Remember Michael Bay? You know, the guy who used make better-than-decent brain-dead action flicks in the nineties (Armageddon, Bad Boys) before becoming a parody of all things CGI-slick and repulsive about contemporary Hollywood filmmaking and ending up, along with Paul Haggis and R. Kelly, as the punchline to probably 90% of all jokes about American pop culture? Remember when he made The Rock, which besides its flirtation with something resembling legitimate adult themes is probably one of the greatest action movies ever made, simultaneously making Nic Cage an action star and reinvigorating Sean Connery’s stagnant post-Highlander career? Well it looks like Michael Bay’s back and ready to explode all manner of box office records.
Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, Bay’s follow-up the 2007 action-figure franchise film—a movie that answered any number of questions no one asked, most notably, where’s La Beouf?—is demolishing any opening weekend records in its path. It pulled in $60.6 million on its opening day alone, deposing former champ Harry Potter And the Order of the Phoenix by something like $16 million dollars. The summer blockbuster behemoth is also set to be one of the worst-reviewed films of the year. Here’s what Roger Ebert, has to say: “The plot is incomprehensible. The dialog of the Autobots®, Decepticons® and Otherbots® is meaningless word flap. Their accents are Brooklyese, British and hip-hop, as befits a race from the distant stars. Their appearance looks like junkyard throw-up. They are dumb as a rock. They share the film with human characters who are much more interesting, and that is very faint praise indeed.” All this coming from a guy who gave KNOW1NG four stars. KNOW1NG for chrissakes!
Now granted: we all love it when our favourite childhood franchises are turned into FX spectaculars (I’ll be there opening night for G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, to satisfy both my nascent nostalgic impulses and my morbid curiosity). And yeah, we all love seeing transport-trucks complicatedly convert into three-story extra terrestrial robots (wait, what?), and deep down we’re probably all suckers for Bay’s consummate ability to frame flaming projectiles lobbed towards the camera. Fine. But what does it say about the state of mainstream cinema when we’ve reached a point where there is a actually a directly inverse relationship between a film’s critical cache and its box office receipts?
I’m not delusional enough to think that those of us who read this blog possess enough to power to take down Michael Bay, but if you’re itching to plant your caboose in a dark room for a couple of hours this weekend, you can at least to the noble thing and check out The Hurt Locker or Summer Hours or Tokyo Sonata, in which master of J-horror Kiyoshi Kurosawa tries his hand at dramedy and proves that, like Kubrick, he couldn’t compose a dull shot if he wanted to. Or go outside and play softball. Just try and avoid Transformers 2, which looks like precisely the sort of take-no-prisoners cash cow that gives all moronic dreck a bad name.
But if you absolutely, positively must see a car turn into a robot this weekend, settle for renting the animated Transformers: The Movie. At least it has Eric Idle, Leonard Nimoy, Judd Nelson, Scatman Crothers and Orson Welles in it.