Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Transformers: Dark Of The Moon

Directed by: Michael Bay

Produced by: Don Murphy
Tom DeSanto
Lorenzo di Bonaventura
Ian Bryce

Screenplay by: Ehren Kruger

Based on: Transformers by Hasbro

Starring: Shia LaBeouf
Josh Duhamel
John Turturro
Tyrese Gibson
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
Patrick Dempsey
Kevin Dunn
Julie White
John Malkovich
Frances McDormand

Music by: Steve Jablonsky

Cinematography by: Amir Mokri

Editing by: Roger Barton
William Goldenberg
Joel Negron

Studio: DreamWorks Pictures

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Release date(s): June 23, 2011 (Moscow International Film Festival)
June 29, 2011 (United States/Canada)

Running time: 155 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $195 million

Gross revenue: $693, 683, 712

Once again (as is per usual, i sound like a broken fucking record!), I am slack on catching up with reviews. There isn't much new coming out in my defence, and I have seen the final Harry Potter film, review of which will be coming in soon (I hope). If I am being truthful though, I will confess that my recent sickness has infected me with the dreaded disease of laziness, so I have essentially been sitting around drinking beer and watching Ross Kemp In Afghanistan. Alas, I digress, for this is the review that you, my omnipresent/non-existent readership, have all been waiting for.

History and the benefit of hindsight gives one the time to reflect upon one's past judgements and question as to whether or not one made a completely rational decision. So, in looking at history, with the benefit of hindsight, I asked myself these questions: was I right in voting the last Transformers movie (which is and forever will be known not by it's official title, because it doesn't deserve to choose, but instead my self-assigned title, The Robot Movie: With Added Phwoar! Hello Dr. Kermode!) the worst movie of 2009, and was I right in voting Michael Bay, the director of works such as Bad Boys, The Rock and Armageddon, a Horseman Of The Apocalypse two years running? To answer both those questions, in my not-so humble opinion, yes, yes, abso-fucking-lutely yes! Armond White would be ashamed of my language, but I'll be damned if that wasn't the worst movie 2009 and there is no other way in which I can convey how strongly I feel about that film, through lack of invention or otherwise. Furthermore, Michael Bay, who is a man I believe to have a good degree of talent, decides to takes GWAR's satirical lyrics a bit too far, make it a personal manifesto and become one of the infinite amount of assembly-line, money-men Scumdogs Of The Universe that threaten to destroy both art and entertainment as we know it. Despite these (extreme!) reservations, I really did make a genuine effort to go in with an open mind to this film. I am going to skip out plot synopsis because I would like people to try as a personal challenge to keep up with the movie and make sense of it all.

That said, there is good to found in Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, a film that is deserving of choosing it's own title, as opposed to a slightly insulting and patronising one a critic has bestowed upon it. For starters, having to film in 3D seems to have forced Bay and new cinematographer to the series Amir Mokri to restrain themselves. This can only be a good thing, as now I can see what is going on, and there are some genuinely terrific images in the film. Also, unlike the other films, despite it being long and boisterous, it actually embraces the fact that it is essentially about robots hitting each other and big, big special effects. The last hour of the film in Chicago is effectively a long series of action sequences, and creates some scenes that are genuinely entertaining, in particular the scene involving a building (no spoilers, but you'll have probably been bombarded by advertisements and trailers). So yes, this is high praise from me, but this film did actually have a couple of things going for it.

However, despite having a few things going for it, it has a lot more going against it. Ehren Kruger, a new screenwriter who has been brought in to avoid the series going stale, despite efforts to make a far darker and edgier film than previous instalments, simply doesn't structure it appropriately enough. It is all over the place and jumps from one thing to another. I actually struggle to remember the film, as the film just introduces characters, including one played by the under-utilised and brilliant John Malkovich, Ken Jeong going mad again in a silly part, and just disposes of them or gives no valid reason as to their absence. Even John Turturro, who to be fair always got an amusing part, and Frances McDormand, who gets a decent amount of screen time, have poorly written roles. I know that badly written parts usually have a reciprical effect on the actors, but I'll spare some time on Rosie-Huntington Whiteley's performance. Now, in many ways she is the talking point of the film, with Megan Fox having left the series, and so she probably had a lot of pressure being thrown into this behemoth (yes, it is that, but 'scourge' is probably more appropriate) of a franchise. Nevertheless, it does not excuse one from the terrible performance she gives. Her delivery of lines comes across as borderline self-parody, and yet you realise that this is meant to be taken seriously. Also, sometimes you cannot understand whether she is meant to be serious, ironic or whatever. Good acting is about conveying the correct emotions to your audience, looking through the viewfinder without looking like you are, playing the magician's trick. Unfortunately, this no magician's trick and constitutes the word 'FAIL.' Finally, although there are other annoying things in this boom-boom-chicka-boom-boom-snap-fizz-crackle-spew and pop-diddly-op mess of a film (terrible vocabulary I know), Steve Jablonsky's score has to rank up there with the worst of them. It is so loud and excessive that alongside the explosions and Transformers hitting each other, I wanted the sound in the Strand Cinema to have one of it's occasional random breakdowns. Also, it is so grandoise and full of pomp as though to say/shout at the audience "isn't this something grand and significant and how awesome is that!" Look mate, I watched Seven Samurai the other day, and despite being about hour longer, it kept me entertained throughout and the action sequences were shot with great dignity and respect to their audience. This is just too fucking loud and excessive and needs an intermission (which conveniently came as part of my copy of Seven Samurai as a five-minute scene of music with Japanese characters reading 'Intermission'), as I was extremely nauseated by the experience. I shudder to think what the 3D version would have done for my sanity.

It is a real shame that Michael Bay has used his powers to do evil, as even in this monstrous clusterfuck (there you go, Kermode) of a film, there are flourishes of the Bayian (if there such a term) brilliance that we have seen in some of his films. This is actually a well-shot movie that looks the part, some of the action scenes are really good, and I like the fact that in many ways they embrace the lack of seriousness of the concept and just go for the balls-to-the-wall attitude. However, as soon as you hear that Steve Jablonsky score, one that makes the bad work of Alesandre Desplat sound like Ennio Morricone, you just want to pop some conveniently placed cotton buds in your ear, shut yourself off from the world, and get the well-earned rest you deserve, and dream up an even better movie than the one in the theatre. It is a step-up from The Robot Movie: With Added Phwoar! aka Previous Film, but it is still S.O.S. (Same Old Shit or genuine S.O.S.!) and I am bored, dulled and indifferent. Words of advice for Michael Bay, do a Tony Jaa and retire to the jungle for some meditation, come back and watch some Kurosawa and then make a great film. Honestly, you should really know better than this!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 3.7/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Craving (can't wait a beer. Look, I'm sitting in a Duff t-shirt, I can't not have one!)

P.S. Morals are not necessarily required for a film review, but they do suck in this. It is pretty leery and excessive and boorish, and I (and every one else in the audience) did not miss the American flag waving behind the Transformers. Also, look at the motorway sequence: every car bashed over and destroyed has blacked-out windows so you can't see anyone in them and all the other cars avoided or otherwise unscathed have people in them. It gives one interesting food for thought with regards to screen violence, as does the depiction of the Transformers fighting: if it was human beings fighting, the film would be a solid, Lucio Fulci big fat red 18. Finally, I hate the stereotypical humour of African-Americans, the Irish and the Scottish. Michael Bay, you suck, I hope you have a bad Christmas!

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