Mamo #142: We Loved Transformers

Mamo!

The sheer ferocity of the critical reaction to Transformers 2 says a lot more about the motivations of the critics who have been laying in the weeds for this chance to strike, and a lot less about the actual relative quality of a movie which is, if dumb, significantly more successful than anyone’s admitted so far. Let Mamo be the beacon of truth once again, as we deconstruct what is now guaranteed to be the biggest box office hit of the summer… while mourning the passing of a true icon. We’re looking at the man in the mirror: we’re asking him to change his ways.

SPOILER WARNING!

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Rusty James
Guest

Awesome! Haven't listened yet but if it lives up to the title then this is exactly what we need around here. Someone standing in opposition to the tide of opinion.

Hopefully this won't be one of those things where you're defending it ironically.

Rusty James
Guest

oh boy!

"There's only one scene that made me nautious. Just one!"

Yeah, you guys are get some much deserved shit for this.

Did you guys read Drew McWeeny's review?

Rusty James
Guest

"I'm not saying the acceptance of this isn't indicative of a large scale systemic racism […] but I liked it"

Goddamn this is awesome!

Rusty James
Guest

"your brain doesn't work by slowing down, it works by speeding up"

ha ha. What?

"It's like EE Cummings. I'm not comparing it to EE Cummings!"

This podcast is hilarious!

Well that was pretty good. I guess what it comes down to is that this review plays more like a reaction to the critic backlash than a reaction to the film.

Any potential point you could've made was made null early on when you said it's "not really cinema" at that point I'm unclear on what you're defending and why.

It's kind of a general schmear of:

Turn your brain off and enjoy it.

It's not good but it's fun.

It's terrible. Isn't that hilarious.

It's not supposed to be a danish horror movie

Critics are out of touch and have lost their child like wonder.

Box office! lookit all the money!

It's like an all purpose against-the-critics-fun-pak.

But I'm glad you enjoyed it (if infact that's what you did).

Henrik
Guest

All I need is Rustys writeup.

Rusty James
Guest

I'd love to oblige Henrik. But haven't actually seen the film. I've just taken the liberty of mouthing off about it.

Henrik
Guest

I meant of this podcast.

Goon
Guest

If Mamo is serious about TF2 I may have listened to my last Mamo podcast

Goon
Guest

"Any potential point you could’ve made was made null early on when you said it’s “not really cinema” at that point I’m unclear on what you’re defending and why."

While I only listened to a few minutes of the show so far, Indeed. I can empathize with the show about how if you know what you're getting into with Bay, you can look at it like its the circus and get more enjoyment of it than you would if you were expecting a legitimately good film. But at the same time its retarded to get into some of this stuff about the critics as if they have some responsibility to review movies through ironic or special terms. That's kind of stupid.

Goon
Guest

So spoiler alert, the podcast is clearly mostly ironic enjoyment or backhanded praise.

but they pull out the "giant fucking robots" excuse, which is way too close to the same excuses some very dumb people give unironically.

Goon
Guest

Entertaining written review Matt, but I take strong exception to this from a factual level:

"You can't say that the only good thing about Transformers 1 was the robots, and then complain about Transformers 2, where nearly everything but the robots has been chainsawed bloodily out."

This is just plain not true. After Jetfire takes off (and I agree that scene was actually inspired. Jetfire came off like a Robot Ent), from that point on the movie is all about the people. For the first hour or so, except for the cutaways to college, this movie is actually a movie about the Transformers. THAT is why this movie is better than the first one. But eventually the robots just get treated like explosions rather than characters, and exist in the background tearing each other apart while we get slow motion shots of Megan Fox running, Shia running or screaming "Nooooo", wtf long sequences of Turturro talking to people on aircraft carriers, military doing their thing (teh biggest transformer is taken out by humans rather than teh starring robots). And of course Optimus is missing in all of this until the very end, where his final climactic battle with the Fallen lasts about 2 minutes.

So sorry man, there are more minutes of robots on screen, but your statement above just isn't true. Bay does everything he can to keep us from watching the robots fight about haflway through the movie, while at the same time teasing everyone by letting us know they are actually still fighting at the side of and/or off screen.

Henrik
Guest

My review of Transformers 2 (minus all my delicate details manipulating the danish language, also known as puns):

Revenge is coming. Two years after the dumb robots got beaten in the bumpers in Transformers, the sequel is in theatres. In america, you don't waste time when you've got a milliondollar product to push to the masses. The entire team from the first is back minus a couple of actors, but they seem to be the least important thing in the production. The two most important things are Michael Bay and Scott Farrar.

Michael Bay has directed and it seems that the Transformersmovies will be his signaturefilm. It seems that his form and content have reached their ultimate expression in the tales of the big robots, who fight while sweaty models – and Shia Lebeouf – run around between the bangs. If any, Michael Bay has a recognizable style, and you know that you're going to get polished images, that seem made for commercials. Something one would assume car companies and the american military values greatly. Is it filmart? Hard to answer. The whole thing is tame, unoriginal and tasteless to a level that is almost absurd, but Bay does earn his paycheck sporadically throughout this extremely long film. When you sit and look at these ultrastylized and very thoroughly prepared images on a huge screen, there are places where it's hard not to be impressed by Bay and his visual prowess. IE. when he blows up an aircraft carrier. It is banal and childish, but it has a certain charm to it.

But the movie is perhaps more dependant on Scott Farrar. He is a visual effects supervisor at ILM, and has had the responsibility for both Transformermovies. Many first noticed him when he supervised Minority Report, which was very acclaimed for its visual effects, but in Transformers him and his team of computergeeks, really get to spread their wings. Even to a man who was destroyed New York (with World Trade Center and everything) in Deep Impact, it must be wonderful to get this many sequences to supervise, and be in on a movie which to this extreme degree is reliant on VFX. They are the end-all, be-all of the film, since all the audience wants to see are the robots (except for those who want to see Megan Fox of course, there have been no reports of Scott Farrer being in on her visual expression, I guess it's all Michael Bay). And they completely work. Farrar is taking over Dennis Murens position as the leading VFX supervisor at ILM, and he fills the might shoes admirably (other leading names are people like Pablo Helman and Ben Snow). He again delivers the goods in thus-far unseen style. You love seing the robots on the screen, since they are so close to being real. Very few places don't you actually believe they are there, the vast majority of the time you accept them as part of the environment, and since big robots are impressive in reality, they are almost as impressive on the screens almost-reality.

The film is far, far, far too long, and makes no sense. Nothing is coherent, the acting is ranging from tolerable to horrible (when Megan Fox is on the screen, which she is quite a bit, it feels like you're watching Baywatch, ironically. BAYwatch, getit?), and the music is boring as hell, it takes whats good about the first score and impairs it a bit. Revenge has come. Michael Bay has taken revenge on all of those people who told him that he needed a coherent story to hitch his overcompensating actionsequences onto. Unfortunately he still needs 150 minutes to show around 60 minutes of action, and at that point it doesn't matter, it seems more like a gigantic mistake than a rebellion. Let it b said, that except for a few moments, the film is dreadfully boring, vulgar like a Cult Shaker ad (without any sort of nudity though, this is porn for familyfathers, and their preteen sons) and most of all, incredibly stupid. But it has a certain absurd charm, where you get the sense that things are just about to be unhinged and delve into the completely meaningless storywise with humour that is as inappropriate and cheap that it is like seing a childrens drawing. A childrens drawing of some big robots who hit eachother in the head and shoot laserweapons, which has been post-produced by the worlds greatest computerartists.

rot
Guest

Beware, Matt Brown was the same person who had Pirates of the Caribbean 3 as his favorite film of that year.

I am going to avoid Transformers like the plague.

Goon
Guest

I didnt even like the first Pirates movie.

on Christmas Day 2005 (or 06, I forget), I watched the first minute of Pirates 2, fell asleep, and woke up for the very last minute.

rot
Guest

actually I haven't got around to your review or this mamocast yet, I am just saying perhaps there is a link between you loving Pirates 3 and Transformers 2 in that sheer spectacle appears to go a long way with you. I am trying to wrap my head around someone enjoying a Transformers movie, when all indications would suggest this is much of the same and the last one was terrible.

Goon
Guest

Fallacy: Complex Question (Tying):

unrelated points are treated as if they should be accepted or rejected together. In fact, each point should be accepted or rejected on its own merits.

Minus 10 yards for rot. You're gonna have to punt.

rot
Guest

but your honour, he's clearly insane. šŸ™‚

Goon
Guest

(also sort of Ad Hominem/Red Herring)

rot
Guest

Like I said, I still need to listen to the show, but I am still confused how that is a good thing. The lowest common denominator is the lowest common denominator, no matter what way you look at it. To aspire for that and hit it, is like saying you aspire for failure.

Goon
Guest

it's not a good thing.

You can make movies for the lowest common denominator that intelligent people can enjoy on its own terms. But Michael Bay made something for the dumbest dumb person to enjoy as if it were Shakespeare, and he's definitely not going broke by doing it. Take the dumbest gearhead, the dumbest wrestling fan, the dumbest military fetishest, and the most indescriminate professional masturbator and put them in a focus group and this is what you get.

So you can see why there can be an ironic appreciation for a number of people. It's just that even with that level of smug disconnect, which i had with this movie and not with the first (for the first I hoped it would be passable on its own terms which is why it made me so angry), there's still that second half of the movie which even the most ironically trained mind shouldn't be able to endure without being bored for a good long while.

Now listen, even the dumbest dumb people on earth deserve to have some entertainment that caters to their needs, but at the same time its obnoxious to hear them preach and proselytize that its better than other mainstream or underground fare that at least attempts to finish its run time with some dignity.

It's like when they made a Christian versions of Guitar Hero and insist its better than the real thing šŸ˜›

And like how Creed try to be so straight that they end up looking gay, Michael Bay makes a blockbuster so stuffed that its empty.

Goon
Guest

Even considering that Star Trek has by most people been declared a success, Is there anyone who would really trade Iron Man, Hellboy 2 and The Dark Knight for Star Trek, Terminator 4 and Transformers 2?

Other than the Hangover being slightly better than my favorite comedy of last summer (Step Brothers) or Up being slightly more favorable than Wall-E… this is one of the worst summers I can remember, and unless District 9 lives up to the hype, Harry Potter is probably going to end up the best summer action movie. Now I actually like the Potter movies, but even I know that's fucking sad.

Goon
Guest

Read the link Matt, and thank you.

Mentioning Gremlins in it rings pretty true. I am not so convinced it was intended, but indeed the first hour of Transformers is filled with so many batshit insane Gremlins 2-ish moments that I can say I was entertained whenever we weren't dealing with the college antics of that Leo cocksucker. It's perversely entertaining and for that first hour alone I can't tell people not to avoid TF2 entirely.

I only wish the second hour and a half had maintained some of those antics. I might have ended up liking it unironically, but still for intended reasons. I realize now I could have ended up with an unintentional Joe Dante blockbuster.

Henrik
Guest

That Drew McWeeny quote isn't insightful, it's internetwriter-level pseudo-sociology. With all the hacks online writing about the film, is that angle really so astonishing? One of them was bound to choose when all the rest had been taken.

Calling it insightful is reassuring me that I better not listen to this podcast.

Matthew Fabb
Guest

Matthew Price compares going to the Transformers movie to going to the circus, where they treat animals badly and have no storyline but you are still entertained by the acrobats and amazing tricks. Keeping with that analogy, it doesn't have to be that way, as you can have something like Cirque Du Soliel where they have removed the animal cruelty and in some cases added a lose storyline that makes it all more interesting and entertaining. Definitely, my favorite Cirque Du Soliel show is the one of the ones in Las Vegas called Ka, where they a completely linear storyline to go along with all the spectacular tricks.

The backstory for the original Transformers, created by writers from Marvel comics was done for Hasbro to sell toys, no more, no less. Characters were later killed off ruthlessly to make room for new characters and new toys (without Hasbro realizing the effect it would have on kids until afterwards causing them to bring back old characters).

Despite this commercial purpose for the storyline, there has been some great Transformers storylines over time. I grew up a big fan of Transformers as a kid and when I revisited them in the late 90's and early 2000's, I found the tv show really stupid, the animated movie enjoyable on a nostalgic level, but I found the Marvel comic book managed to have some great stories, that I sometimes felt held up reading them as an adult. Especially the more epic stories written by Simon Furman.

So I definitely think you can make a intelligent Transformers movie with a great plot to it. Before Tim Burton's Batman, you could easy make the same argument that there no story elements to Batman, ignoring all it's great stories and focusing on the bad ones over the years. You could argue that Batman movies should just be about crazy gadgets, a great looking Batmobile and lots of fight scenes with over the top villains. We would then miss out on great movies such as Batman Begins and the Dark Knight that proved to be both successfully critically and at the box office.

Personally, one of the reasons that I really disliked the first Transformers (I'm not going to waste my time or money on the sequel) was that even the action sequences, in my opinion were just horrible. Bay's style of constant movement so that you can barely focus or see what's going on and makes the action all really uninteresting to me. It sounds like he's improved a bit, but it was so bad in the first one that I'm not sure improving a little bit is enough for me to watch Transformers 2. Just as if director of Quantum of Solace, Marc Forster was making another Bond movie and it was slightly less jumpy than before I don't think I would bother checking it out.

As for the movie critics, if they think Transformers 2 is a bad movie then why shouldn't they be trashing it and Michael Bay? I don't think any of them think their reviews will stop more Michael Bay movies from being made, they are just giving their own critical opinion of the movie. Sure, their reviews don't matter to the majority of those watching Transformers, but to someone like me who wants a good action movie, I take what they say into account. Had the reviews come out saying that it felt like a Spielberg movie and it was missing all of Bay's signature styles, then I would definitely be inclined to buy a ticket, although I realize I am in the minority.

Wow… what started out a small comment has turned into long winded rant and I don't even care about Michael Bay's Transformers movies that much.

Goon
Guest

"I found the Marvel comic book managed to have some great stories, that I sometimes felt held up reading them as an adult."

Matthew, I actually know one of the major people who worked on the TF comic, Joe Ng. We went to the same art school together and still get together once in a while. For the record, he actually really loves the first TF movie šŸ˜›

Rusty James
Guest

@ For anyone looking for further context, my written review of the film is available at:

Guy, I devoted 35 minutes to listening to you explain why Transformers was good. Now I've got read something too.

I don't do much readin'

Rusty James
Guest

@ So spoiler alert, the podcast is clearly mostly ironic enjoyment or backhanded praise.

I'm not so sure Goon. I think they clearly liked it but their reasons are kind of… off is the only way I can think to describe it.

Their remarks remind me of McWeeny's which is why I brought it up. They both declare: this is how things are gonna be from now on so it's use complaining!

And it's not "shrewd analysis" Matt. A slug is also "perfectly evolved" to it's environment.

And I'll remind everyone that I put Pirates 3 on my top ten list that year. Everyone got all indignant but none of you actually saw so you couldn't say shit. Suckit bitches.

Goon
Guest

To me Rusty, the podcast came across as a case of having their cake and eating it too, wanting to state enjoyment of it but without any of the responsibility of defending it's clear flaws.

rot
Guest

I can totally appreciate the opinion that Transformers 2 was never supposed to be cinema or high art, that it was supposed to be a 2 hour toy advertisement. I can also totally appreciate why my 12 year old nephew loves the film.

Much like I can accept that Sex and the City is not supposed to be cinema or high art and is geared towards people other than myself, perfectly evolved to its niche, so be it.

I will still avoid it like the plague because I cannot be bothered with something that has no aspirations but to appeal to the lowest common denominator… life is too short to spend it watching robots bash into one another.

rot
Guest

agreed.

Matthew Fabb
Guest

The best Transformers 2 review that I've read so far is from io9, which argues that Michael Bay created his first art film with Transformers 2:
http://io9.com/5301898/michael-bay-finally-made-a

"And the true genius of Transformers: ROTF is that Bay has put all of this excess of imagery and random ideas at the service of the most pandering movie genre there is: the summer movie. ROTF is like twenty summer movies, with unrelated storylines, smushed together into one crazy whole. You try in vain to understand how the pieces fit, you stare into the cracks between the narrative strands, until the cracks become chasms and the chasms become an abyss into which you stare until it looks deep into your own soul, and then you go insane. You. Do. Not. Leave. The Cabinet."

šŸ™‚

Goon
Guest
Goon
Guest

I wont spoil the greatness of the article, but I love one comment left in the thread:

"Transformers

Transformers 2: ROTF

Transformers 3: LMAO"

Kurt
Guest

Goon, that is hilarious, every time I saw the abbreviated title of two I thought LMAO, I'm glad someone articulated it so well in sequel titles!

Matthew Fabb
Guest

Thanks Goon, that article is just too funny. It was a lot more entertaining than anything in the first Transformers movie (since I won't be going to see the second).

Goon: "Matthew, I actually know one of the major people who worked on the TF comic, Joe Ng. We went to the same art school together and still get together once in a while."

Very cool, although looking him up he worked on some of the new Transformers comics, not the old Marvel comics from the 80's that I was talking about. However, the writer that I was praising, Simon Furman apparently did a lot of writing for the newer series.

Also interesting enough, Joe gradated from Sheridan in 2002, the same year I gradated from there taking Interactive Multimedia. Small world.

Goon
Guest

wow, 60% box office drop and even Ice Age beat it… guess word of mouth finally got hold.

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