It’s a movie about space robots based on a popular '80s toy-- if we tried to debate the merits of story and character of Michael Bay’s “Transformers,” we’d be here all night. Can’t we just appreciate the hulking, metallic heap of cinematic candy? If we’re gonna get cavities, we might as well enjoy the process. Despite the fact that his films are morally questionable (at best) and he struggles to portray characters beyond cartoonish stereotype, it's impossible to deny that they aren’t artfully made, and stamped not only with his signature style but a consistent aesthetic look all their own (that rapidly becomes widely copied). And in a world of shoddy CGI, Bay imbues his special effects with his reverence for the practical: the Autobots and Decepticons clank and whir and hum with the weightiness of real machinery, and his manipulation of the light with sand, smoke, sweat and shiny, shiny chrome keeps everything rooted in his typical visceral hyper-reality, instead of some dull, washed out computer world. His keen visual sense of storytelling means that even in the chaos of robotic eyeball assault, there's a clear sense of space and timing, leaving room for performers like Shia LaBoeuf to fill in the spaces in his machine-fetishizing sequences with riffs and wit (though they often badly need reeling in). Bay does right by fans of “Transformers” by treating the material seriously and with an epic scope, and most importantly, delivering an entertaining flick. That’s not to say the same about the second... [B-]
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" (2009)
Few moments in the entire gnashing, casually misogynistic filmography of Michael Bay are as inexcusable as the characters of Mudflap and Skids, a pair of transforming robots that, despite defending the earth heroically from the evil Decepticons, can't triumph over ageless racist stereotypes. They speak in a pidgin dialect (not unlike similar computer-generated monstrosity Jar Jar Binks), have gold teeth, oversized ears, and appear ineffectual and dumb. Most damningly, however, might be the fact that they're voiced by a pair of white actors. Ouch. While the trials of making "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" have been widely documented (namely that the film started shooting without a completed screenplay, thanks to time constraints related to the WGA writer's strike, although Bay doesn't seem to credit his writers when he gets good reviews, strangely enough), there's still an oddly fascinating texture to "Revenge of the Fallen," mostly in the cacophonous way that the action sequences build on one another. Unforgettable images are scattered throughout – robots awakening on the ocean floor, a knife-thin creature made out of silvery bobs – although fail to form a cohesive whole. That said, the story is an abomination, the plotting torpid beyond belief and the film does not at all deserve its two and a half hour running time. By the time the movie concludes, in what feels like a nearly hour-long battle in the desert that includes, amongst other things, a giant robot eating one of the great pyramids of Egypt and an inappropriate dick joke, you've either gotten lost in Bay's delirious alternate reality, or have checked out completely. Either way, this is undoubtedly Bay's wildest, most out-of-control weird movie since "Bad Boys II." [D] -- Drew Taylor, Gabe Toro, Katie Walsh, Mark Zhuravsky,
"Transformers: Dark Of The Moon" hits theaters today.