Monday, July 06, 2009

Good Enough... Isn't

I should preface this by saying that I didn't go to see Transformers 2. I saw Transformers in the theater, and I've seen enough Michael Bay to know what I was in for, and I opted out. This summer, I have opted out of "It looks shitty, but I loved it as a kid, so I'll go in hopeful" movies. I didn't see Terminator Salvation. I didn't see Transformers 2. I'm not going to see G.I. Joe. But I feel like I've seen enough shitty Hollywood blockbusters to talk in generalities here.

There seems to be some backlash building up to the overwhelmingly negative reviews of Transformers 2. Many fans, including folks whose work I respect, are writing text pieces that essentially say (sometime using this exact wording) that "Not everything is Shakespeare, this is just a fun movie about aliens turning into cars and planes." What they're saying is that no, it's not a great movie, but it's a good enough.

And hey, that's fine. You want an "OK" movie with lots of explosions, borderline sexism and racism, Michael Bay is *definitely* your guy.

But this isn't an "art movie" vs. "commercial movie" thing here. Let's not pretend it is. It's about intelligent escapism vs. dumbed-down escapism. Die Hard is an escapist movie. Terminator 2 is an escapist movie. Wrath of Khan is an escapist movie. Aliens is an escapist movie. All of these have as their number one priority to give the audience a big, loud thriller. You know what else they have?

Decent dialogue, a plot that makes sense, isn't needlessly complicated and full of ridiculous holes and actors who can do more than look pretty in skimpy clothes or scream "No no no no no" over and over again to express their dismay.

Enjoying Transformers 2 is fine, everybody's welcome to their bad movies. Hell, I own Lethal Weapon IV and Armageddon on DVD, I can't really throw stones here. But seeing Transformers 2 held up as the focus of some kind of "get the critics" crusade disturbs me even more than seeing Transformers 2 making so much money that Bay will probably get to do Transformers 3.



Nate Southard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nate Southard said...

Agreed. It never ceases to amaze me how many folks seem to feel "Fun" and "good" are mutually exclusive. I don't get it. Recently, somebody tried to explain to me that the term "good read" really refers to a fun book that's poorly written. Um, no.

Johannes said...

Like you Randy, I saw Transformers I and I own the 2 movies you mentioned. I *hated* Transformers I and won't see Transformers II or G.I. Joe, nor Terminator Salvation. I do love my share of mostly mindless action movies and own several dozen on DVD. A couple of years ago I asked a friend about the quality of a movie he just saw and he said: "It had great special effects." To which I responded: "That bad, huh?" And, I do like great special effects, it's just that there are more important aspects of a movie to me. My favourite review of Transformers II is at I'd just like to add that the world has vastly more morons than smart people. Probably over 90% of mankind believe in the adult equivalent of Santa Claus. What does that tell us? People re-elected George Bush, and according to, "American officials have privately told BBC News they cannot cut emissions as fast as the science requires, because the issue is still too politically contentious in the US Congress." I rest my case!


I saw the back half of Transformers II and it was god-awful. (And no, I don't feel like missing the first half "ruined" the back half--I got a pretty good idea of where it had been). My problems with it include there being WAY too much going on with the Transformers themselves, to the point where you can't follow the fighting sequences at all--it's just a giant CGI blur moving across the screen--plus those stupid faces they put on the robots are ridiculous. Plus there's just some story elements that make no sense at all, but I'll refrain from mentioning those in case someone would prefer it not spoiled.