movies matter | criticism by maryann johanson
Sun Jul 06 2014, 07:21pm | 14 comments
I don’t mean that as a compliment, and I don’t think my fellow critic Tony Zhou does either:
When I’m talking, in my review of Transformers: Age of Extinction, about the “awesome” that Bay serves as his god, this is what I am referring to.
Via io9 and reader Dr. Rocketscience in comments.
I’m fascinated by the connection to “West Side Story” (of all things). Also, I like how Tony Zhou included examples of badly constructed Bay-esque shots. Michael Bay has utter contempt for storytelling – and also people – but he does have style.
For me the key phrase in this piece is “cut it together faster than the brain can register, but not faster than the eye can move.” I’ve been having a hard time articulating what it is about his movies that always gives me a headache, but I think this is it. I can only surmise that most of the movie-going public enjoys this sense of disorientation, whereas I find it stressful.
You know who else had style? Hitler.
oooh, i can’t believe you went to Hitler! although he had an excellent costume designer and director/cinemotagrapher. who made things “awesome”
An interesting comment at the io9 page points out that a Transformers scriptwriter once said that Bay wasn’t trying to compete with other movies, but with a day of roller coaster rides at Six Flags. Which explains why he’s all about creating dynamic moments of maximum “awesome” but doesn’t care a whit for context or storytelling.
That was pretty fascinating.
This reminds me of Ray Bradbury’s thoughts on Moulin Rouge:
“The whole problem of TV and movies today is summed up for me by the film Moulin Rouge. It came out a few years ago and won a lot of awards. It has 4,560 half-second clips in it. The camera never stops and holds still. So it clicks off your thinking; you can’t think when you have things bombarding you like that. The average TV commercial of sixty seconds has one hundred and twenty half-second clips in it, or one-third of a second. We bombard people with sensation. That substitutes for thinking.”
Roller coaster rides don’t last almost three hours, though. Most people don’t want them to.
I agree. I have no clue why he thinks it’s a good idea.
Other than his films making zillions of bucks, of course, for no good reason I can see.
I’d like to see Baz Luhrmann direct a Transformers movie. If he filmed a robot truck sitting on top of a robot dinosaur, holding a giant sword that fires bullets, he would know it was insane, and he would embrace that in all its glory. Michael Bay may think it’s a perfectly sensible thing for a transforming robot to do.
But having said that, I kind of enjoyed Transformers: Parts of Speech as a three-hour roller coaster ride. It comes with some of the best special effects in human history, so when the robot dinosaur is charging toward you in 3D, you really believe a robot dinosaur is charging toward you in 3D. It’s as much fun as a human cannonball, even if the human cannonball makes more sense.
The parts I had problems with were the racism, the sexism, the unlikable characters, the nonsensical plot, the terrible dialogue, and the nearly incessant product placement (although I was amused by the My Little Pony toy that turned into an automatic weapon).
I can’t defend the movie, but I also can’t blame people for enjoying the spectacle. It really is spectacular. And after seeing dozens of people come to this site and say, “Why can’t you just shut off your brain and enjoy the movie?” I’m not surprised that this film has made zillions of bucks. This film works flawlessly if your brain is shut off. In fact, this film may shut it off permanently.
Maybe it appeals to the increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Ya sit around all day? Watch a “movie” and you can pretend like you didn’t.
That’s what I dislike so far about some of the long, drawn-out action sequences in the Hobbit flicks. Those, along with Bay’s stuff are just a whole lotta not interesting happenings stuck together.
The spectacle should be a means to an end.This style makes spectacle an end in itself. It’s adrenaline for it’s own sake.
At least Bay learned to back his ass up from the action a little so we know what the hell is going on. I hate how he always tries to immerse himself, that by being two inches away from the actors/action at all times he’s somehow more involved in the mindless schlock that is one of his movies.
Good stuff. That the disorientation, as Jurgan pointed out, is not a side effect but a key part of the trick…
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