But the Transformers franchise is the Anti-Christ, and it must be stopped. Seriously. It's not because these films are thinly disguised toy commercials. And it's not because these films are basically about giant robots fighting each other. I love the idea of giant robots fighting each other. I loved it in the 1980s, when I couldn't get enough Transformers. I love it now. And I have to admit that, by and large, the franchise of films does deliver on the promise of giant robots fighting each other. No, there are different reasons why I believe the movies are actually bad for you.
I've posted before on how much I loathe this franchise. And I held off watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen for about as long as I could. I saw it about six months ago. And it didn't let me down at all. It was just as big a mess as I thought it was going to be. Casually racist, blindingly misogynistic, and totally incoherent. Not all of that was Bay's fault; the script was god-awful. But the little touches that were undoubtedly his were among the most aggravating. That awful Stepin Fecthit pair of Autobots may not have been his idea, but the tiny transformer that humps Megan Fox's leg probably was. Worst of all, his visual style and quick cuts made the action scenes so cluttered that any clear picture of what was going on was almost impossible. The screen simply became filled with metal crashing into metal, with bad guys and good guys indistinguishable from each other.
|I don't care if you're voiced by Nimoy, you still suck.|
The story is also better, or at least, almost coherent. Certainly it makes more sense than any of the previous films. There's a great little prologue involving the Moon Missions of the 1960s, and Shia LaBoeuf gets an interesting character arc at the beginning of the film; how does a guy who's saved the planet twicedeal with being seen by pretty much everyone around him as slacker doofus and not explode from frustration? It allowed for some interesting scenes for him to play. And LaBoeuf really does act his heart out.
But, that's where the good things end. There's still the same rampant misogyny, which is really getting tiring. Bay infamously fired Megan Fox after she made a few disparaging remarks about the guy, and replaced her with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, a model who is not an improvement in any way. In fact, I thought she was a robot herself due to her complete inability to express any emotion whatsoever. I thought he might have corrected his treatment of women in films by hiring the astounding Frances McDormand, but she provides nothing aside from a slight obstacle, and her government agent character is not only set up as a jerk, but she also needs to get her butt saved by John Turturro's embarrassing caricature. Bay also manages to sneak a joke in about the Japanese and how those crazy people make strange machines like photocopiers! Awesome.
|Remember how much you loved this guy? Yeah, he's nowhere near this movie.|
In the final analysis, this film suffers from the same problems that both the earlier installments suffered from, namely laziness and a lack of heart. The effects and the action set pieces are not treated this way, but the story and the characters most certainly are. People don't behave consistently, and caricatures are placed right next to so-called actual characters that we're supposed to care about. The action, as well done as it is, is also pretty intense for a film series that is designed to appeal to 11 year old boys. More than one good guy coldly tells various bad guys, "I'm going to kill you". I'm not saying that PG action films can't be that intense, but they have to earn that level, and Transformers doesn't. It's a toy commercial, and its tone is so all over the place that when it does go to the dark place, it feels woefully inappropriate rather than an earned escalation.
Again, I feel this is different than other bad movies, say like Green Lantern. Green Lantern understands its audience, and tried to make a film for them, they just made mistakes that led to a bad film. Transformers: Dark of the Moon thinks its a great film, and makes choices that seems to say, "They're going to come see it, so we don't have to care that much about story or the characters, we can just throw anything we want in there as long as it ends with a giant robot battle." That's crass, and the epitome of soulless marketing.
It has made a huge amount of money, so I'm guessing Transformers will be back. Here's hoping Bay has had enough and feels the need to move on, because a fresh mind may still be able to give us the gooey robot centre, without wrapping it up in all that soullessness.