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Quint has a go at TRANSFORMERS 2!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I don’t know if I’m turning into an old man or not because the things I have to say about Michael Bay’s TRANSFORMERS 2 are the same shit I used to hear old people say about the movies I grew up loving. “It’s all noise!” and “I couldn’t tell what’s going on” and “There’s nothing but action and it gets boring.” So, am I now that old dude with his nose in the air, not getting why the damn kids would like this trash? Maybe. But probably not because I can understand why a kid would like this movie. It’s made for 8-12 year old boys. It’s got an edge of danger, with some really, really off-color humor and language, but not too much… it’s got two extremely hot girls essentially fucked by Michael Bay’s camera (Megan Fox and Isabel Lucas) every moment they’re on the screen… it has visual orgasms for 85% of its screentime and doesn’t really give a shit about the rest of it. But you know what? There came a point where the movie went so ridiculous, so absolutely outer limits, that I couldn’t help but just turn myself over to it. There’ll be some spoilers in this review, which shouldn’t be a big deal as by the time it’s posted most of you who were dying to see it will have either already done so at the midnight or still be in the theater. I don’t have long to spend on the review as I’m about to leave the country for a few days and still have a lot of work to do before I do, but I’ll hit some spoilery stuff here. This movie reaches a point about halfway in, shortly after we’re reintroduced to John Turturro, that I just kinda decided that if I was sitting there waiting for a plot thread that made any sort of sense, any real character motivation or any subtlety whatsoever then I was fighting a losing battle and not taking the movie for what it is. It’s a big, loud, wet fart, but it’s a spectacular one. Unlike TERMINATOR: SALVATION which was such a disappointing, limp film you can see Michael Bay flexing nuts in every frame, millions upon millions of dollars parading in front of your eyes for the entire overlong 2 ½ hours of the movie. It’s an interesting comparison. T:S never gets as bad as TRANSFORMERS 2 does, but the former film doesn’t have a solid vision. It’s like McG’s heart was in the right place (I’ve talked to many people who worked with him on the movie and they assure me he was striving every day to make a good movie, something that would work and I believe them) but he lost sight of what was important as cool, shiny new toys and ideas were presented. With TRANSFORMERS this is what Bay wanted to make. No question about it. He never lost sight of what his main goal was, show the money up on the screen. At all costs. At all times. Everything screams big budget. The cinematography, the effects, the editing, the length of the film, the pacing… for good and bad it’s all to show summer movie-going audiences that a shit-ton of money was spent on this movie. I suppose I should go over the plot, but why bother? Shia LaBeouf is at it again, off to college where he meets a fembot who you know is a human Decepticon immediately. She, for some reason, tries to seduce Sam in the first 30 minutes of the movie, which is the only quiet moment you get before the next 2 hour chase scene. And no one seems all that surprised that a Decepticon looked like a human being and no more human impersonators pop up. The pacing of the movie is such that you get the impression that Bay doesn’t want you dwelling on anything that has happened. Don’t ask where the fembot came from, now it’s time to find the mysterious webmaster of a conspiracy theorist website… Don’t think about why he has just the right bit of info for our group, now it’s time to go to the Smithsonian to find an ancient transformer! Etc, etc, etc. But at least Bay gives Shia and his family a little bit of non-action time. The poor soldiers… Tyrese and Josh Duhamel… don’t have one character building moment. Josh’s job is to answer the phone over and over again and shout orders in the desert. That’s it. After all the time spent developing him in the first movie I guess Bay just thought that was enough. He’s muscle now. I do like the opening of the film and the set-up, which I wish they had followed up on. Basically you have a secret task force headed by Aaron from 24 (and also the first TRANSFORMERS movie) that is there to put a stop to rogue Decepticons that pop up around the world. Josh and Tyrese work with the Autobots to stamp them out as they appear. Pretty cool. But then it’s all about Sam getting an eyeful of Cybertron history as a shard from the cube falls out of his sweater from the first movie. There’s some overly complicated backstory about Transformers that were here back in the olden days and how a war between the two factions started when The Fallen, a Prime who turned evil, wanted to blot out our sun, the energy of which is needed for their race to survive. Blah Blah Blah… Megatron’s back to kill Optimus because The Fallen won’t come back to Earth until the last Prime is gone because somehow The Fallen can only be killed by a Prime. We know this because he says it. It’s a whole lot of exposition that takes place when all Bay wants to do is smash more robots together, the bigger the better. I said at the start of the review that I didn’t like the action. Say what you will about Bay, but his action photography has never, ever been his weak point. The dude knows how to shoot it, how to edit it and how give us landmarks. He doesn’t often overcut his stuff, you usually have a sense of geography with his action. The end of the first movie was confusing, but I never felt lost. It was just the different robots that were hard to keep track of. Here the action is fast and furious, but ultimately didn’t feel like they had any real sense of drama to them. None of them pushed the story along and each one felt like the choreography was based on a 10 year old holding up two Transformer toys and mashing them together over and over while making crash sounds with his mouth. There are a couple of really cool moments in the movie… Optimus’ hooks being one of them, but overall I was a little let down by the action. There was plenty of it, but none of it was focused or carried any real weight, even when (Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler) big Red and Blue is taken out. I guess since it happens so early in the movie I figured it wasn’t permanent (and I was right), but even with that particular fight being the best of the movie I felt no connection to the screen. I was never involved, just a passive observer. I think a lot of that has to do with one of the key problems of the movie, the fact that it didn’t learn one damn thing from the first stab at the material. What did everyone say? More moments with the Autobots and the Decepticons. We want to know these guys. I want to see that bickering between Starscream and Megatron for more than just one scene per movie. I want to get to know the family dynamic of the Autobots. We never get any quiet time with any of them, except for Bumblebee who somehow still can’t talk and has to talk through fucking pop songs (and somehow movie quotes… by the way, Tom Hanks should get a cameo credit for as many times as his voice is used) over the radio again. In short, Bay still hasn’t figured out that the robots are the stars of his movie. I defend Shia a lot. I think he’s getting a bit of a shit deal from the fan community and that he’s a real, competent and talented actor. His work is what saved the first movie from being a horrible experience for me. But he’s not the star of this series. Optimus Prime is. We hardly ever get to see any of the robots when they’re not fighting, with the exception of the new ‘bot named Jetfire (voiced by Turturro, according to IMDB) who should be called the Expositionicon. He’s an old timer that walks with a transformer cane and randomly shits a parachute due to incontinence. But you know what? Fuck it. That kind of stuff is what I liked about the movie. Yes, Mudflap and Skids are every bit the horrible stereotype you’ve heard they are and god bless ‘em for it. I think it’s funny that the filmmakers either don’t know what they’re doing or don’t give a flying shit. There’s also a moment where Turturro randomly shows his ass, wearing a Sector 7 cup and I could have sworn he said that’s what he wears when he wants to fuck. I was told afterward he said that’s what he wears when he’s in a funk. If it’s the latter then I like the movie a little less. But to me the only thing I can take away from the movie is just how over the top retarded it gets. It’s the only thing that kept me from falling asleep. Without a dog in the fight or a reason to care for any of the human or robot characters the action gets really boring really quickly. And I have to mention… seing it IMAX is impressive, but I wish they planned the IMAX specific scenes better. THE DARK KNIGHT caught some shit for the effect of widening out to IMAX size, then shrinking back down to widescreen, but Nolan had whole sections of the movie in IMAX and used 70mm for the flyovers of cities. The change in aspect ratio felt motivated in a strange way. Here, Bay shoots so much of the coverage in regular 35mm that in 5 or 6 seconds of screentime we can jump from IMAX to regular and back about 2 or 3 times. The effect is like that of a lightbulb that's about to go out, subtly flickering. And then the ending… Okay, more spoilers here… Two of our leads die in the film, both of them come back (one of them visiting Robot heaven… and it’s not the character you think would naturally be going there) and when Optimus has his big face-off with both Megatron and The Fallen he goes in wearing a horror show cannibal suit. Jetfire, the most interesting and developed character of the story… an ex-decepticon who changes sides, has a great heroic moment, but is still a geezerbot, so he’s damaged badly. When Optimus is revitalized he’s all beat up so Jetfire literally pulls his own heart out and says to use his parts. So Optimus takes the energy and then the rest of the Autobots quickly assemble the dead robot pieces onto him. Gross! Just imagine the human version of this scenario… Suddenly our hero would turn into Jame Gumb… and I’m sure Bumblebee could have played a bit of Goodbye Horses to really hammer home the connection. Yes, the movie is bad. Sometimes it’s so crazy I couldn’t help but just give myself over to it and it’s pretty. So there’s that. And there’s giant robot balls, dogs fucking and a 30 minute finale that is ridiculous, but impressive… especially since it’s so fucked up to think of Optimus getting power by wearing the dead body of a fallen comrade. I don’t think I’d recommend this, really, but I don’t think anybody who is at all interested in seeing this is going to decide based on what I have to say anyway. See it or don’t. You know where I stand. This review ended up being much longer than I anticipated and probably as random and wandering as the movie I’m trying to discuss. Oh well. Off to do some laundry and prepare for my trip to the great white north tomorrow. I’ll let you know more when I can. -Quint Follow Me On Twitter

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