laundry list of summer film common denominators). I think it speaks for the lack of choices we have in fun summer films more than anything else. Transformers isn't the worst movie or even the most epitomized summer movie - it's just the only movie that seems to be trying this summer.