Transformers Revenge of the Fallen

tn_transformers2Okay, first off, this is not a fair review. I didn’t go into this thing in good faith. I never thought there was a possibility I would genuinely like this movie. So don’t think I’m trying to be objective here. But I’ve been getting emails and comments for months asking me to review this sequel to a movie I hated, and there’s a hell of a conversation going on in the comments for my review of the first one. And to be honest I was strangely excited to see it. It just sounded so insane, and as a fan and scholar of the summer blockbuster movie maybe it was important that I see it, just like I saw MY GIANT for the sake of Seagalogy. Whatever my excuse is, the same guy who got me into the first one for free hooked me up for this one too. So your wish is my command.

mp_transformers2Obviously you already know what this is. There’s no reason to try to explain the plot, except as a personal challenge. I accept. Here is my serious attempt to remember what in holy hell was going on in the movie I just saw.

Okay. In the caveman days there were already Transformer robots on earth, fighting with robot spears. Meanwhile, a few years after part 1, a giant wheel attacks Shanghai. Also I believe a car or SUV was helping the giant wheel by driving around real fast. The “Autobot” good guy cars now work with the US military (same soldiers from part 1) so they are there to chase around the wheel and enemy car and savagely murder both of them on the spot.

Sam (Shia Lebouf, I, ROBOT) is about to leave for Princeton. His dogs like to buttfuck each other and his parents bicker all the time – you know, the kind where you can tell it must be funny by the way they say it. Sam takes out the shirt he was wearing in part 1 but he never washed it so he didn’t notice the large chunk of alien technology still attached, which comes out and turns his kitchen appliances into robotic gremlins, so his Camaro/robot guardian Bumblebee appears and heroically blows up the house. Sam is afraid of commitment so he avoids telling his Playboy model/mechanic girlfriend (Megan Fox, from the magazine covers) that he loves her.

In college his roommate Leo runs a robot-sighting websight. (This character will stick around for the rest of the movie because it’s supposed to be funny when he gets real scared or when he gets tased.) Also a hot girl keeps hitting on Sam and his girlfriend at home gets attacked by a small robot that she tortures and captures but Sam starts seeing symbols and going nuts in class so his girlfriend comes and sees him about to fuck the other girl who turns out to be a robot like in TERMINATOR 3 so there’s a car chase, etc.

At some point an hour or more in they meet up with John Turturro, who you’ll remember got pissed on by a robot in the first one so in comparison his part here seems very dignified. I forgot to mention that the bad guys resurrected Megatron (dead leader from part 1) but I’m not sure why since he’s now just an asskissing flunky for the new villain character, The Fallen (voiced by Tony Todd, hopefully they paid him enough that he can take a break from signing CANDYMAN posters at conventions). Megatron lives in a cave in space with Starscream and The Fallen, who if I understood correctly just sits in a throne all day shitting out slimy baby robots and complaining about the Prime brothers and how they’re the only ones who can “defeat” him. So Megatron goes back to earth (jesus, I just got home, you’re sending me back already?) to kill Optimus Prime so that The Fallen can come down and get the secret symbols from “the boy” and use those to find a secret tomb where his brothers sacrificed themselves to hide The Matrix, not the movie but a piece of metal that can power a machine that nobody noticed was hidden inside one of the pyramids and that will destroy the sun in order to do something else although I honestly forget what it was, but it was evil. I remember that much.

I think the robot Starscream has to stay home and take care of the babies, but I’m not sure. Most of the evil robots look about the same so I’m not sure who is in what scene, but every half hour or so I would figure out one of them was Megatron (usually standing on a building with a camera flying around it in circles) and I’d think “oh yeah, forgot about him. Where’s he been?”

At one point somebody kills Optimus Prime, but the girlfriend’s little robot prisoner brings them to a museum where they find a jet plane that turns into a robot that is an old man and farts parachutes but agrees with Sam’s hunch that the Matrix could bring Optimus Prime back to life so he warps them to Egypt (I didn’t catch how) and the military flies in with Optimus Prime’s body so they bring it back to life and then a giant robot climbs up the pyramid for about ten minutes until they come up with a plan: shoot something at him, and that kills him. Then I think there was some more fighting, Sam died and went to robot heaven and came back and at the end Megatron was still apparently there because I remember he ran away. Score by Steve Jablonsky featuring Linkin Park.

transformers2bIt’s hard to measure but in my opinion this is the single worst script ever used in one of these huge moron movies. It makes INDEPENDENCE DAY seem witty and tightly structured. Traditionally plenty of stupid shit happens in a movie like this, but usually there’s an obvious plot there, “they have to stop the aliens from destroying the world, so they find a flaw in their defense systems and work out a plan to destroy them” or whatever. It’s a new development to make it so hard for a normal person to even have a clue what the fuck is supposed to be going on, what anybody is trying to do. Michael Bay applied this disorientation method first to editing, then to character design, and now to writing. But it’s good for many laughs because every 30 minutes or so some robot earnestly gives some explanation of some magic gizmo or ancient history that comes out of the fuckin blue and then they’re off to do some other stupid shit somewhere else. At about the 2 hour mark it sinks in that you are nowhere near a passable ending or climax to a story and there could well be another hour or more left.

I think you all know where I stand on TRANSFORMERS PART 1. I took some flack because I hated the fucking thing but apparently it was agreed on that we were gonna let that one slide. I guess I took it a little personally because I love these types of movies when they’re done well, so it really chapped my hide to hear everybody parroting and accepting that cliche about it’s just a summer movie, it’s supposed to be dumb and incomprehensible, what did you expect, Terminator 2 Terminator 3 Hamlet? only a dijon mustard loving elitist snob would not get a huge boner just from watching a blurry robot punch (hug?) another robot (building?) in 1 second shots while a camera rotates around it really fast so fuck you you hate America why did you call me stupid by saying you don’t like it you are a faggot it’s not supposed to win oscars.

You know me, I can enjoy stupid movies, even bad movies. I fucking wrote SEAGALOGY, man, of course I understand appreciating different types of movies for what they are, warts and all. All I’m saying is have the courage of your convictions. If you like it, tell me why you like it. Don’t just give me a list of the standards it’s not supposed to live up to. You’re selling movies short. Don’t tell me that a movie about this can’t also be good. And especially don’t tell me that this counts as good action scenes. That’s crossing a line, pal. That’s like pissing on Abraham Lincoln’s grave.

It’s a fight I still get dragged into from time to time but you know what, after last summer had THE DARK KNIGHT and IRON MAN and WALL-E, all great, fun, smart, well-made, and hugely popular, it’s hard to really get upset about it anymore. I can let go of my fear that standards are so low nobody will try to make good ones anymore. If people like a movie I think is shit then so be it. It’ll take more than Michael Bay to kill the summer movie.

But give him an A for effort, he’s running after the summer movie naked with a chainsaw like Patrick Bateman. And he has the same abs. TRANSFORMERS PART 2 THE REVENGE OF THE FALLEN is the single most relentless cinematic assault on the human brain that technology has been able to achieve so far. It has everything from the first one, but more: more robots, more visual information, more confusion, more bad jokes, more racism, more minutes to sit through. I compared part 1 to BATMAN AND ROBIN, which nobody agrees with. But forget about the quality comparison and consider this as a case of Batman and Robin Syndrome. Director makes dumb movie, people are okay with it and make it a huge hit, so for the next one the studio says “he seems to know what he’s doing” and lets him indulge in every excess and fetish a couple hundred million dollars can buy, truly believing that’s what people want because they paid money that first time.

Well, they’re paying money a second time too, and that’s all that matters to Bay, unfortunately. But unless the general audience response is drastically different from what I’ve seen so far I think it will have the same effect of killing the popularity of the first one. After all, the robots in that one won’t seem as novel after having seen this one. It’ll be obsolete. But who wants to watch this shit again?

transformers2cThat really is the only thing the movie intentionally has going for it: an unprecedented amount of ridiculously detailed CGI creations. But just like last time they’re put into such a dumb story making such terrible jokes that it’s hard to care, and on the occasions when they do the robot fighting that fans of the movies keep talking about it’s not all that exciting because you sort of want all of the characters to die and you can’t tell if they did because the groundbreakingly indecipherable designs make it hard to tell exactly what’s going on. I honestly think they made an effort to pull the camera back a little this time, and I was able to follow it slightly better. In probaly the best scene (I guess) Optimus fights a bunch of bad guys in a forest, and although I don’t know who any of the bad guys were I was able to tell that Optimus was the one in the middle and the grey guys surrounding him were the bad guys. That’s progress.

In the same way that I’d rather watch BATMAN AND ROBIN again than BATMAN FOREVER (because both are terrible so you go for the more spectacularly terrible one), I enjoyed this alot more than the first one. I have to admit I had a big smile on my face. This crazy motherfucker never runs out of what the fuck!?! moments. I’m sure you’ve heard about many of these but this movie includes: wrecking ball testicles, robot farting, a robot humping Megan Fox’s leg (and she likes it), an extended skit about Sam’s mom getting high on pot and going around tackling people, a robot with a cane and beard, a robot that talks like Joe Pesci, internal car peeing in the form of anti-freeze on a girl’s face, John Turturro suddenly tearing his pants off to show a closeup of his ass in a g-string, and a scene where Turturro tells a robot that a story he’s telling should have a clear beginning, middle and end, a “plot,” – as if one of the screenwriters is trying to send out an S.O.S.

I’m kind of fascinated by the schizophrenic tone not only from scene to scene, but even within a scene. For example when the gremlinbots attack Sam it keeps changing from shot to shot whether they seem to want it to be a hilarious comedy scene or a tense moment. People are getting attacked, I think somebody dies, then it cuts to dogs fucking, then Bumblebee gets a hero shot accompanied by THE ROCK style music of courageousness, then the mom bumps her head and it makes a sound like two pans hitting together. It’s like one of those writing exercises where you write one sentence and then pass it on to somebody else to continue. Sometimes there are weird non-sequitur cuts like suddenly the hot girl is walking down a hall for no apparent purpose, or they walk out of the Smithsonian and appear in an airplane graveyard. Like in BAD BOYS 2 Bay seems to think he can both do a serious movie and make constant lame jokes.In the middle of what I guess is a tense sequence where the whole world is after Sam there’s a cameo by Deep Roy as an Egyptian border guard, they make midget jokes and then he lets them through because he knows John Turturro from a falaffel stand in New York. Get it?  I think the comedy is his worst sin, worse even than the action scenes, because constant unfunny jokes are harder to laugh at than confusing action scenes.

directedbymichaelbayI’m sure you’ve all heard about “the twins” Mudflap and Skids, last seen in a montage in Spike Lee’s BAMBOOZLED. It’s funny because in my review of part 1 I got on Michael Bay for the racist stereotype of having a “black” robot whose entire part is to say “what’s crackin bitches?”, do a breakdance move, and later be dead. Well jesus, that seems quaint after the twins. I read all about it but when you actually see it on screen it’s actually shocking, your stomach just drops. They’re these two “comic relief” robots who talk ebonics, always punch each other and talk about “popping a cap in your ass.” Defending the bigotry to the Associated Press, Bay said “Listen, you’re going to have your naysayers on anything,” and “I purely did it for kids.  Young kids love these robots, because it makes it more accessible to them.” Which explains why they’re first disguised as an ice cream truck that says “SUCK MY POPSICLE” on the side of it, and spend most of the movie punching each other and calling each other “pussy.” Because of the kids.

(By the way, have you ever noticed how blowhards like to throw in a “listen” here and there? “Listen, you’re going to have naysayers on anything. Even David Duke, when he ran for office, alot of naysayers were saying nay to that. Are you listening? Listen. Listen to this. Listen to me. Shut the fuck up and listen. Listen, I’m Michael Bay.” Other good phrases for Michael Bay to use would be “Hark!” or “I declare!”)

Although there was alot of derisive laughter throughout the movie, some of the audience I saw it with were into it enough that they clapped during some of the fights. But in the scene where you first see the twins’ faces clearly everybody groaned and booed. That was right before the joke about how they don’t know how to read. I’m embarrassed for Steven Spielberg having his name on this thing, not just because it’s so terrible but because I know he fucking knows better. He should have to bring Michael Bay to a slavery museum. Sure, the jive-talking gangsta wannabe stereotype is a common one, but those faces are straight out of some Ku Klux Klan newsletter, or at best a cartoon from the 1930s. How the fuck does that even happen? Look at that shit! He has a gold tooth! They have monkey ears and stoned eyes! This is actually in a 2009 movie, no joke! Who designed these and why?

In Devin Feraci’s article about the twins he mentioned that Spielberg was going to screen the movie for the Obama family. Maybe he was making some joke I didn’t get because I can’t find any other reference to this, but if it’s true I would’ve loved to see the CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM-worthy uncomfortableness on his face during that “we don’t read so much” scene. Sitting there with the first black president, watching ol’ Mudflap and Skids. What a great time. If I was Spielberg I would’ve shown up and said “Hey Obamas, I’ve got a special treat. I know I said we were watching TRANSFORMERS 2 but instead I brought E.T.! Or MUNICH! SUGARLAND EXPRESS! Anything! Whatever you guys want to watch from all of my movies pre-summer of 2009, we’re watching it! Just for you guys!”

There are other politics in the movie that I think are on purpose, not just done out of moronic ignorance. One of the bad guys is a nerdy bureaucrat working for Obama, who talks about diplomacy in the same way a bad guy dean talks about discipline in a fraternity movie. (Michael Bay hates nerds and has to have a scene where a soldier physically humiliates the guy and practically makes him shit his pants.) This guy wants the Autobots to leave earth, because if they weren’t there the Decepticons wouldn’t be attacking and the war would go away. Optimus says he’ll leave if Obama asks him to but implies that it would be foolish and fatal. So yeah, I’m pretty sure Michael Bay wants us to stay in Iraq. Good one. Thanks for your insights, genius.

So, there is some political subtext here and there, but I don’t know who wants to analyze that shit. As far as I’m concerned the one aspect of this thing that deserve more thought is the robot babies. Did I dream that part? I had to ask some other people and although one was too drunk to remember it two others agreed with me that there really was a scene with slimy robot babies. The movie just throws that one in your face like you already know about it. “Oh yes, of course, there is a cave in space where Starscream is the nanny to a whole bunch of baby robots. Everyone knows that. You didn’t know that?”

I don’t know if there are webisodes or prequel comics all about the Deceptitots, or a spinoff sitcom, but personally I was surprised. I guess it’s like CARS, you gotta wonder how these things reproduce. Even Tyrese muses about Optimus Prime, “You gotta wonder – if God made us in his image, who made him?” You know how Tyrese is though, always philosophizing. It seems like The Fallen must be the Queen Transformer, laying robot eggs, but I’m not sure. We do know there are girl Transformers, but they don’t seem capable of bearing the entire race. I count four, and one of them just has one line and then dies, and then another one dies, and a third one I think might also die in that scene but of course there is no way to really know in a movie like this. Plus all of them are skinny and do not have robot-bearing hips.

It would be best for mankind if there is never a part 3 and if everyone involved in making this one goes off to live on an island harvesting bees and staying away from any sort of device that would cause them to share ideas or pictures with the outside world. But there is a chance these pricks are in it only for the money and will make a part 3, so if that happens I hope they will address the nature or nurture issue. Are these Trasformkins born Autobots or Decepticons? Or are they raised that way? At what point do they grow the symbol? Is it possible for a doctortron to see the symbol on an ultrasound? We learn from the guy with the robot beard and the “funny” Scottish accent that it’s possible to switch sides, so the symbol really doesn’t prove anything. But I doubt most Transformers see it that way. They’re gonna be real upset when a baby pops out with the wrong symbol. It leads to some serious ethical and biomechanical issues.

* * *

transformers2aGeoffreyjar wrote to me to ask why I thought people were being so harsh in their reviews when really this is just more of the same shit everybody liked two years ago. For example Roger Ebert wrote a hilariously dead-on evisceration of the movie, but doesn’t ever argue that it’s different from the first one, which he gave three stars and seemed to enjoy. And it’s true, alot of these reviews are basically saying the same things I ranted about in my part 1 review that made so many people so mad.

To answer Geoff’s question I believe it’s because the novelty of computer animated robots was the only thing people liked in the first one. Same thing here but the novelty has worn off so now they’re noticing the rest of it. They’re being harsh because they’re going through what some of us went through with part 1. I already aired my grievances about the action scenes looking like a closeup of a ball of smashed cars rolling down a hill. So now I guess I’m less mad about it and more able to laugh about it. As camp, if  you’re able to stomach it, it’s actually pretty hilarious for a while, although it would be much funnier if they trimmed 60-80 minutes. I usually think people have too short of attention spans but this is clearly too long for a movie that doesn’t make a very serious attempt to include characters or stories.

I think Roger Ebert may be right, this may be the peak for this type of crap. It would be pretty hard to devise a more potent mix of expensive and horrible. Stephen Sommers and Roland Emmerich will make movies almost as stupid and equally full of destruction, but it will seem a little underwhelming. Unless some studio wants to spend $400 million on an adaptation of a Mountain Dew commercial with  no script, seven years of postproduction and the entire cast in blackface this is about as far as this path will take them. Even then, what kind of special effects would catch people’s attention? No matter what stupid shit they come up with people will think, “Yeah, but are there twenty or thirty fifty foot tall robots with ten thousand moving parts wiggling around? No? Then I’m not impressed.”

To say that Optimus Prime has an overly complicated design is a huge understatement. I don’t even like to look at the fuckin thing. Then at the end another robot dies so Optimus takes the pieces of his corpse and attaches them to himself to go into battle! Never mind the weird Ed Gein implications of that, it’s just funny that they think it’s a good idea to add even more clutter. That’s all they can do is keep spending more money to stack more junk on top of junk. Either that or go back to that whole “good stories and characters” idea from last summer.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 30th, 2009 at 11:36 pm and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

200 Responses to “Transformers Revenge of the Fallen”

  1. Thanks vern,
    you know when everybody is hating so hard on a movie you cant help but get curious to see it for yourself :)
    But im gonna pass on seeing it in the cinema. I sat in 4th row for the first part and i couldn’t see shit. That has to be the first movie series that is better to watch on a small screen.


  2. whoa Vern!!! great to see you back, sir, and how!!
    quoting Michael Bay, that was “AWESOME!”

  3. I’m gonna see it this weekend. :D For two reasons:
    1.) I belong to the people who enjoyed part 1.
    2.) The more negitve reviews I read, the more I wanna see it. This should be the kind of cinematic trainwreck, that you only see every 10-15 years and I don’t wanna miss that!

  4. Uhm…”negitve” = “negative” of course. I just woke up a few minutes ago.

  5. I saw this the other day (Drag Me To Hell got the money though, but with $400 mil worldwide in five days, what does it matter at this point?) because Mike Patton did one of the voices.

    He was one of the robots that formed the sand sucking one and since I didn’t hear any of them talk I figured Sandsuckticon would break apart at some point and I would hear a line or two. No such luck. In fact, I believe one of the Sandsucktobots said something while fighting on the ground before getting killed while Sandsuckticon was still climbing the pyramid?!?

    So I guess Patton did have a line after all, but due to the confusion I fucking missed it. I guess if you’re as obsessed with Mike Patton as I am you’ve alread seen it, but if not and he’s the ONLY reason you’re going, I wouldn’t bother.

    The first one had that one scene with Starscream knocking planes out of the sky that I thought was pretty damned sweet. I’m trying to think of something about this one I genuinely liked but I’m coming up short.

    Actually, I did find it amusing when the army guy was giving the nerd a crash course on parachuting and he tricks the nerd to pull the cord and send him flying out of the plane. I thought that was pretty funny.

    I also was about to nod off just as John Tuturro made that quip explaining how to tell a story. That kept me awake for the duration of the movie. I was also curious if anyone else would have caught the irony there. I should have known you would, Vern.

    As for the action, I can’t say there were any really cool scenes like the Starscream one in the first. There had to be one, I’m sure of it, but I can’t recall what it would have been at his time.

    Ravage was pretty cool too.

  6. Thank you so much for this, I was one of the people who asked for this I guess and I really appreciate it. Just one question, when you say this is “the single worst script ever used in one of these huge moron movies” does that include Batman and Robin? Not that I would disagree if it did, mind. I also enjoyed this one more than the first for its jaw dropping tastelessness; the first one was just inane and dull, and when it was tasteless it was tasteless in an at all interesting way.

  7. This review is every bit as good as I hoped it would be. Thanks Vern!

    Also is that picture of Bay and Tyson real? Because if so, even without the burning cross and the hideous robot faces, that’s one of the most disturbing images I’ve seen in a long time.

  8. I think this review is my most anticipated summer event.

  9. Great Unwashed

    July 1st, 2009 at 2:23 am

    Yeah, ever since after seeing The Island, when I actually became aware of who Michael Bay was, his movies have only been good as fodder for entertaining pans. This was one of those pans, although I would like toalso recommend this one:

  10. caruso_stalker217

    July 1st, 2009 at 2:41 am

    Listen, Vern. BATMAN & ROBIN has merit. Are you listening? That fucker has mad re-watch value. It’s got a dancing purple gorilla for Christ’s sake.

  11. Vern this type of review shows that you are a


    amongst mortals

    I watched this a couple of weeks ago (since when did the UK get movies first ??) and although bits of it were cool i didn’t have a fuckin clue as to what was going, where and why.

    Other than that is wasn’t as bad as say a Rob Zombie movie, although most of the fight scenes seemed to be of someone smashing two bits of metal together (was that a robot or a busted washing machine, or was it both ?)

  12. I want to thank you for the sacrifice you´ve made watching this crap. You are a hero!

  13. Great review. Agree on everything except that it’s better to rewatch Batman & Robin than Batman Forever.

  14. Vern, this is a huge step forward for you. You’ve finally recognized the entertainment value of Michael Bay’s insanity. Can Bayanetics be far behind?

  15. Vern the Joe Pesci bot is actually supposed to be Steve Buscemi I think.

  16. Hell, it’s possible. Even I enjoyed the original “Bad Boys”.

    BTW, that film is the only example I can think of where racism actually improves a movie. In the sequel, the bad guys and the good guys are all black, Cuban or Jamaican, so you can’t tell what’s going on. But in the original, Bay has the good sense to make his heroes all black (apart from Joe Pantoliano, confusingly) and his villains all white Eastern Europeans. So no matter how bad the camera-work, you can instantly tell who’s who. Genius!

    I’m guessing “the twins” don’t have such a positive effect though. (Guessing because, well, there’s no way I’m actually going to see this crap!)

  17. Vern, sounds like you and I had more or less the same reaction, only I enjoyed the spectacle of it all slightly more than you.

    If anyone has the time, clink on the link to my blog. I wrote a long, rambling post about the movie and I’d be curious to get some feedback.

  18. As one of the few B&R apologists on the internet, I’m glad it’s finally been pointed out that everyone seemed to love Batman Forever when it came out (I remember everyone was like “It’s SO much better than Batman Returns!”), and then turned on it after B&R came out. I think Jim Carrey-fever and that Seal song being so big had something to do with it. Vern nailed it that B&R is infinitely more watchable because it’s much more trashy and even crazier; BF is kind of this half-ass experiment in camp that doesn’t commit. I’ve always said if B&R simply had a Star Wars/Blade Runner-style director’s cut on DVD where they added the “POW’s!” and “WHAM’s!” when someone got punched, then people would get the joke that this wasn’t trying to be a good movie, this was trying to be a big-screen version of the Adam West TV-show. Like The Brady Bunch Movie with a bigger budget. Anyway, re: TF2, prepare to be disappointed CJ – I wanted it to be a trainwreck of epic proportions but just found it dull and unexciting. I actually FORGOT about the Decepticon babies until this review, that’s how forgettable the whole thing was. BTW Vern – did you see it in IMAX? I did and found the whole thing to be even MORE jumbled and incoherent than I thought possible. TF1 plays on HBOHD all the time and it’s actually pretty clear what’s going on on TV. The fact that I not only couldn’t tell who was who (apparently nobody else can either), but I’m not entirely sure how Optimus “died” in the forest, or how *spoiler* The Fallen was defeated says something about how awful the IMAX experience was.

  19. I think I made my stance on Bay many times in these talkbacks. I generally hate all his movies though I remember getting enjoyment out of the first ‘Bad Boys’ even though I can’t remember a single thing about it and ‘Transformers’ had giant robots so I could come closer to liking that one than his others. ‘The Island’ actually started out good but once the two leads leaves the compound it becomes the same bad/stupid Bay film. Even though I quite disliked Transformers I have to admit I was looking forward to this one. Because I am a nerd and I saw all the robots and shit in the trailer and wanted to legitimately see it.

    My dislike of the first one was mainly disappointment. I really wanted to like it but just could not. No matter how many times I tried to watch it and make myself like I just could not and even if I was warming up to it then the pissing scene comes up and I go back to disliking it. Again I wanted to like this one but I was not holding out any hope and I was both trying to like and hate it at same time. Wanting to like it for personal satisfaction and wanting to hate it because I was so disappointed by the first one.

    With my underpants pass I got at K-mart in tow I went in expecting the worst. The box office did not take the underpants pass so I had to give Bay & friends my money.

    Coming out of the movie I was unsure of what I thought about it. It committed the same sins as the first (x 1 million) but yet unlike the first one I had a sense of enjoyment. Could it be I actually liked it? A Bay film?

    I guess I was so disappointed with the first one and had such low expectations and knew what to expect this time around, the film came out and caught me off guard.

    That said the movie still had some things that bugged me. Primarily is that they had an awesome idea for a sequel (Autobots & military team up to take down Decepticons) and they only about 5-minutes of that movie and then instead is a cheesy Indy/National Treasure-style look-for-the-clues movies with Shia. This makes my enjoyment all the more baffling as they dropped the ball right after the opening scene. I guess my next excuse is that I’m a huge Egypt freak and love just about anything having to do with the Pyramids and Egyptian mythology. Thus giant robots + Egypt – wasted awesome concept = awesome, I guess.

    I’m not sure which I agree with more:

    It is quite possibly one of the most in-coherent stupid movies ever made:


    Bay finally made the ultimate art house film and we all just don’t understand it (like David Lynch & Jean Luc Goddard & Ingmar Bergman etc.)
    http://io9.com/5301898/michael-bay-finally-made-an-art-movie?skyline=true&s= i
    -this has already been posted by GreatUnwashed

    Going online I saw that the same asshole who were treating me like shit for not liking the first one were up in arms over this one bitching about the same shit I hated in the first one. This perplexed me because of how fervently they defended all the negatives I listed with the first one. So now I can pretty much admit to myself and you guys that I actually enjoyed, against the odds. So now those same guys are treating me like shit for liking this one. Can’t win it seems.

  20. to neal2zod and anyone else:
    ‘Batman & Robin’ is a masterpiece of modern cinema whenever Arnie is on screen.

    That is all

  21. Man, now I gotta watch Batman & Robin again. I can’t just go around defending Transformers 2 and not give B&R another shot. Maybe this time it’ll kick ice.

  22. And neal2zod, clearly both Optimus and the Fallen were killed by the Transformers’ one weakness: violence.

  23. Thanks Vern. Great stuff. You’re right – the bar has been set low, but that doesn’t mean everybody will crawl under it. Dark Knight, Iron Man, Wall- E and (2009’s saviour so far) Up prove that there are still people who want to make the good stuff.

    I think that semi-shirtless picture with Tyson says a lot. Bayisms do not happen by accident. The guy is a total ass. A good friend of mine has been in a number of his movies. He’s a successful character actor – done loads of stuff. He is thankful to Bay for continually re-hiring him for quick, big money gigs in his movies, but he always has to qualify his gratitude with “But he’s such an asshole…”

    He usually goes on to explain a bit more, though. To hear my friend tell it, Bay is actually a pretty sweet, nerdy guy if you catch with his guard down. Likes his camera lenses, likes his gadgets. But, for whatever reason, Bay thinks that – in order to be a great director – he HAS to be an asshole. He needs all the bluster and bombast.

    Personally I think it comes down to two things. And those two things are James Cameron and Tony Scott. Apparently, on the set of The Rock, Bay was constantly trying to get Biehn and Harris to compare him to Cameron. Not in terms of quality, or process – but who was the biggest asshole. Who screamed at his cam dept. more, who behaved more outrageously? Smiling the whole time while asking. This was the criteria by which he wanted to be judged.

    Now we all know the nightmare stories about Cameron. But does anyone honestly believe that any of those stories are caused by a desire on Cameron’s part to become a notorious asshole? No, his desire to acheive his vision (and tell his story) trumps all other needs. This isn’t to excuse Cameron – there are plenty of directors who make amazing films without screaming at anyone. But at least his bad behaviour doesn’t stem from some wierd desire to be like, I dunno, Peckinpah.

    Also, he seems to share Cameron’s fascination with the military (anybody still call it that). But, while Cameron critiques and subverts the military and their equipment, Bay just fetishizes the surfaces.

    Which leads me to Scott. Tony has always been the dumber, louder, crasser Scott brother. And he has made some great films. But he has also made, I think indisputably, the biggest contribution to the Bay visual style. It is no surprise that Bay essentially supplanted Scott as Bruckheimer’s main guy for a while there. The guy films every scene like it’s the volleyball sequence from Top Gun.

    So here is my point (sorry this got long). I believe that Bay is an overcompensating repressed homosexual. There I said it. Look at the Tyson picture again. Think about the way he shoots all his male leads. His obsession with cars, guns, babes, explosions, macho men, homophobia and crass frat-boy anti PC “humour” all point to a massive insecurity at the core of his being. He’s terrified of not being considered “man” enough to helm action movies.

    Years ago (back when I still bought movie mags) Empire did a thing on him. I think it must of been around the time of The Rock. Bay hadn’t become Bay yet. He was one of a number of new action directors. The piece, though, already described his assholish behaviour. The writer then also mentioned that the crew laughed it off for the most part – specifically he mentioned a production designer who said something along the lines of “Oh, we ignore that Bay – we prefer the Gay Bay. We’re always saying, why don’t you let yourself be the Gay Bay.” Now, look at the Tyson picture one more time.

    Now, maybe he isn’t gay. Either way, it ultimately doesn’t matter. There is certainly nothing wrong with it. I think a publicly gay action director would be kind of awesome – and fitting considering how homo-erotic a lot of action movies are. But I do think it would maybe give a glimpse into why he makes the kinds of things he does.

    Regardless, he’s said he won’t make another one of these. Obviously they will make a third one – so maybe they can get a competent craftsman, free of sexual neuroses, to helm it and we can all finally get on the “Giant Robots* Fighting Each Other” Bandwagon**.


    **Not headed to the Oscars (well, maybe the Technicals).

  24. I would have to say I would probably sooner watch B&R again than Batman Returns. I always remembered liking Batman Returns, but having rewatched the 89-97 films recently, I found it tough to watch. It’s poorly plotted and doesn’t really go anywhere, it’s almost as campy as the Schumacher films, it’s unpleasant and the Gotham city in the film looks like a shoebox diarama. Granted, it obviously wasn’t going for realism so I guess maybe that last thing was deliberate, but if that is even the case it still wasn’t to my taste. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying B&R is a better film, but there is something quite fascinating about it, if you’re the kind of person who is fascinated by Hollywood fiascos (and I am). Honestly, I don’t think any of the “old” Batman films have really stood up, the best Batman film from that period is “Mask of the Phantasm”, and I say that not being a comic book fan nor a Nolan fanboy.

    Dan, I agree with your review. I was particularly fascinated by Bay’s image of what college life is like.

  25. Geoffrey – damn right it is. Schumacher finally gave us what we wanted – an Arnold movie where HIS EVERY SINGLE LINE OF DIALOGUE is a one-liner or pun, and the American public shits on it?

    Dan – just read your review in the blog – great work, and it does make me even sadder that I have no emotional reaction to TF2. I’ll never sit through the whole movie again, but I think I might skip through it on DVD just to seek out the awe-inspiring moments you mentioned, b/c all i saw was the aforementioned IMAX-sized jumble of robot parts. I’m kinda jealous actually. Oh, and thanks for reminding me of the marble-transformer scene, yet another one I totally forgot about. I guess that was kinda cool even though it ripped off the marble-bomb scene in Aeon Flux and makes the “decepticons can now look like people” plot-hole even bigger.

  26. And to think, this steaming pile was written by the same guys that gave us the new Star Trek.

    Could it be that Bay massacred a mediocre script or that he had shit to work with and really took it to a whole new height of shittiness?

  27. It’s funny, because I just watched all six (1989 – 2008) Batman movies in a row and Batman & Robin (this time around anyways) wasn’t as offensive to me. I guess that line “time heals all wounds” has some merit to it. I mean, it still really sucks for a myriad of reasons, but I guess knowing that Begins and Dark Knight came after deadened the pain.

    Maybe Batman (1989) and Returns were like having a great girlfriend. Then she experiments with her best friend, which is sort of like cheating, but it’s okay cause it’s another girl (that would be “Forever”). Then Batman & Robin is like she’s not only full-on cheating on you, but that shit ends up on Facebook or Myspace. And she has some sort of drug problem that makes her swear at your mother.

    Anyway, maybe she goes away for a few years, and she just becomes this disappointing story your friends remind you of. But then — bam! — you bump into her again and she’s got her life together, realizes she went through some shit and is now clean and on solid ground. And she didn’t even have to find Jesus to get there. That’s “Begins.” “Dark Knight” is like you’ve married her, have some great kids and sparrows are singing everytime you step out of your mortgage-paid-for home. I mean, who gives a shit about Batman & Robin? That was in the past. We got a mortgage free house with some great kids now.

    Until Chris Nolan decides he’s done and they give the franchise to Brett Ratner. Love sucks.

  28. PacmanFever – What’s weird about the college scenes is that they work in a few jokes about idiot, macho frat boys, yet Bay’s stock and trade is exactly the kind of stupid machismo that guys like that would eat up. But the worst part of the college scenes is the whole pot brownie incident. The mom’s line about hearing her son lose his virginity actually made me cringe

    Neal2Zod – Thanks for the kind words. I do think, if you can ignore the vile humor, scatterbrained plot and especially the blatant racism, there is occasionally some spectacular filmmaking on hand. As fascinated as I am by the movie, I’m with you, I can’t justify sitting through it again. However, I might rent the blu-ray some day just to get another peak that that weird robo-Valhalla at the end, that shit was amazing. As hateful and awful as much of the film was, I can’t deny that isolated moments blew my mind, that I saw some incredible sights that I’d never seen in a movie before.

  29. Watching TF1 was the first and only time I have ever fallen asleep in a movie theater, which is tough
    considering how loud it is. I rented it to see if I missed anything (I didn’t). I will rent TF2 when it comes out
    cause I think Megan Fox is fun to look at and I heard the robot chick is hot also, but thats about it.
    It is absolutely stunning to me that people are into this shit. I mean, watching robot cars fight? Seriously? Robot. Cars.

  30. -for some reason my review/comment I posted just now is ‘awaiting moderation’ must have pissed someone off here.

    I meant to post this with the Mr. Freeze post:

    Mike Patton was originally listed to do a voice, I think it was Demolisher not Devastator though, but many voice actors ‘confirmed’ ended up being false. So he may have been one those false ones.

    Jason Griffith was listed for Sideswipe, Sue Blu was listed as reprising the role of Arcee, James Arnold Taylor was listed as The Fallen, John Turturro was said to have voiced Jetfire, Tom Kenny was listed as doing both twins and there were a few others and all ended up being either misinformation or false.

    As for disappointments in the voice acting side of things I got excited when one of my favorite voice actors was confirmed as Arcee and I think she says one short line, maybe two. Surely it was a role worthy of a very talented/grammy-award winning individual such as herself. Oh well at least Megatron actually sounded like Hugo Weaving this time and Peter Cullen was solid once again (saying that as a non-geewunner by the way!)

  31. I’ll have to look that up and see if that’s the case. I wonder if there’s any legal recourse for that? That is fraud, right?

    Then again, I technically didn’t pay for the movie so I guess I’ll just have to let it go.

  32. Patton was supposed to voice Mixmaster who I believe was a cement mixer.

    According to Wikipedia he is also good at chemistry but I didn’t catch that in the movie.

  33. BTW: Yes, I appreciate Batman & Robin too, but I remember that I almost cried when I watched it for the first time. I was even angry that Underworld’s “Moaner” was only played very quiet in the background, during the motorcycle race, although it was the best song on the soundtrack! It took me a while till I was finally able to watch it as big budget version of the Adam West show. (I’m still angry that R. Kelly’s “Gotham City” was sold a million times, but “Moaner” became “just” a clubhit, but that’s a different story…)

  34. Geoffreyjar – I think because the post had 2 links in it the software thought it might be spam. But I approved it now.

    Speaking of spam, did anybody notice the one above before I deleted it? It said “I watched the Transformers cartoon version during my childhood days. It is nice to know that good computer graphics brought the Transformers back again. I wish to see more of the Dinobots in action perhaps on another sequel.” The user name was a url for some dieting thing. I was suspicious so I googled the whole post and found it on one other random place discussing the movie. I’m not sure if that’s one of the legendary “plants” you hear about on Ain’t It Cool or if it’s just a guy who loves dieting so much he promotes it through pretending to watch Transformers.

    And now to answer the question about whether I really think the script for this one is worse than Batman and Robin. I guess you got me on that one, it’s hard to say one is worse than the other. I can’t remember Batman and Robin well enough to know if there was any kind of structure to it. Other than that one possible candidate though I can’t think of another big blockbuster that seems this random and unplanned.

  35. From what I’ve read, they were working on the movie during the writer’s strike and therefore started designing the action sequences and special effects before there was a script. The script was tailored around the action, which might help explain the ADHD nature of the story. Sounds like the writers had to play connect the dots with a bunch of unrelated material.

    Doesn’t explain the vile humor or racism, though.

  36. I had a feeling this was a Strike Script. Does anybody know if there are any more coming out or have we seen the last of them? I think it will be interesting to view them all as a group and see which ones overcame their narrative challenges and which ones just slapped a bunch of crap on the screen and tried to mop up in post.

  37. I think B&R had more structure to be honest. Man likes diamonds, freezes stuff to steal them, goes to places where diamonds are. Man uses diamonds to save wife’s life somehow. Woman turns into plant, goes around poisoning people who don’t give plants enough respect. Man goes to prison, woman falls in love with man, busts him out of prison to freeze stuff as long as he helps her grow plants or something. Woman tries to kill man’s wife out of jealousy, frames Batman. Man goes apeshit, tries to Freeze city. Batman stops him. There’s also some stuff about a guy who takes too many steroids, Alicia Silverstone racing bikes, and Batman’s butler dying that had to fit in there somehpw, but I think it’s fair to say it was more structured than ROTF.

    To be honest, I don’t really think either TF movie is worse than B&R, but I can’t come up with any reasons why. It’s maybe not so much of a bombardment, but then that comes at the cost of it also being longer.

    geoffreyjar, good stuff, but I prefer this it’s snappier:

  38. I saw that post. It definitely felt out of place. That explains all the positive reviews on IMDB.

    Also, isn’t it a bit late to start with the plant stuff?

  39. ‘Star Trek’ was a writer’s strike script (and it shows because that one has a bad script too but it makes up for it by having good actors and likable characters) as for other ones coming out I’m not sure.

    As for the whole it being tailor-made to fit the action, that’s what they (used to) do in Hong Kong back in the glory days. The director/actor/producer/whoever would come up with a ‘super cool’ action scene or scenes or a vague ‘super cool’ action-movie concept and then promptly write a script (while they were filming) around said idea.

    I have wondered why it is I absolutely adore those movies and give them a pass while I shun Michael Bay’s and other’s films for practically the same reason. The easy answer is that for me there’s nothing more fun (cinematically) than watching an HK action film that in the script and sometimes directing and acting department are piss-poor but it’s so entertaining and fun I respond with a ‘Who gives a fuck?’ There’s something so pure and endearing to me about them making movies that had no other purpose than to entertain the masses.

    Which brings me back to ‘then why is it okay for them to do it and not their American counterparts?’ I’ve been wondering this for years and still can’t think of a proper answer. Again my cop out excuse is, “Those HK films entertain me and I have fun with them while I do not with Bay’s” But is that really fair? Isn’t hypocritical of me to blast the latest Bay film for it’s lack of logic and all that other stuff when just the week before I gave a Luc Besson-produced ‘crazy action fest’ a pass when it had the same crimes against cinema but I just happened to personally like it more than Bay’s?

    -I realize I am talking in circles now

    I don’t know maybe it’s like vern said Bay has millions and millions of dollars at his disposal and makes millions of dollars for doing his while those HK films I adore so much where done for very low budgets (by US standards) and almost everyone (minus the star) got paid jack-shit (if at all) for their services and as a result the film was being made by people who generally wanted to just entertain the masses and give people a good time because they sure as hell weren’t being paid their worth.

    Maybe it’s because what you see in those old movies are ‘real’ and ‘all in camera’ no trickery. But Bay does all his action ‘real’ with the minimalistic CGI (robot characters excluded of coarse). Is it because I like how those HK guys film the action better? Not to mention I’ve been a huge defender of CGI to asshat film snobs for years (just last night I listened to a review that said the movie would have been better if the robots where done with models and stop-motion and shit!?). So that can’t be it can it?

    Or is it a cultural/racist thing. Is it that I love those HK action films because they are from another country and that’s the best we can expect from them, we can’t hold to the same standard? A while ago I read a talkback comment from the high-class individuals at AICN that said something like this: ‘Maybe people will start taking Hong Kong films seriously when they start making real movies and not some piece of shit movie where people start flying around for no damned reason. If they made a movie like that here all you would shun it as a stupid piece of shit but when it comes from another country it’s awesome. That was a paraphrase of coarse. The guy may have been an asshole troll but does that mean what he said has no weight to it? Is it we/I forgive those HK films and call them “great” “fun” “masterpieces” just because they are the product of another culture (with possible latent racism in our subconscious) while Bay & Cohen & Sommers, etc. do to an extent the same thing plotting wise with their action films (minus flying people)?

  40. Geoffreyjar, give your self a little more credit. You’re not talking about a double standard. Part of the reason that the awful script in TRANSFORMERS 2 drags the movie down is because of how much emphasis is placed on the story. For me, a lot of the action and martial arts films I enjoy despite their awful scripts only pay lip service to the plot. I honestly might have liked TRANSFORMERS 2 a lot more if it had taken a similar approach and eschewed the plot/characters in favor of the action. Instead, the long sequences of exposition are fully on display and treated with faux-gravitas, forcing you to deal with its awfulness instead of just being able to brush it under the rug.

  41. Personally, I didn’t find the plot hard to follow. I thought it was pretty simple: Shia has the whereabouts of a doomsday device in his head. Evil robots try to catch him while good robots try to protect him. Everything else was just a bunch of goofy shit ladeled on top of a pretty standard plot skeleton.

  42. Harry Weinstein

    July 1st, 2009 at 11:07 am

    ‘Maybe people will start taking Hong Kong films seriously when they start making real movies and not some piece of shit movie where people start flying around for no damned reason. If they made a movie like that here all you would shun it as a stupid piece of shit but when it comes from another country it’s awesome. That was a paraphrase of coarse. The guy may have been an asshole troll but does that mean what he said has no weight to it? Is it we/I forgive those HK films and call them “great” “fun” “masterpieces” just because they are the product of another culture (with possible latent racism in our subconscious) while Bay & Cohen & Sommers, etc. do to an extent the same thing plotting wise with their action films (minus flying people)?

    This statement is based in a profound misunderstanding of Hong Kong cinema, based upon the worthlessness of American distributors of Hong Kong films, and what they choose to release vs what they choose to ignore. Get up to speed on the films of Pang Ho-Cheung, Riley Ip, Ann Hui, Alan Mak, Dante Lam, and other filmmakers who it’d be unwise to dismiss as makers of anything other than “real movies”. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not calling you out, I can’t blame someone for not knowing about something they’re not being exposed to (blame your friendly neighbourhood movie gossip sites). I just wish more Americans made movies as “real” as the above filmmakers, those guys (and Ann Hui) are making excellent films well within the mainstream, right now. Pang might be looking at some international success, he’s doing a slasher film now and horror always sells well internationally – especially when made with filmmaking skills like he’s got.

  43. I agree with you, Majestyk. I felt like I followed the plot just fine.

    My beef is that the plot keep changing directions every few minutes and felt overstuffed and underdeveloped. Which isn’t necessarily a problem in and of itself. Think of SHOOT EM UP, a movie with a ludicrous, stupid story and cast of characters that only exist as an excuse to get to the next action scene. It’s so streamlined that I could hardly give a fuck about the fact that I didn’t care about the plot. In fact, the worst parts of the movie are the obligatory expository and character developing scenes. The rest is good fun. TRANS 2 could have benefited from this approach.

  44. This line is classic:

    “Plus all of them are skinny and do not have robot-bearing hips.” You are the best Vern.

    We have been living in Idiocracy for years now. This movie is just a sign of things to come.

  45. One Guy From Andromeda

    July 1st, 2009 at 11:25 am

    I don’t think we have seen the end of this shit. Sure “$400 million on an adaptation of a Mountain Dew commercial with no script, seven years of postproduction and the entire cast in blackface” sounds funny now, but wait a few years, just wait….

  46. Harry, the thing you were quoting there was him paraphrasing an attitude he hated seeing in talkbacks. So I think he agrees with you on that.

  47. Harry Weinstein

    July 1st, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Vern: You’re totally correct. Upon rereading what he said, I was indeed placing too much weight on “The guy may have been an asshole troll but does that mean what he said has no weight to it?” – in retrospect I’d suggest folks skip right over the words “I’m not calling you out.”

    PS – Nice disembowelment of a film that more than deserves it.

  48. The Wolfman is another writers strike script pushed into production, so more of this kinda shenaniganry is on the way.

    Excellent review, by the way. and I hope you get paid by the word.

  49. Geoffrey – I think on a purely objective level, as in, if we didn’t know who Michael Bay was, or what the budget of any movie was, most of us would still hate his movies. The difference between HK films and Bay films, budget/scrappiness aside, is that HK films are actually EXCITING. Bay ones are mediocre. And not even compared to just HK – think about the raid on the palace in Commando vs. the raid on the identical palace in Bad Boys II. BBII’s is passable but not even close. Bay has never made an action sequence CLOSE to the attack on the guerillas in Predator, he’s never made a movie half as good as Die Hard or Lethal Weapon. I actually do kinda like most of his movies, don’t get me wrong, i’d give almost all of them 2 1/2 out of 4 stars. But it’s pretty ironic that if everyone on this site listed their 10 favorite action sequences since 1995 (when Bad Boys I came out), i’d bet none of them would be by the biggest action director out there right now.

  50. Which got me thinking, shit, i’ll start – 1) any shootout from Equilibrium, 2) the shootout in Open Range, 3) the truck chase in T3, 4) the kitchen fight in Under Siege 2, 5) beginning and end of Saving Private Ryan, 6) the end of Rambo, 7) the last 45 min. of Episode II, 8) the last half of The Matrix, 9) Rocky Balboa vs. Mason the Line Dixon, 10) beginning of Casino Royale. I could probably list about 30 more action scenes before getting to a Bay one.

  51. You know what still depresses me the most about TF and TF2 and the popularity of them? That a $200 million production budget can’t buy you a decent script. When you’re spending that amount of money I think it’s your damn duty to make sure the script is at least semi-decent.

  52. Christian Brimo

    July 1st, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    “Now, maybe he isn’t gay. Either way, it ultimately doesn’t matter. There is certainly nothing wrong with it. I think a publicly gay action director would be kind of awesome – and fitting considering how homo-erotic a lot of action movies are.”

    um…. X-Men 1 and 2 prove your point. Batman & Robin and Batman Forever kinda refute it, but the outrageous camp is fun. Superman Returns kinda sucked tho

    I’ve been waiting for this review for ages but honestly after every other reviewer has pissed on the corpse of Transformers 2 I thought this could have been funnier. sorry Vern!

  53. Christian – Totally. Singer’s sexuality has been used as ammo by angry fanboys – but it manifests on screen in interesting and thoughtful ways. Bay’s repression (I have no real evidence – so this is complete conjecture/libel) causes him to make hateful, overtly macho parodies of guy’s movies. I dunno – I’d just woken up and was drinking some serious coffee and just kind of went off on one there – just excited that Vern had posted the review. By the time I’d finished conversation had shifted to B&R comparisons (thanks for finding a way to make my post relevant in that regard, mate).

    But I am kind of interested at what lies at the heart of Bay’s apparent desire to be completely obnoxious, on screen and otherwise. It’s as much an aspect of his style as his cam work and editing. What are we to make of that fellas?

  54. Yes! Vern, you are the fuckin’ Master!

  55. Christian Brimo

    July 1st, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    “Christian – Totally. Singer’s sexuality has been used as ammo by angry fanboys – but it manifests on screen in interesting and thoughtful ways.”

    yeah… i mean the gay subtext in the first two X-Men movies was a nice ‘updating’ of the civil rights subtext in the original comics and added a bit of heft to the action
    as for Schumacher i love the idea of turning the Male Gaze on men, tho i did hate Batman & Robin
    i don’t think you can say ‘Bay makes bad movies because he’s a closested homosexual’ tho. i mean i’m a straight guy and i like cars and women and shiny phallic weapons. he might just be a bad filmmaker!

  56. I find it strange that no one seems to be mentioning my personal favorite Bay movie — Con Air. Steve Buscemi as a loveable serial killer? Message delivered via Dave Chappelle’s corpse? John fucking MALKOVICH? The fact that its name seems to be a pun referring to a manufacturer of hair care products (which may add something to that “Michael Bay is gay” theory floated by telf up there) which is especially ironic considering Nic Cage is rocking a greasy mullet pretty much the whole runtime?

    Sure, it has some hint of plot, but the genius is in the details.

    And Vern –“I can’t think of another big blockbuster that seems this random and unplanned”. Didn’t you see the Star Wars Prequels? Sure, you can tell what’s going on, but in terms of sheer volume of unnecessary and confusing material, they’ve got to give this turkey a run for its money.

  57. Nothing strange, Mr. Subtlety. The reason nobody mentions ConAir is because it wasn’t a Michael Bay movie. It was Simon West.

  58. Hey, you’re right! I always thought Con Air was a Michael Bay movie, too…

  59. geoffreyjar – I remember vividly from one of the commentaries from a South Park episode where it was mostly a jab at bad dialogue and the easiest way to make bad dialogue sound epic/passable is have it said in another language!

    You make an interesting point with HK films overall but do you think a lot of the dialogue in HK films would work if it was in plain english?

  60. Great Unwashed

    July 2nd, 2009 at 2:28 am

    Con Air is the one movie of that type of Bruckheimer movie (which is where Bay started of course) I dig, cause it plays as a parody, which I suspect wasn’t too far removed from how some of the actors intended it.

    As to the Hong Kong thing, I think with movies like Hardboiled or Project A 2, whatever dramatic weakness the script had, the action was well choreographed and planned out, and whatever effort someone like Bay puts into choreographing his action, it doesn’t translate to the finished product ( fucking the frame indeed). I also think that when an action movie fails to excite us sufficiently with the action, it leads us to pick apart the plot holes or bad acting in a negative way. In contrast, Point Break has a lot of ridiculous shit in it, but it’s something I’m bound to point out affectionately as it delivers on the action, where it needs to.

  61. I too, found it weird how everyone who loved the first movie have been really tearing it apart for this one. Reading some of the early reviews got me thinking “What!? This is what Vern talked about years ago! In those exact words!! Why all the sudden change of heart?” It was just so weird to have all these people to have said that they loved it and defended it for years to suddenly retract all their statements like it never happened. The whole People Vs Vern on transformers situation reminds of They Live, how you were one of the first to see all this shit going on, and us being the Keith Davids we kept fighting you for the longest time since we were convinced that you were crazy. You kept telling us to put on the fucking glasses! watch terminator 2, watch aliens, watch this! this is a summer movie! do I have to fucking write a book for you!? put on those glasses! But no, we would have rather kept living our movies with low standards since that was all we needed. Go away vern, we can’t help you, this is all we’ve got. Then last year came, and like a huge signal being cleared away everyone suddenly saw that big summer movies could have quality. Which then opened up our eyes and showed that they are still worth fighting for. And I guess this movie is finally the moment where everybody was having a good time fucking, only to look down and see what a blank mess of a creature it really was that they were doing it with. Ok, maybe I’m going too far with that one. But it finally seems as though people are really starting to see how bad these bay movies really are. Either that, or maybe this one was just so bad that they were embarrassed for even liking the first one.

  62. i have this eerie feeling that reviewers who said the first movie was good believed on some level they were being ironic. now, these people are paid to do a job, and that job is telling me what films to avoid wasting my money on. the fact that some of them have decided to do this job ironically concerns me.

    i am particularly concerned about the precedent they are setting for other employed persons. will we soon see ironic fry cooks who “ironically” serve us frozen, uncooked fries?, ironic defense attorneys who “ironically” tell us to plead guilty?

  63. It is my dream to one day become an ironic astronaut. I “want” to “walk” on the “moon.”

  64. I always thought the X Men movies were actually really bad metaphors for gay rights…since gay people aren’t walking, talking WMDs; no gay person can kill the entire planet with their mind or bust into the Oval Office in about a minute and kill the president.

    Michael Bay vs. Hong Kong – I don’t see much difference between Michael Bay and Tsui Hark. If anything, Hark’s movies are even more frenetic. I do think that there’s some weird cultural (racial?) thing going on where this kind of crazy shit is more acceptable when it comes from other countries. That’s not to say that anybody is required to like Bay’s (or Hark’s) films, just that there is a weird double standard. I also think that the amount of money spent has something to do with it, which is kind of odd, because, as an audience member, who cares, really? The ticket price is the same.

  65. Ws, while gay people might not literally be able to destroy the entire planet, there are many people who seem to feel that they have the potential to destroy society. Otherwise, why all the furor about gay marriage? Some people believe that giving gay people the same rights as everyone else would devalue those rights, which would be far more destructive to their “values” than merely killing a president. That’s why it’s a metaphor. It’s not meant to be taken literally.

  66. Mr. Subtlety
    I thought once leaving every single other movie-related website on the internet we could get away with bringing up a swipe at the Star Wars prequels.
    Example: You’re on and they have a story/post about Transformers, Batman & Robin, Ishtar, Waterworld, Battlefield: Earth, or Wild Wild West, etc.
    And either the guy writing the story or someone in the talkback comes in and says, “Yeah that was a bad movie. A horrible horrible horrendous movie in fact. But y’know what? You know what’s a REALLY bad movie? Those Star Wars prequels. I mean those have to be the worst movies ever made EVER!! I mean who the fuck does that fat fuck Lucas think he is telling the story he wanted and not adapting my shit fanfic I wrote back in high school!? Hack work and it’s worst! I mean it has the worst special effects, acting, directing, cinematography, catering, etc. Sure they are marvels to behold and I can actually remember shit from them vividly (unlike the movies I just said were better) and they are still better than 99% of other Hollywood blockbuster movies but take that away and they are clearly the worst movies ever made! Now if ‘I’ would have made them this is how it would go… (after going on at extreme length and detail about his/her “superior” “better” idea for the prequels he ends it all with how Lucas should just die or at the least have his family murdered in front of him)”

    Please don’t take it personally though. I’m just kind of sick and tired when I’m reading a semi/un-related story and then some butt-hurt Star Wars “fan” comes fuck-out-of-nowhere to bitch and complain about how Lucas didn’t use their ideas for a Star Wars film. I just think that we all here are more, or should be more, high-brow than that.

    Great Unwashed
    director Simon West has insisted he intended ‘Con Air’ as a parody of Jerry Bruckheimer films.

    What do you mean homosexuals are not dangerous? Haven’t you watched Fox News or whenever some Christian right-wing nutter is on anywere? They made me see the light! I now know there is no greater a threat to mankind than homosexuals. We are (mostly) safe for now but if we allow them to express their love for one another by marrying the very fabric of this country will be destroyed and the terrorists will win! The only thing that could possibly make things worse is if we allow them to raise children! Could you imagine? Homosexuals (normal human beings) raising children? What you’re feeling right now is a cold chill running down your spine.
    So do some research before you say homosexuals are not WMDs!
    -You do have a point though, that was always a bit of a flaw in the concept. It’s kind of hard to fully take the civil rights issues of the comics seriously when African Americans or whoever can not shoot lasers from their eyeballs. After all in X-men universe the concern is more public safety than civil rights, but as Mr. Majestyk said you’re not suppose to take it literally
    -As an aside I’m really sick and tired of homophobic nerds (oxymoron I know) using Singer’s sexuality as a negative. They seem to think if the director is gay there absolutely must be ‘evil gay subtext’ in there. I remember reading huge tirades about how ‘Jimmy Olson is obviously gay’ in “Superman Returns” and I missed the talkbacks for “Valkyrie” but I’m they said something along the lines of Tom Cruise’s character obviously wanted to kill Hitler because he was secretly in love with him and couldn’t cope with the feelings. Brett Ratner is a heterosexual male so does that mean “X-men’s Last Stand” is better by default? I guess “Superman” III & IV are better as well.

    Yes I think you can better get away with awful/silly dialogue in a foreign language, at least to me it seems. I was watching ‘Dragonball: Evolution’ earlier this year with my nephew and at the end White Goku (guess there were no Asians in Hollywood that week) says this horrible line of dialogue, during the climax before he defeats Piccolo via a deuce ex machina moment, and I was having a good laugh at that and then I suddenly realized that the character says stupid shit like that all the damned time in the comic/cartoon and I only just now seemed to realize that it’s a really cheesy (that happened an awful lot watching that movie by the way). That may be a bad example as I think you can getaway with a lot more in a cartoon (as it’s not ‘real’) than live action film making. So for another/better example:

    The double standard I keep thinking of with my prior overlong observation was shifts in tones. Most of us will agree that Bay constantly shifting to silly comedy is a problem. But that is almost always done in HK mass-market films (give them a little of everything). For a specific example I present you the action masterpiece (Bay has stated to admire this film as well) Jackie Chan’s ‘Police Story’.

    Ala ‘Transformers’ opens with a ‘bad-ass’ serious action scene:
    TF – Blackout’s SOCCOM attack
    PS – Shantytown shootout-to-Shantytown drive through (Bay homages this in ‘Bad Boys II’)-to-Bus chase

    and then it turns into a silly comedy:
    TF – the rest of the movie until the last 20 minutes
    PS – the witness protection stuff that apexes with a faux-breakin and a trial with hilarious results.

    Most HK action films did this (serious-to-silly comedy switch over the coarse of the film) and I remember after ‘Rush Hour’ came out Ratner & Chan were talking about doing a remake of ‘Police Story’ together and was one of the first times I started really wondering, ‘if they go and make the film exactly as it was, would we be as forgiven to it’s ridiculous plot & tone shifts?’ After all it would be (allegedly) the same film but in English and with more white people.

    Well now we have Bay who basically does do that in the English-speaking world. He’ll only take the concept seriously when it’s beneficial to him and on certain spots he’ll decide to play up the comedy side of things. Yet we praise Chan, Corey Yuen, Sammo Hung, etc. for this (or are far more forgiven) but now ‘one of our own’ does and we respond with a ‘Holy crap that is bad. Why the hell would anyone do this?!’

    So after all that to answer your question Wuwu, No I do not think we’d be forgiven if we heard that dialogue in English (to test this out: apprehend a bilingual DVD/LD/Blu-ray of an older HK action film and put it on the English dub (which I often do anyway because I’m rarely ever in the mood to read subtitles anymore (hard to believe because I use to be an uber-snob with the dub vs sub debate)

  67. Mr. M, I see your point, but I think it’s still a bad metaphor, because, even though some people may feel differently, gay marriage is not literally dangerous to non-gays. However, Charles Xavier’s existence IS potentially dangerous to the rest of humanity. If a man who could read and alter our thoughts – who, on a whim, could destroy the entire planet – actually existed, we would all want him dead.

    And, if the whole movie’s a metaphor for gay rights…then Magneto’s the hero. Magneto’s the one who’s saying “Don’t hide who you are, don’t conform to mainstream society.” Whereas Xavier is basically teaching mutant children to never be themselves.

  68. Well, that’s why the movies are interesting. The villains and the heroes both make good points. Magneto is right that mutants shouldn’t have to hide from humans, but Xavier is right that mutants shouldn’t use their powers to hurt people. It’s not just “right vs. wrong” like every other action movie.

  69. I’d like to add something that might help in the Bay vs Hong kong debate.

    The thing with HK action movies is that they tend to include humor in them wich doesn’t always gel well whith the action scenes. Personally I don’t like that approach and because of that, I tend not to watch HK action movies. But Bay not only makes bad movies, and offensive ones, but also propagates a way of living/thinking that is harmful for us as a society.

    I’m going to mention just an example. It may sound silly to you, but hear me out. In the first movie, after Bumblebee defeats the police car Transformer, there’s a scene wehere Shia and Fox are inside BB going through a tunnel and Fox says “if this robot can transform into anything, why does it have to be a crap Camaro” or something to that effect. BB dumps them out, scans a newer Camaro, and the returns to pick the boys up, showing them his new and improved car form. Fox grins like an idiot and gets inside.

    So the whole scene is makes the assumption that we agree with Megan Fox’s character. It doesn’t matter that the just saved their lives, it doesn’t matter that he is a friend to them, what matters is that he looks good. WHo the hell would want to be in an old car? How embarrasing.

    This stupidity is present in both TF movies, as well as Bad Boys 2 (I haven’t seen the rest of Bay’s movies, so I can’t comment)

    Now it’s just a movie and you could say that it’s harmless, but the thing is that I live in a city where most people have a mentality similar to this movies. People might not look as athletic as Bay, but we’re talking about people that prefer to keep their familys in poverty because it’s more important to spend the movie in a new cellular (status), car rims (again status) and the obligatory dozens of beers with friends (cool factor). People that constantly violate driving laws, and mock those who respect them. With people like this, this city is never going to improve and develop. Movies likes this says to this people that is not only ok but also important that they keep being the way they are. So this TF movies “hit me home” as you say and I just cannot enjoy them. They sadden me.

    Bay and other artists in the US don’t pay attention to this kind of things because they already where born and raised in a developed country, builded and being kept by people more capable than them. So they have the luxury to being superfluous, because someone else is doing the hard work.

    Bah, then I remember that I liked Rambo and other action movies that don’t really send a nice message to the world. Hypocrisy? maybe.

  70. Erm, I noticed a lot of typos in my previous post. Please ignore them. Thanks.

  71. Yeah, the comment about the Star Wars prequels was totally innocent, I didn’t mind. But I did sort of lay into my buddy after the screening who said “Phantom Menace” was the only movie he could think of that was worse. I tried to argue that the only thing it was worse about was expectations, because you wanted that to be great and knew Transformers 2 could not be. It may be meandering and heavily flawed but it has a coherent story, interesting worlds, SOME good characters, SOME very good scenes and sequences. I mean I’m soft on those movies I guess, but come on. I can’t buy any argument where Transformers has anything approaching the big lightsaber fight with Darth Maul at the end.

    BUT THAT IS ALL I’M GONNA SAY, we can debate the star wars prequels in the comments to my reviews if we want to, this one is purely about robots punching each other and how awesome that is.

    How about this for a new controversial essay topic: why the big deal about Megan Fox? Sure, she’s hot in some shots, but so are almost all hollywood actresses, and some of them can speak sentences as if not reading off of a card. I feel bad saying it but since it seems to be based purely on looks I don’t really get it – she looks like a drag queen sometimes. There are plenty better looking actresses even within these same movies. I don’t really get all the hype. Is she just the new Pam Anderson or something?

    I dread that poor girl having to spit out Diablo Cody dialogue in her next movie, I don’t know if she’s up to it.

  72. Vern, I totally agree with you on the vapidness/plasticity of Megan Fox – not to get into the whole Idiocracy/dumbing down of America thing, but this is basically the equivalent of the nation shitting themselves over Carmen Electra 2.0, which really does set us back as a people. HOWEVER, did you read her Entertainment Weekly interview a few weeks back? She doesn’t quite come off as intelligent, but her frankness on her limits as an actress is refreshing. And she reveals while she was in 9th grade(?!), Michael Bay cast her as one of the club dancers in Bad Boys II. In a bikini. Dancing under a waterfall. Which is simultaneously creepy yet unsurprising.

  73. The Pam Anderson comment strikes me as apt. There’s just some sort of zeitgeist thing going on with Megan Fox. She’s the epitome of the kind of girls you always see on the cover of Maxim and magazines of the like. The 90’s were about blonde hair and big tits, and now apparently we like tight-bodied brunettes. Much like Pam Anderson, she’s not really beautiful in any classic or timeless sense, but represents what America currently thinks is hot. And it’s not even so much that she’s the hottest, so much as she’s the archetype for the recent trends in hotness, she fits every standard perfectly.

  74. Vern, I read a post on another film sight that quite aptly described why Fox has become so popular. Something along the lines of:

    “She looks like a porn star and acts like a porn star, but for some reason she’s in “mainstream” films. She seems so distractingly out of place yet far more immediate and real. Most men are distracted/arroused by this bizarre sight of a porn star in a “real” film that acting talent is unimportant”

  75. neal2zod, I read that stuff about Fox’s bikini cameo in “Bad Boys II” too (ha, ha, tu-tu) and it gave me the creeps. Now being a Limey I have no idea what the ninth grade is, I know Bart Simpson is in the fourth so I guess someone in the 9th grade is four or five years older than ten, but what I understood was that the article said she was just 15, which is below the age of conscent in the UK and as I understand it in the US as well (a good three years below it in many states). But according to the ever reliable IMDB Fox was born in May of 86 while BBII began filming in June of 2002, which would make her 16 which is leagal in some states, therefore it totally wasn’t a creepy sexualisation of the young, especially the part about how she got paid extra because she allowed someone to pour water over her while she was dancing in her stars and stripes bikini. Even if you did have a problem with it though it’s OK because she only did it because she “wasn’t a feminist yet”.

  76. Holy shit, all my friends who forgave the first Transformers all its bullshit because they got a couple of blurry glimpses of their favorite childhood toy in action all went to see this one for a couple good shots of Megan Fox’s cleavage oil glistening in Michael Bay’s overexposure and forgave Transformers 2 all its bullshit because they got that. I find it amazing how little you have to give people to leave them satisfied.

    I suggest that next film Bay just throw in one frame of a basket full of cute puppies in an entirely out-of-focus film with a soundtrack of nails on a chalkboard and see how far he can push the punishment to reward to ratio.

  77. Catch 42 – I think that is a huge part of it. She does look staggeringly porny, to me.

    But Vern, it’s so funny you bring up the drag queen thing. My girl is doing a job in Oz at the mo – and the Transformers folks were in town promoting it – and she phoned me up just to ask if there were any rumors that Megan Fox had once been a dude (or at least a Jamie-Lee…) – because her adam’s apple was so distractingly prominent during her interview. Now I thought it was just so much female jealously worming it’s way out of my beloved – but then she span the web cam round to the TV so I could see – and it was true.

    So yeah, America’s sweetheart – an overtly sexual, tattooed, mannish porn star. Enjoy.

  78. Just commenting on the HK discussion:

    HK action movies most certainly aren’t any better on average than American action films, and they aren’t any better on average than Michael Bay movies, either.

    I’m someone who started watching HK action flicks back in the late 80’s / early 90’s, when guys like Woo and Hark made an impact in the west. And I was a fan, because the movies were exotic and different. But were they better? Nope. And after seeing a bit more of them, you realize how damn derivative HK action movies are of each other, which kills the novelty factor.

    A lot of people in the America give non-American movies a free pass simply because they are foreign, and there is a novelty factor because of that. Kind of a like how the first Nightwatch movie was a combination of everything that people always complain about in American action movies (Poor story and characters, bad dialogue, sloppily filmed action sequences, over-use of unnecessary CGI, etc), yet it got a free pass, because it was russian. Go figure.

    But while HK action movie are typically just as stupid and mindless as a Michael Bay movie, it has to be said they generally run for only about 90-100 minutes. Which is a proper length for a stupid movie. If Transformers movies were that short, I think a lot of people would like them more.

    Another thing: While some HK movies might be shot and cut in a sloppy and even confusing manner, the action sequences are choreographed with care. And Bay just doesn’t seem to bother with that anymore. If he would, the first Transformers movie would have been so much more fun to watch for me.

    I haven’t yet seen the 2nd one yet. I hope they actually wrote proper scripts for the action scenes and choreographed them with care this time.

    Action scenes need clear goals and clear obstacles that prevent from reaching those goals. What does the hero need? How are the bad guys trying to stop him? Action scenes have to have twists and turns. They need tactics and strategy. The location needs to play a clear role in the scene, not just as a random backdrop. There needs to be a sense of geography: Where are the good guys? Where are the bad guys? How do they use their environment to their benefit?

    …All that was missing from Transformers. I remember exactly ONE moment in the entire film where such writing and choreography was present: decepticons attack autobots in the city, and autobots lift up cars in front of themselves to work as a defensive cover. That scene laster less than 10 seconds, and it was the only time when the action seemed to be done with any thought at all.

    It was nuts how the main goal of city battle in TF1 was to get Sam into a helicopter, so that he could fly to safety. Hello? Decepticons have supremacy in the air, because they can fly, but autobots can’t. The audience has just seen one decepticon take out an entire fleet of military air planes. So the goal made absolutely no sense at all, if Sam would have gotten into that helicopter, then the good guys would have lost.

    I just don’t get it how the filmmakers can come up with a goal like that.

  79. I completely know this is off-topic (great review by the way, disagreed with you on part 1 but from what i’m hearing this one is absolutely off the wall shitty), but I never actually saw any Iron Man review from you Vern, you’ve brought it up a couple times as being one of the good ones from last summer , but just wanted to hear what you thought about it.

  80. Christian Brimo

    July 2nd, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    History will vindicate you Vern. People are still watching Alien and Aliens, and in 20 years they’ll still be watching Wall-E and Dark Knight and Iron Man. Think they’ll watch Transformers 2 outside of ironic bad movie nights?

  81. Well ,guys, I’ve seen the first one,in Italian , and I don’t like it . But after seeing the original English dub , I’ve got to say , the movie is still a shitbomb , but I admire the professionals working on this thing. Peter Cullen and Hugo Weaving ( Optimus and Megatron) are fantastic voice actors , John Turturro and Jon Voight are good as always ( even with one-dimensional characters ) , I like the theme music ( the one playing at the beginning and when the Transformers are falling from the sky….not the linkin park shit) and the special effects are amazing when the robots are not moving, even if for me the designs are too complex.Everything else is a flaming shitball: Michael Bay directing , Michael Bay humor , Michael Bay-fueled racist undertones , Michael Bay-approved “script” and finally Michael Bay himself.I mean , with the first one , it was clear that this guy is mentally a 13 years old with issues , and it’s all there on the screen.This is embarrassing , I imagine his friends laughing at him behind his back , he clearly is a man-child.And the breakdancing-casualty-“black” robot ? I don’t remember Bay showing a close up of his FACE for the entire movie , you only see him in the background , and you’re supposed to fell sorry when Megatron kills him!! I’m skipping the sequel for now….maybe a rental later….

  82. I mean FEEL sorry…..

    Also : are the green and red faces, in one of the pictures posted by Vern , the faces of the new “black stereotype” robots? If yes , the face design is similar to the racist picture in the movie Ghost World :


    Way to go , Michael Bay!!!!

  83. and for the record (a good six hours after my first post), although megan fox’s hotness is getting overplayed, she doesn’t apologize for her sexuality the way so many young women in hollywood do. i love that. she’s young, hot, and honest about the fact that she likes sex…she may not be the greatest actress in the world but at the very least she’s honest about not being louisiana’s own 1950s christian princess who just happened to move to hollywood but never realized that she was incredible sexy and thinks sex is something only the bad girls do. there’s something refreshing about that
    another question vern, given how venomous the response to your review of the first film is, does it bother you at all that so few people are willing to stand by their original enjoyment of the movie. maybe it did just get worse with time, but it sort of blows my mind that so few people are willing to even admit to enjoying it when it was released.

  84. wow, I’ll be damned. I was so completely convinced Con Air was Michael Bay I didn’t even bother to look it up. Wow. So I guess I actually don’t like any of his movies. That’s actually a weight off my mind!

  85. I have to defend Megan Fox here.

    I don’t think it’s fair to judge her acing chops from the Transformers alone. Bay managed to get shitty performances out of John Tuturro and he’s a damned good actor if you ask me. When Jennifer’s Body comes out and she still sucks I’ll accept that she may be a bad actor but I’m not gonna write her off just yet.

    In Transformers Megan Fox was supposed to be hot. That’s all that was expected from her. She read her lines just fine and I truly believed she was a hot chick who could speak English.

    I still think anyone can be a great actor if given proper direction. Megan Fox came out of the gate with Bay leading her. Of course she’s not exactly gonna set the world on fire with her acting.

  86. Vern, I gotta disagree with your theory that Spielberg “knows better” than to be associated with a movie with “step-n-fetchit” type racism. I think that he is kind of a dimwitted hypocrite who honestly can’t see beyond all the suffering the Jews had in World War Two to realize that maybe other races have had their share of problems. After all, Big Steve is COMPLETELY RESPONSIBLE for including the line in “1941” where John Belushi calls Frank McRae, whose character is named Pvt. Ogden Johnson Jones, “cheetah.” Spielberg, Bay, and Lucas just don’t seem to care (after all, “it’s for the kids” they say). I hope these guys aren’t reproducing.

  87. Spielberg did make AMISTAD.

  88. The one film that I would like to see Bay attempt is another adaptation J.G. Ballad’s Crash. Bay is the perfect guy to direct a film about people who get turned on by hardware and disasters more than other people. I’m against the current Hollywood remake-itis, but this is one I’d really like to see; it’s also the only example I can think of for a choice of director who is both totally out of the box and completely logical. Make it so, Hollywood.

  89. As an actress, I don’t think Megan Fox is any worse than any of her contemporaries. I think her voice is kind of nasally, so she’s not very good at conveying “strength”. She can’t really deliver lines like “I’ll drive. You shoot!” But, otherwise, she’s ok.

  90. I’m just saying I don’t get the Megan Fox media blitz. Why her specifically? Did they just have to choose one? But it’s not even really just the media because many of my internet colleagues cannot help but write boner paragraphs in any story about her movies. There was one week where you couldn’t go anywhere without them obsessing over a picture of her in a terrifying corset on the set of that cowboy movie.

  91. Megan Fox has the face of one of those life-size japanese sex dolls. I guess a lot of people are into that though so who am I to judge. A lot of people are also into impossibly thin waist lines (just ask Ken!)

    Love the review, Vern but I disagree with you about one thing. I don’t think they’ve gone as far as they can go. If I give Michael Bay credit for anything (besides singlehandedly introducing us to the world’s greatest actors Nicholas Cage and Martin Lawrence), it’s the ability to one-up himself with every project he takes on. Such is the burden of megalomaniacs. The filmic adaptation of a Mountain Dew commercial may not be far off…(possibly with a special cameo from 7up star Orlando Jones!)

  92. geoffreyjar — I’m actually a prequel apologist, if you can believe it. I actively defend the prequels constantly because I think that despite their obvious. obvious flaws, there is a ton of interesting material there, and in fact if you want to get into the meat of it a kind of fascinating and completely unexpected moral ambiguity which is quite rich and well worth exploring. Add to that that the action scenes are frequently shot so that you can easily tell what is going on an marvel at its vision, and there’s plenty to like about the prequels. Much more than anyone is willing to admit.


    In terms of plot, they are an absolute mess in a way which almost no other movie is. Even shitty shitty DTV movies have plots which are better thought out than the prequels. So many characters, names, and events… that end up having no relevance whatsoever. That’s not me feeling like they don’t like up to my expectations or what I imagined… that’s a simple narrative fact. In fact, George Lucas even pretty much admitted that he bullshitted most of the story pretty much on-the-spot. That’s not to say that there’s not plenty to like there. But I think there’s a legitimate argument to be made that over the course of three movies the plot is almost as random and unplanned as Transformers (1, that is. Haven’t seen 2). Example: Qui Gon is arguably the main character of episode 1. Its kind of directionless plot with zero character arcs, but he probably gets the most screen time, and plays the role of protagonist most. By the end of the trilogy, we have to face the fact that he has almost zero effect on Anakin’s story line, expect to get him off Tatooine. He’s at least one of the lead characters in Part 1, and then he’s MENTIONED a total of two times after he dies. That’s plotting that can compete with any Michael Bay movie, even if the movies are more enjoyable as a whole than his.

  93. Spot on review, I got nothing to add. I do wonder about all the Megan Fox bashing though. I think a few people have commented on her “mannish” qualities. I don’t really understand that. I guess I haven’t looked at her as closely as most people. I also think it’s hard to judge her acting abilities based on these Transformers movies. Michael Bay bangs her with the camera basically. I’m not sure that stuff was in the script or not. They certainly don’t give her the opportunity to do any real acting. I mean, other than that baywatch type stuff in the desert. Before the Internet, she probably wouldn’t have even gotten a chance. Still, since she’s here to stay (for a little while at least) let’s see her in something that gives her a chance to stretch her abilities, like maybe Jonah Hex or Jennifer’s Body or something before we write her off. Oh, and I think she’s pretty damned hot, but then again I probably watch too much porn.

  94. unfortunately i’m actually interested in seeing this clusterfuck, just because i really have to witness this excess for myself. i’ll wait till a nice bootleg pops up though.

    btw Vern, where can i get a full size picture of your mock poster from last year (preferably upside down)? still cracks me up.

  95. Brian – I totally think it’s more the porn-star thing than the man-thing, despite my girl’s suspicions. However, to anyone who does find her mannish – I recommend the James Carter approach “I’m gonna pretend you a man. A very beautiful man with a great body that I’d like to take to the movies.”

  96. -I will now become that which I hate, some ass hat Star Wars fan who turns a random talkback into a Star Wars talk

    Mr. Subtlety:
    If that’s the case then you and I pretty much see eye-to-eye on the prequels then. The parts are definitely better than the whole (but I feel that way about the original trilogy as well so to many die hards I may be invalid on commenting on this).
    You are dead right about Qui Gon seemingly being incredibly important and to never be mentioned again (except with the whole he apparently created astral bodies). That’s a bit of a side effect with Lucas changing the “original” (snicker) plan. Originally Qui Gon was Obi Wan Kenobi in the first few scripts. He had no padawan and he basically acted like and did everything exactly as of that Qui Gon did in the final film. The only reasoning behind this change that fans (that the most excellent ‘Secret History of Star Wars’ speculates) speculate is that Lucas saw this as his last chance to show a ‘traditional’ master/student Jedi relationship. I warmed up to that a bit more after learning that but it doesn’t forgive that fact that you mentioned. As for telling the story (ie six films) as a cohesive whole, he should have just kept it Obi Wan in Episode I as the one who fount Anakin.
    -though your/our complaint about Qui Gon never being mentioned again an uber fan will run in and tell us “Someone isn’t familiar with the expanded universe!!” to which we can tell them “To go fuck” themselves.
    As you said that’s just ONE example of this revolving door of characters (and events). He introduced so many intending to get back to them and either he forgot about it or he couldn’t fit it into the narrative of the story and had to excise it leading to the audience to seek out the seemingly endless array of expanded universe novels & comics to find out about them.
    In some ways that sums up Lucas. His greatest skill is his greatest enemy: he is just overflowing with ideas (almost all of them good or at least ‘unique’) but there isn’t film/hard drive space to possibly even catch a third of it all.
    It would have been nice if Lucas planned it all out from the get-go instead of like three main story beats but that apparently isn’t in his nature (he fully admits that he’s lazy and hates writing). That said as someone who didn’t define their life via ‘Star Wars’ I had fun with them (even Episode I (and II) and am pleased with them.

    With that I want to apologize to you because looking back even though I said ‘I’m not singling you out’ I very clearly was. My defense is that was something I’ve been bottling up for a long, long time and I’ve just been waiting for someone to come in and bring up Star Wars prequels in a non-Star Wars thread. So sorry about that!


    That out the way…

    Megan Fox
    I don’t know what’s the big deal looks-wise about her either but as other’s said I’ll judge her acting skills when I see her in future non-Bay/Hollywood blockbuster movies. After all would any of us every believed that there was a damn good actor in Will Smith based on the Bad Boys?
    That said I think the reason the internet nerds are gaga over her is because of the thing she did when the first movie came out: “I’m a super hot model woman person thing but into geek shit” to which nerds with their imaginary cartoon wives seem to fall for.

    She claims to be a comic book fan (which she may be but I’m cynical with this type of stuff) and did a completely un-sexual casual PR photo with her holding a Bumblebee toy to which creepy pathetic transfans most likely thought was the sexiest thing they have ever seen and will ever see until she did that EW cover with Optimus holding her (don’t know who they wanted to masturbate too more though…)

  97. Sorry to butt in and offer no opinion on Megan Fox or the Star Wars prequels, but I just want to thank Vern or, well, existing… I became a fan when I read his T1 review on aicn. At the time, I was so frustrated at the pass it had been given by self-professed movie geeks (“geek” to me implying a taste refined by overindulgence in genre films, the ones which Bay so thoroughly shat upon with his opus). I knew I could not spend money on T2–wait, I have blasphemed! I’ll call it Trans2–No, Trannies2. Anyway, my one fear in not seeing Trannies2 was that Vern’s assuredly awesome review would go right over my head, but the man is such a pure descriptive genius that I feel like I’ve seen it with my own sad, tired eyes. And since I agreed with ever single word of the Trannies1 review, I am confident he nailed this one. Thanks again, Vern!

    p.s. Megan Fox is unremarkable and the 1st two prequels were a calculated effort to lower expectations for the third, because Lucas knew he could not create drama in the story. So at the time everybody thought Revenge of the Sith was awesome even though it was only marginally better than Phantom Menace (Clones being the worst of the three). Sorry couldn’t resist.

  98. I wanted to bring up another piece of politics in the movie that I think has been overlooked here (I skimmed the comments, but didn’t read all). It was a big deal that Bay got permission to film at both the Pyramids and Petra, in Egypt and Jordan, respectively. The big battle at the end is supposed to take place at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba (nowhere near where the Pyramids actually are btw, but it allows for the aquatic assault). In this area Egypt and Jordan almost meet, but not quite. Oops – Israel is in the way, but they never get mentioned, AT ALL. Wouldn’t it make a hell of a lot more sense for our soldiers to ask “What assets do they Israelis have nearby?” rather than the Jordanians?? What the hell? We only give them billions every year, and tons of military equipment. The Israelis could probably kick some major Decepticon ass. But I suppose since Bay got to film at these places, he had to snub Israel, even though it would have made a lot more sense to include them. And then there is that lame scene where our soldiers are overly concerned with the Jordanian chopper pilots who barely made it to the fight before being blown out of the sky. Some interesting “petting” going on…

  99. Just watched it and now I suffer from an identity crisis.
    I enjoyed it, which means that I must be an unbelievable huge moron, but on the other hand I had no problem with following anything that was going on on screen, which makes me smarter than most people who watched it.
    Anyway, I agree that it is (like part 1) a loud and sometimes way too silly movie, this time even 30-45 minutes too long, but I still had more problems with “Die Hard 4.0” than with this movie.
    I should also note that the two racism bots are in the German dubbing not that racist. Jive talk always gets lost in translation, so here they were just two ugly robots who punched each other all the time.

  100. CJ, you’re not an unbelievable huge moron. But since you say you understood what was going on could you explain to me why there’s an airplane in a museum that’s supposed to be thousands of years old, why they went to the museum in the first place and how he warped them to Egypt? And what was going on with the baby robots? I’m not looking for “plot holes,” these are a couple of the things off the top of my head that seemed like you were supposed to understand but I didn’t.

  101. I’m not saying that you are saying that I’m a moron, but you know how the rest of the internet ticks. ;)

    Anyway: The Plane-Transformer might be thousands of years old, but he wasn’t a plane all his life. As we learned in part 1 (and saw the twins doing it in this movie), the robots can scan vehicles and shit like that and turn into them. So I guess at one point in his life (on Earth) he just decided to be a plane, just like Optimus decided one day to be a truck with flames. I gotta admit WHY he was in the museum, is one plot point where you got me, because I never thought of that. They must have put him there one day and he decided that it was a nice place to stay. Or he snuck one night into the museum and nobody noticed next morning, that they had one more plane.
    They went to the museum, because this was the nearest place where they could find a Transformer, who was old enough to read these strange symbols. (If you remember, they projected a map with green laser points on a wall, and said something like: “The one over there is the nearest.”)
    He warped them to Egypt by opening a Wormhole Thingy. (Note that I don’t know the English word for it, can’t remember the exact word that was used in the German dubbing, but remember the dialogue that went like: “I told you I’m gonna open a [wormhole tunnel transportation bla], because this is the fastest way for us to go to Egypt.” “No! You didn’t tell us!You just did it!”)
    And the Babys, well, apparently they don’t get build and are adults, they grow as Babys in some kind of artificial amniotic sac. Why? I don’t know, I guess we must ask one of the REAL Transformers geeks, if this was explained in the cartoon or the comics. But I gotta admit that I’m okay (at the moment) with just knowing that there are Babys, but not what the rest of the life cycle looks like. We saw Baby Robots, we saw a Senior Robot, so apparently they are aging like living creatures. (Which makes some of the robotic mutilations and murders in the movie even more gruesome, is you think about it. Damn, that was the first Robo-Splatter I’ve ever seen! In some scenes I thought I was watching a remake of “Braindead”. Only with Robots instead of Zombies.) Enough information for now, but yes, it would be nice to find out a little bit more about this.
    I’m not saying that everything makes sense in the movie (Holy shit, NO!!!) but in my opinion it is much easier to follow, than many people seem to think. (The same happened to me with POTC 3. I still seem to be the only one who gets the whole story of it. On the other hand, I still have to figure out who killed who and why in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”.)

    I hope this clears it a little bit up.

  102. Christian Brimo

    July 5th, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    There were warp gates/wormholes in the awesome Transformers PS2 game

    I gotta say that i loved Speed Racer, which everyone says is incoherent, but i’m still not tempted to see T2

  103. Vern, If I were an uber-nerd I’d tell you:
    Geez vern! If you actually took the time to read the prequel comic books then you’d understand! In fact all of yous problems with the movie would have been explained away with those and the film’s novelizations! Damn you guys just want everything spoon fed to you huh? When cinema goes down the shitter and you wonder why. just take a look in the mirror!

    Unfortunately you’re about to find out I’m a nerd and I actually know some of this shit and you all will probably look at me differently from now on:

    Anyways the questions CJ didn’t fully know (how the hell did Jetfire get them to Egypt) the answer is he used a space bridge. This is something that’s been a part of the franchise for a long time but in other continuities it’s not portable and it’s a giant Stargate-type thing that the Transformers use to travel around the universe quicker (in fact in the current cartoon the space bridges were a key plot point). In the movie universe apparently they are portable and only really old Transformers have them because I’d assume they’d all use them if they had them (I guess they lost the technology sometime along the way?).
    The other answer is lazy writing and covering it up with a fan-wank. Now the real question is how did Jetfire transport Bumblebee, Skids, & Mudflap as well since they were no near our heroes when Jetfire activates the space bridge?

    As for the babies… (uber-nerd here: actually Starscream called them hatchlings, no wonder you got lost you obviously weren’t paying attention!!) previously in Transformers lore they were called protoforms. As far as I can tell they were growing (?) them as their new army (I guess this meant that the Decepticons are almost completely wiped out? Or Optimus stole most of their faces?) but honestly that’s just a guess.
    -originally the movie was going to end with a scene of Megatron & Starscream back on the Nemesis (I guess that’s the Nemesis the protoforms are held on) where Megatron is waking them all up (all completely loyal to him apparently) and readying them for war. (this was in the comic & novel adaptations)
    –for all the uber-nerds bitching at people for not getting any of this shit, they are full of it. Even if you read the prequel comic books this movie still makes no damn sense.

    Either way even being a complete nerd for this garbage the movie’s version of the space bridge & protoforms (and well pretty much everything else in the franchise) are so different from the prior established stuff that you can still get lost even if you actually know about all this shit beforehand.

    -now since I have ruined my reputation around here I end my post

  104. Hmm. Since they’re no doubt plotting out a 3rd movie as we speak this space bridge sounds like a much more compelling mcguffin than any magic cube. They should look into it.

    Although it sounds a little too creative for Bay. Maybe they could rename it the “fart bridge” and make it come out of someone’s butt.

    As for the transformers hatching and growing… I forget which critic said it but it seems like Mick Bay doesn’t know what a robot is.

  105. As terrible as this flick was, I’m just glad that it actually gave me a couple of action scenes that I could follow with “holy shit” moments of robot destruction, unlike the first one which was nearly replete of this and instead only delivered on the nonstop groan-inducing jokes.

    One scene which rather shocked me that I haven’t seen commented on much is the part after the opening action sequence with the huge-wheelicon, Optimus asks if he has any final words and then unloads his hand cannon into the defenseless, crippled robot’s head. That was some crazy Martin Scorsese shit there! I always thought of Optimus Prime as the defender of freedom and justice, and here Michael Bay has him marching around in other people’s countries like some cybernetic Eliot Ness, hunting down and coldly murdering foreign citizens who are just trying to get by working at a construction yard (aliens though they may be) simply because they bear a symbol of an opposing political faction! That’s some fucked up stuff!

    This brings to mind that story that evaporated from the news about Dick Cheney having a private assassination squad that went into foreign countries and murdered people and answered only to Cheney. Discuss!

    Vern, your thoughts?

  106. I agree, I think I said in the review that Optimus “savagely murdered” the giant wheel that attacked Shanghai. But I admit I did not give that much thought to all of the political ramifications of them going around murdering robots in five or six different countries. You’d think they’d run into more trouble with all those armies and governments.

    Man, even now thinking about this movie it’s hard to believe I’m not making it up. I can’t believe one of the big summer movies involves a fucking giant wheel attacking a city. A giant wheel! That’s what they came up with to make a movie about. 2009 is the worst year ever. Fuck 2009.

  107. geoffreyjar — sorry for the couple days of delay (and a big sorry to everyone else for keeping this conversation going, although if I have to profane “respond-back” by blathering on about the prequels, it deserves to be THIS one).

    Yeah, I’m pretty much with you on everything you said, but I think your key point is that Lucas’ imagination (though the source of his success) is also his worst enemy. The prequels are all so jam-packed with ideas that none is ever really fully explored (in-movie, that is. I could hardly be less interested in using a movie as a springboard for an “expanded universe”). Aside from the akward performance by Hayden Christensen and the just-plain-awful one by Natalie Portman, what really sinks the prequels is that they simply never delve into anything. It’s one event to another without ever really learning anything — or at the very most, just a few light touches. I can understand (I guess) Lucas wanting to show a traditional master-student relationship, but the funny part is, he never really shows it anyway. Everyone is too busy all the time zipping from one damn planet to the next random place they’re going to go for whatever minor reason to ever really let us know what any of it is supposed to mean. Lucas’ ideas, like many visionaries, need NEED someone to give them direction and context, which he never got on the prequels.

    I think it was Pauline Keel (can’t find the exact quote online) that called the TPM a movie about people parking cars. Well, that’s a little ungenerous, but it is inarguably a movie about people at work, with all the passion that entails. Sometimes they’re in meetings, sometimes they’re just on the job, and occasionally, there will be a kind of light-chat watercooler moment. Their jobs are kind of colorful and fun to watch, but for all we ever learn about any one person — or, for that matter, even the institution they’re working for — “Deadliest Catch” is actually more engaging.

    But. The imagination is there, and even when you only get the tip of the iceberg, there are things for you to think about. I mean, what the fuck are we supposed to think about the fact, casually mentioned in Episode II, that Dooku was Qui-Gon’s mentor? And that Yoda was his mentor? If Palpatine is telling the truth about his possible role in Anakin’s birth, what does it mean that Qui-Gon just happens to come across Anakin on Tatooine of all fool places. I remember when I first saw Episode I, wondered why Qui-Gon seemed so hostile to the Jedi. Given what we learned in the original trilogy, we just assumed that Jedi were the good guys. But by the end of the prequel, it seems kind of likely that actually Anakin’s “bringing balance to the force” meant killing them off. These are not just random things Lucas threw in the mix, they’re extremely intriguing ideas which, even though they are laughably underexplored in the films, are the reasons it is worth discussing, and will still be discussed, even after people have completely forgotten there was ever a “transformers” live action movie.

  108. Stysiaq (Poland)

    July 7th, 2009 at 6:05 am

    No other words than yours could possibly better describe that movie
    tf2:ROTF(L)’d better be named tf2:OMG or sth. This is a summer flick for NOBODY, too dumb for adults or teens, too sexist/racist/whatever for <13 years old or sth like that.

    some time ago I watched TF1 with my friends, just to prepare ourselves for even worse crap, and I was instructed to treat the whole thing like a big toung-in-cheek movie, and with some help from alcohol and crisps I managed to enjoy it (when I first saw TF 2 years ago I really hated it) a bit.

    This year we got sth longer, with unbelievably dumb writing and sex/fart jokes that just can’t be funny to anyone but mentaly ill, I suppose. No comments are needed, lil’ robot humping with Fox’s leg and hot-robot-with-a-tentacle-like-tounge brought me suicidal thoughts.

    2009 sucks indeed, all the blockbusters suck, and 2008 proved that blockbusters can be made right. Comparing Iron Man or TDK to TF2/Watchmen (thats a little another story…)/Xmen is really pointless

    Lets hope Iron Man 2 won’t suck

  109. to Mr. Subtlety
    I’m glad someone else agrees with my ‘the Jedi are assholes’ theory. My friend and I’s favorite moment of discussion in the entire saga is when the Jedi bust into Palpatine’s (the most powerful man in the whole damn galaxy) and arrest him for being a Sith Lord (for having different beliefs!) with not a single shred of evidence to back this up.

    Mace: “Senator Palpatine you’re under arrest for having a different religion than the Jedi!”

    Palpatine: “LOL wha…?”

    Mace: “Some punk-ass kid I don’t even trust nor like told me you’re a Sith Lord. So you’re under arrest!”

    I mean really!? What kind of (legal) power do these guys have that they can arrest the most powerful man in the universe without any real evidence?
    No wonder not a single person seemed to double-guess Palpatine’s claim that the Jedi were planning to overthrow the republic.

    Rusty James
    As for the space bridge being a better mcguffin I can only really go off the current cartoon (which has since been canceled before it could get a ‘proper’ end in favor of this fine film we are talking about right now) which I ended up liking quite a bit to my surprise.

    -I was going to say what they did with the space bridge-as-a-mcguffin but decided to spare you guys that because I’m sure you could give a shit and I’d just end up sounding like an even bigger dweeb

    Your mention of the ‘magic cube’ brought to mind another thing to mind with the Bayverse:

    I’m confused about what the movie’s Decepticon’s wanted with the All Spark in the first place. In the first one both sides wanted the All Spark to replenish their species. Then in ‘Fallen’ the Decepticons say they want it to give life to the protoforms/hatchlings to keep their species going like in the first, but then when they finally capture Sam it seems that they actually want the All Spark because it has a map to the sun-blower-upper gun thing that they will use to harvest energon to give life to the protoforms/hatchlings…

    Yeah Dirty Harry Optimus took me quite by surprise as well. I mean the opener of him shooting Demolisher point-blank was one thing. Then they have a slow-motion close up shot of him tearing Blackout’s (?) face in fucking two. Then at the end with his infamous request of ‘Give me your face!’ (in which he tear’s the fucker’s face clear off, right before ripping out his heart/spark) line shows that this Optimus has some serious issues.
    -I do have to admit though that the part of me that likes vigilante films actually kind of liked that.

    But it was a giant wheel of death! Yeah it’s pretty sad. With all the things you could do with this concept and the fact they have an almost unlimited amount things from the series’ history and real life to pull from to make a credible/exciting/threatening villain… they chose a giant fucking wheel.

    How can you take a concept as imaginative as this and somehow that’s the best they (and millions and millions of dollars) could come up with?

  110. Yeah, the Jedi are basically elitist dopes with some fairly creepy religious beliefs and practices. It’s funny how they play into Palpatine’s hands over and over again. Even in Return of the Jedi, the ghost of Obi Wan pretty much advises Luke to do exactly what Palpatine wants him to do (kill his own father)…what makes me think Lucas knew what he was doing is that if you examine some of the homages he uses for the Jedi, a lot of them make specific references to characters who are…morally ambiguous at best…for example: Yoda in Empire = Mime the “hideous” Dwarf in Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

  111. And speaking of homages in the Star Wars movies…I’d like to point out that the opening of Attack of the Clones includes a pretty wicked reference to the opening of Triumph of the Will (from Wikipedia: “The film opens with shots of the clouds above the city, and then moves through the clouds to float above the assembling masses below, with the intention of portraying beauty and majesty of the scene. The shadow of Hitler’s plane is visible as it passes over the tiny figures marching below”)

  112. hey! well, its quite refreshing to be talking with a group who are able to acknowledge the flaws of those prequels without resorting to insipid generalizations or childish name calling.

    What I find of great interest in the prequels is how Lucas (probably intentionally, but perhaps not. To my knowledge he’s never addressed it outright) was able to very carefully completely change the meaning of the original trilogy without ever coming out and saying it.

    Its unique as far as I’m aware in cinema, and maybe even the history of storytelling, just because of how completely everyone already knows the originals and accepts their basic premise. Obi-Wan can’t say enough good about the Jedi or mourn their loss enough, and its basically accepted that, thank God, Luke is gonna set things right and bring ’em back. This is so deeply understood within folks of our generation that I think most people didn’t even realize what George was up to — even after seeing the whole prequel trilogy. But think about it. There were always things which seemed odd about the originals, things that never set quite right but we always ignored, cognitive dissonance being what it is.

    A few of these are the sort of quiet nods that ws points out above, but a few are in the story itself; for instance, Yoda and Obi-Wan’s strange obsession with Luke not saving Han. They seem to think this will inevitably turn him towards the Dark Side, and when he leaves they have pretty much given up hope for him. But of course, Luke knows that the right thing to do is bust ass across the galaxy and save his friends, which he does. And it turns out he was absolutely right and Yoda and Obi were dead wrong — although he takes a lickin’ he certainly doesn’t turn to the dark side and their fears prove to be pretty unfounded.

    Likewise, they basically laugh at his idea that Vader can be saved (and in Episode III, we see exactly why — Obi was ready to cut him up and let him die after he’d been a dark sider for one fucking day). But Luke knows better; he DOES turn Vader, Vader kills Palpatine (spoiler) and comes back to the light side. Again, its odd that Yoda and Obi were so very wrong, but we’re so into the Jedi at that point that it just sort of slips through the cracks that these supposedly wonderful Jedi give up on people pretty damn easy.

    Then, when Episode I rolls around, we get our first really overt conflict with the Jedi, as we find the venerable Qui Gon Jinn directly at odds with these cranky old Jedi over a number of important issues. I remember the very first time I saw the movie being kind of confused over why anyone, especially a guy of unimpeachable character like Qui-Gon, would argue with the Jedi.

    Then, we come to find out Qui Gon was Dooku’s apprentice. WTF?! This is just dropped casually in Episode II. But both Qui Gon and Dooku seem to have the same problem with the Jedi. Does that mean, then, that Qui-Gon was working for Dooku all along, and maybe even intentionally altered their quest in order to find Anakin on Tatooine? Especially since it seems at least possible that Palpatine has intentionally been preparing Anakin all this time? We never really learn much about Dooku’s motives, but in the scene where he talks to Obi, we see something of his regret about the way things are turning out. Does this mean he already knows what is coming with the Jedi, and, rather than being evil, does he simply feel there is no alternative?

    Regardless, from Episode II on, we see the Jedi do nothing right. They’re either ambivalent to or outright hostile to Anakin, so much so that he can’t even go to them for help as his world is falling apart. Obi is so focused on their rules and maintaining Anakin’s “place” that he can’t even see that Anakin’s having issues. Meanwhile, Palpatine is the only one who seems to give a rat’s ass about Anakin, so he’s the one the boy gravitates to.

    The real giveaway, though, is at the end of Episode III. I defy anyone to think that Obi Wan is doing the right thing as he cuts up his former “brother” (without even attempting to talk him down) and then leaves him to burn to death while he walks away. Its the exact antithesis to Luke’s solution at the end of Jedi.

    Obviously, that doesn’t mean the Sith are right. But the surprise is, that the Jedi aren’t right either. Their dedication to an inhumane sense of the world makes them problematic for the force, and, to balance it, both Sith and Jedi need to go. Which is where Luke comes in. Luke is compassion, devotion. He has fear, but can control it. He is flexible when he need to be but steadfast when it counts. He is the human factor that the Jedi don’t understand at all. And so it is Luke and Vader together who actually bring balance to the force, each by destroying the more severe side of it. All this is an incredibly ballsy move by George, who could easily have churned out a “Star Trek” like the one that just came out and reaped the cash. That he chose to do something challenging, especially something which isn’t at all overt (no one ever alludes to these things in the script) is one of the reasons I still give the prequels props, despite their obvious flaws.

  113. That’s a pretty interesting analysis Mr. S.

  114. Wow, Mr. S – your post did the impossible – it actually made me want to try and watch the prequels again!

  115. thanks for the kind words, guys. If anyone’s interested in taking another look at the prequels in this light, I figured I’d mention a few more things Ive noticed — and I’d really love to hear from anyone who has different ideas or something I’d missed too.

    I mean, I dish on the prequels as much as anyone does, but it always annoys me when George gets called a hack or a cash-grabber for doing the prequels, while J.J. Abrams gets massive props for creating something which is so much shallower and easier.

    Its kind of an incredibly adult, challenging idea to tell people that what they’ve believed about right and wrong since the first film came out in 1977 is wrong. I mean, the idea of the Jedi as the force of unquestioned good in the universe has been in our pop culture for more than 30 years, and then out of the blue, George gives us a prequel trilogy that is interested in teaching us a lesson about perspective and compassion, NOT right and wrong. The guys you thought were good weren’t really all that good, the guys you thought were bad maybe weren’t all that bad.

    But that doesn’t mean that the good guys were bad and the bad guys were good either. It means no one was objectively right, but they fought like motherfuckers anyway and a lot of good people suffered. People laughed at the idea of a trade dispute being the center of all this, but it makes perfect sense in this context. The whole clone war happened over some stupid bureacratic nonsense which just blew up until everyone had dug their heels in on one side or the other. And as soon as violence is threatened (in the form of an official army being cloned up) the galaxy goes blood nuts over a tariff to little fucking nowhere planets like fucking Tatooine. Who was right? Neither of ’em, really. It was all senseless and pointless. Yoda is at least wise enough to regret this (as he does at the end of Episode II) but at the same time even he is too deeply embroiled to avoid getting sucked into it (hell, he arguably sets it off, even as he knows that all this is meaningless and avoidable).

    One thing I forgot to mention above is Obi Wan’s final speech in Episode III to Anakin. It’s great because everyone I talk to walked out of the theater with the idea that this is the movie’s moral being spoken aloud — and in any other movie, it would be. But instead, its a kind of cruel joke at the expense of Obi. Everything he says is pretty much dead wrong.

    He starts with the most obvious ironic statement — “Only the Sith deal in absolutes”. Look, George, whatever he is, is no idiot. He knows that statement in itself expresses an absolute. I laughed aloud when I heard that line spoken aloud, but assumed that it was just poorly thought-out writing. Looking at Obi-s whole speech later, I realized that this was as close as George was ever going to come to actually telling us what the real intent of the prequels were, and how we should really interpret Obi’s speech. Of course the Jedi deal in absolutes — they’ve been doing nothing but for the whole trilogy. That Obi can’t see this just demonstrates how blind he is to the idea of perspective. The Sith probably say the same thing about the Jedi! From everything we see, they might actually have the more meaningful claim!

    “you were the chosen one — you were supposed to bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness” he can’t imagine that “bringing balance” might mean shifting the balance AWAY from his faction. The seemingly macguffin prophecy is almost meaningless vague. No Jedi talks about what bringing balance might actually mean — they just assume, as Obi says, that it mean “Destroying the Sith, not joining them!” But of course, it doesn’t say that. From their point of view, that’s the only thing that makes sense. In reality, the force is only going to be balanced when there are two jedi left (obi and yoda) and two sith (vader and palpatine) And then, perhaps, only one combination of the two, in Luke and Leia.

    He goes on, and all of it is bitterly ironic, right up until the end, the real heartbreaker — where he tells Anakin that he loved him. Anakin yells, “I hate you!” as tears stream down his face. Obi Wan doesn’t know a damn thing about love — being a Jedi suits him. He’s fond of Anakin, but once he’s told his mission is to kill him, he’s gonna do it and never regret it. He doesn’t even know anything about Anakin. They’ve worked together for awhile, but Obi’s never really spent any time getting to know Ani or it would be painfully obvious how torn up the kid is (Palpatine doesn’t have any trouble figuring it out – no one would, who was the least bit interested). Upon FINALLY figuring out the obvious, that Anakin is Padme’s husband, Obi has only a glib, “sorry” for her before he marches off to kill her husband (using her as bait, I might add, which is ultimately what sets Anakin off).

    Anakin actually knows a thing or two about emotion – he’s the one who constantly feels guilt over what he’s done. Anakin gets angry and kills Dooku at the beginning of the film, but he knows immediately that he’s made a mistake and says as much. Obi kills Grevious only a few scenes later and offers a joke. True, it was in the heat of battle, but they pretty much explicitly state that this is the goal of Obi’s mission. For all the Jedi say about peace, they kill pretty often. Witness an odd moment in Episode II where Mace Windu lops off Jango’s head without even slowing down. I like the moment because you suddenly realize that Jango had no chance at all. It’s the easiest thing in the world for Mace to kill him, and he’s not gonna think twice about it. Mace is the biggest badass in the galaxy, but he doesn’t for a second stop to consider that Jango has a very young son, who we immediately see mourning his father. Think that just because you can kill every evildoer you see, you can destroy evil? How’s that working out for ya, Bush, I mean, Mace?

    Now, a lot of the reason that people didn’t like the prequels is in the acting, the narrative structure, etc. But I also suspect that it is this kind of nagging ambiguity about who we are supposed to root for that really made the prequels and unsatisfying experience. The originals are mythic stories of right and wrong, with easily identifiable heroes and villains — not that there’s anything wrong with that, but they’re instantly gratifying. In the prequels, that’s not the case at all. It’s kind of hard to know what the right thing to do is, and especially who we should root for. Now, since everyone sort of took the prequels as an extension of the originals, almost no one thought about this stuff, and since they were so poorly made, almost no even stopped to think that they might have a lot going on under the surface. After all, if the guy can’t even make the surface work, surely it doesn’t run too deep either.

    Hence, no one really considered that moral ambiguity was the point; they just assumed and accepted that the Jedi were the heroes, just like before. Which makes for a complete story but one which I think most people found slightly unpalatable for reasons which were not completely transparent. The “lesson” never really becomes clear if we accept the basic premise that the Jedi are the good guys — its just a bunch of stuff that happens, and I guess the Jedi lose at the end for some reason that’s not really clear. No tragic flaw for anyone, unless we want to count legitimate emotion on Anakin’s part (love for his mother, his wife) as a tragic flaw. Which makes for an emotionally unsatisfying experience. Looking at it from the point of view that the Jedi are wrong, though, and we see a long tragic fall set up from the beginning, as Qui-Gon, and then Anakin, find the Jedi to be cold and completely uninterested in compassion. Its the only way that the narrative makes any sense at all, and yet it is so hard for people to see past their assumption of who the good guy is going to be that I think it was probably lost on 90% of filmgoers (in their defense, if Lucas had made better movies, people might have thought about them a little harder). Still, when asked to choose between something which stumbles while trying to do something unique and something which is so eager to please that it asks nothing from the viewer whatsoever (looking at you, Trans 2) I’ll always gravitate towards the one with some substance.

    Thanks for your time and patience while I got this out of my system —

  116. Mr. S—I came here to praise Vern and now you have me returning to the comments to discuss Star Wars. I always enjoy skimming the AICN talkbacks and watching them devolve into prequel bashing and prequel apologizing, but never comment because, obviously, there is little sense being made amid all the shouting and allegations of childhood-rape. You, however, are making terrific points, stuff I’ve maybe considered but never organized so well in my head. I have always said that in terms of ideas, the prequels are richer than the beloved original trilogy, but as far as execution goes, they deserve at least half of the vitriol (which is still quite a bit).

    I’d like to add to your argument–in regards to the preuels’ changing the way we view the originals–the minor point that Obi Wan gives Luke the old life lesson that “many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”

    Holy shit I hope I didn’t misquote that. Don’t freak out, fanboys–I’m a problem drinker and it’s bound to happen sometimes.

    Anyway, I was shocked that Lucas portrayed young Obi as being so lock-step in line with the Jedi perspective. These guys were serious dicks, definitely in need of a comeuppance, and even though his mentor Qui-Gon was willing to challenge them, he (as you said) is perfectly willing to kill his “brother” without so much as a conversation about exactly why the Sith are so “evil.”

    So it’s nice to watch Episode IV and realize that during his years of isolation, Ben Kenobi has maybe given some thought to his own inability to see other perspectives, and while he fears Luke following his father to the Dark Side, he also doesn’t want the boy to blindly take his (or anyone else’s) word as the absolute truth.

  117. @ he (as you said) is perfectly willing to kill his “brother” without so much as a conversation about exactly why the Sith are so “evil.”

    This is a part of the argument I have a problem with though. Didn’t Anakin just murder a bunch of kids?

  118. Rusty — sure. I mean, Anakin’s definitely crossed lines you can never really come back from. But then again, Luke is willing to see the good in him after he’s done all that plus lived like 20 extra years of evil. And this is a man Luke has never met. Obi just saw the guy two days ago, high-fived him and sent him on his way; he’s supposed to be his mentor and brother and yet not only is he not there for Anakin when he’s going to pieces, he doesnt even have a clue that something’s not right. Obviously, what Anakin’s done is inexcusable, and clearly Palpatine is not a very nice dude. But Luke is willing to die rather than give up on this man who he’s never met, and Obi’s more than happy to cut him to pieces and let him burn to death after he’s turned to the dark side for 24 hours. Obviously, Anakin must be stopped. But it just illustrates how the rules are more important to Obi than even his closest friends.

    Jeeb — yup, I think that quote is pretty much dead on. In fact, I think we’re meant to assume it is Obi’s musing on Anakin’s comment about point of view shortly before their duel ends. I like to think that you can see in the way “Ben” acts in the original trilogy that he’s gained some perspective on what has happened… at the very least, he openly admits that it was his fault. Still, I think even until death he fails to quite grasp what the Jedi’s main failing was… which makes sense, since it will have to be Luke who bridges the gap and balances the force. I think one of the biggest missed opportunities of Episode III was not showing Qui-Gon speaking with Obi following the death of the Jedi. His perspective would, I think, would make it much easier to understand what Lucas was trying to say with the prequels, and explain a lot about how Obi has changed in the intervening years.

  119. Yeah, over all I think you make some really good points. But I was responding to one inparticular that didn’t agree with.
    I don’t think there needed to be a discussion about whether or not the Sith were evil at the end of ROTS. Anakin just got done with some evil shit.

  120. Point taken. Certainly, there’s no way to condone Palpatine. Anakin, however, is just following his orders, like Obi. He’s been convinced that Palpatine is standing up for the right things, and he’s doing what he’s told. The difference between him and Obi is that we can see plainly how torn up Anakin is over what he’s done… while Obi pretty much just goes back to work.

  121. Well isn’t this a swell commentary on TFII. We talk about how not very good it is and how in it’s own little way is so crazy bad it may be good. Then we ran out of stuff to talk about regarding that film (Yup it’s just like the first one… now what?) we started talking about Star Wars.

    I made my thouhts on Episode I-to-III prior and no reason for me to state them again or any new ones because Mr. Subtlety can articulate my thoughts and feelings far better than I ever could (one of the reasons not posting as much is because now there are a ton of people on here who are far better at writing and articulation than I am)

    I am very pleased to learn that I’m not the only one who saw all of this in the prequels. I’ve been going on for years about how the fall of the republic is mostly Mace & Yoda’s fault. I guess since Mr. Subtlety doesn’t think much of their cinematic merit (and the better writer thing) I guess that makes him better suited to state this than I am since I actually don’t mind the prequels flaws & all.

    Very much agreed on the getting pissed off with nerds citing Lucas as a ‘hack’ and ‘money grabbing asshole’. As what I said that started this whole Star Wars talk they seem to be pissed off Lucas didn’t adapt their shit fanfic. If you want to see the Star Wars I-III the fans wanted just look at the reaction to any trailer of any Star Wars game that comes out anymore (that shows nothing but ‘way cool’ action) or watch the fan favorite Clone Wars micro series by Genndy Tartakovsky (that while entertaining and fun is devoid of any character, story, heart… but who gives a fuck about that when the action is that cool and non-stop!) or you can just watch J.J. Abram’s ‘Star Trek’ which many of nerds are saying is everything the prequels should have been.

    I’d love for us to have an enlightened talk about ‘Trek’ like we are having here but that’s not going to happen because there is nothing happening under the surface (or above it for that matter).

    I don’t hate ‘Trek’ and nor am I some agitated Trekkie. I feel kind of like how Mr. Majestyk is with ‘The Dark Knight’. That is, “what’s the fuss? This isn’t terribly great.” After the all the accolades this film received and some of them even saying it trumped ‘Wrath of Kahn’ I got excited for it and instead of seeing a awesomely great movie I saw a pretty bad one but the characters & actors are so great and likable I almost forgot that they were stuck in a horrible movie with a horrible plot and had to fight one of the worst movie villain in recent memory.

    For a movie as great as ‘Trek’ supposedly is there sure isn’t an awful lot of talk and discussion about it like we are doing right now with ‘Star Wars’ years after they came out. I doubt we’ll still be talking about J.J.’s ‘Trek’ in such high regard years after it runs it’s coarse.

    back to Star Wars

    There’s this one shot I loved when he’s on the lava planet and it’s after he murdered the Separatists Leaders and it’s just a quick shot of him looking over the vista with a tear rolling down his eye. Even when he’s gone dark side, he still isn’t happy and regrets the things he is doing and mourns (hey just like Count Dooku regretted what he was doing… hmm…). I know some hate that shot for obvious reasons but I liked it because it really humanized him and reminded us of his plight after he crossed a horrible line and can never go back. For me it also helps me sympathize with him even more: he betrayed the Jedi because he disagreed with their principles and felt they were going to ruin universe so he defects to the dark side and almost immediately he’s being told to do things he doesn’t fully agree with. Used by both sides. Which is more ‘evil’ though? The ‘defenders of justic’ treating him like shit from day one and alienating him or his one and only friend (other than his wife of coarse) manipulating and using Anakin for his own personal gain. Damn Anakin’s life sucked. Yeah it’s only like a 5-second shot but for me it’s the best shot in the movie and perfectly conveys the chacter’s plight (for me at least and if you want to be a snarky asshole you can argue it’s great because Hayden Christensen doesn’t open his mouth)

    It’s a damn shame that not many other “horrible” movies have this amount of depth to them.

  122. geoffreyjar — yeah, I hadn’t thought about it quite like that but you’re absolutely right… here Anakin is, devastated over the fact that he just killed a bunch of genuine assholes… while at the end, Obi doesn’t have a single tear for a brother who’s dying in horrible agony. In fact, he uses his time to tell Anakin how disappointed he is in him.

    Originally I was confused and annoyed that Lucas starts Anakin out so young (the classic Patton Oswalt “Like Darth Vader, right? Now here’s what he was like as a 9 year old!” comes to mind). I thought it weakened the tragedy of his turning to the dark side, since he’s just this young kid who just sort of gets confused and winds up not knowing which way is up. The way Obi tells it in “Jedi” is that Anakin was a powerful man who made a deliberate choice to do what he knew was wrong for personal gain. That sounded to me like the more powerful tragic arc, and I was kinda annoyed at Lucas for soft-pedaling it. But actually, I finally realized that the point is not that Anakin chose evil, but that any of us could. Anakin’s hardly more than a fuckin teenager when he is forced into this situation where he has to decide what is right and wrong in a world which promised certainty but delivered only confusion and pain. {According to wikipedia, Anakin is born in 41 BBY (“Before the Battle of Yavin”. cute, nerds), and the events of Episode III take place in 19 BBY, making him 22 years old. }

    He’s so sure about the Jedi when he first meets Qui-Gon. But by the time he walks in on Mace with a saber to Palpatine’s throat, and is told that he’s gonna have to kill one of the two, he knows nothing except that everything that is good in his life is forbidden or regarded with suspicion and contempt by the Jedi. Who here feels like they would feel comfortable with the decisions made by their 22-year-old self under those conditions? Anakin spends the rest of his life living with the snap decision he made right there. It is a tragic story, but a very different one than we were made to think. Yeah, Anakin’s life sucked on a pretty epic level (although he did get to nail Natalie Portman… but if her performance in bed was anything like her performance on-screen, it may have been poor consolation. zing!) It also illustrates how little Obi ever understood of what Anakin was going through and why he did what he did.

    And yeah, I felt pretty much the same way you did about the new “Trek”. Resoundingly adequate, with a winning enough cast and enough bluster to convince people it was great. It is so damn eager to please that it just throws every trick in the book up there, and true, a lot of it works decently well, but at the end of the day it just doesn’t add up to all that much. Its payoff is immediate, and once it is over, that’s all there is. In fact, I’d argue that a huge part of the payoff is getting reintroduced to familiar characters and seeing what has changed and what has stayed the same. Once you go back and watch it even a second time, that thrill has faded and you’re just left to coast on some colorful set pieces and the charm of the cast. Challenging or imagining… these are the last things it seems to want to do; after all, that might confuse people or get in the way of the action. It just seems so… easy, so content with toeing the line and winning back viewers. Which is to say, I actually enjoyed watching it, but feel like the praise the thing gets reveals more about how low people’s standards are than it does about the greatness of the actual work of art (See: Green Day). The prequels are just the opposite… frustratingly devoid of a lot of immediate gratification, but chock full of unique things of interest and almost quixotic flights of imagination. I enjoy watching them, even though they can be painfully, painfully awful at times, and — here’s the key– never really get sick of em, because I can always find some aspect of George’s world to marvel at and think about.

    Some day, years from now, I’d love to see them get remade by someone who has the chops to channel that imagination into a narrative film which can actually capitalize on it. Could it be done without George? Not sure. But the world and the basic tenants of the story he created are destined (and deservedly so) to be with us for quite some time, as long as people are willing to invest a little in drawing them out.

  123. Hey, 21 Guns is a good song. I don’t know dude I get what your saying, but somehow finding out that the great order of warrior monks that is the Jedi got wiped out because some teen lost his shit for a little while undoes a lot of he epicness (not a word) of the story. How come his eyes are yellow in that one part?

  124. Brendan — I’d argue that its actually just epic in a different way — the epic fall is the Jedis’, not Anakins. Theirs is the tragic flaw, hubris, etc; Anakin’s just the guy who pulls the trigger.

    21 Guns does have a pretty great chorus riff, but the lyrics and verse melody are as pedestrian as they come, if you ask me. Like “Star Trek” I think Green Day (proviso: post-American-Idiot Green Day) is trying incredibly hard to please but ends up being a benchmark for mediocrity. Which is aggravating as they (both) then go on to be received by borderline hysterical accolades. But if you like either of them I can understand why and I don’t mean to be a hater about it. We’ll always have “Dookie” and “Wrath of Khan”!

  125. Another bit of Jedi dickery that you alluded to was in ‘Empire Strikes Back’ when Luke tells them to go fuck themselves and leaves. Obi is disappointed (again) but Yoda pretty much says “Eh. There’s another one so no big loss.” Damn what an asshole.

    Like you I love that Lucas went a non-safe route with these films. I’d argue though that he started changing the meaning back around ‘Jedi’ though. As also pointed out in ‘Secret History of Star Wars’ in between the time of ‘Empire’ & ‘Jedi’ Lucas reconciled with his father. Previously they had a very rocky relationship and suddenly they were okay with each other. Plus Lucas was also in the process of adopting a child so it stands to reason that he didn’t see the world so black and white anymore and since he no longer harbored harsh feelings for his father (maybe even saw where the old man was coming from even) that poured out onto his writing. In essence he was maturing. Or maybe he did actually have *that* part thought out. As a result with him maturing and not agreeing to the pulpy black & white notions present in the original film, and the fact that he’s an experimental ‘arty’ filmmaker at heart, he set out to change the film’s meaning and mature along with him. Unfortunately his most rabid fans don’t want to mature (in more ways than one) it seems.

    -Now if only I could spark this much fun a talk and discussion about the Matrix Sequels, Hulk, & Superman Returns I’d be that much happier.

  126. I like all those movies. Have at it.

  127. Here’s my issue with the prequels boiled down: they focused on the Jedi. And for my money the Jedi are pretty fucking boring, at least in the old days. I love the idea of these wandering ass-kicking monks who wander the universe seeking great spiritual truths and righting wrongs. But in the prequel movies the Jedis are dudes sitting in a room, staring at each other solemnly talking about intergalactic politics and whatnot. No thanks.

  128. And no one explained why his eyes were yellow in that one part

  129. Brendan,

    I don’t think anybody here is saying that the Star Wars prequels aren’t problematic.

    Mr. S,

    Great posts! Not to be too hyperbolic but, that’s some of the more insightful writing I’ve ever read about the prequel trilogy. It made me think of a few scenes from episodes 2 and 3 that might support your thesis…

    In episode 2, when Padme says she believes that Count Dooku is behind the terrorist attack on her ship, Mace Windu smiles condescendingly and tells her Dooku couldn’t kill anybody. He’s a jedi. It’s not in his nature (which of course, it is; and, ironically it’s also in Mace Windu’s nature). Later, Yoda cops to the fact the Jedi have become arrogant.

    Obi Wan fully understands Annakin’s anxieties about his mother, but no effort is ever made on his part, or the the Jedi, to get his mother out of slavery and off Tatooine. (Probably has something to do with that whole “No attachments” business).

    There’s a scene between Mace Windu and Yoda where we find out that their ability to use the force has diminished and Yoda says something indicating that, if that fact were found out, the enemies of the Jedi would multiply…I think the purpose of that scene is not just to deliver expository information but to establish that the Jedi are, basically, just another political group with their own enemies and detractors.

    In episode 3, the scene where Mace Windu attempts to kill Palpatine is like a fun-house mirror image of the scene where Annakin kills Count Dooku. Also, if Windu hadn’t been so antagonistic to Annakin and taken him along in the first place, things might have turned out differently.

    In the opera house scene, Palpatine tells Annakin that the Sith and the Jedi are alike in almost every way. Which is probably a bit of truth Palpatine has mixed in with his manipulative tactics….or, to rephrase it, he’s using the truth itself as manipulative tactic, in much the same way that Dooku does when tells Obi Wan everything that’s going on (minus the crucial piece of information that he’s also working for the Sith), knowing full well that Obi Wan and the rest of the Jedi will never believe him.

  130. Everyone has a different reason for why they think the prequels didn’t click. That’s mine.

  131. His eyes are yellow because he’s EEVILL now and it, in theory, looks cool. It’s also suppose to make him look like Palpatine post-scarring so I guess its a Sith/being influenced by the dark side thing I guess.

    Also come on. The prequels did show the Jedis going around the universe having adventures… as long it concerns a big corporation (Episode I) or someone trying to undermine their Jedi’s authority (Episode II). So you see if it’s in their best interests to be heroes, they will be.

    Mr. Majestyk
    I’d love to but I already (with assistance from Mr. Subtlety) have already derailed this talkback pretty bad so I’ll have to figure have to either go back into those movie’s respective talkbacks or figure out a way to accidentally derail another talkback.

  132. Brendan — well, I have to agree with geoffreyjar that there’s quite a bit of Jedi action in the prequels. I mean, the last 45 minutes of Episode II is pure, unadulterated Jedi action… if you want more than that, I don’t know what to tell you. Now, you may find that action to be oddly unsatisfying simply because the Jedi as portrayed in the movies are sort of dull and unlikable, and you don’t really care if they win or lose. Which is a perfectly acceptable complaint, although, as I’ve been trying to say, that’s (in my view) sort of a key point about the prequels. I suppose I have to agree with you that in the end the prequels are not at all satisfying in the way that the original trilogy was, but I still hold that they’re interesting.

    As for Ani’s yellow eyes, I really couldn’t say except to agree that its just because he’s EEEEVIL (I believe that in “Return…” Palpatine has yellow eyes (?) so probably it has something to do with the dark side of the force but quite frankly, I couldn’t be much less interested in the nuts and bolts of it.

    ws — hey man, thanks again for the kind words. I’m just so happy to finally be talking with a group of people who doesn’t shut down and start shouting “Prequel Apologist!!” the moment anyone says anything positive about the things. I’ve been sort of mulling this stuff over in my head for years, trying to figure out why those prequels are so damn WEIRD, so its incredibly gratifying to finally be saying it– and hearing that I’m not the only one having these crazy thoughts!

    I’d completely forgotten about those two Yoda scenes. Both are revealing in their own way, but I find it particularly interesting that this little bit is dropped about the Jedi losing their powers. I remember vividly seeing that scene in the theater and thinking “huh?” and then forgetting about it and assuming it would be explained later (haha, yup, the eternal optimist). That gets me thinking about the prophecy and this idea of “Balancing the Force”… despite all the claptrap about midichlorians (don’t ask me what the fuck he was going for with that one, cuz I’ve got no clue) the force still seems to emerge intact as a mystical energy field which is in some ways autonomous (“you mean it controls your actions?” “Partially, but it also obeys your commands”). My guess is that the reason Mace and Yoda are losing their force powers is because the force is already so out of balance in favor of the Jedi. The force retreats a little bit from the guys who have sort of claimed that the force can only be legitimately used by them. Again, we see the Jedi have all the information, but can’t see the forest for the trees because they’re so sure of their own essential rightness. Likewise, as Yoda and Mace lose their powers, Anakin seems to gain greater power. The force seems to kind of desire equilibrium, and hence move to affect the balance of power through various means.

    Its both incredibly cool and incredibly frustrating that Lucas never addresses these things directly. Supposedly, he was originally going to have a scene at the end of Episode III where Obi talks to Qui Gon, and I have a suspicion that if that scene had gone in there, it might have been a summary of exactly what we’re saying. But in some ways, I think its actually cooler to just state this stuff, never explain it, and let the audience come to its own conclusions (just as its never exactly explained if Palpatine’s story about “Darth Palgeus” was a lie or the truth, or if Anakin’s “visions” of the death of loved ones were products of Palpatine’s manipulations or genuine precognition, or exactly who Dooku is/was and what he thought he was doing, or who exactly ordered up a clone army 20 years ago and why [or why you don’t have to produce some kind of picture ID to pick up a clone army] or for that matter what the prophecy is actually supposed to mean and if it was ever true at all. I mean, what other director would just casually mention “oh, by the way, their ability to use the force is diminishing” and then never explain why or even mention it again? Most people chalk this up to poor writing, but come on, I’ve seen hundreds of movies way worse and way better than this, but nothing approaches it on this level of apparently unnecessary complexity. Lucas may not be the best director in the world, but when folks like us can find this sort of order in the apparent chaos, I find it easier to believe that it was intentional and relevant, rather than random and meaningless.

    Another thing to think about that you touched on are those scenes where truth is kind of twisted by the Sith into their own version of reality. This is a strong theme throughout each of the prequels (you can probably think of half of half a dozen examples off the top of your head) and it is essentially the cornerstone of Palpatine’s rise to power. I think this is in part a commentary by George on the Bush years, (he is kind of evasive about the idea, but come on) but I’ve always wondered if there was more to it than that, or if it fit into the fall of the Jedi in some way. Hmm. Have to think on that one.

  133. Jedi action in part one: Qui-Gon and Obi doing stuff on their own. Other Jedi sit in a room and talk solmenly about trade disputes.

    Jedi action in part two: Obi and Anakin doing stuff on their own. Other Jedi finally get off their asses and have a big fight, and get roundly slaughtered by Dooku et al and Yoda bails them out by bringing a massive army. There is then one fight scene where our valiant heroes get there asses handed to them by an octogenarian and have to be saved by an alien who comes up to their knees.

    Jedi action in part three: Obi and Anakin doing stuff on their own, with Yoda doing some neat shit. Rest of the Jedi spend the majority of the movie solemnly talking about whether Palpatine is evil or not, and having very calm discussions about the nature of the Jedi Code. You could make the arguement that the rest of them are out leading troops fighting battles, but we never actually see them doing this except for when they get slaughtered after two seconds of fighting back.

  134. (sorry to interrupt the excellent star wars discussion, but) for those who found the action in transformers 2 impossible to follow, how far from the screen did you sit?

    cos i started in the middle of the theatre and just found the film unbearable, but moving to the back made everything kind of crystal clear.

  135. I have to see this movie, heavily drunk

  136. Brendan… that sounds like a good bit of Jedi action to me. Sorry it didn’t do it for you though. Action always seemed to me like the least of the prequels problems, and I’d even go so far as to say I think a lot of it is really imaginative and engaging. I’ll be the first to admit the story passes over a lot of interesting opportunities (for instance, to show us the Jedi training process, which happens almost entirely off-screen), but I’ve always maintained that you can’t really judge a movie by what it is not or you’re bound to be disappointed. Of course, I’ll never try to convince someone that something that didn’t work for them should have worked, and there’s plenty to turn people off of the prequels… I’m just trying to say a positive word about what substance IS there.

  137. sorry 512 has the right idea. if you can disengage the offendable part of your brain and just submit to the barrage of kinetic hallucinatory type imagery, this movie is pretty incredible. i say this as someone who hated tf1 and has always loathed bay. but if you feel like giving it a chance, sit as far from the screen as you can.

  138. wether it is the Transformers animated version or movie version. you can expect some good robot action. I love Transformers.

  139. What is the deal with the pro-transformers spams? Have they promoted other movies with this innovative method? It seems to have worked to sell the movie although I’m not sure about the acne medication.

  140. The magazine I used to work for (and interviewed you, many moons ago) used to get them on their comment pages too; would it spoil the vibe of the FUCK YOU JACK site to have to stick in those ‘Please write the numbers/letters you see’ sort of security things?

  141. The magazine I used to work for (and interviewed you for, many, many moons ago) used to get them on their comment pages too; would it spoil the vibe of the FUCK YOU JACK site to have to stick in those ‘Please write the numbers/letters you see’ sort of security things before you submit a comment?


  142. Sorry, too eager there. If you’re going to delete the transformer spam, maybe you’d get rid of my first post too.

  143. My brother turned me on to this site recently and it is a godsend. This may sound like hyperbole but I fucking mean it. Reading your reviews gives me some faith left in humanity. Even in a world where the political discourse is that of a grade school lunch room, big banks grinning at us while fucking us in the ass and movies like transformers 1 and 2 which baffle the mind with how much money they make, there’s this site with your reviews Vern and the folks that read them.

  144. Hey thanks Carlos. I forgot how long that review was, shit! I guess I had a few things to get out. And I honestly can’t remember which direction some of those photos were actually supposed to go. Great staging, Bay.

    anyway thanks for the kind words, glad you enjoy the reviews

  145. well looks like some footage has leaked from TF3 and i think its actually looking pretty good this time around….


  146. Just saw it. I was sort of amused by it, but what really surprised me was just how bored I was by the vast, vast majority of it. I figured it would some sort of minute-to-minute camp insanity, but maybe everyone ruined it for me by giving away all the craziest moments. The other thing that threw me was just how small scale the whole movie felt. They have armies and armies of robots, that never really seem to go anywhere or do anything, most of the time is spent with a small group visting delis and museums looking for clues, even though they don’t know what they are looking for until 3/4 of the way through the movie.

    And I expected that last battle to be some mammoth, all out war between sides, but the whole thing felt only slightly more elaborate then the Scorponok battle in the first one. Didn’t expect that from a movie whose only real claim to success is huge robot fights. I actually sort of liked the first one in a non-ironic way, but this…phew, this movie was something else.

  147. This may just be me but I thought Rush Hour 3 was just as badly scripted, badly put together and maybe as questionable in its racial content. That could just be me though.

  148. Brendan – You might be right.

    Consider the ridiculous amount of millions Chan/Tucket/Ratner/Nathanson* scored to return for RUSH HOUR 3. Nevermind the % cuts they negotiated each. Wouldn’t be shocked if New Line looked at the budget line, released there was just enough for a script.

    So that last $17 went to good use.

    I think the same story goes for TF2.

    *=Joking aside, Nathanson if I remember right got paid more than a million bucks to script RH3. Best job ever?

  149. Wasn’t Transformers 2 one of the last of the strike scripts? I believe they had to start working on the effects sequences (a.k.a. the entire movie) with only a vague idea of what the movie was going to be about. That’s why it ends up feeling like a $200 million film that was made up on the spot. Unshackled from the bounds of narrative, the movie ends up being the purest expression of Michael Bay’s id yet.

  150. I read somewhere that Michael Bay came up with a bunch of action scenes he wanted in the movie, then had Orci and Kurtzman come in and write a story around them, then when those guys got swamped between this movie, writing Star Trek and running that show Fringe, they brought in Ehren Krueger to finish up. That’s no excuse though, I mean Hitchcock put together North by Northwest the exact same way, with writers inventing a plot around a bunch of suspense/chase scenes he came up with.

  151. You know what, if the movie had more sense (or any, really) I wouldn’t have liked it so much. To me, a movie that is boldly nonsensical is better than a movie that’s just blandly incompetent, like Wolverine.

  152. I thought the plot made sense when they bothered to have a plot. The Fallen wants to activate the Sun Harvester to harvest our sun, btu he needs the Matrix to do so. So everyone races to find the Matrix. Now, the fact that it takes 90 FUCKING MINUTES for everyone to figue out what’s going on, that is nonsensical. Its a two and a half hour movie and 90 minutes of it is filler bullshit.

  153. Hmmmmmmmmm

    I have never thought about the Star Wars prequels in the manner of Mr. Subtlety, and even though I think some of it may be a matter of seeing patterns after staring at it too long, I think the point of view has a hell of a lot of merit. Maybe I need to watch them again. But I wish I could skip over all the moronic scenes of people riding giant lizards and just watch the scenes where people sit around talking about trade routes.

    Personally I thought PHANTOM MENACE was juvenile crap (except for Darth Maul), ATTACK OF THE CLONES was even worse (nothing redeeming whatsoever), and then REVENGE OF THE SITH made up for everything that was wrong with the first two.

    One thing that bothered me about ROTS though, was that Anakin killed all the little Jedi children before he went off to kill the trade federation bosses. I mean, that is completely backwads plot-wise and character arc-wise. It didn’t ruin the movie or anything but come on… if you just butchered dozens of children would you shed a tear for the trade federation? I don’t think so. But the other way around makes more sense. You’d have to find a way to get Anakin BACK to lava world somehow but these people treat interstellar travel like running to 7-11 for some milk so no big deal.

  154. Oh good, a Star Wars prequels debate. Lemme see… they’re all identically fatally flawed, and I can’t really pick between ’em as to the worst one. In three films I can’t think of a single likeable or relatable character – Jar Jar was supposed to be the “viewpoint” character in “The Phantom Menace” in the same way that the droids were to the original “A New Hope”, and everybody hated him. Every other character – heck, even Jar Jar at the end – was a Jedi, a Senator, a dark Lord, or some kind of ruler. Padme goes on and on and on about “the people” but we never actually see any of them.

    I think if we all put our heads together between us, we could probably come up with a list of “Incredibly Bad Ideas from the Star Wars Prequels” that would stretch to longer than this entire talkback combined – which I think would be a powerful testament to the power of the human spirit when it comes to meaningful humanitarian endeavour – but here is my personal choice for the top three:

    1) The entire story. WE KNOW HOW IT ENDS, people. And the point is…? Couldn’t they have come up with something even vaguely interesting (and not involving Young Darth Vader or that stupid fucking irritating condescending worst-thing-in-the-entire-first-three-films snot-jedi Yoda?) How about the origins of the Sith and the Jedi, how they split, interesting moments in their history? What did they do before they were trying to form or combat evil empires? Etc…

    2) So every single human character in the prequels speaks the same way, acts the same way, and could pretty much be the same person (unless judged from the standpoint of “do they have boobs”). Hell, Anakin’s reviled as a mass murderer, but even Padme gets herself a bodycount at one point. My personal low point was when they had Iain McDiarnid “vamp out” for his Big Reveal as the Sith lord (which, don’t forget, we already knew about before we even started watching the films. Again, the point is?) Seriously, I spent my teenage years watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, where for the most part the “face of evil” thing worked as long as the vamps remained something of a credible threat (until about halfway through season 4, if anyone’s interested). The trouble is that Palpatine has barely featured as anything, let alone a threat, in the entire three movies, and he’s had less screen time than Christopher Lee. And when it finally comes to revealing his true nature, they steal a trick from a teenage vampire TV show. Subtle!

    3) Lava Surfing. Just fucking lava surfing. Remember Vern’s comments on the digitized sand in Phantom Menace? Well it applies about twice as much here. Of course, if incredibly badly shot stills of Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christiansen pasted onto blatant CGI rocks floating (?) on blatant CGI lava doesn’t completely ruin the ending, they decide to intersperse cuts showing CGI snot-jedi duelling with stuntman veiny-vampire-Sith-Lord who’s conveniently always viewed from the back, until the two stop to strike heroic poses that make the finale of “The Covenant” look subtle, at which point we get more CGI-Iain-McDiarmid looking every bit as embarrassed as he should be when dressed as a rejected extra from “Buffy”. FUCK THAT.

    Now if I seem slightly angry here, rest assured that this is not the ranting of an obsessive “fanboy”, and George Lucas is not the subject of my ire. I was never the biggest fan of the first three Star Wars films – as you would have gathered from my “Buffy” references, they came too early to complete my own personal childhood – but, having watched them, I can see why they have the armies of devoted followers that they do. Film-making simply hadn’t been done on that kind of scale before, and although there’s much in them that’s been done and bettered since, there’s also a lot that’s been copied and done much worse. (Yes, even Yoda, who started an entire army of copycat little-wise-old-mentors-who-teach-through-cruelty. I’m looking at you, Mr Miyagi.)

    So having no particular emotional connection to the original trilogy of films, I can safely say that my ire is not directed at George Lucas. The man used to combine great vision with mediocre talent and an excellent supporting team of cinematographers, composers and other genuinely talented people, and the end result was at the very least enjoyable big-scale cinema. Now he’s a hack who hasn’t produced or directed anything remotely watchable in years. (I’m serious btw – look up some of his recent credits on IMDB.) In a way, this was always where he was headed. You can’t blame him for it any more than, for example, you can blame a house cat for scratching the furniture. It doesn’t know any better, it’s just what it does. All you can do is ignore it and hope people don’t notice the scratch-marks on the curtains when they come to visit.

    So who am I angry at? Well, partly, myself. I actually paid money to see “Attack of the Clones”, partly because of the overwhelmingly positive reviews it got when it came out, and partly because of pure morbid curiosity (“The Phantom Menace” had just been on TV and I wanted to see how much it could improve on that film – which also got overwhelmingly positive reviews when it came out.) The other two, thankfully, I saw on TV, so I didn’t pay anything for them, except for a few excrutiating hours of my life that I’m never going to get back, thanks very much. And yes, I know I must bear some responsibility for being stupid enough to watch this shit all the way through in the first place, but in the end, like most people, I’m a SUCKER for peer pressure.

    And that brings me onto who I really blame for this: YOU. Yes, you guys. ALL of you who gave “The Phantom Menace” a pass because “ooh, the effects are nice, and it works as a summer movie, right?” and ignored the fucking awful acting and Natalie-Portman-doing-a-bad-Robogeisha-audition and Jake Fucking Lloyd and Half a fucking hour of podrace that doesn’t advance the plot or characters one iota and five fucking minutes of Darth Maul who comes the closest to being an actual relatable character if only because Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson are such a huge vacuum of suck in this film that we want them to die as much as Darth does, and even when one of them DOES die it still fucking sucks because it’s so badly done. Oh, and Samuel L Jackson isn’t badass at all.

    And then you said “Attack of the Clones, it’s a huge improvement on the first one, and it doesn’t matter if the romance bits drag a bit because the action’s great*” and it turned out to be like watching a seven-year-old playing “Revenge of Shinobi,” complete with factory and temple chase scenes, punctuated by howlerific teenage-level excrutiating rom-com banter between a mass murderer and someone who’s supposed to be one of the greatest and wisest young rulers in the fucking universe. Also Samuel L Jackson keeps on not being badass.

    And then you said “Revenge of the Sith” (revenge for what? What the fuck has anybody ever done to them? Did I miss some kind of interesting Sith massacre when I was watching Jake Lloyd race a fucking pod around a track for two fucking hours?) was even better than “Return of the Jedi” (it’s not, it doesn’t even come close to being as adequate-going-on-good as that movie was) and it had BUFFY-VAMPIRE-SITH-LORDS and FUCKING LAVA SURFING and SAMUEL L JACKSON STILL DOES NOT GET TO DO A SINGLE BADASS THING EVER and THIS MOVIE AND THE ENTIRE SECOND TRILOGY FUCKING SUCKS HARDER THAN A VACUUM CLEANER AT A BLACK HOLE CONVENTION.

    Seriously, guys… seriously. Let’s call a spade a spade, and admit that sometimes these things really are overhyped, excrutiating, badly-made shit that shouldn’t be released on VHS, let alone IMAX. So please stop writing this stuff up on forums or making excuses or doing any of the stuff that might convince a naive, easily-led young fool like myself that it might be a good idea to waste as much as a single minute of his time or a single penny of his money on watching this crap. Thankyouverymuch.

    PS – Yes, this happened with “Transformers” as well. (Although not the sequel. Even I’m not that dumb.) I actually wrote to Vern after that one saying he’d over-rated it.

    *[I would note here that “Attack of the Clones” contains one beautifully done scene, right at the end, which is just a series of light-sabre battles, but in which every participant has more genuine character, and the scene more tension and suspense, than any other moment in any of the prequels. Seriously, the Dooku-Anakin fight in the darkness gave me the willies, it was that good. For those five minutes, and only for them, I was riveted to the screen. If anything, this makes me hate these films even more, because it shows that when you strip away the appalling dialogue, the convoluted mess of a storyline, the horrible rom-com bits, the videogame action bits, the terrible CGI, the pointless characters whose fate we already knew before the first film was released, and everything else I hated about them; there was, somewhere buried beneath all this mountain of shit, a single germ of greatness. Hell, if the entire trilogy had been as fantastic as that one five-minute scene, it wouldn’t just be the fanboys praising it to the heavens. Does it make it better or worse that there is actually one genuinely great moment in this shitpile, to contrast with everything around it?]

  155. PPS – sorry for wall-of-text above. It was about a third of the size when I was writing it. The result of a very widescreen monitor and enlarged text…

  156. Brendan – The difference, well the most important, between Hitchcock and Mr. Bay is this.

    Hitch was greatly fascinated by themes. Voyeurism, paranoia, the police, psyhosis, incest, phobias, sex, fears, etc.

    Bay is greatly fascinated by SFX scenes. That’s what his dick aims for, and thats what ejaculate onto the screen.

    Remember that SOUTH PARK episode? “Michael, that’s a special effect. Not an idea!”

  157. “I…I…don’t understand the difference.”

    “I know you don’t….Get him out of here.”

    I didn’t think they were comparable, I just thought it was interesting that two films with so vastly different levels of quality and reputation had basically the same creative process.

  158. Brendan – Which proves the golden rule of cinema. There are no rules.

    What works for one, doesn’t for another. Consider APOCALYPSE NOW’s production madness. Yet its a masterpiece because somehow Coppola the unlucky/nervous breakdown director made a masterpiece.

    Same process on HEAVEN’S GATE, didn’t exactly work as well. Or Coppola’s ONE FROM THE HEART for that matter.

  159. *everyone ignores the raving maniac who just insulted all of them in an epic episode of drunk writing.*

    Yeah, fair enough… :)

  160. Sorry I’ma bit late to the show. Big fan of your reviews Vern and just managed to watch Transformers 2 today. Spot on buddy

    Just have to say thank you to Mr Subtlety geoffreyjar and everyone else for that insight into the Star Wars prequels. I’ve always been a big fan of SW and was admittedly dissapointed at the prequels. Yet I still bought them on DVD and watch them occasionally. I’ve always convinced myself it must be because I still just like the whole SW universe and although flawed, the prequels are at least part of it.

    But maybe as Mr Subtlety has said, maybe I just was confused that I was expecting that Jedi’s = good, Sith = bad. The idea that Lucas might be shaking up the whole mythology that we built up in our heads never really occured.

    I like the idea that maybe the whole ‘balance of the force’ may be the ultimate destruction of the Sith and the Jedi. I mean, the force is obviously a natural element. And along come these people a few thousand years ago and start manipulating to give themselves super powers. If the natural order to things is balance then the Sith were necessary to even things out. Yet both these sides are too obsessed with wiping each other out to come to that realization.

  161. Sorry just to add some more SW thoughts (sorry to Vern for putting even more SW talk in your Transformers 2 review)

    One thing that always irked me about the prequels was that jedi were like some sort of offshoot of the Republic. Like in Episode one, Lucas reveals the two ambassadors to be Qui Gon and Obi Wan. I mean WTF? I just always assumed they were just a sort of religious sect, studying the force, finding inner peace, etc. I didn’t know they were naturally aligned to a political party.

    And if you look at it, Lucas might be subtlety making a point here about the danger of mixing politics and religion. Now this might just be my view, because I agree with separation of church and state. But look at how the movies progress, first the jedi are ambassadors for the Republic. In the second movie they are just assisting the Republic in the war against the separatists. But by the end of Episode 2 and the start of 3 they are pretty much leading the clone army around the galaxy in the war. Obi Wan’s and other jedis are now generals in the army and they are pretty much leading a driven and ruthless mission to destroy this bunch of people who are sick with a defunct political system. They are just as ruthless to the Separatists as the Empire will become against the Rebellion.

    When Obi Wan says his little speech in Episode 3 he pronounces, “My allegiance is to the Republic, to Democracy!!” Now where exactly in the annals of jedi lore does it state the force is to be used to protect peoples right to vote democratically?? C’mon. He’s blind to see his statement is just as ridiculous as Anakins supposed dedication to his new empire. Although when Anakins says it, you can tell from his voice he doesn’t really believe it. Whereas Obi Wan says it with pure conviction.

    Now Palpatine is obviously not a good guy, even if he think he had some good intentions in his actions, by Episode IV he is blowing up planets for fun. Which is not cool. But you have to think, if they weren’t being lead by the dark side, those separatists really had a good point. Did you see that Senate? There’s no way anything could be done without some other planet vetoing it or something. Of course, Palpatine in the end was just using the Separatists as a distraction, but to try and correct the same supposed faults with the Republic. He just saw dictatorship as the solution rather than separation. And I can’t help to think he was also a subtle nod to Bush as well. Not the dictatorship thing, but bringing back the idea of politics and religion. Now he didn’t announce that he was a Sith Lord when he becomes the Emperor, but hey, he’s a Sith Lord. Obviously it’s going to motivate his actions. Now when you look at Bush, his obviously conservative religious views affected his presidency.

    Anways sorry again Vern, Mr Subtlety and Co. have just got the gears turning in my brain. I’m just glad people have pointed out some good points from the prequels that I never considered before

  162. subtlety: I’m so glad you get it.
    I was trying to argue with my brother after ep 2 that anakin will bring balance to the force, in ep 4 there are exactly 4 force users: obi wan, vader, yoda, palpatine [that bastard.]
    he did exactly what they wanted.

  163. and qui gon ducard being a possible badguy was the moment I thought george knew his writing. I view the new movies like a shamylan movie.
    you get the boring set up, the action – then you find out the twist.

  164. “I didn’t know they were naturally aligned to a political party.”

    I don’t think they were; though they did think the political party currently in place matched their own ideals pretty well.

    But they were brought in to _mediate_ a dispute between the trade federation and Naboo. i.e., they were brought in as neutral arbiters who wouldn’t pick one side or the other and who would have the ability to tell if one or the other side was lying in negotiations.

    And since the Trade Federation knew very well that they were abusing the system (and Naboo) for their own benefit, it makes sense they would try to eliminate the negotiators by an ‘accidental’ discharge of gas into the room. But if “Darth Sidious” has been telling them that the Jedi are only the pawns and enforcers of the Republic, then their initial over-reaction becomes even more explainable. (First, blow up the ship–which alerts the Jedi to expect an attack, and so to watch for things like the gas discharge into the room.) Why? Because the Republic sent their enforcers!–from the Fed’s perspective, that’s tantamount to starting personal hostilities right there. (“There are two of them?!” “We will not survive.”)

  165. “Also Samuel L Jackson keeps on not being badass.”

    In fairness, I think SLJ did have some badass moments in Attack. Not nearly as many as there should have been, but they’re there. “This party’s over.” bleep yes, sir, over sir, FLY AWAY FLY AWAY AAAAHHHHH!!! {g} The insects knew why to run.

    For quasi-SLJ doing some of the badass things the real SLJ should have been doing as a Jedi, see Gennedy Tartarkovsky’s (sp?) 2-hour “Clone War” series. Mondo Jedi action with a nod to Mean Joe Green! (Plus, the reason General Grievous acts like a croupy wimp for most of his scenes at the beginning of Revenge? Because after fighting and killing off a bunch of Jedi, he gets insta-crushed by SAMUEL L JACKSON!! AT A DISTANCE!! AS A WAY OF EXPLAINING EXACTLY WHY HE SHOULD RUN AWAY NOW!!! {g})

    Meanwhile, the opening trilogy makes far more entertaining sense (yes, including the pod racing) when it’s explained as being the result of a group of role-playing adventure gamers making up the story (and often the rules) as they go along. See: http://darthsanddroids.net/ (The writers are just about to start the Collesium Execution scene in “Attack of the Clones”.)

  166. Bender / edc – glad to hear my analysis makes sense to you. I think we may have finally put enough distance between us and the prequels that people can look at them without being blinded by the buildup and massive backlash.

    I’ve been listening to Lucas as he goes around promoting his new book looking for some hint as to wether he sees his prequel trilogy the same way I do or not — but he’s almost completely mum on the subject except from a technology standpoint. He talks a bit about the original trilogy and its relationship to Joseph Campbell, though, and seems to noticably exclude the prequel trilogy from that school of though. True, there’s a slight whiff of some specific myths in there (Sigurd and Fafnir, Orpheus and Eurydice) but mostly the prequels are byzentine, freewheeling affairs which have little to do with Campbell’s overarching mythic types (especially the Hero’s Journey Myth which provides the skeleton for the original trilogy).

    Saberman’s right that the plots resemble more of a rambling, weirdly embellished longwinded free-form tale told live by someone who can imagine cool things faster than he can incorporate them into an actual story. Lucas even acknowledges his writing was more like a “jazz riff” with a few themes and thensome noodling around in between. But wait a moment. Is that reason to write them off and assume there’s nothing in them? I say no. Lucas is an oddly details-oriented guy, and when he tosses off some fact like Qui Gon was Dooku’s apprentice, I gaurentee that he had considered its implications. Likewise, George may not have been able to keep his story together, but I’m pretty sure he can spot the fact that “Only a Sith Deals In Absolutes” in fact expresses and absolute in itself. When this sort of thing occurs, where the narrative seems to go oddly out of its way to express surprising facts and then leave them without explanation, I think it deserves at least as passing thought about what the guy is trying to get at.

    More and more, I’m beginning to think the prequels are actually more of a postmodern criticism of the original trilogy than a straight continuation. Lucas knows the myths that will work on us; he spent years thinking about it an studying it. Instead, he produced something which is not only complex, dense, and mysterious, but actually dramatically alters what we thought we understood about the original trilogy (its almost a BLAIR WITCH 2 type meta-sequel, or ADAPTATION if you’re in a more generous mood). I think its an oddly appropriate trilogy for the decade that it spanned.

    The original trilogy presents such a simple, clear-cut conflict which provides an upliftng emotional payoff about our ability to fight for good. The prequel turns all that on its head — everything gets all confused. We end up with many morally ambiguous parties dispatching bloody mayhem over spectacularly trivial issues. And the survivors there go on to be the moralizers we trusted so readily in the original trilogy. Turns out Obi and Yoda have hardly any moral highground over Palpatine or Anakin. They’re hypocrites and often coldhearted zealots. But when you present the issue as simply as the original trilogy does, we simply accept them as the voices or righetousness — so much so that we never even bother to ask why they’re startlingly wrong about Luke and Vader. And part of the reason we accept it so easily is we know who they’re supposed to be — the wise teacher and the oracle, respectively, in Campell’s terms.

    I think Lucas may be trying to tell us a little something about how easy it is to manipulate people using Campbell’s model, and how quick people are to buy something as simple and true when its presented that way — even if we know in our heads that the real world is more like the prequel trilogy: messy and complicated.

  167. I still think your analysis and line of thought is fascinating and has merit, but on the other hand, PHANTOM MENACE was on TV the other day and I tried watching it and thinking deeper about tropes and mythologies and stuff like that… but for the love of god I just couldn’t get over how impossibly inane the movie really was on the surface. Perhaps this is because Lucas is a maniacal genius and it’s all window dressing so the insidious propaganda can blow right past our defenses.

  168. Rainman — well, I absolutely understand that reaction, and, unfortunately, I think Lucas would have had a lot more people thinking about the subtext of his films if he had actually done a better job with the surface elements which range from pretty great to shockingly terrible (PHAMTOM MENACE is by far the worst offender in terms of long stretches of virtually unwatchable garbage — the “Mr. Qui-Gon, what are midi-chlorians?” scene is truly one of the most amateurish sequences I’ve ever watched in every single aspect that goes into a scene, and I say that without hyperbole.)

    I’d love to believe the films’ sometimes apalling ineptitude is some kind of avant-garde attempt to comment on the nature of storytelling or something, but unfortunately I think it more likely that this one just got away from poor Mr. Lucas. And because of that, I absolutely do not blame anyone who just doesn’t care about the subtext because the main text is so lacking (for the record, I personally enjoy watching all three prequels immenesely even while admitting their sometime massive faults). I felt the same way about SOUTHLAND TALES — sure, there’s something he’s trying to get at, but who cares if you don’t even care about the plot? The myth I’m fighting here is the idea that the prequels are some kind of creative wasteland, devoid of anything of value. In fact, I consider them remarkable documents despite their unmistakable flaws, a case where Lucas shot higher than anyone wanted him to or cared to follow him.

  169. On the other hand, there are also sites that make a lot more sense about astral projection. This one probably doesn’t even crack the top ten, in my opinion. Not to be negative, but the ratio of commentary on astral projection to other topics here isn’t all that great. You gotta put up with a lot of static before you can get to the good astral projection stuff.

  170. I’ve been digging through Vern blockbuster reviews, hoping to see similar offense being taken to things like the Spider Man 3 chair dance, etc. Man oh man did this review get me worked up. It is quite an opus, incendiary but also cathartic.

    some smaller offenses to get off my chest, maybe they were mentioned in the 180 pages of talkback but I ain’t gonna plow through:
    1) No respect for its own mythology. You gotta be a machine to be a transformer, right? Once the, erm, coed turned into a decepticon, it becomes apparent that you have no right to give a shit about anything that happens, and fuck you for thinking you could muster some investment about any aspect or facet.

    2) First movie: it’s all about trying to prevent Megatron from getting that little box, but when he gets the box it kills him. So the whole movie was like “haha, jokes on you!”.

    Fuck. You. I also liked Walter Chaw’s vicious pan: “The problem with Michael Bay is that he hates you.” Yeah, I hate it how these movies seem like they are just PUNISHING you for liking movies at all, and yet if I had a 200th of what it cost to make this film, I would never have to worry about money again. It is disproportionately wrong and evil and indicative of the most profoundly diseased aspects of our civilization.

    So, I think it is a very important thing for the Chaws and the Verns to take this shit to task. Y’all are the gardeners of the culture garden, yanking the weeds so that we can get our vegetables. Hats off.

  171. Very much looking forward to a review of the third one.

  172. You know, I went on record calling Transformers 1 “Better than sex.” I stand by that. (Look me up on Rotten Tomatoes). The magnitude of seeing those robots turn into trucks and back and forth was pure cinematic thrill, and the story had a wonderful Spielbergian element. I love the backyard scene that fanboys hate. It’s that Amblin idea of hiding the magic from your parents.

    Revenge of the Fallen was so bad, it wasn’t even a hand job. At this point I hope Dark of the Moon is at least a lap dance.

  173. I’ve never seen any of them; I prefer reading these reviews instead.

  174. Jareth Cutestory

    June 28th, 2011 at 7:54 am

    You and me both, Jam. Same with the new STAR WARS. Life’s too fucking short.

  175. Yeah, life is too fucking short…to let others dictate what movies you want to watch.

    Just sayin’

  176. You know, Fred. I love movies. I really do. But I have never, ever seen movie that was better than even a mediocre drunken hook-up with girl you’re not really that into.

  177. whoa Fred, irony overload, I found the “Spielbergian” elements in the original Transformers to be completely false (like the scene where Sam gets all upset over the government taking Bumblebee), Michael Bay can only do two emotions, “kaboom” and “haha robot piss”, seeing him trying to go for Spielberg’s style was painful

    and yet you said you found the “Spielbergian” stuff in SUPER 8 to feel false!? look we’re all friends here who can agree to disagree, but I just want you to know, I’m disagreeing pretty hard

  178. Time to dust off the old excuses. From the talkback for Quint’s Dark of the Moon talkback on AICN:

    “Jun 28, 2011 7:23:36 AM CDT
    people…its transformers
    by supermanismygod

    I love how people always use condescending phrases like “the plot is just an excuse for the action” as if this is supposed to be something more than a movie based on a cartoon that was itself created to sell toys. All that cartoon was was a half hour commercial for toys. What plot can there be? If you go to a movie called Transformers: Revenge of the Dark of the Fallen Moon expecting anything more than giant robot fighting, who’s the real asshole? Hint: you”

  179. To be fair: Even with a compelling story, people would want to watch Transformers only for fighting robots anyway.

  180. I also want to chime in that most of those 80’s cartoons were shitty anyway, like He-Man, Transformers and GI Joe, people only like them due to nostalgia (expect for Thundercats though, that show was pretty awesome), it was bad idea (save for financially) to make movies based on them

    as a kid of the 90’s we had cartoons that were actually good and not just toy commercials, stuff like Ren and Stimpy, The Rugrats, Rocko’s Modern Life, Animaniacs and Dexter’s Laboratory

    sincerely, Generation Y

  181. The cartoons of the eighties were awful but awesome. The cartoons of the nineties were good but lame. I’ll take the eighties any fucking day.

  182. Jareth Cutestory

    June 28th, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    All your base are belong to TURBO TEEN.

  183. Fred —

    I think we’d all accept a TRANSFORMERS movie with a strupid plot just to watch the giant robots fight. But the TRANS plots are not just stupid, they’re aggressively abrasive and they take up like 95% of the runtime. The robots only fight for a few tepid minutes at the beginning and end, and those action sequences are confusingly shot, have no rhythem or build to them at all, and are so visually confusing that you never get any sense of awe at the scale or the power of the fighters.

    If anything, TRANS 2 actually delivers more of the goods than TRANS 1. The plot is equally insipid, but at least there are a few comprehensible action scenes (although the one that ends the film is an embrassing case study in how to have a lot of shit going on without building to anything even remotely exciting.) Basically, just because you have a concept like giant transforming robots or werewolves and vampires fighting doesn’t mean its automatically interesting to watch. I’m kind of amazed to say that, but there it is. CABARET is actually much more engaging, exciting, and visually stunning, and thats about fucking cabaret. With Liza Milelli for Chrissakes. And Yet somehow Michael Bay found a way to make giant robots boring and irritating. What an asshole.

  184. I’ve seen the first Transformers but not the 2nd. The 1st one gets a little more slack because watching these vehicles transform into flying robots for the first time is pretty awesome to watch. The special effects are amazing and the action scenes were pretty well done even if they’re sometimes quilty of bad editing. Shia was ok as a bewildered high school kid and Megan Fox was/is nice to look (i’m pretty confused about the backlash against her. Its to the point where guys who couldn’t attract a hooker with a $100 bill sticking out of their zippers are saying they wouldn’t give her the time of day. Any woman who is not only beautiful but openly rips Michael Bay is aces in my book).

    What i can’t get passed is the horrible humor and John Turturo’s all time worst performance of his career. Literally every joke falls flat. Its like they wanted to infuse American Pie type humor into this. I don’t get it. I guess the movie was supposed to be fun but I feel had they taken the material more seriously it would’ve a semi classic.

  185. Nah CJ, Michael Bay lost the right to take any money from me a long, long time ago. I find filtering his films through Vern to be a far cheaper, thought-provoking and altogether more enjoyable experience.

    Just sayin’.

  186. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was awesome and is awesome.

    All other cartoon shit is nerd shit.

  187. I guess you can blame the age of irony we live in ThomasCrown442 in that they didn’t feel like they could make a giant robot movie without throwing in a bunch of jokes that just made it stupider than if they played it straight

  188. Mouth – that hurts my feelings :(

  189. Jam: Ignoring certain movies, based on personal experience is legit. I just hate the old argument: “The critics say it’s bad, so I’m not gonna watch it”. If I had a Dollar for every movie that I enjoyed, although it was panned by critics, I would have bought the rights for Transformers years ago.

  190. Tawdry, look up my original review of Transformers on Rotten Tomatoes. Click the link. I go into two paragraphs of detail on all the different variations of sex I’ve had that I’m comparing Transformers to. It includes bipolar crazy sex, which is the best kind.

    Subtlety, totally agree with you on Trans 2, not on Trans 1. Making every set piece as big as a finale was part of the hook. The freeway chase ripping a bus in half sticks out in my mind. The climax of Trans 2 looked like destroyer was fucking the pyramid, not tearing it up.

    Griff, I just wanted to come out of the closet. I love Transformers 1. I hate Super 8. I also think Fast Five had too much plot. However, Fast and Furious is brilliant. The Rock is also one of my favorite movies, and even when Bay is at his worst, I love how blatantly Hollywood he is. This is what the industry and the public asked for. Bay continuing to out Bay himself is the most insightful commentary on that issue.

  191. CJ – I hear what you’re saying; I used to do film review work and got in enough arguments with the other Dublin critics to know that all opinion is subjective. I only tend to read reviews for films I have little-to-know intention of seeing or of films I have never heard about (but by a critic whose taste I respect).

  192. Exactly, CJ. I don’t even need to agree to disagree. I’m only interested in getting to know a person and have them understand me. Through the process, we may find out about some cool weird films, although that’s irrelevant with the big movies we’d all see anyway. I love the people who can love Super 8 and hate The Dark Knight.

    That said, I saw Dark of the Moon tonight and it is not better than sex. I will have to go have some sex to make up for seeing Dark of the Moon.

    And the problem isn’t “don’t expect a story, it’s just robots fighting.” The problem is WAY TOO MUCH STORY. Joe Bob Briggs used to say “too much plot getting in the way of the story.” Seriously, we have to stop telling Hollywood we want more story, because they don’t get it. They think just complicating the plot = story. Better to just let them do their spectacle, but that’s not that great either. It is a little calmer thanks to the 3D. No eyeball rape, but then at least that would’ve been some form of sex, which again, Transformers 3 is not better than.

  193. BTW, I’m gonna see Transform3rs no Friday in 3D, which will be the 2nd and last chance for that gimmick to convince me, after I was mostly underwhelmed, but not disappointed by Tr2n. If the 3D in this movie doesn’t do anything for me, may it because of the movie, the theatre or my near blindness on one eye, I won’t give it another shot.

  194. “on” not “no”. But you are clever. I’m sure you have figured that out already.

  195. Fred:

    Oh yes, the thing about crazy girls is, they’re also crazy when they’re naked. It’s glorious…and painful.

  196. CJ, with your eye issue, do you actually see things come out of the screen? Because I don’t. There’s a treatment, but it’s $150 a session and takes months to retrain your eyes. Not worth it.

    Tawdry, thank you for feeling my pain.

  197. 3D does work for me, because I’m only almost blind on one eye and it’s like that since I was born, so my sight naturally adjusted to it. While watching TRON in 3D, there were a few moments, where stuff popped out of the screen and it worked very well for me, but sometimes it didn’t, so I got no idea which’s fault it was (eye, movie or theatre). I heard the 3D in Transform3rs is awesome and the best since AVATAR, which I haven’t seen in 3D, but I heard great stuff about the experience.

  198. Revisiting good times here before seeing TF3. Someone once pointed out that TF2 had (at least) SEVEN comic relief characters, and I was like “no way”. And they listed Mom, Dad, Mudflapp, Skidz, Joe Pesci-Bot, John Turturro, and the Hispanic Sidekick. (This is not counting Rainn Wilson or The Bureaucrat or Jetfire, btw). And I argued “there was no Hispanic sidekick!” and fought tooth and nail as I truly don’t remember there being another guy helping Shia Lebeouf who wasn’t in the military. But apparently there was!

    Which brings me to this conundrum – is this kind of demographic pandering better or worse than The Lost World? Because in that one at least the African American daughter killed the ONE dinosaur that died in the movie. I seriously do not remember the Hispanic guy even existing in this film.

  199. 3D doesn’t work for me either due to only being able to see out of one eye. So it is annoying sitting through a 3D presented film if that is the only choice. It costs more and I get to watch it through a pair of sweaty shades, dimmer than usual. Or otherwise get a headache looking at it without the glasses.

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