Or: Roger Ebert takes himself too seriously.
On my old blog, I wrote an analysis of the original Transformers movie in light of memetic theory. It bore the title, “Do you really think we can trust the Decepticons?”
It was common in eighties action cartoons, like Transformers, to have an episode where the “good guys” and the “bad guys” team up to defeat a common foe. It happened in He-Man. It happened in GI-Joe. It happened in Transformers. One could presumably imagine a conversation, not necessarily with Captain Picard and Jeff Goldblum (who is not quite dead yet), in this episode of Transformers. The penultimate line in the image, the dramatic crux upon which the entire exchange rests, would be delivered completely without irony. As a child, I would have been too caught up in the drama to notice this lack. Or even to understand that there probably ought to be a snicker or a guffaw.
I read Roger Ebert’s review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen after I saw the movie. Though I suspect that if the order were reversed, I might have made a concerted effort to enjoy it even more than I did. In fact, in light of some of the reviews, I find myself looking for reasons to like the movie. I don’t know why I dislike Ebert so intensely. I mean, it’s obvious that he’s not seeing eye to eye with me ever. I mean, can everyone agree that he’s utterly incorrect about Star Trek?
Everything Ebert says is true: the plot is nonsensical, the characters are vapid and shallow, the movie is loud. The question: what’s wrong with that?
I guess it’s a question of expectations. I was expecting something on par with the first movie. What I got was something that actually corrected several of the problems with the first movie. I went to the film expecting (and desiring) a 2.5 hour robot slugfest. And you know what? Michael Bay delivered. This shit was crazy!
In the first film, it was difficult to see much of the action. In this new iteration, he did a few things to make the action more intelligible and i applaud him for it. First of all, he chose his environments with more care. The scene where Optimus dukes it out with Megatron and Starscream in the woods was great because the camera could sit farther back, and the robots stood out against the vegetation. It was easily one of my favorite scenes in the film.
His use of slow motion was nice as well. This gave us an opportunity to see, in detail, the results of some of these blows. I mean, a giant robot has to put some pretty tremendous power behind a punch. I could barely contain myself when Bumblebee stripped that dog robot down to its spine, or when another robot got its face ripped in half.
A friend of mine pointed out afterwards, using the word “Cronenbergian,” the use of fluids and ichors and sinus invasion with some of the robots. It was seriously that creepy in spots.
I liked the look of the robots. In particular, his use of very small robots was cool. Hordes of tiny robots are to giant robots what hordes of scorpions are to grizzly bears. They are all terrifying, but for very different reasons.
There are obviously a ton of plot holes and problems with this film. It’s not a “great” film. It’s not even a “good” film. But it certainly isn’t terrible and it’s for this reason that the film manages to succeed. It has excellent pacing for it’s length. There was always something happening and I wasn’t bored. I was looking for a particular type of entertainment and I got it.
This movie shows that a movie doesn’t have to be great in order to deliver on a promise.
The question of why this movie is far superior to the Wolverine movie of earlier this summer is much more complex. They both appeal to the same primitive emotions. They both aim at the same goal: a re-imagining of an old franchise. But somehow Wolverine felt like it was written by a fourteen-year-old. Transformers 2 felt like it was written by an adult for the fourteen-year-old in all of us. Except Roger Ebert.
Look at that old pretentious fuddy-duddy: