Monday, July 06, 2009

The Battle Within

So I saw Transformers 2 last week. It wasn't a great movie ... in fact, it wasn't even a good movie. But I have to admit that I felt some genuine, palpable moments of excitement. And I attribute 100% of those feelings to my pre-existing love for all things Transformers.

We all know that Michael Bay is not just a shitty director, but he may be THE SHITTIEST director in all the land. Sure he's made a couple decent movies like The Rock and the first Transformers movie two years ago. But he also made both Bad Boys movies (and not the one with Sean Penn), Pearl Harbor, Armageddon, and the would-have-been-good-if-Michael-Bay-didn't-fuck-it-up The Island. If it weren't for Brett Ratner, James Toback, Uwe Boll, McG, Rob Cohen, Kevin Smith and Rod Lurie, he would clearly be the shittiest director in movies today.

But I realized that with Transformers 2, Michael Bay did something that he does in all his movies, and it just worked for me. He tapped into the juvenile child that I once was.

If you look at really any of MB's films, they are all just a celebration of machismo and being a man's man. He always has the dramatic 180-degree semi-circle camera shot, usually filmed from dick-level pointing upward, showing the sun in the background and group of determined capital-M "Men" ready to unleash their own brand of manly revenge.

Since I am a manchild of class and distinction, I have rarely fell for the rouse, scoffing at such neanderthal impulses, and opting for the more erudite, lyrical films of Frears, Lumet, Stanley Kaufmann, Egoyan, Noah Baumbach and the like.

However, because of my aforementioned connection with the Transformers brand, Michael Bay was able to bypass my cynical filtering mechanisms and successfully elicit a genuine adrenaline response.

If I may digress for one moment, I did see the film with my good friend D.Blakes, who is a unique movie-goer. D.Blakes is an African-American, and he treats any movie theater as if it were his own living room. So when Optimus Prime was taking on five Decepticons by himself, D.B. let out a high-pitched "WHOOOOOO!" When someone said something rude to one of the Autobots, D.B. -- at a silent moment -- said, "Oh shit, that nigga bout to get smacked in the mouth for that!" Thank God he's huge or else we would have had people shushing us the entire time.

So it turns out that most of the excitement that I felt in my chest came not from the storyline itself, or from the explosions being shown on the screen, or even by the mildly-attractive Ms. Megan Fox. No, it came from my extensive knowledge of the Transformers Generation One storylines.

I know that Optimus Prime is the baddest mo-fo this side of Cybertron. I know that Megatron treats Starscream like Michael treats Toby on "The Office." (Toastie's line, nuff respect due.) I know that Bumblebee and Sam (Spike in the cartoons) have a very special relationship. And I know this because I was obsessed with these stupid little plastic things when I was like 8 years old.

In fact, I think back to about 1984 or so, trying to imagine the amount of hair that would have spontaneously sprouted on my smooth boyish chest if I had seen so much as one minute of the Transformers 2 trailer back then. That such a thing could exist was inconceivable. I had envisioned a Transformers Atari 2600 game back then, but I couldn't decide whether the red button on the joystick would shoot a gun or make the robots transform into vehicles (or vice versa). Watching Optimus Prime stand up for the first time would have made my head explode.

These movies tap into something very primal (no pun intended) that is embedded in my psyche. And because of that, I was so willing to forgive all the terrible dialogue ("Mean robots suck!" "Punk-ass Decepticon!"), iffy acting, loud kabooms and completely incomprehensible plot. I mean the Matrix of Leadership turned to dust and then re-materialized? What the eff? Also, they could have shown all the "Primes" but instead just gave them one blurry, cursory scene! And sweet lord, don't you think that Megan Fox would have gotten a little bit of dirt or sand somewhere on her face or body at some point after running through the desert for two hours??!??!?!

But yet, I check my intellect at the door. As much as I know the movie is terrible, I still liked it. I would totally see it again. It's like the culmination of my youth, writ large. It's the same reason I gave Watchmen a pass, as disappointing as that was, and it's the same reason the G.I. Joe theatrical trailer gave me something akin to goose-bumps. And I wasn't even a G.I. Joe fan when I was a kid! (Sidebar, I'm a Judd Apatow fan, but that new Adam Sandler movie looks like a steaming pile. They practically gave away the entire plot in the trailer.)

These Hollywood assholes have finally found a way to crack through the veneer of us Gen-X film snobs. These bastards give us something that made us really happy when we were kids, update it, and then force us to try to hate it.

So bottom line, if they decide to make updates of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Go-Bots, M.U.S.C.L.E. wrestlers, Voltron, M.A.S.K. (that's Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, not the Eric Stoltz film), Thundercats or Super-Friends, my ass will be in the theater.

Of course, they did ruin Spider-Man, X-Men (the third one) and Star Wars for me in my later years so I suppose they can ruin anything.


Toastie said...

Still haven't seen it yet, damn I wish I could have gone with you and Blakes. "Fuckin' Ironhide and shit. And what, with my nigga Bumblebee and WOOOOOOO here come that busta Soundawave!!"

So choice.

'Don' Cialini said...

I too love all things Transformers. I have the entire Gen. 1 cartoon collection on DVD as well as the original movie.

I was still a fan despite the fact my main man Megatron could never get a leg up (and I hate to be the one to say it, but Optimus Prime is a bitch. Plain and Simple).I was still a fan after they killed off Megatron and the Jets and then turned them into Galvatron, Scourge and The Sweeps. I was still a fan even after the cartoon went downhill bigtime after the movie. Especially with that loser Rodimus Prime - the reluctant Autobot leader. He redefined the term "bitch made nig errrr robot".

So, when I found out about the Transformers movie (the first) I had a hard on that could have drilled for oil. When the movie opened I grabbed my wonderful wife and off we went. Too bad the first one disappointed me in ways I could not have imagined. Megatron as a lame looking jet? Optimus as a different looking truck? Transformers mostly the Decepticons looking nothing like you would imagine them to be. robot Transformations and fight scenes so complicated looking you had no idea who was who or what was going on. And the plot. The plot sucked. As a Diehard Gen. 1 Fan I fully expected some type of plot that matched the original cartoon. Instead we get the steaming pile of cowpile that gave us no tangible background of anything and something really stupid like the allspark.

However once I was able to separate the new movie from what I thought it would be, I liked it. I will still watch it repeatedly. I enjoy it for all it's shortcomings (IMHO). This is why I went into seeing Number 2 with no expectation what so ever. Especially after hearing all the critics crap all over it.

I saw down with my Cherry Coke, my bag of Popcorn and then was thrilled beyond all anything that Tran2 was actually .... good! The plot while iffy in several spots (the fallen? Where the fuck did he and his other goomba's come from?), but I thought it made more snese than the original and I enjoyed it more. Of course there were some problems. The resurrected Megatron now appeared to be some type of stupid tank. The robots are still too complicated looking...except for the teeth. I'm not sure why robots would need to have teeth. The fight scenes were better but again hard to follow. Can some of the robots other than bitch made ass Prime get some color in robot form? Decepticons have purple, black, red, white etc. Mix some colors in!!! same with the other autobots. Mix in some colors!

At the end of the day, I left the theater happy. I was engaged through the entire movie and I will buy this on DVD when it drops. And even as a bonus, while I usually don't dig the Megan Fox type chicks...she was smokin' hot in this movie.

Maybe in the third installment, Mister Bay will boost the budget to just shy of a billion dollars and give the transformers some color. Make Megatron a fucking gun like he should be (and skip the P.38, make him an M4 or an M16 or a .50 Cal or something cool), and give the Decepticons some run. Autobots suck and would get their asses whipped in an unscripted Fight. It's like Michael Bay is Vince McMahon and the Decepticons are Brett Hart.

Bill said...

You had me until the wrestling comparison.