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Explosions maim plot in obnoxious 'Transformers' sequel

POSTED: June 24, 2009 10:30 p.m.
/Paramount Pictures

Too many explosions, like the one above featuring Megan Fox and Shia LeBeouf, ruin the potential and charm of the Transfomers franchise. The two-plus-hour hormone fest leaves viewers with little memory of a plot, but plenty of desire to purchase the inevitable action-figures.

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“Transformers 2” features the most impressive robots ever programmed into a computer and many battalions of heavily-armed American military men, all of whom blow up everything in sight. And all this carnage adds up to a dizzying, exhausting, loud, clanging, clanking, whirring, headache-inducing scrap pile of a movie.

This sequel to the 2007 megahit features three times the robots and a third as much charm as its predecessor. I’m trying now to remember if it told a story.

Oh, right: the Decepticons return to Earth in search of that Megatron dude and a really powerful thingy, which will restore strength to their leader guy, who was once powerful but is now stuck in these, like, vine thingies that look like something out of that super-old movie “Aliens.” But the Autobots are there to, like, totally kick the Decepticons’ butts.

The writing in “Transformers 2” nearly equals the intelligence of that synopsis. The amazing thing is, they paid three screen writers to create a story that any hormonally-charged seventh grade boy with violent tendencies could concoct during a week of study halls.

But hey, “Transformers 2” isn’t about quality writing. It’s an arousing exploration of Megan Fox’s love affair with lip gloss, halter tops and cut-off jean shorts. Occasionally, Fox graciously walks her perfectly tanned limbs and pouty lips into the background so Shia LeBeouf can hold our attention long enough to suggest a story.

The charming, likeable LeBeouf continues to build a career out of adding the sugar coating that helps us swallow awful movies. Add Fox’s eye candy and another hilarious performance from Julie White (as LeBeouf’s mother), and this movie is almost enjoyable.
Until it begins to take itself seriously and devolves into an endless string of explosions.

The second half of this thing plays like military propaganda aimed at 12-year-olds (a message for all the young dudes: U.S. soldiers don’t really fight alongside cool robots with cute personalities).

No one knows how to blow things up like director Michael Bay (“Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor”). His work is as subtle as the Iranian riot police. This time out, he destroys landmarks in New York City (of course), Paris and Egypt, and takes out an entire aircraft carrier.

Bay doesn’t want to just thrill you, he wants to splatter your brains against the seat over and over until you have to peel off the chunks. Actually, he wants his viewer to leave his brain at home, eat an entire lamb for dinner, pound his chest to indicate how many tickets he needs, see “Transformers 2,” then hum “God Bless America” the whole way home.

Bay wants his movies bigger and louder and whooshier than any damn thing you’ve ever laid eyes on. He wants his robots to have balls. In fact, one of the robots, “Devastator,” literally has balls. Two wrecking balls hanging right there under its body.

But then, of course Devastator has balls. After all, the length of all his pieces laid out end to end would total 13.84 miles. How do I know that? Because Paramount e-mailed a press release bragging about the technology necessary to create the computer-generated imagery creatures that populate “Transformers 2.”

And that’s really what this movie is about: things we can do with a computer. If such tech wizardry tickles your geek bone, this movie should be a treat.

But then, “Transformers 2” merely delivers the kind of CGI marvels that we’ve come to expect from summer movies. If we were to put together a time capsule, it would be the ideal example of a typical Hollywood blockbuster. And that’s pretty sad.

Because in the end, “Transformers 2” is really about selling toys. Before you call me cynical, consider that Hasbro co-produced it.

It’s possibly the most expensive, most transparent excuse for action figure tie-ins we’ve ever seen, and the world is about to make it one of the highest-grossing films of all time.

God Bless America.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.



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