I Sentence You To Michael Bay’s Next Picture…
I actually really enjoyed Tranformers: The One Without Megan Fox. I thought it was the best of the bunch, which admittedly could be like saying it’s the prettiest turd. It helped that I went in with very low expectations other than to watch a bunch of fightin’ space robots and ‘splosions; in this I was amply rewarded. It was actually far smarter (while being incredibly stoopid) and more self-aware than I ever expected it to be; it was rife with meta winks and knowing nods even as it delivered breathtaking action. As a native Chicagoan I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my city so lovingly destroyed and appreciated that they didn’t use the same five landmarks over and over again. I did laugh out loud when they tried to use Chicago locations to fill in for DC-not only are there no skyscrapers in DC, there are no buildings taller than the Washington Monument! Plus they had familiar Illinois roadsigns on what was supposed to be a DC highway; still, this is not an uncommon way for filmmakers to save money and I can’t blame them for trying to cut costs because this looked like a very expensive product. I think casting actors like John Malkovich and Frances McDormand was a nice touch; they gave what could have been some otherwise painfully dull scenes enough luster to get us through to more fightin’ robots. I especially liked Leonard Nimoy’s voice work as Sentinel Prime. I continue to be baffled as to why anyone thinks Shia LaBouf should be in movies, other than his name sounds like a French hairdresser in a Mel Brooks film (I picture him played by Harvey Korman). The effects were excellent even if a lot of the setups were derivative (one of the best action sequences was very reminiscent of one of the most suspenseful scenes in Cloverfield, but amped up in that Michael Bay way) and as I said, watching space robots invade Chicago was fun.
The title of this post is a reference to a Bill Hicks routine in which he talked about seeing T2 and how the special effects could not be surpassed; it’s very funny and you should listen to it:
I have a circle of friends that I regularly go to the movies with; we’re kind of a club that catches all the new films, so I’ve seen most of the recent releases and can say that Bill was on to something. Not about using terminally ill people and convicted criminals as stuntmen, but rather that CGI would completely change the possibility of what movies could show. The reason, say, a major motion picture featuring Green Lantern or the X-Men was unthinkable in the pre-CG age was that it would be expensive beyond imagining to create convincing effects that would in any way depict what had been done on the comic book page. Now the comic can function as a storyboard, as in the case of the Watchmen. In the case of Thor, the X-Men, and Green Lantern this was the case to varying degrees with varying success.
Green Lantern was the least successful of the three because it was big and bloated yet anemic and undernourished; choppy edits and an ill-defined villain made for a short movie that started strong and finished lame. It would have been better to have dealt with Parallax by the end of act II and had the Sinestro storyline be the focus of the third act rather than put off to the sequel. The best parts of the movie were seeing Oa and the Corps in action; the worst was Ryan Reynolds doing pretty much anything besides be Green Lantern. The other reason the film wasn’t successful was the reason the other two were, which is that they had a larger mythos to inhabit; it would be really interesting if this GL inhabited the same universe as Nolan’s Batman and the rebooted Superman. As it was, it was fun but not great.
X-Men: First Class succeeded because of the framework established by the other films in the series as well as the choice to make it a period piece that takes place in a specific time and place. The performances are convincing portrayals of people in extraordinary circumstances; the Xavier/Magneto relationship has never been so interesting and Mystique is finally given some significant screen time. The whole movie feels like a good Bond film from the 60’s, with cool action and sexy parties.
Thor is explicitly part of a larger series of films that will culminate with the Avengers and it executes a difficult task beautifully; making Thor convincing when planning to mix him up with Iron Man and Captain America. The film goes a long way towards explaining the metaphysics of a universe that contains Asgard, Midgard, and presumably, Skrulls and the Kree. Where the Hulk and Iron Man films have hinted at the larger world they inhabit, Thor is far less coy. This is why the film is successful; it has a purpose.
Speaking of awesome movies…