Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A driver don't pick the cars. Mmm-mm. Cars pick the driver. It's a mystical bond between man and machine.

No 309 – Transformers

Director – Michael Bay

The film begins:

Before time began there was The Cube.

Hmmm…. Not the most promising of opening lines. Hardly smacks of intelligent script writing.

We then sit through quite a lot of exposition. For a film which has essentially been designed as a showcase for Michael Bay’s Awesome Explosions and a film which doesn’t have a particularly extensive plot (2 groups of people are trying to get a thing. Those two groups are enemies) they seem to have picked the most complicated macguffin in the history of the world. There are about 4 scenes in which people just sit around and explain stuff. Using nonsense language. There is the Allspark – a giant cube which can transform into a considerably smaller cube – which made life. Then there was a war to gain control of the Allspark between two robot factions. Then the Allspark ends up on Earth and all chaos ensues in shiny metal explosions and…


Seriously? Empire readers? What the fuck? Just what the fuck? How did this end up being voted the 309th best film of all time? Let me stress that again, OF ALL TIME! It is rubbish.

I understand how films like Tree of Wooden Clogs got in. They’re worthy pretentious films voted by people who desperately want to be seen as cultured and intelligent by picking the least enjoyable film they can find. But there are some bizarre entries. Currently, this takes the biscuit. It even tops Superman Returns. It is rubbish. I'm going to list the reasons why this film angers me, but I want to be fair... let me talk about the few things that I did enjoy in this film. They few reasons I could think of as to why and how this technicolour nonsense explosion got onto the list

The Witwicky Family

I’m a big fan of Shiah LeBeouf. Not just because his surname is French for The Beef, but because generally I think he comes off in films as being pretty cool. He is a complete rag to riches story too with his time as a foul mouthed child stand up comedian (getting him a certain niche notoriety) and time on the classic kid’s sitcom Even Stevens. He brings just enough edge to a role to make him seem slightly badass (good, as he appears in a lot of action films) but he is clumsy, witty, geeky and spindly enough to pass as a convincing ‘everyman’. He just seems a likable actor and likewise Sam Witwicky is a likable character. He is (like all the humans) tragically underused but the small moments we see of him are both entertaining and real. How can you not relate to a teen boy whose sole motivation in life is to get a car and subsequently get laid? A point I will return to later.

Whilst Sam is a likable protagonist, it is his parents who really shine. Kevin Dunn as father Ron and Julie White as Judy Witwicky have a wonderful chemistry. They spa well together in a subtle game of one upmanship and their relationship with Sam is both realistically tender and cringe worthy. Highlight of the film is probably the scene in which they suspect Sam is masturbating. Cue an embarrassing dialogue which ends with Mikaela (who I’ll discuss later) showing herself. The pride on the parents’ faces on finding their son with a girl is just class (Ron bumping knuckles with Sam = comedy gold). We like the Witwicky family.

We like BumbleBee

He is beat up, he is adorable and he can only talk through the radio. So we get wonderfully clever moments of snippets of songs and news stories being spliced into speeches.

I also like the way that he manipulates situations to help Sam get with Megan Fox’s Mikaela. It just shows that he is quite a sweet robot guardian.

But, one thing about the Sam/Mikaela/BumbleBee arc worries me. After successfully wooing Mikaela through the medium of alien invasion we cut to the final scene and Mikaela pressed against Sam having a bit of a kiss and a grind. It is fairly likely that sex will ensue. Well done Sam…. But…… It is happening on BumbleBee’s bonnet.

Surely this is akin to having sex on your best friend’s face. Or at least shoulders. Poor little BumbleBee…

However, by this point I no longer had any emotional attachment with the car as all his charm and personality had VANISHED. In one scene half way through the film he transforms from his beat up original form to a shiny super car. Yawn Yawn Boring. I liked it when he was quirky and battered.

However, I think the final reason is the main reason

Nostalgia: Modified.

Despite everything. Despite every little cringey moment or utter moment of wank, the very concept of Transformers gets me excited. There was a moment of utter joy when I first saw Optimus Prime in his shiny shiny CGI form. There was a second little squeal when I saw him battle with a sword; I mean that is pretty badass.

And the Transformers look glorious. The CGI in this film is up there with Davey Jones’ tentacles in the most seamless photorealism I’ve seen in film. And the transformations are beautiful.

I’m used to the clunky toys in which a Police car could turn into a robot in four clumsy moves, but here we have a whirring, clanking, rinky tinky beautiful collection of mechanisms.

The giant robots are nonsense but the point of transformation feels real. Watching the cars slowly unravel and unwind into a humanoid giant satisfied me on both a geeky level and also on a design level. Those movements are the most exciting parts of the film and probably the reason for the film getting into the list.

I mean it is either going to be the robots or Megan Fox… But now we have to move into sections of the film which I didn’t enjoy. Besides the script – which I have already mentioned is pure unadulterated tosh.

Megan Fox is sexy. She takes that movie star sexiness and adds a personality tomboyish, cocky, filth. She gives off the impression that she likes slumming it and that she could, maybe, be an accessible person. This is kind of hinted at in interviews as well, although she does come across as a bit of a twat in every interview I’ve read.

Don’t get me wrong – She is nowhere near Zooey, but I understand why people find her so attractive and why she was voted so highly in Empire’s top 50 sexiest female movie stars.

However, so does the film. Fox’s character Mikaela has literally nothing to do in this film except look sexy. Her character is defined by sultry poses and skimpy outfits. And this pose.

This pose which was released as one of the first promo shots. Before even the robots.

A pose which cries out “Lets put Megan Fox in an unfeasibly unnatural and uncomfortable position just to showcase how hot and sexy and lithe she is”. Hopefully that way no one will notice she has nothing else to do in this film.

The few moments where her character is allowed to be showcases just shows a fickly and shallow little bitch. Ho Hum.

In fact, the characterisation is flawed throughout. Sam is the nearest to a full character but he is still not given any time to blossom. After a while all the plot strands join up and we see Sam and Mikaela, the mysterious Sector 7 and the US soldiers from Qatar fighting together with the Autobots. Sam and the Qatar soldiers seem to have quite a deep relationship, looking out for each other and having little bonding moments. Why? Sam is just a civvy who is in the way. Sure he has the Allspark but anyone could take that box.

It is the same with the relationship between Sam and Mikaela. One minute they’re two scared teenagers being flummoxed by stuff. The next minutes they’re holding hands and being a couple.

It reminds me of the ‘missing reel’ in Planet Terror. Suddenly all the characters are together and united and relationships have been formed without the viewer seeing. Only Planet Terror was a joke. This is just lazy writing.

Lazy and sometimes shockingly clichéd writing. How have they got away with every non-white character being a cliché? This film is borderline racist.

From the Afro-Carribean computer hacker who lives with his entire extended family in his house, eats fried chicken and screams at his grandma, to the Hispanic soldier who constantly speaks Spanish to his English speaking crew. For no reason besides it being his heritage.

Even Jazz the ‘black’ transformer is a break dancing jive talking stereotype.

But it gets worse…. Who is the first soldier to die? Why the Hispanic.

Who is the first Autobot to die? Why Jazz

I’ve seen this movie – the black dude dies first.

I could sit and continue to nitpick this film to pieces but I won’t. Watch it and enjoy picking it to pieces yourself. For all the tosh and bollocks it is quite enjoyable. In a frantic exploding kind of way.

The fight scenes will make you sick though as they’re so frenetically edited with so many chops and changes and angles that all you can see is a dervish of colours and cogs. However, hopefully I’ve made one thing clear about Transformers. You don’t watch the film for clarity and coherence. You watch it for the ride. The big, ridiculous and frequently painfully rubbish ride.

Before I end let me ask one more question. One last little thing about the enemies, the Decepticons.

In the Decepticon team there are two vehicles (that I noticed) – a helicopter and a police car – which have drivers. The drivers are part of the unit.

If the Decepticons can transform in to human form why not just do that?! You’ll raise a lot less suspicion that way.

So… the film does have impressive machinery and CGI. It does have bonkers action scenes. But it also is riddled with flaws. Too many flaws to forgive. Massive omissions like plot or character arcs or any sense of understanding. It is a film that I can’t recommend to you because I don’t think you should watch it.

Watch the cartoon. Still doesn’t make sense but it does have the theme tune which is AWESOME.

And you’ll be spared the most unbearable and unforgivable sequence of all. BumbleBee pissing fuel over a government agent.

What a base joke. When you piss over a petty government agent, you also piss over my youth.

Damn you Bay.

Damn you.

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