Transformers: Dark of the Moon review
|Transformers: Dark of the Moon review|
All Michael Bay cares about in the third Transformers film is idiotic, unintelligible machine combat
By Armond White
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Directed by Michael Bay
Runtime: 157 min.
Ten years ago this week saw the premiere of A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Steven Spielberg’s film about a robot with a soul, and there hasn’t been a better movie since. Certainly not Transformers: Dark of the Moon, third in the Michael Bay fantasy series essentially about rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots (aliens from the planet Cybertron) who come to Earth and f!ght over the domination of mankind.
Bay’s ongoing premise—good guy Autobots battle bad guy Decepticons—isn’t just boyhood army play writ large; it charts the distance our culture has traveled during the past decade. By avoiding contemplation about the emotional nature of its clanging, morphing, warring creatures—or even why the combat is never, ever decisive—Bay and executive producer Steven Spielberg accommodate the insensitivity that characterizes post-9/11 culture.
As entertainment, the Transformer movies are both coarsening and defensive—especially when we watch American teenager Sam Witwicky (obnoxious Shia LaBeouf) play mascot to the metal behemoths for a third time without his learning anything new. Sam romps with a new girlfriend—this time a pillow-lipped British blonde named Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley standing in for the irreplaceable Megan Fox) and spars with a CIA operative (Frances McDormand) while dodging bullets, explosions and crumbling architecture.
Sam is not a human version of A.I.’s heartbreaking robot David (Haley Joel Osment); neither are the meant-to-be-comical but confusingly interchangeable Transformers: heroic Optimus Prime and Megatron and villainous Sentinel Prime. Their changeable metal body parts yet single-minded characteristics resemble the personalities of pets; they’re unsurprising, doing the same old morph-choreography and no longer an emanation of human will as the first two films amusingly suggested. Instead, Dark of the Moon uses these noisy Transformers to indicate our nervous disregard of soulfulness. The persistent emphasis on war derives from the shock and terror of 9/11 more than it does from the playful metamorphoses of the Hasbro’s original toys.
And yet, Transformers stubbornly remains a boy’s thing: IMAX-scale figures combining destruction and reconstruction. Bay rivals Sam Peckinpah’s compositional gifts, but the unexamined violence is offered as primal acts of mindless leisure. This is a pathetic development of what should have been A.I.’s humanist legacy except that early aughts culture-arbiters never took up the moral significance in Spielberg’s exploration of man’s destiny. (Gregory Solman’s essential essay on A.I. was turned down by a New York film publication and only published by the Australian website Senses of Cinema.) David’s Pinocchio-like quest to become a real boy was actually a parable about faith and childhood: A robot child launched into the vast future was all the final remnant of human consciousness. Spielberg took what could have been a nihilistic Kubrickian speculation and up-ended it; finding the wonderment of spirituality and memory invested in machinery.
Now David—the totem of longing, love and faith—is rebutted by the Transformers’ violent technology (they never morph into anything fun). A profound idea gets vitiated by Bay and Spielberg’s infernal machines (and fanboys’ blind devotion to consumerism). My disappointment in Dark of the Moon is complicated since it is clearly a film of enormous—if limited—imagination. Its cultural impact denies the sensitivity of A.I.’s endeavor by promising stimulation rather than insight. Since A.I.’s gentle cerebration was never popular enough to counter the demoralization of 9/11, thoughtless cinematic forms prevailed—along with a panic-stricken relationship to technology that this series virtually celebrates.
Bay’s knack for extravagant gadgetry, grandiose violence and hyperbolic panoramas produces images well worth their exorbitant budgets but it comes at an awful intellectual cost. Instead of looking toward man’s future, Bay trivializes the past and present. Dark of the Moon traduces the U.S.-Russian space race, the 1969 moonwalk and the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown no differently than Bay trivialized WWII in Pearl Harbor. This time, his indifference to history shows in the trite estimation of historical figures (John Kennedy, Robert McNamara, Buzz Aldrin) who represent human struggle. It’s pretext for rationalizing outer space conspiracies and threat that wind up looking just like Bay’s nonsensical Armageddon. Retro scenes parody Oliver Stone’s JFK and the long slog though Bay and screenwriter Ehren Kruger’s inane ideas of se# farce and family comedy confirm an arrogant, two-plus hour indifference to contoured storytelling—all to set up about 15 minutes of Pow!
Regrettably, the poetry of Transformers 2—it presciently translated post-9/11 Mid-East fears to the surrealistic vandalism of its Pyramid sequences—is lost. (Here Sentinel Prime simply commands: “Around the world, [nuclear] pillars arise!”). Now, there’s no poetry; just idiotic, unintelligible machine combat. While it easily out-astonishes Chris Nolan’s glum Inception, it defames the action-movie tradition and embarra##es the talent that makes Bay a great filmmaker.
Distinction must be made: The previous Transformer movies seemed perfect vehicles for Bay’s action skills and penchant for exultant scenes of blooming, zooming chaos. Numb to dialogue, with an adman’s sense of reality, Bay yet exhibits absolute visual wit. His compositions and sense of dynamism relate—no joke—to the Futurist art movement that influenced the cinematic advances of the silent era.
In the 1910 Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting, signed by Boccioni, Carra, Russolo, Balla and Severini, the Futurists virtually predicted Bay’s Transformers when they proclaimed: “Our renovated consciousness does not permit us to look upon man as the center of universal life. The suffering of a man is of the same interest to us as the suffering of an electric lamp, which, with spasmodic starts, shrieks out the most heartrending expression of color…The time has pa##ed for our sensations in painting to be whispered. We wish them in future to sing and re-echo upon our canvases in deafening and triumphant flourishes.”
The Pow! moments in Dark of the Moon are exactly like that. The climactic battle in Chicago contains crosshatch vectors of sci-fi action that recall Boccioni’s paintings The City Rises (1910) and The Street Enters the House (1911) as well as the Manifesto’s “persistent symbols of universal vibration…the motor bus rushes into the houses which it pa##es and in their turn the houses throw themselves upon the motor bus and are blended with it.” Think of that when you see a Deception named Soundwave/Shockwave grind through Chicago like a destructive earthworm. Bay’s image of a skyscraper squeezed by a serpentine turbine is, frankly, a marvel. To watch the solid structure bend and fold over evokes the 9/11 WTC nightmare: pure Hollywood Capitalist defiance. It’s a Pop Art thing that shouldn’t be mistaken for a summer blockbuster thing.
Bay’s fantasy of mankind’s upheaval is certainly about dynamism, yet not much else. (Would the Futurists approve of such decadence?) Still, critics and fanboys should demand more—that he dig deeper. The smallest narrative link between Chicago’s decimation and a single character’s caring about it would make this sequence magnificent, not just spectacular. (A curious line of dialogue describing “a visual and therefore visceral betrayal” is oddly apt.) Scenes where robots destroy cities apparently uninhabited by people—a bloodless Armageddon—either excavates Chicago’s secret moral corruption (perhaps a timely private fantasy of Rod Blagojevich?) or else is just another tentpole time-killer, as stupid as Inception or Avatar.
A.I.’s robot child poetically embodied that precious virtue of caring. He personified love that existed throughout time and reified the purpose of narrative, the meaning of art. Spielberg took the Futurists’ anti-sentimentality back to the future. In Dark of the Moon, Bay’s machines mean nothing. Because the Transformers movies have come to reflect none of A.I.’s significance, Bay’s technical marvel is an artistic failure—for anyone who cares about that kind of thing.
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|06-30-2011, 02:52 PM||away - #2|
What does "A.I." have to do with Transformers other than Robots???
And, why does he make a point of comparing the two when their stories and purposes are so wildly different?
And, why is he so critical about this one, yet he loves the last film?
And, what poetry would he be referring to in the previous film?
Shouldn't it be noted that the previous film was made mostly without a script? (not making that up)...
This guy's tastes confuses me like nothing else.
|06-30-2011, 02:52 PM||away - #3|
(Rosie Huntington-Whiteley standing in for the irreplaceable Megan Fox) Told you he had a crush on Megan Fox.
|06-30-2011, 02:54 PM||away - #4|
|06-30-2011, 02:56 PM||away - #5|
Second Transformers Transforming is the capitalist dream of rebranding. It’s not transcendence—thus, the need for the basic sci-fi story of good vs. evil, where Revenge of the Fallen alludes to the story of Lucifer.
also in transformers 2 he writesIn the history of motion pictures, Bay has created the best canted angles—ever. The world looms behind a human protagonist with the enormity of life itself. (My favorite: a windblown Megan Fox facing the audience as a jet f!ghter slowly, majestically glides behind/above her).
|06-30-2011, 03:06 PM||away - #6|
You gotta be f*cking kidding me!
|06-30-2011, 03:21 PM||away - #7|
|06-30-2011, 03:22 PM||away - #8|
|06-30-2011, 03:26 PM||away - #9|
|06-30-2011, 03:26 PM||away - #10|
|06-30-2011, 03:34 PM||away - #11|
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