“Puny humans. I’m totally badass. Couldn’t you have put me in a better movie?”
This past weekend, Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen opened to some of the worst reviews in recent memory (only 20 percent positive on RottenTomatoes.com) ... and the second-largest box office opening in history ($200 million in its first week). These two facts have led certain very vocal defenders of the film to dredge up the old argument that movie reviewers know nothing, that they are out of touch with modern American tastes. Michael Bay likes it when things explode. He doesn’t care why they explode. And neither should you, you Evian-sipping elitist! It’s summertime, damn it, and audiences just want to have some fun at the movies!
Of course, the tacit part of this argument is that good movies—movies that are actually well-directed and intelligently written—aren’t any fun at all. Only supremely crappy, check-your-brain-at-the-door flicks are worthy of summertime consumption. Never mind that blockbusters like The Dark Knight and UP put a lie to this little theory.
As a professional movie reviewer, I will certainly concede that Transformers 2 is as “reviewer-proof” as films gets. No matter what any critic says in print, on television or on the Internet, people are going to flock to this film, stuffing the coffers of DreamWorks, Paramount Pictures and Hasbro with even more fat cash. Chances are, people are going to see it even if they know it sucks. And most of them will. Because it does.
Since there’s little to no point to me actually “reviewing” Transformers 2, I’ve decided on a different tack. If director Michael Bay and company are dead set on making a third Transformers film (and you can bet they are), then perhaps I can help steer it in the right direction. Here, then, are a handful of thoroughly vain suggestions for making Transformers 3 a vaguely tolerable experience.
No. 1: Tone Down the Dirty Jokes—
Transformers 2 is rated PG-13, people. It’s supposed to be a family film. What’s with the nonstop cursing and sex jokes? I’ve seen less sexual innuendo in porn films. Humping dogs, humping robots, parents talking dirty, robotic rape, Megan Fox stripping out of a leather catsuit in slow motion. (OK, that last one’s almost forgivable.) Sure, a couple of 8-year-old boys in the audience might snicker at the idea of “robot testicles,” but for the rest of us, that stuff feels wildly out of place.
No. 2: Watch the Casual Racism—
This series is an international hit. Does the film need to disseminate so much white bread, middle-American xenophobia? The Parisian scene is bad enough. (You can tell Sam’s parents are in Paris because they’re eating escargot. At the base of the Eiffel Tower. While being accosted by a mime. Yeesh.) But the inclusion of the new Autobots Skids and Mudflap is just plain offensive. Did no one in the entire production think adding a couple of “urban,” jive-talking, illiterate robots with gold teeth was a bad idea? Why not just call them “Stepin” and “Fetchit” and be done with it? They’re robots in disguise, for crying out loud. They don’t need to be outrageous stereotypes as well.
No. 3: Comic Relief Should Be Funny—
Here’s a list of things that are not funny: Little robots who talk like Joe Pesci; old robots who have beards and walk with canes; robots who spit, puke, pee and fart; John Turturro. Sam’s mom getting stoned on pot brownies? It’s annoying, all right, but it sure ain’t funny. Who the hell sells pot brownies to somebody’s mom? Out of their dorm room. Wrapped in a bag with a little pot leaf logo on it. Jokes don’t have to be completely logical, but come on!
No. 4: We Know Michael Bay Loves the Military—
You don’t have to prove it over and over again. Seriously, it’s impressive that Bay got to waste millions of taxpayer dollars borrowing tanks, aircraft carriers, jet fighters and helicopters while America’s in the middle of two overseas wars. But we paid to see giant robots fighting, not an endless military recruitment video. There are 10-minute stretches of Transformers 2 that are nothing but sexy shots of military hardware. That was boring when it was called Top Gun.
No. 5: Shorter is Sweeter—
Two and a half hours? A hundred and fifty minutes? This is a movie based on some kids’ toys, not the frickin’ Ring of the Nibelung. Give us 90 minutes’ worth of robots punching each other and then get the hell out of there. Do we really need endless footage of Sam’s irritating parents? A whole subplot about Sam’s dorky college roommate? Not one, not two, not three, but four characters killed and resurrected? A trip to Egypt? John Turturro?
No. 6: Shop Locally—
What’s with all the globe-hopping? This isn’t James Bond. Why do the Transformers need to have a different backdrop every five minutes? The geography gets downright confusing at times in Revenge of the Fallen. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., has a doorway that opens directly onto the desert outside Tucson? How does that work? The climax of the film takes place in Petra in Jordan, the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, a fakey-looking “Arabic” village in White Sands National Monument and some gravel pit near L.A. I’m confused. (Then again, the climax of the first film took place simultaneously on Hoover Dam and in downtown L.A.) Next time, just find some generic stretch of desert or a junkyard or something and let the robots whale on each other.