|Didn’t like the design of some of the main transformers: Megatron seemed to be a vaguely spiky evil robot, Prime and his strange mouth just didn’t look iconic enough, I thought most of the actual vehicles what the robots turned into were actually pretty reasonable updates, though the cleaned up Bumblebee / Chevrolet looked strangely plastic. Again, some character designs and voices aside, there was that sense that this could be any generic giant robots fighting movie; Prime aside, I thought at first that Ratchet (for as much as he says in the movie) also sounded like the original, but it doesn’t seem to be the same voice actor. |
What was most noteworthy about the racism was quite how blatant and how needless it was. Given a captive audience of people willing to go and see big screen Transformers, you’d think a savvy director would realise really how little you had to add to the basic equation. As it is, most of the things about the movie that annoyed felt like superfluous additions to the core idea of, well, giant transforming robots that fight each other that you remember from your childhood. Was it Jazz that kept going on at one point about shooting humans? That was another of those moments that were presumably intended as humorous and character defining and just ended up leaving you asking… why?
But that was expected maybe. I was surprised by how much I didn’t enjoy the elements I thought I would. Perhaps because of the speed of the camerawork, maybe not really feeling convinced by the “weight” of the robots, maybe just in terms of what they were actually doing, but the action scenes left me fairly bored. Haus mentioned how static some of the later scenes were, which I think contributed, as did the fairly mundane weaponry (where were the bullets coming from again?), and that most of the “high octane action” was unclear and over too quickly. So, rather than feel exhilarated coming out of the cinema, I felt deflated, having expected something nonsensical and badly structured that I could enjoy as pure spectacle, and then feeling that, well, it wasn’t that spectacular or impressive at all. By contrast, despite some occasionally iffy dialogue, I enjoyed what there was of the transformers bonding, even Prime’s (?) “My bad” raised a laugh. The scene where the Autobots hide out from the kid’s parents, relative to the rest of the film, seemed like comedy gold, and (to me) felt like one of the few moments where the film successfully addressed the size and weight of the robots in an amusing way. I was surprised that this was the tone where the movie seemed most comfortable, even charming, compared to where the direction would lurch in the final stages.
No-one’s really commented on this yet, but: I actually found the violence quite disturbing. So before everyone points and laughs because Blake Head faints at the sight of motor oil let me try to explain. Referenced elsewhere on the board, I think, is the spectacular ineffectiveness of some of the previous incarnations of the Autobots and Decepticons in actually destroying one another. So perhaps it’s a sentimental attachment to my childhood heroes in not wanting to see them hurt, but watching Jazz being killed at the end was quite unpleasant. It felt like a gratuitous moment where they could do a “cool” shot of a robot being torn apart with the payoff of establishing Megatron as a hardcore evil robot leader dude. Being honest, this maybe doesn’t work both ways, I was much less bothered by the (admittedly impressive) shot of Prime smashing up Bonecrusher’s face, though I suspect this was because it seemed like a more traditional struggle between two near equals than other fights in the film.
There were two more scenes with Bumblebee I found quite at odds with the general tone of light entertainment. The scene where he gets his legs blown off and comes crawling out of the wreckage seemed to cynically evoke a contemporary and very human image of suffering, with a weird overlay of it being ok because he’s a robot and they’d need to do more than that to stop him. And I thought that was a weird choice of image because it simultaneously portrays the sort of physical damage that one could expect from, say, a mine or a roadside bomb, in a film that, generally, with so much giant robotic weaponry floating about, unrealistically strives to avoid showing that sort of visceral injury happening to humans. Similarly, the earlier scene where Bumblebee mugs to the camera when he’s trussed up and about to be transported away by evil government types was again a moment when we (along with Sam) seemed to be being asked to have sympathy for a very familiar, genuine, human distress. And I suppose the argument is that we’re supposed to feel that Bumblebee is a sentient being capable of injury and pain, and that by showing that character in pain the filmmakers are highlighting the similarities between Autobots and humans, and the need for empathy between them. The problem being, I think, is that the level of characterisation was so slight, the humanity of the Autobots so incidental, that it seemed like a cheap, exploitative way of eliciting a false sympathy with needlessly distressing images of a character, that at least personally, I cared very little about.
There’s another scene near the end when Megatron appears booting some poor fleshy human across the ground, which was another weirdly dismissive, almost negligently unremarkable shot, not because Megatron shouldn’t be shown as having contempt for humans, but because in a film which I thought was very self-consciously not showing graphic violence against humans it was played almost for laughs, a throwaway, and again, there’s just no interest in the film for (if I recall correctly) the pilots of the fighter jets that Starscream destroys at the end. I mean, maybe it was just me, but I thought the film was quite interesting in the way that it used violence and whom that violence was inflicted upon.