“Given that you’ve just told us that the second one is one of the worst films you’ve ever seen,” asked Pete, “why on earth did you feel the need to go and see the third one?”
It was a good question. In all fairness I do not have good explanation as to why I paid actual money to see Transformers: Dark of the Moon in the cinema. I suppose I was relying mostly on hope. I mean, we’re talking about a film which is, at its core, about giant robots fighting. It really should be quite hard to get that wrong. The plot doesn’t need to be much, it just has to work. The first Transformers film just about held together, and I had a reasonable amount of fun with it. There was something extremely soulless about it, though. Something clearly went wrong somewhere, but I thought there was potential.
So I went to see the second film. I thought perhaps it would be better. Maybe it would hold on to the good bits of the first film and shore up everything else. It had Tony Todd as the villain, after all. Surely that meant nothing could go wrong?
It was basically gibberish. Not just gibberish, though: offensive gibberish. I felt as though the film assumed I was an idiot. Some blindingly obvious details were explained in ridiculous detail, whilst the plot had more holes than… well… plot. Half the movie just plain didn’t make any sense. On the one hand it seems to think you’re so stupid you need things explaining to you, on the other it thinks you’re so oblivious that that you’ll ignore massive inconsistencies and holes in the plot. Half the film just felt like dead space. If I go to see a film called “Transformers” that’s what I expect to to see. Giant robots which turn into cars and such. I don’t want five minutes of a pointless character’s even more pointless mother accidentally getting high on hash brownies and the ensuing “hilarity”.
Was there action in the film? Yes. Was it good? Some of it. Did it make up for the rest of the film’s shortcomings? Hell no. To some extent, that’s not even the worse part, though. The worse part is that the actual Transformers aren’t even really in the film that much. The film mostly follows Shia’s character and… two other robots. Skidz and Mudflap are “comic relief”, sort of like how Jar Jar was “comic relief” in The Phantom Menace. They are… stupid, ignorant, illiterate and really, really annoying. That might be tolerable if they at least did something moderately cool. If, out of nowhere, they turned out to be quite bad ass. They don’t. The kindest word I can really use to describe them is “bumbling”. Are they racist? I’m not going to get into that. I felt like I was watching cringeworthy stereotypes closely resembling the scene in Bad Boys II when Will Smith and Martin Lawrence go a bit “ghetto”. Others would say that makes me the racist. I don’t know. I’ll let you make your own mind up.
So why in the name of all that is good and pure did I go and see the third film? The trailer looked quite good. It also looked as though the Transformers were actually in it. Perhaps there would be some really good action, and perhaps this time around it might also have a script.
Not as such. There is some really great action in the film. Spectacular, even. There’s a car chase mid way through which is stunning. Balletic, even. The level of artistry which has gone into its creation is really quite staggering. The rest of the film, though? Gibberish. Again. Half of it literally makes no sense. The plot manages to be both paper thin and self contradictory. It’s also weird. Things I didn’t need to see:
- Dr. Ken straddling Shia and declaring himself “deep wang”;
- Bumble Bee pushing over and ticking an orange John Malkovich;
- Shia’s parents. Again. This time his Mum wants to give him a sex manual.
“It’s an action film, though!” you might declare.
To which I reply: “So?”
There is no rule which says an action film can’t have a good plot and compelling characters. I love a good action film. I put it to you that Fast 5 was such a film. It was, in my opinion, a near perfect film. Note my use of the indefinite article there, because that’s important. No film is perfect, and there is no one perfect film, even when we’re talking about ideals. But Fast 5 had a plot which fit together quite well, in my opinion. It had actual characters. Broadly drawn character for the most part, to be sure, but with enough nuance to make them work. It was so much fun that when the characters stopped for an inappropriate street race or spent much of the third act flagrantly ignoring the laws of physics, I just plain didn’t care. I was having too much fun. On more than one occasion it confounded my expectations.
The Rock Dwayne Johnson pretty much eats every single scene he’s in. I spent most of the film with a huge grin on my face. When I didn’t have have the grin it was usually because I was laughing. There were a couple of places where I had to stop myself from clapping.
That is what I’m looking for in an action film, and don’t think that is in any way an unreasonable expectation.