Saturday, July 02, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

By Reymundo Salao

The Transformers movies have become one of the most widely popular movie properties recently. Although I loved the first movie, it seems like the second one had its director Michael Bay run amok with his directorial control, making the most visually overblown but tremendously stupid movie, not to mention the big writer’s strike in the US which also affected the weak script of the movie. Early this year, Bay admitted that the second movie was indeed poorly-made, promised that the third movie would be better and would go deeper into the Transformers mythos. I personally believed that Bay could indeed deliver a better, or at least a satisfying new Transformers sequel. After all, he managed to direct such films as “The Island” which was not a bad movie. On the other hand, I wanted to love the Transformers again and be proud of them because they (the cartoons from the 1980s) were also a big part of my childhood. But my hopes had just gone down the drain. Transformers: The Dark of the Moon was the same piece of juvenile garbage, only louder and more explosive.

Transformers: The Dark of the Moon was like an exercise of giving a criminal recidivist a chance to clean himself up, yet he continues to be a criminal anyway. It was like trying to hope that a junkie can rehabilitate himself. No matter how much perfume you put on shit; it’s still shit.

At first, I was forgiving towards the movie. Sure, there were corny jokes, sure there were silly scenes, but I endured it thinking I could overlook minor little errors of what I wished to be an overall good, or at least satisfying, movie. But the tiny little errors became bigger, then you realize that this director never really learned his lesson from the errors of part 2; repeating the same lousy things that made part 2 a critical mess.

Part 2 was a financial success, but at the same time it was also one of the biggest idiotic movies ever made; which only goes to show that a movie made out of stupidity can be ultra-popular and be a phenomenal box office hit. That is scary because this phenomenon glorifies cinematic idiocy. The last time Bay created something made of sheer stupidity, he was rewarded by tremendous box-office success; I should have expected that he would do the same.

You can tell that there was supposedly a positively interesting and complex script and storyline for this movie. Storyline details such as Sam Witwicky's struggle with his frustrations in life even though he has saved the planet more than once now; there was the conspiracy of how the government knew about the Transformers for a long time already; and then there's the role of Sentinel Prime in this new threat that faces the Earth. But its direction did not give the entire script justice. You can tell that there is a really good storyline under it; Bay couldn’t just merely follow the script; he had to inject his style of corny jokes, insignificant characters, and unimportant sequences over said script. It only proved that no matter how good the story is, Michael Bay's direction can turn it into a big pile of shit.

His crass sense of humor and fratboy sensibilities defines Bay, and is evident in this film. It is as if you put a 12-year old boy in charge of the movie, and surely does remind me of undisciplined and untalented tagalog filmmakers of the 1990s. The film creates its own world and its own set of rules; yet it breaks it later on. The film’s logic is messy and each inconsistency and senselessness insults those who are true fans of the (cartoon) series, because the filmmaker does not take the source material seriously.

The film introduces some new characters that prove to be of no importance after all, than just to deliver little silly jokes that never really do anything to the entire movie; John Malkovich’s talent was wasted over a role that was unimportant after all. The new chick Rosie Huntington Whiteley is a horrible actress. Each sequence with her looks like a cosmetic commercial, and her acting along with her nasal British accent solidifies the blandness of her acting. The crowning glory of awfulness when it comes to her is when the script all of a sudden makes her start a conversation with Megatron, which felt not only as perplexingly misplaced sequence, but also immensely ridiculous.

The change of mood of the movie into being an alien invasion apocalypse would have been a bold progression for this franchise, but taking consideration everything else about this movie (the story, the direction), it becomes a misused ace card.

If only we knew that this was getting to an apocalyptic final act (where there’s basically annihilation of the human race going on), then I felt that it should not have spent too much time with insignificant sequences and lame jokes at the earlier acts. It wasted too much time being pointless at the first half of the movie, and then suddenly overcrowding too much exposition on the second half of the movie.

The film also has some pretty lame continuity issues that do not make sense in the context of the storyline. Why do the Decepticons suddenly have some additional characters such as Soundwave, Shockwave, and Laserbeak? Why did Megatron not summon all the other Decepticons when they fought the Autobots during the last movie? It feels like 90% of the movie relies on a very ""childish cartoon" kind of logic.  Just like the previous movie.

What kind of director introduces an adorable character only to give him a pitiful and embarrassing death scene later on?

I may consider myself as very open-minded when it comes to violence in movies; but there are just too many "cold-blooded point-blank kill scenes of unarmed victims" in this movie to the point of being disturbingly inappropriate. There was this one character which supposedly would and should have been given enough screen time in order to show off his abilities and compensate for what should be some manner of heroic death, instead this character dies in what looks like one of the most sadistically violent scenes in cinema.

As an adaptation, it also failed by repeating the same mistakes of the previous movie; it did not give the title characters; the Transformers the focus it needed. We are in the third movie, and the title characters are still one-dimensional cardboard characters. During the entire time that should have been spent really getting into the robot characters; knowing their personalities as any film would want their audiences to get to know their heroes; instead the focus goes on to the insignificant human characters that really are pretty much one-dimensional themselves. The time that should have been spent seeing how the robots are in action; we spend wasteful lengths of time with the human characters in goof-off scenes and lame action sequences, the next thing we know the robot fight is over and the Autobots have surrendered, and Optimus Prime wastes time being getting clumsily stuck hanging in a messy entanglement of ropes.

It is only the visuals that redeem the movie, the bits of action sequence fragments; these are the little things that make Transformers 3 bearable. I feel you would have to be under 16 years old to really appreciate the movie; If you are older than 16 and you love this movie, then I admire your tolerance for dumb movies.

There really is nothing wrong about a movie wherein you can just give your brain a rest and enjoy a little dumb fun. But being reckless about being too stupid, which is what Transformers 2 and 3 has been doing so far, is something that does glorify stupidity in the art of cinema.

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