This Week in Film: July 6, 2007


REVIEW: The fact that Transformers is based on a beloved -- albeit silly -- 80's cartoon show that was based on a toyline is not lost on Michael Bay. The movie about giant alien robots is big and jokey; the latter of which is both a good and a bad thing. The good is that it makes all the exposition -- that is everything in between the action sequences -- bearable; we might as well laugh while we wait for the explosions. The bad is that too often we cringe at how stupid the dialog is. We can't have our cake. I suppose you might argue that it's meant to be like a cartoon... well, then WHY isn't this thing a cartoon instead of a nearly three-hour Jumbo-tron?

Bay's signature flair for orchestrating impressive but ultimately confusing action sequences is fully intact. With his abuse of whip-pans and over-the-top staccato editing, his absence since The Island hasn't been spent learning how to tell a strong cinematic story. The former music video director does nothing new or interesting here, it's Bay all the way. But for what it's worth, we're talking about Transformers here -- let's try to remember why we liked them in the first place: they're gimmicky and fun.

There's a bit of goofy irony going on in the script as the Transformers locate the young hero by finding his username on eBay, and that since the massive auction site has come into existence in the late 90's, it has become the one destination for Transformer collectibles and memorabilia. Why it didn't go one step closer into Being John Malkovich self-reflexive territory and have our hero place a bid on an authentic Megatron, may probably be the only hint of restraint in this whole anarchistic bombast.

While we're on the topic of the script, it's also worth mentioning that the movie is loaded, mercilessly, with sly -- ok, painfully obvious -- in-jokes about modern technology: from cars to computers and everything in between. Bay is not known for being subtle, and when he reaches for his themes, he's really reaching. His simplistic, trite view of altruistic self-sacrifice -- which he has, ahem, explored in all his movies -- is as hackneyed and needlessly tacked-on as it's ever been. I had a hard time buying Optimus Prime's existential conundrum.

I realize it's easy to bash Bay for his dramatic ineptitude -- and also echoing a lot of what many critics have been saying all along -- but in the action department, Bay isn't too shabby, although he still prefers to shoot in the most incoherent style. I'll admit, a Michael Bay action sequence is distinct and unmistakably his: sometimes fun, but ridiculous to the extreme. But, hey, the man can blow things up, um, pretty good -- if only he would hold on his shots a wee bit longer. That said, the action in Transformers is blurry, sloppy, and for the most part forgettable. I'm not a Michael Bay fan, so going into this movie, I expected it to be bad... the movie is atrocious.

Also Opening this Week:

Rescue Dawn
You Kill Me
Bride of Silence
Romanzo Criminale
Boy Culture
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait
License To Wed

(Photo: Dreamworks)

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