[Reader's Discression is Advised] Bayformers-2 is... bittersweet
This blog entry was originally written July 19th, 2009, but was delayed in posting due to technical difficulties.
I finally got to see "Transformers- Revenge of the Fallen" (PG-13) in IMAX Digital on Saturday. What did I think of it...?
Whatever I say below, it is a given that the visual and audio effects were breathtaking, as is to be expected. Therefor, they do not weigh into my, um... "issues" with the film.
I have been raised my entire life in a household, and in neighborhoods, that do not have to deal with racism. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I like to think we are a little more forward-thinking than other parts of America, and so I have never encountered it face-to-face, save for in mixed media.
Additionally, such a concept- perhaps because of my raising- is rather alien from a social standpoint because of my lack of understanding some of society's many unspoken rules due to my living with Asperger's syndrome.
So, discussing my feelings on it may seem basic and un-evolved, with no in-depth understanding/perception of where/how it works. Nor could I hope to emulate or impersonate it correctly. ...And truthfully, do I really want a clearer understanding of such an issue?
With that disclaimer in mind...
Infamously, when "Transformers" came out in 2007, the biggest issues I heard beforehand were of, literally, trivial matters: Optimus Prime was going to be a long-nose conventional truck (in order to accommodate a larger robot mode of 28'), and he had red & blue flames along the nose and cabin of his vehicle mode (because the director thought it would look cool, and were not very noticeable in robot mode). Why- "shenanigans!", did the fans declare. They even went as far as to say, "Death to Michael Bay!" But after the film was released, those narrow-minded baka became far-less vocal when they found that these may not be as big an issue as they once thought.
Some still protest even in 2009, but they appear to be in the minority.
But, an undercurrent flowed throughout, not only the fandom, but through the public at-large which caught me completely by surprise. The first time around, I was able to see the film in the opening week (guess how often that happens to me-?), and so I was not influenced by reviews.
- There was a heavy black dude who ate a plate-full of donuts, and turned on his attractive Caucasian friend instantly when he thought he was cornered by the Feds. His Grandma is nosy and doesn't like police walkin' on her carpet.
- There was an Arabic phone operator who was too dense to recognize that US Special Forces were under fire and needed immediate help. Well- he wasn't gonna be bother by that impertinent, impatient voice on the other end of the line, was he? No.
- A man with a Spanish accent and his "clown cousin" worked at a used car lot because they couldn't do any better, and were ridiculed by the lot's owner- also a black man, with a bad, awkward laugh- when they went "Ricky Ricardo".
- An alien robot, who had never interacted with humans before one-on-one, was attempting to emulate them by using a native dialogue. His first line? "What's crackin', little bitches?" Oh yeah, and the actor who played that voice was black.
- None of the lead actors in the movie were black, not even the robots.
- There was als-- aww hell, I can't even name them all!
But for some reason, this was Michael Bay being racist right under the noses of America. Yep- he shur' got'ch'all there, din'n he?
Well, let's think here: the fat guy was considered one of the best computer hackers in the world and successfully decoded an advanced alien computer signal on the first try; the phone operator-bit was based on a real event that happened years earlier to a Special Forces team in Nicaragua, establishing that such things can and did happen in the real world; the guy who voiced the original G1 character (RIP) was also black and spoke in such fashion with no complaint and was even admired by long-time fans; and, oh yeah- the guy who coordinated the Air Forces' surgical strikes on giant robots in the middle of downtown Mission City was black.
Wow- it really sounds like these guys grew up in the Bronks, huh? Yep, shur' nuff.
I know that I try to sound like I know what I'm talking about in ridiculing these critics (I also acknowledge how awkward I am at doing such!), but I truthfully don't see what the problem is. That is not to say that I agree that stereotypes were used- just that I don't see it at all.
That may be me being ignorant.
. . .
Flash forward two years.
This is being hailed as 'the second coming of Jar-Jar Binks'. They come a-callin' from the desecrated planet of Cybertron, and there are two of them. They don't fight a lot... except with each other. They have big wide ears and large eyes like a Gremlin. They are hunched-over, and have disproportionate bodies- large arms, small legs, thick torsos. (Some say they look like monkeys- that term also being a racial epitaph- but I truthfully didn't see that.) Oh, and they both have large buck teeth- one of them has a gold tooth!
The Autobot twin brothers. Portrayed by actors Reno Wilson (the black dude who brilliantly voiced Frenzy in the first film) and Tom Kenny (not a black dude, who voices SpongeBob Squarepants and "Transformers Animated" Starscream). Disguised forms: Chevrolet Trax (concept), and Chevrolet Beat (concept). Their Autobot designations: scouts. Their purpose in the film: comic relief.
This time around, I saw the film in mid-July, almost a month after it opened. By then, these two were making headlines nation-wide, so it was inevitable I would read something before I saw the film. (I try to avoid film spoilers like the Plague wherever possible, BTW.) So, this time, I knew what was coming, though not to what degree.
Perhaps it is because I had advance notice of what was happening that I saw what the critics were saying this time. Or perhaps I now saw it for what it was- a stereotype. I am not certain which one would win out, but I did notice something... um, 'off'. But I will not speculate here on that either; the point is I noticed it.
While- as mentioned above- I am rather blind to racism unless pointed out, as was the case with the first film, I do not see this as a stereotype, nor do I agree that stereotypes were used. It may be staring me in the face as I type this, and I know some of you will bash me over the head for it, but I was not displeased with them because of the racial implications.
Squabbling alien robot brothers sounds funny, quaiaff? But- in my view of Skids and Mudflap- I was more annoyed with their presence than offended by their personalities. They were simply there. And the only time they did something significant was after Mudflap had been literally eaten by Devastator, and Skids broke down and mourned for the loss of his brother. They finally did something in the finale- they teamed up against the Constructicon gattai. Being scouts usually doesn't denote heavy firepower, but I end up rooting for them only because they are the little guys trying desperately to beat the far-bigger bad guy.
To me, simply having Mudflap and Skids in the film for so long and not really doing anything significant to their presence is annoying.
My example "A" comes from the first film, in the form of Ratchet. Here was an Autobot field doctor who rode around with Optimus Prime-tachi for [presumably] hundreds of years as they searched for the AllSpark. Whatever may have happened off-world is irrelevant. He was put in the story as a doctor to be a doctor. I was extremely irritated at the end of that movie when, all that Ratchet fixed- off-screen, no less!- was Bumblebee's "vocal processor". (So, you can imagine my rage when, come two years later, BB is still spouting lines from "Forrest Gump"!) I mean, I expected to at least see Ratchet bent over the broken-in-half Jazz at the end despite his own injuries. Or howsabout running over to BB when he lost his legs? Let's see some of that Cybertronian technology being repaired! I want to see a doctor being a doctor! The TV series "ER" is different from a soap opera in that you actually see doctors being doctors, rather than focusing on their presence in a story. What- can't afford the cost of the CGI? Then tell us in dialogue that he at least gave it a shot!
And so, I treat Skids and Mudflap with the same irritation in this film- they do nothing until they're pinned down. For the record, the only time I appreciated those two on-screen was when they started scuffling with each other in the El Deir temple at Petra (which, for at least the second time in American cinema has been moved to another location other than where it truly rests, in Jordan), and Bumblebee promptly threw them out the door. Now that was funny!
Oh, also- these two have taken the title away from movie-Bumblebee for "Face that only a mother could love", IMO. And that's saying something!
Aside from giant robots pounding the hell outta each, there are two images that stick vividly in my mind...
"Transformers" featured no real big-name actors- the robots were the stars of the show, despite having so little time on-screen (this due, understandably, to budget constraints). Shia LeBeouf and Megan Fox have since become household names for their own reasons, but they more-or-less got their big shots thanks to Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay. John Turturro (who?) and Jon Voight (the traitorous Jim Phellips in the first "Mission: Impossible" movie) were know beforehand, as well as Australian Hugo "Agent Smith" Weaving and Peter Cullen (by TF fans-only for the most part). Beyond that, no other names stick out that much. Oh, I forgot- comedian Bernie Mac (RIP) did a cameo (a role which could easily have gone to a no-name, IMHO).
Anyways, Shia is an improv genius, and Megan is... eye candy. In making a hard-edged world of Transformers for the big screen, you get things introduced that weren't really a part of it before, and end up making it more real and less cartoon-y. The only reasons, really, that the character Mikaela Banes is in the movie(s) is because the lead guy needs a girl, for... whatever. In DVD commentary and featurettes, there were only two standards for the character- laid out best by director Bay: she had to run a lot, and she had to have a nice stomach.
Does sexuality belong in a movie about giant shape-shifting alien robots? I don't think so, and when I saw "Transformers", I thought the same.
As Mikaela is bending over an unrevealed-Bumblebee's engine, the production team gives us some very generous looks at this f-f-f-fine-lookin' female. However, upon reflection, this is the only time that this happens in the entire film. It is a moment that is the entire justification of the character being there to begin with. (Driving said BB out of the danger zone could have been done by an S-7 soldier.) And it isn't brought up again in any form, even when the character is in potentially-physically-compromising positions later on. Boom. Done. Thank you for the glimpse, Michael Bay, even if it wasn't warranted.
. . .
Flash forward two years.
Ahh- college... The days of getting to know society and the world at-large beyond clicks and puberty. We no longer care about whether-or-not we are sexual beings- that has been established already, thank you. Now you're in the business of simply getting some while not advertising anything compromising or embarrassing yourself... a challenge you will try to meet for the rest of your life, I'm sorry to say.
Frat parties- woooo! A time for smokin', sniffin', drinkin', sharin', dancin', poppin', darin', bondin', and flirtin'. Big lights, big music, big parties, big headaches the next mornin', and sometimes the cops show up at 3am. And, if you're lucky, you might just get that special gift that never stops givin' too.
This is one of those time-honored- but never refined- traditions that happens on just about every campus across America if it has a co-ed dormitory. You cannot escape them, and they can always move off-campus if the admin doesn't like having fun; what do they know.
If you are a geek (or, admittedly, someone like me), this is alien territory- you are a fish outta water.
So, Sam moves to [Princeton], and gets placed with a conspiracy theorist and his little clan of techno-geeks (to make it harder for him to deny giant robots are among us, mind you). There is this little problem, though, of the fact that he now unknowingly possesses the entire stored knowledge of the Krell within his fragile ape's brain. And Megatron wants what's in his mind, yes. But, if cars aren't allowed for first-year witches and wizards, how can a Decepticon get him out into the open for a little alien probin', ya know what I'm sayin'? Simple: do not use Soundwave to triangulate his parents and persuade Sam to give himself up by taking them hostage. Do not wait a few weeks for him to leave campus since you've waited over 16,000 years for revenge. (Why are bad guys always in such a hurry at the last minute?)
No. Use another far-more vague and obscure little G1 toyline which nobody liked even back then and has not returned since... Yes, boys and girls- a Pretender. (All the boys and girls say, "A wha-?")
Newcomer Australian actress Isabel Lucas portrays the very tempting "Alice", who seems to be drawn to our Mr. Witwicky like an Orion slave girl to Captain Kirk- for no damn good reason. (*gasp* Ohh, wait-- What was that little look just then? You like palaeontologists, huh? You find those nonsensical symbols attractive in a man? That makes him worth pursuing, huh? Really...? Odd, but I guess if that's what you're into... *shrugs*)
(BTW, tell me again how Sam netted that "evil-jock concubine", ROFL...? Oh, yeah- 'cause the script said so.)
So far, so good, right? We're all on the same page now? I'm not too-far off-base?
So, Sam has a nervous breakdown right in the middle of his first class of the day. Poor kid. Seriously. He runs to his room and calls his girlfriend (who has developed quite the little booty and one heck of a tan since we last saw her). Boom- she'll be there in a few hours after catching a Decepticon and not telling him that it is attracted to her left leg because she burnt its eye out during the phone call. (Not even Security noticed the very complex and oddly-animated machinery wiggling about that metal case as it was being screened. Our post-9/11 tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen. No wonder the Autobots won't share their weapons technology with us, QQ.)
In a repeat of history, Sam begins writing strange symbols all over his room, and Alice and [that other guy] walk in on him in the midst of a spaz-attack. Exit [that other guy].
Now, clearly this kid wasn't a regular Tom Leykis listener, and remained committed to his little criminal friend. Good for him for standing up for what he believes. Long-distance relationships are too easy to break, but just in case, they always have a "long-distance relationship kit". Kid: you're not married, you haven't said the "L" word yet despite her begging ('atta boy, Sam!), she's a thousand miles away, and you won't have it this easy again.
Oh, by the way, did you forget that we are about an hour into a movie about giant shape-shifting alien robots intent on wiping us out? I did. Here's why:
Sam needs to relax, and Alice won't take "No" for an answer. He's just playing with her, he wants it. He's just saying "No" to temp her further. He's struggling because he likes stronger women. He says he has a girlfriend, but he's probably lying. He's just shy, and feels vulnerable. Just ignore his protests. Don't worry, Sam, she'll make it al-- WTF is THAT!?
Oh, she's just an Emaan.
No, no- while that may be a 4' tentacle sneaking cautiously out from beneath her skirt, it is definitely not biological. Oop- someone's at the door. Get back under there little tentacle... there ya go.
Aww- it's Mikaela, come to the rescue! Or, at least, she was 'til she saw her beau lip-locked with another woman.
. . .
I'm gonna let you all in on a little something. This may seem like I'm telling you more than you wanted to know about me, but it partly explains why I do not like this moment, and so feels important for me to share it.
Glimpse now into the mind of an Aspie, mwa-ha-ha-ha...
I do not mix sex and sci-fi/fantasy. I just can't do it.
One fleetingly-rare exception may be Princess Leia dolled-up as Dejah Thoris. Some of the paintings by renowned artist Martin Bower are also appealing. But, even then... Seven-of-Nine from seasons 4-7 of "Star Trek Voyager"? Sexy, certainly, but distracting. (You can tell I wasn't raised in the era of Kirk and his many women; these days I quickly roll my eyes at that soft-focus they threw on ladies in the '60s.)
In my mind, if you want to use sex in mainstream media, you have to do it tastefully (no pun intended) or else I'm out very quickly and it becomes irritating. This is why I am not a fan of the slasher films of the '80s and '90s- sex being used in moments of horror to get your blood pumping is not my idea of hotness. (Truth be told, I have a very low tolerance for gore anyways, so I wouldn't watch slasher films.)
When a woman is portrayed in a sexual light, I am in that zone and don't tolerate much variance when there; same when I'm in my sci-fi/fantasy zone.
Perhaps it is because one of the symptoms of Asperger's is poor adaptation to any transition that suddenly switching gears like this messes up my mental gearbox. But I am not quite willing to chuck it all up just to my disability yet. I don't know, and further more I will not delve into the hows and whys of what I think; that I will not discuss here.
As with Mikaela leaning over Bumblebee, I enjoyed the view, but thought it was misplaced in the film.
This time around, however, it was different. While college denotes a certain level of exploration into society, that was perhaps to be expected in "Revenge of the Fallen". But not to the level it was taken here.
I know that the film is rated PG-13, and it certainly deserved that rating just for intensity of the effects, the death of Optimus (surprising but certainly not unheard of) and Devastator's balls. (-_-; More on this later...) And not just once, but twice we got a panty-shot of Alice, which was totally uncalled for!
If you wanna have a tentacle popping out from under her skirt... I suppose you have to have female monsters be female monsters somehow, and that's okay. But the specific angle was completely unnecessary. It just felt... unnerving. Show her leaning over Sam, and don't look up her skirt as the tentacle came up, and I would have had no problem. Having tentacles on a female is not unheard of for a 'children's show'- the cecaelia Ursula in Disney's "The Little Mermaid" franchise has six o' them, and she was a very invasive creature.
It's just... that panty-shot pissed me off so badly, not necessarily that she had a tentacle!
"Transformers" establishes another TF multi-verse which is harder-edged and more dramatic than most/all previous ones. And this is to make it stick with audiences that don't buy the toys, and yet show what these things are all about. While it is said to be "G1-inspired", using the terms "Inspired by..." and "Based on..." in Hollywood can be very deceptive from the source materials in what you eventually end up with on the big (and sometimes little) screen.
There is humor in the first film, and for the most part it plays well, IMO.
- "No... No no no no no, Dad-! Aww- you gotta be kidding me!"
"Yeah, I am- you're not gettin' a Porsche. Ha ha ha ha!"
" -_-# "
- '76-Camaro Bumblebee smacks a yellow Volkswagen Beetle
- "Uh, I need a credit card! Epps! Where's your wallet?"
"My back pocket!"
"You got ten back pockets here-!"
"Left cheek! Left cheek! Left cheek!"
- "What are you talkin' about, man?"
"Satan's Camaro, in my yard. It's stalking me!"
- "Not so tough without a head, are ya!?" (*kick*)
- Frenzy is startled by a goldfish
- giant robots trying to hide in a backyard from something called a "parent"
- "Ah, Judy? Better call the power company. Tell them we got a blown transformer; power poll's sparking all over the place. Can't believe this- what a waste. It's all gone... Trashed, gone!"
- "The 'parents' are getting very irritating--"
"--can I take them out?"
"Ironhide-! You know we don't harm humans. What is with you!?"
"Well, I'm just sayin' we could... It's an option."
- Frenzy falls off the edge of Hoover Dam
-and for the most part we all seem to agree on these points. But, the movie is still serious and dramatic. People- and 'bots- die, and good American citizens are frightened.
However, I must remind myself of some of the stuff that wasn't believable. I refer to the relatively-unbelievable stunts pulled by one Sam Witwicky within a 4-minute span in the first film:
- DVD index 00:48:31- Sam- on his stupid mom's bike- runs into a concrete bump, and flips over the handlebars, landing squarely on his back. The end result? "Well, it felt awesome." Naw, he's fine; he groans a little, tries to be funny, and pedals off again.
- 00:49:46- Sam- on his stupid mom's bike- crashes head-first into Barricade's suddenly-open door, landing on his face. The end result? "Ugh. Oh, that hurt." Naw, he's fine; a little outta breath, but he gets right back up.
- 00:50:35- Sam, running away from Barricade- gets hit full-on in the back and is flung almost 60' in the air, landing on his back and shattering a glass windshield of an abandoned car. The end result? "Ohh- it's a bad dream--" Naw, he's fine; a little more outta breath, but still conscious and able to converse with a Decepticon yelling in his ear.
- 00:51:09- In order to prevent Mikaela from getting hurt by a monster, Sam reaches his arm out and smacks her in the chest backwards off her moped moving at perhaps 20mph. They both land on their backs in opposite directions. The end result? "What is your problem, Sam!?" Naw, they're fine. Good thing she was wearing a helmet, or she coulda gotten hurt.
In each case, these are life-threatening injuries or certainly warrant a trip to the emergency room for dislocated limbs and life-altering disabilities, and yet each time they make it just fine. There are a few other instances, but nothing as intense as above.
. . .
Flash forward two years.
When chasing Decepticons Demolisher and Sideways through the streets of Shanghai, China, several Non-biological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty (N.E.S.T.) agents and numerous Chinese civilians loose their lives... (And Optimus' surprising reputation for brutally messin' up 'bots' faces is reinforced.)
When we return to N.E.S.T.'s headquarters on Diego Garcia, we see caskets draped in American flags being rolled out of the heavy C-17 Globemaster cargo planes- a reminder of the dangerous task these humans (and Autobots) face each time they go out.
An entire minute-long segment is dedicated to the sinking of an American aircraft carrier an hour-and-a-half later- the entire crew of 3000 lost- as a swarm of newly-arrived Decepticons crawl across its hull. (Creepy, that well-detailed sinking, I must admit...)
The world is a dangerous place, and people die easily.
So, Mikaela walks out on Sam after she finds him suckin' face. But when he finally manages to get out from under Alice, she still won't let him go... literally. Her tongue suddenly snakes out as a 12-foot tentacle, she grabs Sam by his neck, and she proceeds to try to smear him across two walls and various other hard obstacles for about half a minute- with that widely-spaced crouch to balance herself, and that rather nasty little grin on her lips.
This is what is known as whiplash in the extreme.
(Um, so, Alice? Need I remind you that, if you kill that boy by breaking his neck, it'll be you who's gonna be a smear before Megatr- uh, The Fallen's might...? No? Okay- just checkin'...)
No one comes to Sam's aid, he manages to hang on to the tentacle, and miraculously survives the ordeal when she chooses to let go for... whatever reason.
BTW, one of the funniest things I saw in that 4-story IMAX theater was watching a young woman sitting near me suddenly half-jump into her boyfriend's lap when Alice's face started to melt to reveal the robot within. I just wanted to turn and say to her, "Really-? After seeing a tentacle slip out from both under her skirt and mouth, you're choosing to jump now???"
(The sad part is, her reaction was funnier than some of the stuff that was in that movie.)
(Oh, and where exactly does that Pretender store those two tentacles when she's not wrapped around stuff? Five words: "I'll never do that again".
...Um, no. That's- that's... wrong. Oh, right: "'No mass-shifting', my ass!" Sorry- had a little out-of-movie experience there.)
But, ya know what? There is another I'm leading up to here.
So, Sam, Mikaela, [that other guy], and Bumblebee all escape danger... for the moment, when Grindor plucks them outta the air and flies them halfway across town. (Yes, I know it's another MH-53 Pave Low like in the first movie, but it's not Blackout! Grindor is literally just a repaint; Blackout was killed in the first movie, and some of his parts were used to rebuild Megatron along with Devasta- uh, Brawl's.) While flying them, he never stops to make sure Sam doesn't fall to his death, or that when he drops them it's from a safe altitude rather than from 200ft up!
That also pissed me off- the complete lack of safety for human characters in this movie!
But, while that's the big problem, there's one more thing I got to mention- Sam being tortured.
Or rather, he wasn't, was he? I'm not sure.
When I was younger, I had to undergo a surgical procedure where I had a tube stuffed down my throat. Because the plastic tube would eventually irritate my esophagus, it would be difficult (but not impossible) for me to talk and swallow for a day-or-so. Certainly I wasn't feeling all that hot when I let the hospital later on.
So, here I am- about to sympathize with Sam as Scalpel (aka "The Doctor") sticks this thing into his mouth... when I see that, not only is he not choking or convulsing as his airway is blocked, but he's actually trying to talk as this thing wiggles through his face, extends to tentacles through his nose, and into his brain!
And here's my point: I don't know about anyone else, but in addition to scaring the living s*** outta me, gouging up my soft tissues beyond repair, mentally scarring me and causing great psychological damage, I don't think I'd be able to breathe or let alone be in any sort of mindset to antagonize a giant walking tank for a few days! Hell- such an experience might just kill me!
Yo, Ratchet- ya got a neuralyzer? No? Damn.
(Boy- Bay sure had a thing for tentacles in this movie, huh? Soundwave, Alice, Scalpel's probe, the interior of the [Nemesis], and Devastator... Guess that tells you more about his tastes in anime than anything else. Made me cringe each time, ughh!)
. . .
So, I guess it's safe to call Sam Witwicky 'the next coming of Neo' because nothin', but nothin', beats this guy! And it actually takes a shot from Megatron in Egypt to finally put him outta his misery... and then he comes back again! Like daisies!
Granted, having the Primes speaking to him in death was a cool kind of kind of cliche, but still-!
Megatron- if I were you, I'd stop worrying about Optimus Prime since this kid ain't goin' down so long as Michael Bay is in charge...
(Um... that field medic did declare him dead, right?)
Beyond the annoyance of the Twins, those utterly-tasteless panty shots (and general increase in sexuality), and a blatant disregard for realistic continuity in the safety and/or injury of characters (particularly the treatment of Sam), I move on to smaller matters now... assuming you've stuck with me through those rants.
(I apologize for their extended lengths, but I needed to make myself clear and set up my opinions correctly.)
My biggest complaint in "Transformers" was Sector 7 Agent Simmons. In short, I hated his character, he was an idiot in an organization where idiocy can the end of humanity! His snipes, his whimpering and winning when he didn't get his way, and disregard for new information. When he found out that the Witwickys had "direct contact", I fully expected him to sober-up for the rest of the film... but he never did. It's almost like the character- or rather how he acted- was completely misplaced and out-of-touch with the tone of the film.
I had never seen actor John Turturro before, so I know nothing about his other performances, and I didn't/won't allow that handicap to interfere with my opinion of the character he portrayed. Could it have gone to someone else? I don't know- I tend to think Simmons was all on the writing and directing side of the production rather than the acting side and Turturro's input. (Not knowing him personally, I agree with Bay that Simmons didn't really resemble him.)
But, I am of the [mistaken?] opinion that people can change if they want it badly enough. So I was positively stunned when I no longer hated ex-Agent Seymour Simmons in "Transformers- Revenge of the Fallen"! Granted the whole "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country" shtick he fed [that other guy] in the finale was cliched and annoying, but beyond that, I liked him taking a controlling stance without the attempt at intimidation and arrogance that he had the first time around.
Is Simmons a favorite character now? No. Did he need to be in the sequel? Ehh... I guess so. Did I laugh at his Frenzy trophy-head in the jar? Absolutely.
. . .
Sam's parents are idiots. While his dad couldn't see black from white in the first film, his mom is an absolute nut case- are you telling me that she didn't know what was in that bag on-campus? Are you kidding me??? I don't care if she didn't go to college or not- that was an attempt at humor that did not strike me as funny (though it did others in [my] audience).
. . .
Why did they get a second dog? Why? And WTF was up with Mojo, like, randomly humping a completely different species of dog? And that goes double for Wheelie- why should he feel the need to do that, let alone even know about that particular motion??? Bay- that was not funny. Period. Shame on you. The audience only laughed because it was awkward to watch; as a director, you should be able to recognize that specific sound by now.
. . .
Random electric appliance 'bots running about the Witwicky house = awesome. (I'm gonna try to get some of those Scout-class toys!) The reason the All Spark fragment stopped sinking? I don't know, but "no reason at all" is not good enough!
I still say we need to get a Voyager-class Dispenser from the first film- what an unexpectedly-lovable character! (I think it was the thump, thump of his Mountain Dew cans, rather than missiles or bullets, that sold it for me, ROFL.)
. . .
For the first film, Michael Bay chose someone that he had previously worked with on "The Island" (2004) to score the music for "Transformers", Steve Jablonsky. An up-and-coming talent in Hollywood, he is one of many proteges to the already-established composer Hans Zimmer (who had composed for Bay's first feature film, "The Rock", in 1996). Completely ignoring all that had come before from the Transformers universe musically (including the G1 'More Than Meets the Eye'-theme), Jablonsky created a new sound that evenly matched the action, adventure, and drama of Bay's filming style.
To me, the greatest moments in any film are highlighted by its original score, which Jablonsky delivered fully on in "Transformers".
I don't use this word very often when describing a film or elements in it, but the piece "Arrival to Earth" was magical and wondrous as the Autobots landed on our planet, assumed their disguised forms, and presented themselves to Sam and Mikaela in that alleyway. Without question, that is my favorite scene in the whole film, and it was that music specifically that compelled me to buy the CD soundtrack (I decision I have not regretted two years later).
Though his themes are inspiring, I find that he has a little trouble scoring the stuff in-between, often leading to repetitive- but certainly not boring- background material. (This can be heard throughout many of his projects, including the 2003 Japanese anime film "Steamboy"... which I also have the OST for.)
However, listening to the score for "Transformers- Revenge of the Fallen" on YouTube, Jablonsky's music takes a much darker tone than the first- using more electronic sounds for the Decepticons and The Fallen (though keeping the monotone-chanting male choir from the first film, which I loved), and condensing down established themes without being repetitive. Indeed, I find this new score to be more flavorful than the first one as far as my complaint about his being repetitive (the possible exception being the track called "The Fallen"), so clearly his talent has grown in the last two years and he has greatly expanded his range.
(Of course, this may also be due to the closer presence of Zimmer this time, who gets his name placed in the credits directly beneath Jablonsky's, but to whom the score is not primarily credited.)
In "Transformers", I can easily name which scenes were musically-attractive when I saw it in the theater- Blackout's attack on the SOCCENT-FWD base, Frenzy infiltrating Air Force One, Scorponok's attack on the stranded soldiers, the aforementioned Autobots arriving on Earth, Bumblebee finding and shrinking the All Spark Cube, the Autobots catching up with Bumblebee in the desert, and the post-climax recovery just before the ending epilogue (which was then completely ruined by sticking friggin' Linkin Park in there, booo).
But, for "Transformers- Revenge of the Fallen", I can't really name any full scenes where the music was allowed in, save for perhaps when Optimus transforms in N.E.S.T. HQ to speak with the Pentagon near the beginning, looking at some of the vistas in Egypt & Jordan, and when the US carrier was sunk by multiple Decepticons crashing through it. And these are relatively short segments & moments which are compounded with sound effects to prevent the music from coming through.
I think that Bay did a great disservice to the movie by not allowing that music to have its moments like it did the first time around.
(Will I get the OST CD for "Transformers- Revenge of the Fallen"? Ehh... I'm still undecided at this point.)
. . .
Something irked me after Optimus had died...
This CH-47 Chinook helicopter comes to take the body back to Diego Garcia, and when they get there, the pilot just, like, drops Optimus 100ft off the ground! I mean- WTF kind of disrespect is that for the dead, even if he wasn't human!? You couldn't take the extra time to set him down and let a ground team unhook him first? I- and everyone else- can only imagine the looks on the assembled Autobots' faces when that happened to their leader!
Why did Bay do that...? To emphasize to us that he was dead? I think that when you get a giant blade run through your Spark chamber, and then get your chest blown-out all over the forest, the audience pretty well knows ya bought it.
And then they turn around and attach three parachutes to him when their air-drop him in Egypt! WTH!
I don't know G1 as well as perhaps I should, but I recognized several of the nods they make in this film- the Primes being the first Cybertronians and a traitor amongst them becoming The Fallen, a human boy acting as an ambassador between the Autobots and Earth while usually being accompanied by Bumblebee, the Matrix of Leadership and its ability to restore life & upgrade, Space Bridges (though it was merely teleportation here, rather than fixed structures which jumped characters/vehicles), Jetfire originally worked with Starscream before the war and was lost on Earth for centuries before becoming an Autobot, Megatron blaming the cowardly air commander Starscream for failing yet again at something he had no control over, and Optimus dying (though didn't he only come back to life for good in "...Animated"?).
The Fallen wanted to harvest Energon by using a Sun Harvester to convert it; this process, however, destroys the solar system. The reason he became The Fallen is because he wanted to destroy a system where there was native life, and the Dynasty of Primes had a Prime Directive (pun intended) about that. This split in opinion lead to the beginnings of the conflict between the Autobots and Decepticons [in case you missed it]. In other words, the Cybertronian war did not come to Earth- it started on Earth!
(BTW, Jetfire's line about how his grandfather transformed into thee very first Earthly wheel "...but he did it with honor!" was quickly-delivered, but funny nonetheless.)
. . .
So, since the Primes were a special breed of Cybertronian, it only makes sense that trying to best one is a rather difficult thing to do [this illustrated by Optimus Prime taking on three more-massive Decepticons all by himself and more-or-less getting the upper hand]. And so, as the "last descendant" of the Primes, Optimus is truly the only one who can defeat The Fallen. This I have no problem.
So... is Optimus, like, Aragorn- where the power of a Prime is passed on through reproduction? Or is that power simply passed on to later, younger Autobots like the keys of a car? We see, shall I say, "newborn" Decepticons inside the Nemesis in those Energon pods, but what exactly makes them so small and defenseless when all these randomly-created-by-the-All Spark Cube 'bots can easily make a mess of things on Earth? Is this simply a question to be answered in a later film, or a plot hole through which bad writing is exposed? I'm not sure.
. . .
The entire second and third acts are based on the premise that a human mind can contain all the information of the entire friggin' Universe and that, when desperately needed, he could only conveniently get glimmers of that knowledge. While I can easily believe that even a tiny shard of the All Spark could be filled with its full knowledge, I find it rather difficult to believe that- even after hundreds of Sector 7 personnel had been touching and examining the All Spark Cube for 80 years- none of them developed the same cache of information that Sam did.
That the Dynasty of Primes would have an ancient language which wasn't passed on to current generations is plausible; Jetfire's line about 'entire generations of Cybertronians being wiped out' enforced this point.
Skids and Mudflap not being able to "read" may simply mean that not all Autobots need to be knowledgeable in history and literature to be fighters, and this may apply to more than just the Twins despite critics' claims to the contrary. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt in this case. It all comes down to how these aliens exchange information between each other- "reading" text on a wall or in a book may not be how they do things nowadays- 'Write nothing down lest it fall into the hands of the enemy' and all that may be the standard; that I could believe.
But, how & why did all that Prime text end up across the world when the conflict was pretty much isolated to Egypt, and they didn't leave a primer for humans to translate it!?
Wait- is it just me, or did a few of the Constructicons appear in battle alone while Devastator was already formed? (Mixmaster changing into a gun turret by doing backflips was awesome, I'm gonna get him!) And what happened to the robot that was killed at the bottom of the ocean in order to remake Megatron? Wasn't he supposed to make up a part of Devastator too...?
Too many holes, too many holes...
I'll still get the 2-disc DVD cause I liked the battle sequences 'n such, and the toys as well (I'm in the middle of writing the text review for Leader-class Optimus Prime as I write this blog entry), but overall I was not all that hot for the second time around. I've read of/heard people saying that "Transformers- Revenge of the Fallen" is better than the first film. I disagree.
When I walked out of the theater after seeing "Transformers", I was blown away, and had a big ol' grin on my face. Awesome! But this time, I had a very confused look on my face when I walked outta that IMax Digital theater in Seattle. IMO, it's not even equal to the first film. The best and worst of the first film was expanded on here; the bad stuff more-so.
|Posted 25 October, 2009 - 19:19 by EVA_Unit_4A|