Michael Bay has become every critic’s punching bag despite having a nearly flawless record of box office success, and not without reason. His films are difficult to tolerate, let alone enjoy what with a near constant sensory assault and incompetent storytelling. I was expecting to despise the new Transformers remake (they are all the same movie, just slightly different cartoons hitting each other), but ended up lapsing into indifference. Film is not an artistic medium by itself. Art can be crafted using film, just as you can make art out of paint and canvas, a musical instrument, or a pile of garbage. But media that we generally consider a source of art do not bear that descriptor by default. La Grande Jatte is a monumental achievement, but not everyone really needs to see it, or even understand its importance. Therefore you have Dogs Playing Poker, or some random bit of faux-art from Ikea. Not everyone desires to look at a painting of extraordinary depth and consider the infinite – some folks just want something rectangular to cover up the hole in the drywall. Likewise, not that many patrons actually enjoy movies. People are just bored, and are hoping to be distracted for a little while by something that exacts none of their attention and occupies none of their fairly shallow cortex. In the theatre, I spent some time looking at the faces captivated by the onscreen events. There were some people watching Transformers, others looking about, chatting amongst themselves, or on the phone. It would take an orgy of noise and violence to break through that sort of apathy. Towards that end, Michael Bay has crafted the perfect product. Somehow the deafening audio track and the seizure-inducing busy visual design will force through the walled-up senses of the casual customer, and at the end of the obligatory ‘event’, there will be a general feeling of being amused. Towards that end, Bay is a damn good director. The best in the business, in fact. Sure, you can’t understand the visual action, and the screenplay is written in crayon, but who else amongst filmmakers is more in tune with his audience?
Just as even the most repulsive people have equally repulsive mates to fuck, the most dimwitted amongst us have entertainment provided for them. To all their ideal form of distraction, and Bay is here to provide what they demand. No more and no less. He has stated “I make movies for teenage boys.” Who am I to begrudge a man the manufacture of a product for which there is a customer base? I put down money twice for Tree of Life, so there is my statement of demand. I snuck into Transformers after paying for Bridesmaids to avoid sending the wrong message.
I could rehash the plot, but there does not appear to be one. Transformers rivals 2001 for the gaping void that is the story. Action cutscenes are connected by nausea-inducing dialogue by the worst actors of our generation, so there is nothing to review here. Explosions and whirling cameras give the impression that something momentous is occurring. It isn’t. Large buildings are dismantled by robots, and considering the idiotic and self-destructive inhabitants of this world, I wished the Decepticons good fortune. I also rooted heartily that Optimus Prime was killed for real this time, since he was always a breathtakingly worthless character. Essentially he valued the humans over his own life, with the mantra “Freedom is the right of all beings”. He was so dogmatic about this that he was the least interesting hero imaginable. Even in the original cartoon, no compromise or self-reflection intrudes on his strangely self-destructive will. He is a bible school teacher, except he is okay with murdering other robots. Actually my bible school teacher was that way too. He seems to bumble about with no clear vision of what exactly he is supposed to do with his band on Earth, except avoid stepping on people. He does humbly serve humans, and the American way as the film opens with the Autobots murdering the shit out of some filthy Arabs at an illegal nuclear facility. Megatron, on the other hand, knew clearly just what the plan would be. “Peace through tyranny” is what the back his toy package said, and given that our little experiment with democracy is coming to an end in the West, perhaps he had a point. The Autobots never stood a chance; their adversary is a fucking cannon, and their leader is the trailer truck from Smokey and the Bandit. A magnificent machine, to be sure, but less imposing when hauling 400 cases of illegal Coors. The racist caricatures of Mudflap and Skids have been replaced by two entirely different racist caricatures. I think their names were Shuck and Jive. Not sure, but names are as interchangeable as visual designs.
The moon is involved somehow as a crash-landing of an Autobot spacecraft spurred on the space race in the 1960s, and Chernobyl was the result of some robot stuff or whatever. The Russians are evil and work with Decepticons, and it is a relief that the Cold War is back in action. Kind of a blur, but the point is that Americans are the most important people on Earth and give orders to the Autobots to do important stuff. Then the Deceptions come out of hiding and it turns out the moon was full of them, and they waited until now to awaken for some reason and destroy Chicago (which becomes Lebanon) to build a space bridge to Cybertron. This sounds so stupid typing it out, and comes off worse on screen. I enjoyed the massacre of Chicago’s inhabitants, though I suspect this would only slightly decrease the snarl of traffic that makes that place a fucking torture chamber to visit. The humans are supposed to be in this fight, but are utterly irrelevant and distracting. Their weapons are useless against the robots, until the plot says they can kill the robots as well, which sucks. Shia LeDouche is back as the same dork who inexplicably is bonking a hot model. Since she talked about Hitler in earshot of Spielberg (only Spielberg is allowed to do that), Megan Fox has been exchanged for Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, which acting-wise is akin to trading syphilis for herpes, and metaphors aside, I suspect you would end up doing just that. There are humans in the cast, but the only stars here would be the two different shots that Bay uses,† and the CGI data banks of Bangalore. Noise! Lights! What happened! This trilogy could be just as easily titled Stuff and there would be no resulting confusion. I did not give a dizzy fuck about Shia or anyone else, but his role is intended to give the kids in the audience the idea that a single person could alter the fate of many, even though in real life one cannot control their own. The soundtrack is an eternal fall of cinderblocks onto sheet metal, only more bass. The acting is either listless or COME ON RUN. Well, none of this is a surprise, and you get what you pay for. And in this sense you get the finest product of its type available. You will find no film more loud, more chaotic, more senseless and devoid of story or cultural relevance.
So you know Transformers: Ass End of the Moon is a terrible film. Yet this will be a tremendous cash cow regardless because its audience loves terrible films. Like the products of Tyler Perry and Black Eyed Piss, the mediocre is exalted, and forever hailed as the vanguard of culture. And yet it took a master craftsman to assemble a series of videogame cutscenes in such a way that people would yield an amount of cash greater than the GDP of some nations. Michael Bay is one of the most talented directors working today, in that he knows precisely how to assemble atrocious bullshit. His hand is as sure as Bergman’s on the rudder and he knows exactly where this mishmash of Lego blocks and worthless actors is going: the bank. Just because he does not use his grain silos filled with stacks of money to finance art house projects does not mean he is incapable of it. He just knows there is little to no interest in projects that are thoughtful. Michael Bay comes off as a megalomaniacal racist misogynistic dick, and his films reflect his audience with curious precision. Teenaged boys are universally hateful, racist, and ignorant, and view women with equal parts fear and contempt. I remember being twelve, and other boys my age possessed a violent hatred of blacks and Jews despite knowing none of either. Some tortured animals with hacksaws while others ostracized that kid in class who got that extra holiday that nobody else got called Hanukkah. To the last kid they worshiped guns and violence, and hated fags despite their love for homoerotic movies and fawned upon the ideal male form. All children, without fail, are this repugnant unless raised to be otherwise by careful parents. Bay did not invent this culture. His films are the digital representation of a young kid’s mind, and yes, it is supposed to be this chaotic, random, and ugly. Speaking of syphilis, treponeme bacteria evolved to take advantage of human sexual behavior to spread across the globe not because they are assholes; it is just an approach that works. Nothing personal.