- Reviewed by: Friday and Saturday Night Critic
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Current Rating 8.85/10 | 221 Votes
“Cinematography so glossy one fears the actors and sets will slide right off the screen.” (www.SlantMagazine.com)
“The same old thing, nicely coated with a nostalgia that might only go back a few dozen years. It’s very strange, these people barely out of their twenties waxing poetic about the beloved toys of their youth, as if the Reagan era could only be recaptured by examining sepia-tone photographs and dusty archives.” (www.RuthlessReviews.com)
“If Michael Bay loves the military so much, why doesn’t he just marry it?” (www.SlantMagazine.com)
So the time came for the wife and me to check out the new “Transformers,” from that pillar of hackdom, director Michael Bay. Jerry Bruckheimer is not attached as producer (although he might as well be, his style is so evident), even though he produced Bay’s “Armageddon,” “The Rock,” “Pearl Harbor,” and “Bad Boys II.” That role is filled, stunningly, by no less than Steven Spielberg! We watched “Transformers” properly, not waiting for DVD, but catching it on two-for-one night at the $1.50 theater.
I was hoping for a new breed of awfulness, awful in ways I never thought possible. Yet what we get is just another Bay picture: loud, long, dumb, pandering, confused, and insincere. The pace of “Transformers” is frantic, yet takes forever to get anywhere and is plain boring for stretches. It takes an hour to establish what the Transformers are (in other words, to summarize the preview), then the movie immediately expects us to be familiar with the 24-year-old cartoon characters.
“Transformers” follows the battle between the good robots and the bad ones, seen mostly through the eyes of a teenage boy and the insanely hot girl he’s trying to woo. There are other threads, in which the US Army comes in contact with the first of the evil robots, and the boy has to help out the first of the good robots, and Jon Voight’s Secretary of Defense gets to use a shotgun. The boy is played by Shia LaBoeuf, who does pretty well for himself, considering he has to narrate so much of what he’s doing while he’s doing it.
Left-leaning critics have perhaps read too much into Bay’s treatment of the military and the police. Certainly Bay, like any boy, is fascinated with the military’s ability to blow shit up real good. But if it were truly the military that obsessed him, and not their toys, then wouldn’t he be obsessed with (mindless?) devotion to duty, to obeying orders, to “ours is not to reason why”? Instead, he presents his “street cred” cops and soldiers as continually burdened with commanders and authority figures who “just don’t get it!” Disobeying orders is their bread-and-butter. Bay’s cops and soldiers follow the classic paradigm of the action hero: breaking the letter of the law and disobeying authority in order to follow the spirit of the law and dispensing the justice their immediate superiors are preventing them from doing.
There are minor offenses aplenty – stupid dialogue, blurry fights, indistinguishable robots, patriotism with all the depth and sincerity of a truck commercial, artless compositions and cutting – but what’s it about Bruckheimer / Bay films that makes them truly bad? Is it just noise? Is it just the frantic pacing, cutting, delivery? Is it the constantly mobile cameras and shimmering cinematography that exist solely so that we’re never fooled, even for an instant, that we’re watching a movie? Their runtime is absurd; except for “National Treasure,” it seems Bruckheimer’s last half-dozen movies have all rambled well past the two-hour mark. Is it the abrupt tonal shifts, from gravity to tediously unfunny sequences in which the boy tries to keep the good robots from crushing his parents’ flowerbed? Say what you will about “Pearl Harbor” and “Pirates of the Caribbean,” but they at least have consistent tones, one ridiculously profound, the other ultimately comic.
I reached this same impasse with “Bad Boys II.” Bay and Bruckheimer have created a style that is, well, singular. It’s just not for me.
Finished Monday, December 10, 2007
Copyright © 2007 Friday & Saturday Movie
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