Monday, June 29, 2009

Transformers: Revenge Of Shitty Camerawork

Disclaimer: This is not a well-planned "review." I get paid to do those elsewhere. Rather, I saw this movie with the full intent of lambasting it because I was pretty sure I'd hate it. So I am, because I did.

The day before I saw "Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen" with my friend Dave, I went out on a dinner date and, well, kinda let it slip that Michael Bay and I have issues. I more or less confessed that Mikey and I had an overly dramatic fistfight in a back alley--complete with wide panning shots and rotating camera shots around our heads--and, because she was both fantastic and hella pretty, I peacocked a little bit and told her that I handily won that fight.

The truth of the matter is, Michael Bay has won almost every single fight against me and my sensibilities. (Sorry I lied. I'll make it up to you.) In the war against my sanity, I've only come out on top twice, escaping Bad Boys and The Rock without any mental scarring. In fact, because I actually enjoyed those movies, I'd be willing to say that Bay inadvertently contributed positively to my sanity.

Then I saw Armaggeddon, and it became apparent that Bay's strategy would be to butcher me in the face with the same tactics over and over again. The slow-motion line shot, in which several principal actors walk slowly towards the camera in a horizontal line. The high-speed head orbit, in which the camera circles around one or two actors' heads--around and around and around. The overblown chin sweep, in which the camera starts under an actor's chin on one side of his body and swivels upwards around to the other side of his chin, primarily when said actor is stepping out of a car or getting up from a fall.

It's a very smart strategy, that being repetition of incessantly nauseating camera work. Immediately, Bay gained the upper hand with Armaggeddon and has been just fucking relentless ever since. He turned "Bad Boys II," the sequel of my first victory, into an overdrawn trip to goddamn Cuba that ended 45 minutes after it really should have. Then we took a trip to "The Island" which actually probably did nearly as much good as it did harm by exposing Scarlett Johansson as a complete fraud of an actress (babe, do you really think your husky voice is going to carry you to a SAG award, or even an Oscar?), and gave us the iconic shot of randomly-cast Djimon Hounsou--dressed in black--walking in the opposite direction of a whole bunch of white-clad pale-skinned celebrity clones. It was almost as poignant as when he shot that scene of Ewan McGregor and Scarlett sparring as if they were inside a game of Street Fighter... complete with freaking life bars and avatars on a screen behind them. (Just to be clear, I'm being sarcastic. I'm pretty sure that "The Island" is responsible for the accelerated growth of that big-ass pimple on McGregor's forehead.)

"I'm Michael Bay's fault!"

Nothing has destroyed my mind, however, as much as the two "Transformers" films Bay directed. "Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen" is the worst offender of the two, clocking in at seven hours and eighty-nine fucking minutes. First there was the nausea. The camera spun around heads with reckless abandon--whenever Megatron was addressing someone outdoors, whenever two people were involved in heated conversation, even during as vapid a conversation as the one between Megan "Stripperface" Fox (I'll credit Dave's witty repartee for that one) and Shia TheBeef where they argue about who should say "I love you" first. Here's a hint, douchebags: I sure don't love you, and in fact I HATE BOTH OF YOU, so who fucking cares!?

Oh, I get the genius here. Bay and writers Kruger, Orci and Kurtzman are masters of metaphor and showed it with that aforementioned scene tactfully. By combining Bay's cock-slicing camera work with that "I love you" dialogue, clearly they want us to know that there is a fine line between love and nausea. (Only, James Earl Jones taught us that first, assholes.) They left in another metaphor for our youth to absorb--only it wasn't so much a metaphor as much as it was a blatant insult to black people all over. Mudflap and Skids, complete with buck teeth, full of hood jargon and fist pounds cuz they be wannabe thugz n' shit, rightfully criticized by Peter Travers in his review as "the most offensive bots in screen history," pretty much admit that they, uh, don't read much yo. Bril-fucking-liant! "Black people don't read!" Oh, we get the message loud and clear. Good job alienating like 50% of your captive audience.

When "Transformers: Revenge Of The Bullshit" isn't assaulting our senses with miserable camerawork, empty dialogue or subtle racism or stereotyping, it somehow magically manages to steal imagery, moments and motifs from Terminator 3 (so how did the T-X make it into this movie!?), The Shawshank Redemption (throw the chess piece at the poster for the answer), Aliens Vs. Predator (though admittedly, that movie crawled out of Paul W.S. Anderson's ass, so who really cares), Flatliners (ghosts have been watching and will bring him back from death!), The Matrix ("I love you!"), and National Treasure (hey here's a cryptic riddle--let's decipher it!). I guess Bay and the writers bought that new-fangled iPhone 3GS (wow, "copy and paste"--finally available after years of incompetence). Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but that only works when the final product doesn't make me want to vomit in the popcorn bucket belonging to the nice gentleman sitting to my right. Fortunately for that gentleman, he was twice my size and looked like a boxer so I found it in my esophagus heart to hold it in.

I'll be fair here. There were scattered moments of enjoyment to be found. I could actually see what the fuck was going on when the big-ass robots were making big-ass explosions--well, at least half of the time. We all know that robots and explosions are awesome. Aaron Pierce and The Jesus made big appearances here (played by Glenn Morshower of "24" fame and the immortal John Turturro from "The Big Lebowski" respectively; listen, anything related to "24" and "The Big Lebowski" gets some kind of credit). EDIT: I forgot to mention: Soundwave. The fact that he was in the movie at all, with his creepy-ass voice, and the way they faithfully recreated his Communications Officer role as a sneaky satellite dude in space, was legitimately awesome. And, amidst the rubble of terrible slapstick jokes (robots and people tripping over each other, slamming into walls comically, et cetera--oh how funny; welcome to what Looney Toons did DECADES ago), there were some decent non-racist quips at opportune moments along with more than competent special effects. In fact, I'm willing to rent the DVD just to splice together the scenes that I liked, which by my estimation would take up about 20 minutes in total. But before you counter-attack my back-handed compliment, I know that this movie is insanely popular and brings in the mad $crilla. I get it I get it I get it. Travers called this out already, but it bears repeating for this reason alone: Not everything that's popular is actually good. (For Chrissakes, Dickelsack is an award-winning band. Figure that shit out.)

In the interests of full disclosure, the only reason I went to see "Transformers: Revenge of Ineptitude" is because of Travers' review, linked above. That critique is so masterfully brutal (no stars out of 5! Holy shit!) that I had to see what kind of a turd floated to the top of Bay's squat-hole. I was fully ready, willing and able to be pleasantly surprised, as I was with Iron Man, but ultimately the real entertainment value simply came from the several times during which I cringed, face-palmed, rolled my eyes, frowned, cradled my head in my hands, laughed blatantly at what were supposed to be sentimental moments, and counted out the many ways in which this movie could turn into a drinking game ("There's a head-orbiting camera shot! Drink!" or "That's another movie they ripped off! Drink!" or "Look how shitty this movie is! Drink!"). So, for all the emotional and psychological pain Michael Bay has caused me over his career, I'm beginning to recognize that with the enjoyment of ridiculing this "film" while I was in the theatre came an overwhelming sense of victory.

I win this round, bitch. Bring on Transformers 3.


The AnTiPoDe said...

Let's get drunk watching Michael Bay movies! Mmm, mmm, bitch!

Matthew said...

This movie was fucking awesome. Manily because, I left my brain at the door. I was in age 5-12 mode and I could give a damn about the actin gor the fact that this movie was rushed more than a burning asshole to the toilet after bad mexican. Imax made it even more enjoyable. When I see a movie i think of 3 things. if its action (do I get excited, was it too compturized, and would I buy the dVD) Yes, I was excited, no it was not as shitty as "Wanted"'s animation and oh hell yeah I will pre0order the dVd. (Drama can they act, will I care, would I buy it) Comedy (was it funny, would i watch it again, and would i buy it)

our expectations for a great plot cannot be that high for a robot flick. but hey, maybe they are. I was in it for the explosions and one liners. The effects were just amazing to me. but I am just a Chiropractor who plays basketball and videogames

MrCHUPON said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MrCHUPON said...

I hate Michael Bay's directing, and I find it hard to excuse the writers' blatant insult towards black people. They're not Chris Rock.