Let’s start off with the obligatory apology about the lack of recent updates. I’ve been under a very dark cloud for the last few weeks, which has only just begun to subside. Although I’ve been recording new episodes of Cinemaslave on a (more or less) regular basis, I haven’t even bothered to announce the release of the last several shows here; hopefully you’re all subscribed to the podcast’s RSS feed through iTunes or a similar podcatching program and have managed to stay current. I’ll do better with the web updates, honest. I’ve missed y’all.
So, in happier news, I saw a sneak preview of Transformers last night.
Close your eyes and imagine what a Michael Bay film about giant pissed-off alien robots would look like. Now open your eyes and congratulate yourself on your uncanny accuracy, because Transformers is indeed a movie full of breathtaking explosions, feel-good action beats, ham-fisted character developement, trite romantic sub-plots, and numerous *excruciating slooooow-moooootion* sequences, held together by a low-brow sense of humor.
Which doesn’t mean that it’s not fun. Let’s tick off the good and the bad points.
* The special effects are top-notch. Bumblebee was noticably CGI-ish in a few shots, but otherwise the visuals alternated between solid and stunning.
* The robot redesigns are interesting and well-imagined. A lot of people have been quick to slam Bay for ruining (??) the look of these characters, but I approve of the new designs. Live-action versions of the animated characters would have just looked silly.
* The Autobots, although allied with humanity, still come across as dangerous beings who aren’t going to take crap from anyone. I liked their dark edge… they don’t come across as angelic pussies, as they often did in the cartoon.
* There’s an obvious love for the original source material. Although Bay’s version of Bumblebee looks completely unlike his animated counterpart, there’s a subtle but unmistakable nod to the original VW Beetle design in an early scene of the movie. Fans will eat it up.
Now the bad:
* The movie is much too long, running 2 hours 45 minutes from the start of the pre-movie trailers until the end credits. I didn’t think the film had enough weight to justify such an epic running time. The movie was simply languid; pulling out 20-30 minutes would have helped it immeasurably.
* As with Armageddon, the film is edited so briskly that I found myself lost on occasion (i.e., My brain gets stuck trying to process the 16-frame clip that I just saw, and it can’t decipher the 18-frame shot that follows it). Let the record show that I have had this problem with every single Michael Bay movie I’ve ever seen.
* The love story is just horrible. It’s unnecessary and distracting, which is always the case in these sorts of films. The world is ending… do we really need to have our heroes sitting around making googly eyes at each other?
* Michael Bay is not quite as funny as he seems to think he is. A few of the jokes are amusing (including one character’s assertion that the events of this film are “about a hundred times better than anything in Armageddon“), but some of the gags are too juvenile for my tastes. (There are two different urine jokes, for instance, as well as an unnecessary and inappropriate discussion of masturbation. I’m no prude, but did Bay forget that this film is based on a line of kids’ toys? However, the folks around me seemed to enjoy these scenes, so perhaps no one else minded.)
* This is yet another movie written and directed by people who obviously have no idea how PCs work. I love how computer screens provide a lot of the film’s exposition, with the monitors helpfully displaying key plot points for no discernible reason. Yeah, whatever.
Nonetheless, Transformers is a pretty solid example of “spectacle” filmmaking. It’s big, loud, and very, very stupid… but who expected anything more? I’m glad I saw it, though I can’t imagine ever watching it again.