Am I spoiling this film? Bay’s already done that!
Now I swore blind that I wasn’t going to bother seeing this movie… Well not at the cinema, at least. The first movie flat out annoyed me, mainly due to Michael Bay’s insistence on using ADD inflicted12 year olds hopped up on tartrazine to film the action sequences. Why bother spending millions of amazing robot battles and transformations and then whirl the camera around so much you can’t actually see what the hell is going on? It seemed like a huge own goal.
Anyhow, when the trailers for Transfromers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen hit, it did appear that, miracle of miracles, Bay had actually listened to the criticisms of the first film and this time round that reigned in his hyperactivity and was letting us see the Transformers doing their stuff. However when the reviews hit, it became clear that despite more coherent action sequences, everything else was a good deal worse than the first. And so I scratched it from the cinema visit schedule…
But then, I happened to see a particularly terrible movie – Street Fighter – The Legend of Chun Li (documented for posterior here) … So the day after seeing this slice of cinematic dreck, a film so inept one needs self-medication to get through it, and being somewhat worse for wear as a consequence, I decided to go and see T2:ROTF on the grounds that it really couldn’t be any worse…
And how was it? It was loud, obnoxious and hyperactive with senseless shouted dialogue ….and that was just the audience!
At the risk of going all Harry Knowles on you all, I must first note that this was one of the worst cinema experiences I’ve had in a while. Normally I find that Sunday afternoon screenings are fairly dead and you can see a flick in the company of that endangered species, people who go the cinema to actually watch the bloody film.
However I had severely underestimated the box office power of the All Spark, and consequently had to endure the movie in a theatre filled with noisy brats, gobshite parents behaving worse than their spawn, and disaffected loudmouth teenagers fistfucking each other with IPods by the sounds of it.
But onto the film itself…Now I’m not going to stand here and try and tell you that this is by any stretch of the imagination a good film. I entirely stand by the assessments of Mark Kermode and Ian Loring – if you clicketh the linkage to their reviews you’ll get a complete and accurate dissection of everything that is wrong with this film.
… and you knew there was a but coming…
(insert Megan Fox joke here)
… I actually really enjoyed it, and furthermore I suspect that this movie will go down as a classic of its kind!
Yes, it’s too long. Yes, the plot makes as much sense as a chocolate fire guard. Yes, Megan Fox is out acted by her own arse! And yes, Michael Bay is probably clinically insane! Even as a summer blockbuster popcorn movie, it misses the target.
In Transformers, Bay missed the said target’s bull’s-eye with his shotgun blast direction, but in T2:ROTF, he changed tactics – this film is the equivalent of nuking the entire town the archery contest is in from an orbiting space platform of atomic death.
Now it’s fair to say that I went into this movie with lowered expectations. Well, I say ‘lowered’ – more like I summoned the Lamia and had them dragged screaming into the fiery pits of Hell. I was fully expecting what Tim from Spaced would call “an overblown firework of a toy ad”. And in fairness, that’s all the Transformers films are meant to be. I knew it was going to be a mess of robots punching each others lights out, but what I wasn’t expecting was the sheer scale of the lunacy Bay has conjured.
It’s as if Toho Studios threw Ed Wood and Bert I Gordon into a vat of Oswley’s finest acid and gorilla testosterone, subjected them to Jeremy Clarkson DVDs in Clockwork Orange style, and then set the pair loose with an unlimited budget to transfer the resulting visions to the screen.
By the time Bay veiled the senile Decepticon, complete with metallic beard and walking cane, he’d film criticism breaking down like the laws of physics around a singularity and the movie burning through the ionosphere with the controls sets for the heart of the sun! This is cinema as a Disaster Area gig!
It is so epically stupid, loud and spectacular, and its myriad flaws magnified to such a degree, the movie is transmuted to the levels of high art. It’s true there’s not enough sense in the plot to fill a squirrel’s acorn cup and Bay is more concerned with crafting demented imagery than telling a coherent story, but other auteurs such David Lynch and Dario Argento are frequently equally guilty of this.
Both these directors’ works are often described as possessing the logic of fevered dreams, and about a hour into T2: ROTF I was beginning to think I was undergoing a cataclysmic psychedelic flashback of kaiju proportions.
And in many ways, that’s what T2:ROTF is – a multi-million dollar kaiju. The Transformers toys’ heritage actually does stretch back into the lands of kaiju. Cult Japanese scifi series Ultraman often featured giant menaces and was created by Eli Tsuburaya who brought Godzilla to the screen. Ultraman inspired the early ‘70s Henshin Cyborg toys, which developed into Microman/Micronauts lines which in turned spawned the first Transformers.
So it’s a very appropriate approach to viewing this film. All the usual elements of the genre are here - giant beings battling, wholesale destruction of landmarks, and comedy interludes, all wrapped up in a plot that verges on the surreal in its nonsense. You could perhaps forgive T2: ROTF its trespasses in the same way you would forgive poor performances and logical lapses in the average Godzilla flick.
Alternatively though, in the face of unrelenting set-pieces and demented imagery you could attempt an arthouse interpretation. Are Bay’s excesses are kind of satire on blockbuster action? Certainly I spent most of this movie chuckling in disbelief at what he was presenting on screen. Or perhaps it’s an allegory? Bay appears to be mowing down a whole herd of sacred cows in a picaresque journey of mayhem. Parents are mocked, students shown as idiots, the internet dismissed, education and science rubbished, and authority revealed as incompetent, and cultural heritage destroyed with the Pyramids – the only things that matter, according to Bay it seems is loyalty and honor…
Or perhaps Megan Fox’s arse. It’s hard to be sure. Film students – there’s a thesis here!
Transformers 2 may well be “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” but it so colossal in its delirum, I can’t help but admire it. It may be a turkey, but it’s a 12 storey titanium-plated Mecha-Turkey rampaging through Hollywood, laying waste to sense and reason with its atomic breath. It is quite sheer brilliant in its terribleness. Michael Bay is often described as a cult (though I might have misheard) and I suspect Tranformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen he created a future cult classic.
POSTSCRIPTUM - At my last jaunt to the local fleapit, I happened to overhear a small child regaling with its parent with the highlights of Transformers 2...
"Dat was cool, da robot hit 'im an' he blowed up an' den 'e 'it 'im an' anuvver robot kicked 'im
and he blowed up too, an' the robots turned inta vans and stuff and 'it each uvver an' den dey all explodeded and blowed up!"
Hey Mister Bay! I've found your next script writer!
JIM MOON, 1st July 2009