Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Worst of 2009

No.1 - Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (12A)

I once recall reading an issue of Empire magazine in which Michael Bay was interviewed on the set of his latest action blockbuster. Admittedly not the most engrossing read, it would have been exiled to the desolate regions of my unconscious had it not been for one particular quote; when asked about his influences, Mr Bay cited the late Stanley Kubrick, and at once a smile rose upon my face as I wondered if, were the great man still alive today, he would return the compliment. My inner film snob’s response? Doubtful.

In analogous terms, Bay is to filmmaking what Busted was to music. Of course, Busted at least had the good grace to split up. No such luck with our dear Mr Bay who, after the runaway success of 2007’s bulky CG goliath Transformers, was called back to helm the inevitable sequel. Detractors of his previous efforts are unlikely to look favourably upon this overblown follow-up; a bastardised amalgam of How To Make A Blockbuster post-it notes, most likely stolen from (executive producer) Spielberg’s wastebasket and delivered with about as much delicacy as an atom bomb.

Like its predecessor, Revenge of the Fallen is light on logic. The insultingly simple albeit ludicrous plotline merely provides the backdrop against which the eponymously named extraterrestrials may knock seven shades of sheet metal out of each other, the mandatory landmarks never too far away – suspiciously, the devastating attack upon Tokyo during the movie’s opening apparently goes undetected by the world’s media. Such blatant disregard towards any semblance of realism is symptomatic of a story seemingly scribbled by a pre-schooler whose incessant liberty-taking only serves to reveal the plots innumerable flaws and the largest assortment of anomalies this side of a black hole. Detailing each of these irregularities would be a rather superfluous enterprise, but one in particular deserves a special mention: the parents of our dreary hero, having been abducted in Paris in the film’s first half, return only as a bargaining chip during the frenetic climax, fulfilling their purpose almost as an afterthought on behalf of the writers. Their attempt to reign in the sheer absurdity of the premise reach an unsurpassable low when John Tuturro’s disgraced secret agent, in an effort to bring the audience up to speed, actually recaps the story thus far. Admittedly, expositional dialogue is not necessarily indicative of a screenplay’s quality, but Transformers is a strong candidate, the difference in this instance being that the aforementioned character recites the plot entirely to himself.

Some may say ROTF is merely mindless escapism and therefore free from serious dissection, but such a hollow argument is ill-founded. Firstly, for all its crash-bang-wallop-ery, Transformers clearly strives to be taken seriously: Army officers proffer such philosophical nuggets as “if God made us in his own image, who made them?” (giggle), while Shia Labeouf breaks cringe-ometer records, screaming ‘Optimus Prime’ with all the dramatic emphasis of a Shakespearean tragedy. The second obstruction to the ‘leave your brain at home’ outlook is that Transformers isn’t actually that much fun. Attempting to distinguish between Autobots and the equally daft Decepticons during the many protracted fight sequences requires almost God-like stamina, an issue which is further enhanced by a cocaine-addled editing style best avoided by the epileptic crowd. The nauseatingly excessive action scenes are far too frequent due to Bay’s unwillingness to adhere to the Hitchcockian rules of tension building, instead bypassing thematic foreplay just to shoot his load on a messy climax.

As inappropriate as this sexual innuendo may seem, it does at least provide a convenient segue onto the topic of Megan Fox. Her performance is hardly Keira Knightley bad, but there’s no denying her feminine wiles feature more prominently than her acting skills. With each new scene comes an even skimpier costume, revealing more flesh than a cannibal buffet and a slightly perverse agenda on behalf of the filmmakers. As enjoyable as her cleavage may be, if I’d wanted to experience an erection, I could have sat at home in tight pants. Both Fox and Labeouf unfortunately remain consistent in maintaining their unlikely relationship, devoid of all chemistry and sparking about as much interest as a depleted bank account. Not that this features very highly on Transformers agenda. And why should it? Expecting drama from a Michael Bay picture is akin to browsing for racially sensitive material in a copy of The Daily Mail. The one saving grace? I watched it for free.

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