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Geek Movie Ungoodness: Transformers: The IMAX Experience

I have it on good authority that Ebay exchanged a Transformers-themed home page in a no-cash deal for the auction site’s integral appearance in the movie’s plot. Chevrolet offered extensive advertising cross-promotion in exchange for the Autobots taking the form of shiny, new Chevy cars and trucks.

But I bet most people didn’t even register the film’s other high-profile branding exercise.

I wonder what the military did to get the new V-22 Osprey aircraft featured so prominently in the opening scenes of the movie, just ahead of the heli-plane’s debut in combat duty in Iraq. Could it be that the brass were worried about bad press? Perhaps in the form of a Time cover story this week indicating that the aircraft’s development has been a deadly waste of money? Nothing like a handful of handsome, charming, multi-cultural actors and some inspiriting rock-and-roll music to make glassy-eyed audiences forget that this fundamentally-flawed vehicle has already cost $20 billion and 30 lives. Yeah.

I do have a point to this tangent. One, I love to educate. Just call me the Secretary of Staying on Top of Current Events so You Don’t Have to. (I can read the cover of a magazine sitting on a newsstand with the best of ’em.)

Two, this puff piece with the Osprey is fully representative of the experience of watching Michael Bay movies, and Transformers is no different. Michael Bay hopes that if he makes the images pretty enough (and I mean both the effects and his actors), and the sound effects loud enough, you’ll forget that you’re watching a piece of drek that’s otherwise devoid of redeeming qualities.

Ha, now let me tell you how I really feel.

What do Optimus Prime and Megan Fox have in common? Better seen, not heard.

Shia LaBeouf: Whatever charm with which you insinuated yourself into America’s good graces altogether abandoned you in this movie. Your character was a loud, spastic, obnoxious, self-centered asshole, and I couldn’t have cared either way if you had died. I saw the movie with my brother, and we agreed that your best moments in the film were when you were staring–drooling and mouth agape–at the remarkable Transformers… and not talking.

In fact, not one character was convincingly developed beyond the shell of a simile of an actual human being, and thereby established firm indifference on my part regarding the fates of any and all of the characters. In fact, characters, I rather hoped that some of you and your heavy-handed, stereotypical archetypes would die… in some entertainingly comical way of course, under some Transformer’s foot. Especially you, generic, mindless Indian call center guy. And you, Latino soldier who only speaks in rapid-fire Spanish when he’s excited. And you, salty-mouthed old lady, who gives people the finger, to the entertainment of no one. The list goes on.

And the treatment of the Transformers! Awful! The Decepticons were just about spot-on, but they only enjoyed about ten minutes of screen time with dialogue, at the end of the film! Meanwhile, the portrayal of the Autobots was an insult to the honorable, skilled, and intelligent robots that most of us remember from the 80s cartoon. I think I winced hard enough to burst a blood vessel in my forehead when Optimus Prime accidentally trampled a garden and said, “Oops!” Almost as bad as his “My bad!” when he demolished a lawn ornament. The pinnacle of insult came during a lame and completely pointless five-minute version of a Keystone Kops routine in the middle of the film, when LaBeouf’s character was frantically searching his house for an important artifact and corralling his oblivious parents while the Autobots tried to keep a low profile in the front yard. I fully expected Optimus to say, “Yuk, yuk,” and poke Jazz in the eye socket, prompting LaBeouf to throw his arms up in the air and say, “Ay, caramba!”

Speaking of the painfully bad gags in the movie. (Lest I call them “jokes.”) Rather than recreate them for you, I’ll paint the scene: Character makes a bad pun or does something “wacky.” No one laughs. I grimace. One dude in the audience decides it will be fun to mock the movie by laughing exaggeratedly during all the parts that are supposed to be funny. Rather than appreciate his intent (because it’s not the kind of unfunny that’s so unfunny that it’s funny), I want to hit him in the throat, because I hate it when people belabor the obvious. Dude quickly tires of his own lameness and the audience spends the rest of the movie in silence.

On the other hand, the Transformers were rendered beautifully. Once you could get past their strange and un-expressive faces. Oh, and all the Decepticons were difficult to tell apart. But, you know… other than that. The visuals were truly spectacular. Almost enough so to distract you from the plot’s frequent and painful gaping holes in logic. I only wish that more of the action sequences had been presented in slow motion. The couple of bits in slow motion were really a treat, and the other parts were difficult to discern because everything was happening so fast.

My brother saw the first release of the film, and now the IMAX “extended version.” (Bless his heart, as they say in Georgia.) He indicated that, in all, only approximately three minutes of extra footage was included in this cut. And they were three bad minutes of cheap gags. Really cheap. You’re not missing anything, except lowbrow abuse of racial stereotypes. If I were a black person, I’d almost be insulted… except that Michael Bay makes every racial group seem pretty mindless and one-dimensional.

Don’t waste your money seeing this one at the theaters. Or renting it. Record it when it comes to HBO in high-definition. Fast-forward to the good parts, and watch those in slow motion.

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7 comments… add one
  • Paul October 8, 2007, 11:13 am

    Okay, I’ll do it:

    Hey, I liked Transformers!

  • nickolai October 8, 2007, 5:26 pm

    I’m with you GWS. Bay really pissed all over this most beloved of childhood toy-licenses-masked-as-entertainment-properties.

    When Optimus was getting thoroughly thrashed by Megatron, why didn’t he whip out his power sword again? Seems as though if you’re about to die, you’d pull out all the stops, no? Think Bay, think!

  • Great White Snark October 8, 2007, 5:32 pm

    I saw no power sword.

    I did, however, see a Voltron sword.

  • Anim8or October 20, 2007, 2:52 pm

    lol… I have it on good authority that you liked Robocop. Now, in the grand scheme of “theater” I’ll admit this was not amazing, but in the world of geekdom I had geek-wood a couple times, and in the quagmire that is Bay films, this one had a a very small number of moments that wanted to make me vomit on the lady in front of me.

    In general, I thought this was a rather entertaining flick. I may be jaded by the fact that I worked on it, but they did cut over half my work, and I still enjoyed it… for the most part… But I still think Robocop is the best movie ever, so..

  • Great White Snark October 20, 2007, 3:27 pm

    Fair enough… I’ll give you that it was entertaining, but not always in the intended way, methinks.

    By any chance, did any of your work involve Optimus Prime break-dancing? Because that very well could have elevated the entire film.

  • DavidR August 22, 2008, 8:58 am

    One of many critiques I have of this movie, indeed all Michael Bay movies is the shaky cam. It’s mother-effing Transformers! I want to see the robots beat the hell out of each other, especially at close range.
    Michael Bay and the people he inspires seem to think that shaking the camera during a fight scene to the point where you can’t actually see the damn fight is exciting. What? The only parts where you can see the actually fighting have that posed “We’re going to use this shot for a poster” look. The rest is just blurred together so fast you can’t figure out who’s in the fight if you happened to miss the start of it.
    It’s especially annoying considering the fact that it’s 100% CGI in those scenes, so it’s not horrible camera work, it’s simulated horrible camera work.
    I have to wonder if he has some sort of cousin with a serious inner ear problem, and that possibly he shoots or creates scenes for that cousin’s personal enjoyment.
    Anyway, my two cents.

  • eric:p October 25, 2008, 7:35 am

    Michael Bay is a pathetic monkey turd. Thank you for affirming what I’ve been telling my students for the past two years – to the inevitable reply (to a man, to a woman) of: “Dude, you’re crazy! That movie’s GREAT!”

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