Letter From The Editor - Issue 58 - August 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
June 2009

BANG! BANG! BANG! BOOM! BANG! BOOM! BANG! BANG! BOOM! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BOOOOOM!

Michael Bay unleashes holy hell on his unsuspecting audience in 'Revenge of the Fallen'

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Paramount Pictures
Director: Michael Bay
Screenplay: Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Ramon Rodriguez, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Dunn, Julie White and John Turturro
Rated PG-13 / 2 hours, 30 minutes
Opened June 24, 2009
(out of four)

Suddenly it's all so clear. Maybe I've known it all along. Maybe I've just been holding out hope. I don't know why it took this long to crystallize, but it's high time we all came to this sobering conclusion: Michael Bay has no idea how to make a movie.

I'm not saying he makes bad movies - that much had been established. I'm saying he doesn't even know how to do his job. Watching one of his attempts to do so - especially one with the word "Transformers" in the title - is like being stuck on a turbulent transatlantic flight for a few hours, the ride getting bumpier and more nauseating, when suddenly the cockpit door swings open and you discover . . . nobody's flying the damn plane!

This is a guy with all the technical know-how in the world, but whose films at times inexplicably reek with the scent of incompetence. He makes action movies, yet seems to have no idea how to put together a coherent action scene. His movies are stocked with comic relief, yet he has no sense of humor to speak of. Behind the camera, he is able to create a spectacular, eye-popping shot . . . and then render it completely meaningless within the context of a scene. And he has the uncanny ability to make the most simplistic of plots seem convoluted and even confusing.

His filmmaking choices are arbitrary; his films are made up of one superfluous scene after another. And yet it seems they never, ever end. Who has the patience for a 150-minute trailer? When are we going to get to the actual movie? Case in point, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which makes the series' first entry seem restrained by comparison. What we're getting is the mind of a 10-year-old boy playing with big, grown-up toys . . . while making a movie about toys we played with as 10-year-olds. It's all very confusing. Kind of like one of Michael Bay's narratives.

Someone should have told Bay that his movie was about giant robots fighting each other over a piece of metal. That he believes this story deserves two-and-a-half hours of our time should tell us something in the first place, but besides that, he treats his childish melodrama with such a sense of bloated self-seriousness that it's impossible to justify.

His way to counteract those scenes? Why, with such putrid attempts at humor, it makes Year One look good. Like our hero's mom accompanying him to college, only to accidentally eat pot brownies and wreak havoc in a drug-fueled haze all over campus. (Hahahaha. Hilarious!) Or by having a pair of jive-talking Autobots mimic inane black stereotypes as comic relief - characters that have already drawn unflattering comparisons to Jar-Jar Binks. (Good racist fun! Hilarious!)

Or by having the cute (read: annoying) little pet Transformer sneak around in a garage, only to get his wheels caught in rat traps. (Hysterical!) Or by giving one of the Decepticons a pair of huge testicles. (Uproarious!) Let it be said here first: Nobody loves a good scrotum joke quite like Michael Bay.

And then, of course, there is Bay's insistence that all high school and college girls look and act like high-class prostitutes. He even makes our heroine, Mikaela (Megan Fox), look like one of those cheap biker chicks in truck-stop magazines. She's still dating our hero, Sam (Shia LaBeouf), and despite the fact that they've been together for two years now, they've somehow never said "I love you" - offering Bay the opportunity for a phony emotional touchstone.

Sam's parents - who, might I add, are inexplicably thrown into the climax of the movie without explanation - are the film's most excruciating characters, and I actually felt sorry for the two actors for playing roles that were treated with such contempt. (I don't care if the kid has an 18-year-old mentality or not; there's no reason Mom and Dad need to be made into complete morons.)

The flimsy plot from the first Transformers is basically replicated here - only instead of the Decepticons being after something in Sam's possession on an old pair of glasses, they're after something inside Sam's brain. This story's really going in exciting new directions, you can just tell.

But why am I telling you all this? Michael Bay certainly doesn't give a crap. He just wants to make a ton of noise, bang a bunch of sound effects together, splice in a bunch of spasmodic action shots and blow stuff up. And in a way, he succeeds - this movie blows. This is not a movie you can actually watch - this is a movie you can look at. Big distinction. And even if we stare long and hard, it's not always clear what we're looking at anyway.

Part of me wants to ask Bay about all those scenes that make no sense whatsoever. Or why one Decepticon can suddenly change into human form. (I mean, when did we introduce that possibility? And if they can take human form, why aren't they using that more to their advantage?) Or why he keeps hammering us with so much interminable noise without giving us anything worth hearing. Or why he goes out of his way to make his characters and his action scenes as vapid and obnoxious as possible.

Then again, if I want to spend my time picking someone's brain, I'd rather choose someone who knows what he's doing.

Read more by Chris Bellamy


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