Saturday, July 9, 2011

Transformers 3: Why Dumb Movies Make Money

The business of entertainment will always supersede the necessity for art.


Xenocrates

I am a huge Transformers fan. I've been a fan of the franchise since 1984. I am however, an even bigger fan of movies. The medium is perhaps the most difficult to master with respect to telling a great story since so much visualization is involved. However, most people who go to see movies these days have less interest in the story telling than the gorgeous visuals. This is why Michael Bay could make a bombastic, disjointed, mess that would still rake in millions.

It's a sign of the slow commercial bludgeoning of the medium.


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Plot, much?

Shockwave, Transformers 3: This bad boy has no lines, but boy does he tear the place up — literally.

I cannot deny the obvious eye candy, the impressive action sequences and the very stunning production values. However, the relentless sensory onslaught, the frenetic editing, disjointed story telling and a very promising plot that is criminally bereft of build up and emotional payoff ultimately and tragically renders TF3 to be more of the same discombobulated CGI porn that merely asphyxiates my adult fan boy in its intellectual vacuum. Haven't we seen this before?

Robots crash land on the moon and inexplicably lay there for 50 years, hiding out in the dirt waiting for just the right moment to utterly trash downtown Chicago (since that's how you go about conquering the world, apparently), while a hot British girl runs around in high heels as her hapless boyfriend screams "Optimus Prime" repeatedly amidst a deafening cacophony of explosions for 2 hours and 37 minutes. This sounds familiar. I've definitely seen this before.

It's called Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. Wait, what?

Many of my peers are quick to remind me that a movie called "Transformers" is not watched because of the quality of the story element, but rather because they paid large sums of money (about $15) to see CGI robots beat the crap out of each other for 2½ hours. Now while I would have defended this case in 2007, the first film actually had a cohesive story!

Take that away, and all you're left with is this:



So why didn't I hate the second movie? Because admittedly, while I found some elements of the film to be annoying (not offensive — specifically those twins) the gag humor and the overwhelmingly poor attempts at being funny that came up short, did little to take away from the guilty pleasure of Michael Bay's attempt at besting the first film's entertainment value. It was a mess, but it was fun — much in the same way an epic pillow fight is messy good fun.

So what's the problem?


By contrast, after giving us a half decent story in 2007 and a drawn out Saturday Morning cartoon in 2009, I had my hopes set really high that this time, they were really going to one up both previous films in both the story and the ultra violent action sequence departments. As far as I can tell, TF3 only improved on the action sequences — so much so that whatever improvements were made in the story department were irreconcilably lost in the cacophony.

Bay tried so hard to up the ante in the action sequences, that a young girl was almost killed on the set, completely shutting down production for several days. To make up for the time lost, Bay reused footage from the action sequence from a much older film he also directed called "The Island" (2005) and digitally added computer generated transformers to the chaos:



In other words, while Transformers 3 is obviously a better movie than Transformers 2, it's not very different from saying that Rico Rodriguez II of Modern Family fame is the slimmest kid at fat camp. It is still no better than the very first movie, largely because its writers (or rather, its intrepid director) didn't care to tell what appears to be an obviously better story cohesively.

The film literally leaps from one sequence to another, with no obvious segue. It's a lot like watching Pulp Fiction only half way through without seeing the end where everything is tied together. It's as if the editors didn't care exactly when or where these events were occurring, so long as they blast the audience with a series of mind blowing action sequences later on, hoping against hope that the dumb audience member won't care that it makes no sense.

Then Michael Bay spends an inordinate amount of time attempting to dis Megan Fox (who dropped out of the third movie after referring to Bay as 'Hitler') by placating the audience with a British blond bombshell whose acting chops are as thrilling as watching dry wood rot. She spends most of the film running around in heels while looking like a deer in the headlights, with not a single hair out of place while the frenetic chaos harmlessly explodes around her:

I mean, seriously?

As much as I would totally lay that fine piece of white ass, by the middle of the film, I started to hope against hope that she would have become embroiled in the many plot twists that revolved around betrayal after betrayal, involving both robot and human alike, which amounts to nothing more than a pathetic, desperate attempt at giving the film some emotional depth.

This would then be paid off by having Megan Fox show up somehow near the end, suddenly, out of nowhere, vanquishing (and I mean killing) her while taking down a couple of the robots in the process, all before she makes up with Sam who then "keeps his word" to kill off Dylan, the human traitor, after which they run off into the sunset to have wanton, debaucherous sex.

That would have made it a far better film.

But no. Instead of actually trying to write Whitely into the film organically (even allowing her to become Sam's girl at the end of the film instead of inexplicably at the beginning), we are simply told that Sam and Mikaela (Megan Fox) broke up, to explain away Fox's departure. We never see this happen and we have absolutely no idea how a dweeb like Sam (Shia LaBeouf) could land a fine piece of ass like that (who cannot act). The first movie did better than that.

Finally, we are treated to a total waste of acting chops of people who can actually act, like John Malkovich, Frances McDormand and Patrick Dempsey. The fact that these A-listers even appear in this film is infuriating enough. However, it is the fact that their largely irrelevant characters actually set up emotional subplots that are never resolved that makes this film so downright criminal. The film's writer, Ehren Kruger, is being grossly overpaid for this rubbish.

I could have written a better story — but that doesn't matter. Why?

It's all about the money

So long as there is a market for empty computer generated action thrills, Michael Bay (pictured) is your man.

The best writers have written better stories that have done really well at the box office. Films like J.J. Abrams' Super 8 (2011), his reboot of Star Trek (2009), Neill Blompkamp's District 9 (2009), and Duncan Jones' Source Code (2011) come to mind. They were all brilliant films from the same genre which is solid proof that a film can be both a critical and commercial success.

However, as amazing as those films were, they will never incite the commercial power of a film like Transformers 3, which will go on to gross nearly a billion dollars like its critically inferior predecessor. Thankfully, it will never trump the critical successful film like Avatar (2009), which is still by and large the ultimate box office king at a very distant 2.7 billion dollars worldwide.

The combined box office take of the Transformers franchise will probably graze the 3 billion dollar mark. That's only because of the criminally higher fees required to see it in 3D, which is technically inferior to James Cameron's Avatar (2009), (which in my opinion, is the only Real 3D movie to be made so far). However, when Avatar 2 opens, it will be very quickly left behind.

For a conspicuously huge transformers fan like myself, my childhood was finally laid to rest as my prepubescent heroes wallowed in their relentless campaign to tell yet another story full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Yet, judging by the raucous laughter surrounding me in the auditorium, it's impossible to deny that there is an audience out there for this garbage — one that will ensure that it makes a huge box office haul. The Rotten Tomato meter says it all:

Notice the disparity between the critical rating (left) and the audience rating (right). Amazing, isn't it?
© Copyright 2011 — RottenTomatoes.com

So why do stupid movies like Transformers 3 do so well at the box office? Well the answer is simple. Despite the fact that the film is a story full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, most of the people who go to see movies to be jacked up on the sound and the fury. The mere fact that it signifies nothing is largely irrelevant, since simple minds are amused by simple things.

I dared to call Transformers 3 a mess in an audience who generally loved it. I was quickly assaulted by those who seemed to be more angry about the fact that I was exposing the stupidity for which the film obviously was, than the fact that I bothered to say anything at all. Their reaction is not unlike that of the Christian elders I confronted about holes in their faith.

Recognizing this, Hollywood continues to churn out sequel after sequel, reboot after reboot, skittishly adhering to vague plot treatments from otherwise talented writers to create loud, obnoxious, grossly bombastic, computer generated debauchery that passes for a commercial film. Most audiences are easily amused by the colourful lights and spectacular special effects.

It is for this reason why I took one look at the Green Lantern trailer and thought that this is the kind of garbage that empowers internet movie pirates. Hollywood regularly craps on its audiences, caring little for those interested in artistic entertainment, instead of entertainment masquerading as art. The business of entertainment will always supersede the necessity for art. This what empowers people like Michael Bay to cater only to our primitive visual instincts.

Everything else is irrelevant.

What Hollywood does these days is not very different from hiring someone like a Raphael to paint the Sistine Chapel with a sprawling pornographic mural of God having gratuitous sex with the virgin Mary, then charging people 15 pieces of gold to see it in all its meaningless grandeur. That's what Transformers 2 was. Transformers 3 only pretentiously raised the bar.

That's why I hated it so much — it pretends to be much better than it actually is. I was angry walking out of the cinema, feeling slightly cheated. Even my girlfriend who was entertained by the obvious homage to black humor (which admittedly was an improvement the second film — which isn't saying much) spotted the glaring plot holes and character redundancies in the film.

Conclusively

The CG in the film is spectacularly jaw dropping. It's a pity it's not enough to make this a classic.

Transformers 3 was certainly a visual treat — but an empty one at best. If this film had the guts to be more mature than the first film (which was marginally good in the grand scheme of things), I could actually see material like this going head to head with the best of Spielberg's past blockbuster efforts like Jurassic Park and perhaps giving even Avatar a run for its money.

Sadly Bay couldn't resist the temptation to transform this into another empty jock schlock, that objectifies women and blows things up for no reason. From the lingering body shots of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to the idiotic comic relief of two bumbling mini transformers who perform the exact same function as their near identical accidental heroes from the previous film, Transformers 3 fails to substantially differentiate itself from its doltish predecessor. Did I say that I have seen this before? Oh great; now I'm having Deja Vous about my Deja Vous.

Of course, if you care nothing for depth of plot, story or originality that has been the hallmark of great science fiction (of which this film is obviously exempt), then Transformers 3 will be right up your alley. However, if you're still coming in from the high of seeing Source Code or X-Men: First Class and need another solid sci-fi fix, you should save your money from this one.

As for me? I just want my money back.


E-mail: accordingtoxen[at]gmail[dot]com

3 comments:

  1. Damn, you went all out on that one. Tbh, I actually thought exactly the same about the first movie. If it hadn't been for the visual effects, the whole damn franchise would really suck.

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  2. It was entertaining to me good pop corn movie I liked it (thumbs up)

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  3. "which in my opinion, is the only Real 3D movie to be made so far" So so true. Have you watched Hanna? I thought that one was well done. But why are humans still in TF3? talk about ants in a movie about cows - totally pointless! THe last battle scene in TF3 lasted about the same amount of time as the desert scene in TF2 which was infact a drawn out composition of action scenes that are as pointless as they are impossible to beleive. Fast Five was a better movie in my book.

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