Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Transformers (2007) Part 1

You are so defensive! Were you masturbating?”

Why does everyone hate Michael Bay so much? It's just jealousy, right? I mean, his films have made over SIX BILLION DOLLARS worldwide so that's way too popular to not hate on. But no, the Harry Potter films have made almost EIGHT BILLION and they don't get much hatedom...  I got it! It's because they're filled with mindless action full of car chases and explosions, that HAS to be the reason- Hmm, that can also describe the Fast and the Furious franchise and despite making almost three billion dollars I don't see that series brought up every time someone brings up the Death of Cinema...

Personally, I think it's because people feel betrayed by Michael Bay. He gets these ridiculously high budgets that most movies can only dream of, always gets the cream of the crop actors in Hollywood and then turns out something so completely forgettable, generic, and over the top (in the negative aspect of the term) that people walk away severely disappointed. It's happened time after time, and judging by reaction to his latest movie (Transformers: Age of Extinction) is STILL happening.

Speaking of Transformers, that just happens to be the next movie I'm reviewing! Unlike most movies on here, I have seen this one before but since it turned out to be so forgettable this will likely be like watching it for the first time for me. I'm going to be tackling the first three films of the Transformers Saga back to back to back, which is very suicidal because I wasn't zombie enough to attempt that with the Star Wars Prequels, but one must suffer for their art. I give you A GHOUL VERSUS TRANSFORMERS!

Our film opens with narration because I in no way, shape, or form got enough of that from The Twilight Saga.   Optimus Prime tells us the tale of the Cube: a magical object that can create worlds and fill them with life... well robots actually, but whatever. The Cube created the Transformers and all was well until evil reared its ugly head and war broke out.

The war destroyed their planet and somehow exiled the Cube into space, where the Transformers searched every corner of the galaxy trying to find it. They finally traced it to Earth, but Optimus informs us that it was already too late. Well shoot, no need to have a movie then is there? It's been real- oh, it's still going.  We cut to Qatar in the present day where we see an unidentified helicopter flying towards an American military base, refusing to answer its hails. The military dispatches two jets to intercept it, discovering the markings on the chopper match one that was shot down three months ago.

However, this is all WAY too interesting, so we instead we go elsewhere on the base to join Captain William Lennox talking to his wife and newborn daughter via webcam. This sweet moment is ruined when Lennox makes a joke about his daughter farting, and IMMEDIATELY the tone is established for the entire movie. Thanks Michael Bay, I was really interested in the helicopter stuff but not anymore!  Soldiers surround the helicopter as it lands on the base, shocked to see it transform into... a gigantic walking junkyard.

Six minutes in and two of my biggest problems with the franchise are instantly. First is the juvenile and immature tone. Transformers has always had humour mixed in throughout the drama, that's a huge part of its charm and why it's still around. But it was never jokes written by 13 year olds that are ripped straight from an Adam Sandler film, they have NO place in these movies. But, of course, guess what Bay goes OUT OF HIS WAY to focus on?

Second are the character designs. Blackout is actually one of the more restrained, but most robots in these movies look like the FACTORIES that build Transformers instead of the actual characters themselves. It drives makes your eyes go ballistic trying to pick out details on the robots are they've moving, God help you if you try to understand a fight scene. The original series had brilliantly simple designs with bright vivid colours so every character looked unique and easily stood out. Here, they are just all a CGI Clusterfuck that merges into a Megaclusterfuck whenever there's more than one on screen.

When I was a kid I used to LOVE drawing the Transformers, creating my own battle scenes and sparking my young imagination. I couldn't even imagine being a kid today trying to draw any of these monstrosities.  Blackout starts killing his way across the base, and it looks AWESOME. You know why it looks so awesome? Bay films the entire scene from a distance and on a mostly fixed shot so you can ACTUALLY SEE WHAT'S GOING ON! This one single scene is probably the most innovative thing I've seen from a summer blockbuster in years. Blackout bombs his way to the base's server room, trying to hack into its database but the soldiers cut the hardlines before he can accomplish this.

Lennox's best friend Sergeant Robert Epps (played by actor/musician/model Tyrese “The Triple Threat” Gibson) snaps a picture of the robot as the remaining soldiers escape, Blackout deploying a smaller robot off his back to track them down.  That was great, with the exception of Lennox. Maybe this will just turn out to be another case of hipster critics unfairly hating on a film because it wasn't made by their God Wes Anderson and- oh shit. We're introduced to Sam Witwicky, played by famed actor and professional stammerer Shia LaBeouf.

He's a junior in high school, and we'll quickly learn not a very “cool” one as he's a target of ridicule by the Resident Asshole Football Jock. Sam is in history class giving a presentation on his grand-grand-grandfather Captain Archibald Witwicky, one of the first men to explore the Arctic Circle over a hundred years ago.  We see this with some flashback footage, and once again I'm getting interested in what's going on so Michael Bay stomps that ray of hope out by doing the “seaman/semen” joke. Pretty impressive, ten minutes along so far and I'm ALREADY getting the brain pains. Sam is also using his presentation to try to sell his ancestor's old equipment and gear, his teacher calling him out for this.

The camera keeps cutting to Asshole Football Joke's girlfriend Mikaela as she watches Sam, because we've NEVER seen “hot girl is actually interested in the guy her boyfriend bullies” in a movie before. Mikaela is portrayed by Megan Fox, who landed this gig based SORELY on her legendary acting ability and no other reason whatsoever.  Sam goes on to tell us things didn't end for well for Captain Witwicky, as he ended up going crazy and was confined to an asylum where he spent the rest of his days drawing strange symbols on the walls and ranting about a giant ice man. Gee, wonder what THAT'LL turn out to be about?

After school Sam's dad takes him to a dealership to buy him his first car. The business is run by the late, great Bernie Mac who makes history as the first actor WAY too good to be in a Bayformers movie. We get a bizarre rant from Sam as he compares the junker cars in the lot to the film The 40-Year-Old Virgin, because when you think of Transformers you think of an R-rated sex movie. At least I get the amusing mental image of all the kids watching this asking their parents what “virgin” means, so at least there's that.

Bernie introduces himself to Sam by way of a diarrhea joke and is this movie INTENTIONALLY trying to piss me off? Bernie points out his mother who is nearby, so she responds by flipping him off. Classy Michael Bay! Bernie jokes that if he had a rock he'd bust her head open and then calls her a bitch. JESUS, WHO WROTE THIS MOVIE?! Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci?!  Ah, that actually explains a lot. They are pretty much the biggest writers in Hollywood right now, having written many highly grossing blockbusters as well as helping create popular TV shows. The problem is their writing is indicative of the state of Hollywood itself, every movie they do keeps getting bigger and stupider while their TV work keeps getting better and better.

I did some research though and found out Bay had a LOT of input on the script, so I'm just going to go with the (safe) assumption crap like this is all on him. Sam settles on an old yellow Camaro that actually drove ITSELF into the lot in the background while Bernie was calling his mother a bitch and threatening to smash her skull in. He tries to convince Sam to go with a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, but the Camaro responds by opening its passenger door and slamming into the bug.

In case you aren't a fan of the old cartoon, this is a pretty clever scene actually. In the original, the Autobot Bumblebee was a yellow Beetle and here in the Bayformers' version he's a Camaro. I'm sure a lot of people more hardcore than me bitched about changing his car form, but come on... a freaking Beetle doesn't really fly in 2007. One must pick their battles when it comes to Michael Bay movies.

The film shifts to Washington D.C., where the Secretary of Defense John Keller meets with his NSA thinktank over the Qatar attack. We see three “hip” teenagers in the group, as the NSA is recruiting out of high school but really Bay didn't think his audience would be interested in a scene involving adults that didn't involve guns and explosions. Strangely, one of them is Megan Fox wearing a blonde wig for some reason.

John Keller is played by Jon Voight, who at this point in his career appearing in a Transformers movie is JUST DANDY. They have no idea who was behind the attack, the only evidence they have a strange signal they recorded when the data-hack began. And that's the scene, giving us MORE characters to keep track of.

We get a brief glimpse of Sam's home life with his parents, and OH HO will I be talking about this later. Preview: they're REALLY fucking annoying. Sam takes his friend Miles to a party the cool kids are having at the lake, where they run afoul of Asshole Jock and all his buddies. Sam actually burns them pretty good, Mikaela stepping in before punches get thrown. She ends up getting into a fight with Asshole, storming away to walk home. Sam ditches Miles to pick her up, despite Miles telling him it's “bros over hoes!”. Bitches and hoes, it's like Transformers as brought to you by Frank Miller!

Mikaela gets into Sam's car as we get some insight into one of the deepest and most layered female characters in all of fiction: “I don't know, I guess I just have a weakness for hot guys, for tight abs and really big arms.”.  To be fair though, this does lead of probably the funniest scene in the film where Sam tries to surreptitiously flex his muscles in an attempt to impress her. Thus far Shia LaBeouf has been the only actor in the movie that even remotely feels like they're trying, which is something I thought I'd never type.

Mikaela continues to express her intelligence as she asks Sam if this is his first year at their school, but he reveals they've been in the same school since the first grade and are currently in four classes together. That's kind of weird, did Bay forget all those scenes earlier where he kept focusing on her making googly eyes at Sam?

Bumblebee, mirroring my reaction and getting bored by this long lost episode of Even Stevens, decides to cut his power and pull over to the side of the road while Marvin Gaye's “Sexual Healing” starts playing on his radio. That is a BOLD decision going with such an unknown indie song in a massive summer blockbuster. The song then changes to “I Feel Good” by James Brown and GOOD GOD Bay! You are supposed to use horribly overplayed songs we've heard in movie a million times over, not these underground tracks that only like six people in the entire world are going to know. How do you not get that?!

Mikaela has Sam pop the hood, and even if you've never seen this movie before (and if so, you are my HERO) you know what's coming up next. The franchise's most iconic shot: Megan Fox's hot body bent over the car's engine, which is rather impressive when you stop to remember this is supposed to be a movie about giant robots kicking the shit out of each other.  Don't get me wrong, Megan Fox is insanely beautiful but what does this have to DO with anything? Sure I guess it's important so Sam can fall in lust- I mean love with her so later on he'll save her life when it inevitably gets endangered, but really all scenes like this do is give Michael Bay haters more ammunition.

Sam is surprised to learn Mikaela is a genius when it comes to cars, her father teaching her all about them. Whatever, this scene just exists so the camera can ogle every curve of her body with loving detail. It's kind of strange, Megan Fox has won numerous awards for being one of the Greatest Actors of All Time, but judging from her line reading here you sure wouldn't know it...  And just because I'm an asshole: A Ghoul Versus Continuity Errors!  Mikaela walks away, leaving the passenger side door open. Sam starts the car, passenger side door still open. Sam gets out of the car, passenger side door now closed. Oops!

Next on the tour of “More Shit You Don't Care About”, we hop aboard Air Force One as it flies through the sky. A Decepticon named Frenzy has disguised himself as a boom box, which is a nice nod to the original cartoon as he was a cassette tape dispatched from the boom box Decepticon Soundwave. Frenzy sneaks into the server room to attempt another data-hack, which is noticed back at the Pentagon by our trio of Cyber-kewl geeks. The female, whom I'm just going to call Blonde Megan Fox because the film hasn't bothered to give any of them names, alerts her superiors as to what's going on.

Frenzy starts seeing information about a “Project Iceman” and the Witwickys as he multitasks and uploads a virus into the network. The government cuts the hardlines again and the plane lands, Frenzy easily able to escape where he has an ally disguised as a cop car waiting for him. He crunches the data he was able to steal and finds a clue to the “All Spark”, which is apparently carved into Captain Archibald's glasses that Sam is trying to sell on eBay.  Later that night Sam is awoken by Bumblebee starting up and driving off, Sam pursuing on his bike. He follows him to a junkyard where he finds a giant yellow robot shining the Batsignal into the sky to call Batman. YES! FINALLY, this movie is going to get- oh. It's just the Autobot logo.

Bumblebee turns back into his car for, just in time for the cops to show up and arrest Sam for trespassing. Maybe Blonde Megan Fox is doing something interesting because this certainly isn't. Nope! Sh crashes a meeting Secretary Keller is having with the higher ups, telling them the virus can only be stopped by “quantum mechanics” and I am SO DONE with her for the rest of the movie. I am so tired of sci-fi throwing around quantum mechanics like it's the new wormhole.

At the police station we are treated to what is probably the weirdest scene in this movie, as the officer of duty interrogates Sam over what he was doing at the junkyard. The cop, who I'm fairly certain did a Scarface-mountain of cocaine before his take, accuses Sam of being on drugs and then... tries to pick a fight with him? I don't even know what's going on here anymore. Sam rightfully asks the cop if HE'S on drugs. Did they not have a big enough budget to have the Transformers in this movie for longer than a few minutes at a time? Is that why we're getting ENDLESS human bullshit?

That must be the answer, because now we're back in Qatar for the totally worthless Lennox subplot. The soldiers make their way to a village to find a phone so they can contact the Pentagon, where they get attacked by the Decepticon that's been following them. It's revealed as Scorponok, who went from Big Bad of the fourth season of the Transformers cartoon to a little robot sidekick. Although I guess we should be thankful for this change, I DREAD to see what kind of jokes Bay would make with the HEADMASTER concept.

NOW we get the action scene I expected from a Michael Bay movie. One second it's slow motion, the next it's vomit-inducing shaky cam, and finally it violently cuts between scenes every two seconds or so to the point I start getting a seizure. I KNEW the opening with Blackout fucking shit up in a clear and eye pleasing manner was too good to be true.

Lennox ducks out from the shootout to borrow a local's phone to call the Pentagon, where he gets into an argument with a very unhelpful switchboard operator who demands his credit card information. Oh, and you'll NEVER believe this, but the operator is INDIAN. Bay is making some BOLD decisions in this movie, I'll give him that.  He FINALLY gets through, giving the phone to Epps to coordinate an airstrike with the Pentagon. Scorponok survives the attack, escaping by burrowing through the sand. That... was pointless.

Blonde Megan Fox declares there's only one hacker in the world that can decrypt the hacking signal, so she makes a copy of it and goes to see her friend... who is Anthony Anderson. OH JOY OF JOYS, this movie desperately needed some more horribly unfunny comedy. Anderson starts going through the file, finding brief mentions of Project Iceman, Captain Witwicky, and something called Sector Seven before the FBI bursts in and arrests everyone, as the Pentagon detected Blonde Megan Fox making her unauthorized copy. End scene.

Hey, wasn't Shia LaBeouf in this thing too at some point? Ah yes, Bumblebee has returned to his house so he hops on his mom's bike in an attempt to escape the Autobot. It doesn't go very well, as he wipes out in front of a Burger King and, even better, right in front of Mikaela. What a lovable loser! Sam tries to hide under a bridge, only to run into the Decepticon cop car from earlier.  It transforms into Barricade, who was never in the original cartoon but did make an appearance in the toy line.