Monday, June 29, 2009

The End of the World as We Know It

I saw the new Transformers movie last night. In a rare display of familial affection, our 17 year old son went with us. (Although when Bruce yelled across the concession area at the daughter of a family friend, our son threatened to leave out of embarrassment.) Being the only girl in my family, most of the movies I actually see in the theater are action movies. Sometimes I'll drag Bruce to something deeper and more thoughtful if the subject matter appeals to him, but mostly I have to wait for the DVD to see non-action flicks.

Having seen so many testosterone-filled, blow-everything-up, shoot-anything-that-moves movies, I think I'm getting action movie fatigue. Images that should horrify me don't. Sequences that should fill me with awe don't. An aircraft carrier is destroyed in the movie. This is in the trailer, so it's not a spoiler. The idea of all those American sailors meeting a horrible end should affect me. It didn't. While the special effects were first rate, it still seemed more like a video game than an important piece of the story.

And of course, this is the crux of my fatigue. The destruction of the aircraft carrier was pure spectacle. It did absolutely nothing to move the story forward. We never met any of the sailors on the carrier, so when it sank, it felt more like vandalism of government property than mass murder. Hollywood, I'm talking to you now. It is possible to engage action movie viewers with meaningful story and nuanced characters, even brain-rotted teenaged boys. Anyone remember last summer's The Dark Knight?

Don't even get me started on the plausibility of the few non-action sequences. A passport-less John Turturro gets through an Egyptian security checkpoint by smiling and saying, "I'm from New York." Then there is the scene in which the gang exits the back door of the Smithsonian, that big museum in Washington, DC, and winds up on an old desert-like airbase. I understand willing suspension of disbelief, but come on guys.

Pacing is a nice thing in any story, but the makers of this movie weren't acquainted with that concept. Transformers is loooonnnngggg. Because the action is non-stop from beginning to end, there is no sense of climax in the final sequence. I actually found myself yawning when I should have been on the edge of my seat wondering if Sam would save Optimus Prime and keep our sun from being destroyed. I would say there was no real sense of imminent doom, but Michael Bay, the director, was having so much fun with the explosions, I wasn't sure if he might want to blow the sun up too. Either way, the diet coke I bought before the movie was making me uncomfortable, and I was ready for "The End."

While this movie did eventually end after almost three hours, the previews indicated there are a lot more like it in the pipeline. In the GI Joe preview, the Eiffel Tower blew up. That particular image is becoming more than a little cliche. I can think of at least two other movies that destroy the Eiffel Tower. Maybe we just resent the French, but in the preview for 2012, the White House was aircraft carrier rolled over it in a big tidal wave. Three cliches in one 5 second sequence! 2012 opens just in time for Christmas. Peace on Earth, and enjoy the apocalypse.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't seen that movie, but I feel your pain. I'm tired of the so-called Hollywood Glory Flicks that mean absolutely nothing. Story trumps action every time.