05 July 2009
Second Impressions: Transformers: Revenge of the Swollen
I had the privilege today of watching what is surely THE movie of Summer 2009 (great companion to Boom Boom Pow) in the majesty of IMAX.
Let me say, it is absolutely vital. This flick was made for the larger-than-life IMAX experience. Every explosion, every leg hump, every car rolling down the desert is crisp and even more intense. Waaayy better than the IMAX version of The Proposal.
That being said, on my second go-around of this ridiculous fiesta of a movie brought a few more things to my attention that I really wanted to get into, hence Round Two of my Impressions of this movie.
1) U.S. Military on Parade
There are so many shots of jets flying, Aircraft carriers floating, and soldiers and pilots running around that this might as well be a two and a half hour advertisement for the U.S. Armed Forces. I picked this up a little bit the first time around, but towards the second half of this movie, every other shot is a fighter or bomber plane soaring across the sky, or helicopters loaded with troops going somewhere, or something exploding. It's sick. Every awesome piece of U.S. Military hardware is on hugely prominent display, from tanks to subs to predator spy planes, it gets to be overwhelming. I'm going to tackle the lack of Patriotism in modern cinema as compared to mid-90s action films in a future post, but Michael Bay is still clearly the go-to guy for making heroes out of the U.S. Armed Forces and really pumping up their awesomeness. There's a lot of pride on display, you get the feeling that if these cats can find and dominate some Decepticons, how the fuck are we in the shit with Bin Laden and Iraq. Michael Bay needs to be appointed Secretary of Defense NOW.
2) Decepticon Whores
I avoided a lot of things in this movie that I thought were obviously dumb in my First Impressions, but it's clear that this needs some addressing. Where the fuck do the Decepticons get off jacking up some random bot with uber-babe syndrome and sicking her on lil' Shia. From the ass-tail probe to the five foot mountain ox tongue, everything about this chick is whack. First of all, no one could be that into Shia LaBeouf, especially after being asked to play Checkers at a Frat Party. Second, as soon as the bitch locates Shia, she should have sent word to Soundwave or better yet Starscream immediately, and they could have done the dirty deed. Or if they had some patience, could have let Scalpel chop up his brain during his sleep the next time he went to bed. There's practically no reason other than incompetant impatience for Whore-bot to attempt to seduce and infiltrate Shia's brain on her own at that time. Then again, maybe the Decepticons just rigged her extra-horny, which is fucked up enough on its own merits. Also, every part of her transforms except for her tongue. Why the hell is that her primary weapon. She likes licking some assholes in between missions, what the fuck. As you can tell, I'm upset. Let's please move on.
3) Parents and Balls
The parents in this movie are obviously insane, another terrible facet of the flick that I was trying to avoid, but really pounded me out on the second go-around. The mom is purely comical, but lacks any kind of tact or subtlety to get beyond a face-value knee-jerk reaction, which is more of a low-brow humour tactic than I usually prefer (I've been watching way too much Arrested Development recently, it's jacked up my standards). When the chips are down, though, she actually doesn't always act like a complete retard, and there is a nice reunion and genuine moment after their capture by Rampage (although really, this trap made no sense, if you find Shia just shoot him, don't tempt him with his parents) where they are doing their best to help their son, but really he needs to move on. A lot of love there. In general, this tends to be a shitty metaphor for a son moving on from his family in college and life, but it works for the moment, there's some real edge there.
Along with the style of humour Mom delivers, a major thing I picked up on in the second viewing was the sheer staggering amount of ball jokes. It is insane how much this movie caters to the 12-17 year old Adam Sandler fan. There are at least two occaisions of Transformers farting to humourous effect (one of the kitchen appliances and Jetfire), the attempts to make some of the bots use crude language to appear edgy (but of course, nothing too bad, it's PG-13 for the mass market people!), as well as a ton of simple testicle jokes (ball-tasing and Megan Fox-landing for Leo) and of course, the Giant Enemy Scrotum, the Decepticles. That really was too much, I mean, it not only really makes light of what should be an intense, pinnacle moment, but also makes the character of Devastator, who up to that point was this near-invincible, supremely powerful, deadly mindless villain, not to mention one of the most incredibly animated creatures ever put on to film, into a giant joke. It sucks and was completely unnecessary from a story or tonal standpoint. As you can tell, I'm upset again. What the hell else is there in this shitbag.
4) T & A and Funny Mexican Roommates
Real quick, the extra roommate or friends of Leo (whose name I did not pick up until the second viewing) are all moronic and not needed. Leo himself is purely comic relief, he does absolutely nothing in the movie and his character was barely needed at all. As I will approach in the next section, his character actually mostly filled in for the funny young guy character after Shia became serious and brooding after Optimus' death. Simmons is much more important, mostly for exposition, although I did like how they actually worked together instead of just being an antagonizing jerk (especially considering in this installment he had much more of a right to be an antagonizing jerk if he wanted to be).
I feel like this could take an entire post, but really, the Tits and Ass need to be addressed here somewhere. Megan Fox's introductory shot sums up the only reason her character is in his movie. It's a straight, up-ass jean short pan that completely only exists to sell her as a sexual object. Further than that, I noticed in the second huge IMAX viewing, that not only Megan, but almost every other chick on screen is smoking fantastically hot. Walking around the college campus every babe in the background is stacked and showing it. There is a ridiculous amount of Male Perspective where the camera only focuses on T & A, mostly Megan's in the center of the screen, but there were also some shots, namely when Shia is walking down the steps after his mental class breakdown, where the camera pans, but notably keeps this one busty chick in frame the entire time as other background students walk past it. It's insane if you can notice it and look for it. It's almost as if Bay is subliminally targeting his core audience of boys who just found out they get erections. This probably sounds more like a complaint than it actually is, but that's just because I have a dick, and it was loving those two hours so much. In all actuality, it's an incredibly sexist and racist film that astounds me to have come out in the year 2009.
5) Dwight Schrute is ROTF's Bernie Mac
Real quick here, Bernie Mac (obligatory R.I.P.) has such a bizarre cameo in Transformers, it always kind of bothered me. First of all, he's not really that famous to warrant a straight cameo (also he got decent billing), but he's also one of the most important characters; making the contact between Bumblebee and Shia. I always felt bad for him, the only thing he ever did wrong was be a good salesman and Bumblebee wrecked every car in his lot. C'mon! Going into Round 2, I was actually wondering what random funny person they might throw in for a weird, awkward, but necessary cameo.
Shit, Bay knocked it out of the park! Enter Rainn Wilson, Dwight Schrute himself as the Astronomy 101 professor, who similarly to Bernie Mac, makes some terrible awkward jokes (at his impendent pedophilic tendencies, not his blind 'Mammy') and is generally screwed over by the main characters, although less so by Shia who really only defies him in class, then proceeds to ruin his opening lecture. He also lets Shia access material that is vital to the story, like Bernie did in the first movie, namely, the Astronomy textbook that Shia reads in 32.6 seconds that gives him some information to solve the riddle that leads them to the Matrix of Leadership. This is a weird, weird parallel that I noticed the first time I saw the movie, but really sunk in the second time.
6) Shia's Redemption
Here's probably the most positive thing I noticed the second time here. About mid-way through the movie, actually, precisely after Optimus dies, Shia's character has a dramatic shift. He's no longer the cheeky, nerdy-unsure-of-himself yet witty-edgy teen, but this hardcore dramatic teen who is trying to prove his worth. The fight scene from an artistic and badass standpoint is beyond amazing, but it has another layer if you watch Shia. You realise that he really is completely powerless to help Optimus, yet Prime fights with incredible valour to try to save him. From this point on Shia is always trying to prove that he can do something, that Optimus didn't die in vain, whenever they reach a wall and the other characters give up, Shia refuses and leads them forward.
This is reflected when the Ancient Primes reward him with the Matrix of Leadership, in a way formally acknowledging that his life means something, that he can do something that's equally important or powerful as fighting off Grindor, Megatron, and Starscream simultaneously. Optimus sacrifices himself to save Shia, and likewise, Shia is willing to sacrifice almost everything, including his life (although he is saved from some weird Ancient Prime/Josh Duhamel CPR) to bring back Optimus'. It's pretty cool. The end scene of Shia and Optimus standing on the Aircraft Carrier is really showing that through their mutual trials, that they may stand as equals. The Autobot/Human equality factor is also highlighted numerous times, in the words of Tyrese, "If God made us in His image...who do you think made them?" There's also a lot of talk of shedding blood, sweat, and precious metal together, fighting for two years, making treaties and respecting each other, etc. Only Shia truly proves himself, however, and this is shown in the end scene of them standing in identical poses as equals.
That's about everything that's been buzzing in my head on my second viewing. I definitively realise that there really isn't that much to this movie at all, but there's a lot of cool things, a lot of incredibly dumb things, and either way, standing now at around $293 million and counting, should have a big fucking influence on our pop culture for some time to come. We'll see if I make it to the theater again for a third impression...