Thursday, December 03, 2009

Battery Is All That’s Included

I’ve made no bones about liking Michael Bay movies. So much so, in fact, that I wouldn’t even deign to consider them guilty pleasures simply because that would be too denigrating. They’re certainly not going to be mistaken for the films of Kubrick or Hitchcock or Powell & Pressburger, but that’s no bad thing.

Between watching acerbic comedies, poignant dramas, labyrinthine thrillers and hardcore pornography there are times when I’m happy to sit back and watch guys running around and blowing shit up on a massive scale, probably because it takes me back to when I was a little kiddie, taken to see Where Eagles Dare at The Savoy cinema in Exmouth not once but twice. And Bay really knows how to point a camera at shit blowing up on a massive scale really well.

Of course there’s a little bit more to it than that. Most of the films have quite a nice vein of humour running through them so that they never always take themselves too seriously, which makes them far better than James Cameron’s more po–faced boys–with–their–toys movies. But really it’s all about finding a really cool location and then letting the mayhem begin. Of course it doesn’t mean that all of Bay’s films work. On the existing evidence he really shouldn’t do historical epics that incorporate a seriously grating love story, and he really, really, shouldn’t do sequels.

Bad Boys, his first feature, was a lean and energetic cop buddy–movie. Eight years later, the belated sequel – which might have seemed a safer bet after the critical pasting unleashed upon Pearl Harbor – was a bloated and humourless mess that could have done with close to an hour chopped from the almost two–and–a–half hours running time. The same has happened with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Although only a couple of minutes longer that the first movie it felt like it went on for much, much longer.

I quite liked the first Transformers film. When the whole “Robots in Disguise” craze first hit in the mid–1980s I was well past the age of pissing around with plastic toys or watching crappy cartoons. I can’t say I felt at all left out, which meant that when the movie was announced I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy. How do you take alien robots beating the cogs off each other seriously? Obviously the answer was you don’t so while the Autobots and Decepticons bash each other about the humans skitter around providing the comic relief.

The sequel just didn’t manage to find the same balance. Like most follow–ups, because the characters are already established and, in this instance, the robots already outed, there’s very little for them to do other than go through the motions. Stretching an already thin story, regularly punctuated by robot smackdowns, well beyond its breaking point, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was like an endurance test that I barely managed to get to the end of.

Just past the first hour I figured that the film was almost at the end and was astonished to look at the timer and see that it wasn’t even at the midway point. By the time the credits rolled I was so worn down that I couldn’t remember what had happened at the beginning so didn’t know if it had reached a satisfying conclusion.

And now Michael bay is preparing to make a third Transformers film. I’d never have thought he could be mistaken for Woody Allen’s Sandy Bates from Stardust Memories, but if he carries on like this soon I’ll look back at his work and declare that I prefer his “earlier, funnier movies.”


At 2:16 pm, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

For me, the only memorably chuckle-worthy bit in Revenge... was Turturro doing his “One man alone” speech in a little compact car.

With another guy sat right next to him, wondering WTF he was on about.

Nice. :-)

At 5:17 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Unfortunately I was seriously losing the will to live by then.

That first movie worked because rather than being just two hours of robots biffing and bashing each other there were the wonderful character moments. You had Bernie Mac as the used car salesman, the overweight computer hacker, and especially the gardening obsessed parents. As juvenile as it was, I bellowed with laughter when the FBI turn up at the house and the mother yells at them to take their hands off her bush. And, of course, there was Turturro.

You needed all these characters because the square–jawed soldiers were just square–jawed soldiers and the two kids were just rubbish. This time around the parents are wasted – literally in the case of the mother, oh, tee–hee! – there’s the college pal who is even more rubbish than the two kids, who are still rubbish. At least there was Turturro who hadn’t just turned up for the big sequel paycheque.

At 5:33 pm, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

Lordy, you should see Terminator: Salvation - hilariously bad stuff. Or DON’T, obviously.

Sam Worthington was actually half-decent. Which made him look like he should have been given an Oscar, compared to the rest of the dreck. Pompous speechifying, hammy set-pieces and Christian Bale playing his alter-ego, Tracheotomy Boy, it really was wheezingly awful.

What are the odds the next one in the franchise (if there is one) features unknowns and is direct-to-DVD? :-/


Post a Comment

<< Home