Films recently seen:
Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon
DotM, in many ways, feels like an overwrought apology for the last Trasnformers flick. That said, I didn’t like it as much. It’s a little bit of a crazy notion to try and wrap your head around, but if you exclude all the annoying robots, John Turturro and the hispanic dude, you’re basically left with a movie that’s filled with awesome robot fights. In particular, there’s a sequence in the woods where Prime just goes apeshit on a whole pack of Decepticons, pull Blackout’s face apart, blowing off Starscream’s arm, laying into Megatron pretty hard, and just doing all around incredible things. So there’s a lot of good stuff there. And then the fight at the end is just intense as all get out – killing the big bad for Prime basically involves:
A. Stabbing him through his face with his own spear.
B. Tearing that face off with said spear.
C. Pinning him between a pair of ancient pillars, punching him through the chest, and crushing his spark.
The last part is particularly gruesome, because they found a way to give Transformers blood in the form of a kind of molten, orange-hot glowing stream of what I assume is melted metal of some kind, and it drains and drips out of the Fallen’s mouth as he…erm… falls.
So that, that’s pretty friggen’ cool. Most of TF3’s best moments occur in significantly different ways. The opening 5 minutes or so sets up the entire premise for the story – an Autobot ship crashed on the moon 50 years ago and the space race kicked off to try and get up there and find out what happened. So Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin hopping around the moon’s surface, investigating a Transformer ship called the Ark was actually pretty dang nifty.
Shortly thereafter, Prime travels to Chernobyl with the Human anti-Decepticon SpecOps team (I forget their name) and we get a cool reveal – Prime has his trailer. This is neat only because then Laserbeak shows up and assassinates some dude. Where there’s Laserbeak, there’s Soundwave, so that was exciting.
Then there’s a lot of boring shit that happens. Ken Jeong shows up to be, well, Ken Jeong and ruins the proceedings further. Turturro reappears with a kitschy Alan Tudyk sporting a german accent. It’s all very weak sauce. There’s a fairly disturbing Laserbeak assassination in there as well, but it’s not really intimidating because I don’t know or care about the guy he’s killing. Then Leonard Nimoy’s character, Sentinel Prime, is revived by the Matrix and we got a lot of introspection and dialogue and no plot really happening. There’s basically 45 minutes of slow in the middle of the movie where it’s just humans talking.
When will they figure out that we would come to watch the Robots just beat the shit out of each other in real-world settings. That’s what everyone wants to see. No one cares about Shia Lebouf or his feelings of inadequacy because he can’t find a job where he matters or is important. Us in the audience – we get that. We’re in that generation. We don’t need to be reminded of it again. We don’t need constant references to the Megan Fox character to accept that he found some new British hottie. It’s fine. Move on. When they finally do, it’s pretty cool – the first pack of disposable Decepticons that Ironhide and co. take down are fun, and then there’s the big twist, and then there’s another 45 god damn minutes setting up the twist. It happens. Get going. The Prime dialogue here is pretty good, he’s interesting in this role. Then there’s (FINALLY) an evil human, but he doesn’t show up until like an hour and a half into the thing. Good lord, can we move it along?
And then, after reiterating a hundred times that we can’t make it to the end battle because the city is so dangerous, we make it to the end battle, and it goes on FOREVER. There was a totally unnecessary involvement of a building-collapsing sequence that remains conspicuously unexplained and underwhelming the whole time. That drags on for a good twenty minutes, then we get 5 minutes of fighting robots, then we’re back to SpecOps guys grabbing wingsuits and gliding into the battle out of crashing V-22 Ospreys. It’s all very fine, but it goes on FOREVER, and we still don’t get to the final fight. We have to watch Sam fight Starscream. He’s not in an exosuit, which would actually be cool, but we have to deal with that nonetheless. Bumblebee still can’t talk, and the new robots who are introduced aren’t interesting looking and do nothing interesting, so it’s all just filler until we finally get to Prime’s fight against the big bad and Sam’s fight against the human big bad. Then that happens (and it’s pretty decent) and the movie’s over.
There are huge plot and continuity questions. All of a sudden, Megatron’s had this dastardly plan set up since the Transformer civil war. Ignoring, of course, that he came to Earth 100 years ago looking for the Allspark. Ignoring, of course, that when that failed, out of nowhere, an ancient Transformer who presumably is the godfather of all Decepticons, turns out to be his master, so it was never his plan to begin with. Spoiler, a little bit, but Megs’ plan is to use a giant teleportation thing to warp Cybertron into Earth’s orbit (or vice versa?) to unknowable ends. The tidal forces Cybertron would cause would probably very nearly destroy the whole planet. So who knows what they were thinking there. But wait, wasn’t his plan to use the Allspark to convert Earth’s machinery into an army of pimp-ass Decepticons to finally end the war and wipe out the remaining Autobot Rebels? But, wait, wasn’t the Fallen’s plan to find the Matrix of leadership and use its power to activate the super weapon, destroy the sun, and harvest all the energy to create, basically, a new Allspark and do the same thing? And if that was the case, where did Megs’ deal with the devil [spoiler: Sentinel Prime] come in? Was that just a back-up? At the behest of the Fallen – who is just chillin on the Nemesis on Mars?
None of it really makes any sense, whatsoever, so I’d recommend not trying to make sense of it. That said, while there was less overt racism and fewer shticks in TF3 (thought still plenty, most would argue, too many), I would actually trade a lot of that for the brevity and simplicity of the second movie, which got down to brass-robot-ass-kickin’-tacks much faster and with way less convolution.
Super 8, on the other hand, was a crap ton of fun, the acting was incredibly solid, and it was just a really well-put-together movie. The monster is interesting and ambiguous enough that you don’t get bored with its shenanigans halfway through, with lots of really neat period elements that help it feel strange and mysterious (even if it telegraphs a little bit what it’s doing). I may have mentioned – a recent read in my Syd Field’s Screenwriting indicated that most great scripts are about the unfolding of a single event, and that’s evident here in Super 8. The whole movie, ultimately, is about this one poignant thing that happens off-camera before the movie even begins. Inception is the same way – the whole plot and concept of the movie revolves around one incident that didn’t even occur within the timeline of the film. If you want to get right down to it, Juno is the same damn thing, too.*
Oh, trailers: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol has, seemingly as its defining feature, many forms of punctuation. But more than that, it’s another God damn Mission Impossible movie, which I’m sure everyone and their brother is about done with by now (or at least, I hope so). The thing that gives me hope? Check out the director.
*You could make the case for Star Wars all being about the moment Luke lost his father. He mentions his mother a grand total of 1 time in 6-ish hours of film, so that’s pretty significant. Now, how his father was “lost” is a matter of some debate, but it’s all very much an Oedipal heroic thing. Then the Great Bearded Money Dragon up and fuck’d it all up and showed us. What event were those three movies unfolding around? One in the future, which meant the whole time we a.) knew that there were no true stakes or risks because conditions had to remain the same for the inciting incident to occur in the future and b.) we’re bored out of our mind whenever we see anything that doesn’t seem to be advancing us directly toward that important incident.