Posts Tagged ‘review’

 

English: Bumble bee & Optimus Prime

English: Bumble bee & Optimus Prime (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Watched ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ yesterday in 3D. Now, most movies I’ve seen in theater lately, I’ve seen in 3D (obviously excluding the cheap shows), but I mention the detail of this one being in 3D because it was the first time I was significantly disappointed. For pretty much the whole movie, I could have been watching it in 2D and it wouldn’t have made much difference. I’m not even just talking about the lack of things flying off the screen (which this did lack), but it’s also the lack of significant depth. In a lot of movies, my stance on 2D vs 3D and how 3D is significant, is that the added depth puts you a bit more in the story, but with this, I still just felt completely disconnected from beginning to end. I saw ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ in 3D (no, I didn’t do a review, and this is probably the closest you’re gonna get), and that was damn near the most amazing thing I’ve seen so far, and a completely opposite from ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction,’ and I’m glad that was what I used to be my little girl’s first 3D movie experience.

This was a Michael Bay movie so naturally it’s difficult to talk about it without it being mostly about the visual effects, while barely mentioning the story because, essentially, that statement is the entire basic concept of a Michael Bay movie: visual effects scenes with a barely substantial story speckled through it. So, let’s start with that speckled story.

This, in case you don’t know, is the fourth movie in the Michael Bay Transformer movies, we start with a vague and mostly pointless prologue of the Earth surrounded by ships, and invading a Earth filled with dinosaurs, the after about a minute of that, we cut to a scene in the arctic where they uncover dinosaurs covered in metal (try real hard to remember this because by the time anything about his is even vaguely hinted at again in the movie, you will probably have already forgotten about it—and if that happens, also don’t worry ‘cause nothing in a Michael Bay story is ever that important). Prologue ends, and first act begins, it starts off a few years after the invasion of Chicago that took place in the last movie, ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon.’ There are signs everywhere telling people to report any suspected alien activity. Mark Wahlberg is a junk collector with his friend TJ Miller (from the show ‘Silicon Valley’ on HBO and a crap load of comic-relief roles), he goes into an abandoned theater in “Texas” (which I have been in before, and I’ve never been to Texas—weird), after rummaging through discarded theater stuff, they find a huge semi (I’m not sure how that was supposed to be considered normal), when the door was opened, spent ammo shells of many sizes spill out (and this is only vaguely glanced at, “Well that’s weird, eh, whatever”). So he buys the truck that the theater owner didn’t remember was there (vague nod at the first movie when Shia finds Bee at Bernie Mac’s car lot—that’s right, I’m making you go watch that bullshit now).

We then cut to some black op stuff where they’re hunting a Transformer on the Boblo Boat, which is revealed to be an Autobot because the black ops are on mission to destroy all Transformers for some reason (except the one helping them—he’s cool, apparently).

Back to “Texas” where we sort of meet Wahlberg’s daughter Nicola Peltz (from ‘Last Air Bender’ and movies/TV where her main talent is just being hot—do I need to remind you this is a Michael Bay movie?), she just got denied a scholarship and then here comes her father with a truck he just spent money on, “but don’t worry, it was the comic-relief’s money, but we’re still broke, so it doesn’t really matter.” We reveal that he’s actually not a junk collector, but a really crappy inventor, who understand electronics well enough to reverse engineer anything, but can’t seem to find any practical use for this to make money with (until the very obvious ending).

Next day, simply because, he already figured out the truck is a Transformer between scene-wipes because a car batter gives enough charge to activate the distress call. Hot daughter storms in the house upset that absurd-line-delivery dad wouldn’t let her call the government and get enough money to pay their bills and her school because he’d rather make money instead (Michael Bay plots—they’re fun).

And from this point shit just starts happening and the vague chance at story just got thrown out. Optimus is fixed, and black ops storm in, and shit hits fan, and hot daughter’s pedophile boyfriend who caries laminated copies of pedophile protection laws on his person at all times saves the day, which leads us into ending first act with flash-fossilizing the comic-relief (which left me with “Who the fuck kills the comic-relief in the first act?” to “Thank god, Michael Bay has no idea how to balance comic-relief at all”—I am still haunted by the garden trampling gag that just wouldn’t fucking end).

For most of second act it’s pretty much just people running around and stuff blowing up, with a barely crow-barred in, “Hey we made our own Transformers from that metal that you forgot about, and named one ‘Galvatron’ to give nerds a cheap boner.” We also reveal that the Transformer that the black ops are totally cool with is actually working for the “Creators” (which is never mentioned beyond this, strongly hinting at seeding a sequel—but I predict it’s a reference to the Quintessons—yes, I’m one of the nerds that got a cheap boner, leave me alone!).

Third act, we’re in “China” that had a lot of Detroit building scape for some reason (seriously, the Detroit People Mover doesn’t go to China, it barely even goes to Detroit, it’s entire purpose is to just get you from one parking structure to another to make parking easier, it’s basically just a giant middle-finger that circles downtown mocking everyone that wishes public transportation was a thing). We rescued the dinobots from the bounty hunter’s ship, and stuff blows up, and movie ends with Optimus launching into space to find out what the “Creators” are (see, sequel seed—most of this movie was just a sequel seed, not as blatant as the second movie where we just spent two hours mocking ‘Search for Spock,” but still, it was just set-up for another movie).

And that’s about it, other than the constant attempts of Michael Bay trying to use blowing stuff up as a plot device no matter how many times people try to tell him, “that’s not a plot device, that’s just stuff blowing up—it could have not blown up and it would have been the same difference to the story—except less boomier.”

I’m not sure how I should rate this, ‘cause somehow rating Michael Bay the same way I would rate other people just doesn’t seem fair—it’s like rating a special needs kid with the same grading scale of a genius. It’s like the Einstein quote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” But, I still expect a guy that spends and makes a crapload of money to be better than this, so, I’m going with two grade scales: On the Michael Bay Scale4 out of 5, there were at least a couple things in there that could have blown up that completely didn’t blow up at all; on the Everybody Else Scale2 out 5, not a single detail of the plot came together, it was all just set-up for the next movie, and seriously, look up the definition of “plot device,” the only thing it had going for it is when it actually mocked itself (which was both funny and sad), and when it crow-barred in nerd titillation (which was also a little sad).

 

 

Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games

Now, to start off, when I first heard about the book being done into a movie, I was a bit lost: one, I still don’t quite get the hype that the book got to begin with (I do get that it at least has a strong female protagonist, with is a complete opposite contrast from what we were dealing with in books/movies for a bit); and I wasn’t really sure how they planned to do a movie of a book that was so very heavily carried by narration. The first bit, as I said, I at least get that it had a female worth rooting for; as far as the second bit, most of the story was told by Katniss’ real-time first-person view with very little dialogue and buttloads of flashbacking to give more character definition, so the best solution I would have thought would be to run the movie with Katniss narrating through most of it (not quite ‘Wonder Years’ or ‘Christmas Story’ level, but at least enough to carry the story).

That was what I was expecting, and that’s not what we got. So almost every detail of the story that was relying on the narration to tell you what was going on through the book, was completely lost in the movie… that gesture, with the kissing the fingers and looking like they were in Girl Scouts, if you didn’t read the book, did you have any idea what the hell was going on there? Or were you just staring with a ‘WTF’ expression… I read the book, and I knew what was going on, and even I was ‘WTF.’ Most of this movie was spent actually skipping clear over the bits that were entirely narration, and going right to the scenes and dialogue without caring if there was anything involving rhyme or reason for anything going on. There was no explanation for at least half the shit that was going on in the movie, there was flat out no character definition for anyone (which would be because that was done entirely in narration in the book). Which is kinda funny, because when I first proof-read the book back-when, I told Sue that the whole bit about Prim’s name was coming off as babbling, it was unnecessary and did nothing but say how much the author clearly liked the name ‘Prim,’ and frankly just felt crow-barred in (which is never a good feeling to have right at the beginning of the book)—but now, I actually kinda missed it because instead of having that detail of character definition, we were left with nothing, I had almost no reason to care about Prim, other than, she was 12, and was Katniss’ sister.

I don’t even know how far to go with this at pointing out all the character definition flaws that the movie created, pretty much, if there was any detail of character definition at all, it was skipped right the fuck over. Removing the mayor’s daughter, Madge, and even the freakin’ mayor… that was dumb, the pin coming from her was actually important, even the part where they removed all her dealings with the peace keepers, these details help define the difference between 12, and, later, 11—which adds to Rue having that much less definition.

So, without any narrative stuff in the way, they cut the crap out of the set up chapters, and then we are into her getting dressed (because we skipped almost everything on the train—nothing important there apparently) and developing a trust with her designer—oh’no wait… we actually just met the designer for like a minute scene, and moved on. So, now when he tells her to act like it’s him she’s talking to, that doesn’t really make any sense anymore—“You got me to like you.” “Sicko…”

And then we run through the training bit, most of which didn’t make much sense, but whatever, because that was supposed to be just trim for the scenes between it: coming up with strat, talking between Kat, and Peeta, meeting the servant girl with no tongue that Kat felt guilty for not saving back in the woods—oh, wait… we skipped all of that… so now I guess we just have a pointless training montage instead… you’d think they could of at least put some catchy 80s music in the background to help move it.

Ok, then we’re in the interviews where Kat freaks, then twirls, then moves on, then Peeta declares his love for Kat (this scene wasn’t really done too badly, I was just too busy being pissed about everything else still, that I didn’t care anymore).

Then we go into the prepping room for the Games (which was broken up funny, and added in that they were all on the same ship, instead of isolated, but whatever), her now creepy designer dresses her and sneaks the now pointless pin (that’s still on the covers of the book and movie) and they move on, and boom, tracking devices injected, we’re in the games.

Now, maybe it was just the way I saw it in my head when I read it, or they were way too damn close when they started off… which bugged me, but by this point, I barely cared about that detail. Games start, most bloodless bloodbath ever begins (I’m not really too upset about this, I actually would have been surprised if things were spelled out in the movie with kids killing kids in as much detail as the book. Kat grabs a bag, uses pretty much nothing in it, making the risking of her life for it just stupid now. She finds water so fast that she damn near tripped into it from the start, as opposed to the character defining detail of almost dieing of thirst (but that was all narration, so, skip it). And then, “oh, she’s going over there, set a very small detail of the forest on fire so she doesn’t, and give her a minor injury.” That was probably bigger for every detail in the book… but again, maybe it was just in my head.

So, she’s in the easily found water again (because the shit is just everywhere), and the group finds her and she’s in the tree. Rue points out the tracker-jackers (still a dumb name) and apparently dropping it on them is her idea now (that was never clear in the book, because she’s supposed to be an innocent 12 year-old… never mind that though, apparently not important). Now she’s trippin’ balls off tracker goo (which wasn’t done badly, it just still seemed downplayed from what it should have been), and wakes-up finding Rue put leaves on her (don’t bother explaining that, didn’t in anyway tell us anything about Rue or 11—oh, wait, that probably could have helped a bit, even given more reason to care when Rue died… even more reason to care about 11 freakin’ out—they added that part and still couldn’t tell us why we should care). So she’s pals with Rue now, and they eat, but no conversation (seriously, so few points of dialogue in the book, and you missed this—oh, wait, you knew it would of made of care about Rue and why the fuck is Kat crying about her, and we can’t have any of that caring about anything happening crap in this movie).

Now she has Rue making the fires, and Kat’s at the camp surrounded by mines (thanks announcer people for explaining the one thing that didn’t really need much explanation at all, and would have been better if you shut the hell up, and let Foxface do her thing that explained it just fine—how’bout instead you explain the Girl Scout thing that keeps happening). So, booms happen, her ears ring for about a minute, no actual damage done (not half deaf or anything—that’d be silly apparently). And then Rue screams from somewhere, she’s barely trapped at all, and is release pretty easy, and then dude comes up and with Kat killing him in cold blood (not adrenaline induced because of him tormenting and killing Rue or anything… just, swish—whatever, not important for character or anything). And just because, the spear misses Kat and hits Rue… sort’of… it looked more like a flesh-wound instead of the spear going all the way through, but… yea, she’s dead now. She sang, did the flower bit, 11 freaked out (instead of sending her bread and feeling sorrow and adding to the reason for Chaff to help her later—but then that detail flopped on many levels anyway… since he didn’t even know anything happen to begin with—guess we weren’t supposed to notice that). Kat’s crying about Rue because they just met, and now because we decided to change the rules… the reason was because of 11 freaking out now… ‘cause, that will help. So Kat searches for Peeta, and finds him camoed (I actually did like the way they did that, the explanation still doesn’t make much sense, even from the book, but it does look cool). And then we really get into how much character definition was lost between them… “I’m not going to leave you!” “Why?” “I don’t know, they took all the reasons out of the movie, but I have nothing better to do!”

And so, we’re in the cave for like two seconds, she kisses him, get broth one second later (damn sponsors moved fast on that one, those horny bastards). And then another second later, there’s a feast announcement… the writers were clearly getting impatient in the story here, ‘cause they didn’t give a crap about any of the tension points that was going on in these scenes, which I find interesting because I’ve read a lot of writing advice articles that talk about the importance of building tension, and use this mess of scenes in the book as a prime example (about their fake love vs is it real love vs survival if we don’t at least make it seem real, etc)… all the more reason why taking it out might screw things up a bit.

So, Kat goes to the feast, struggles with psycho girl and psycho girl gets slapped around to death by giant black man (that we forgot to remind anyone still existed) because he’s like that (again, I didn’t really expect the head smashing in with a rock from the book, but still… the death didn’t even make sense). Kat get the magic goo, and we’re healed. So we go out hunting, and split up because it’s fun, and canon. “Peeta’s not answering! No, you ate the berries maybe (which we forgot to mention at all), and clearly this made you disappear too… oh’wait, there you are.” Turns out it was Foxface who stole the berries… silly Foxface, good thing Peeta forgot all about his concerns about the Games changing him (which he actually still mentioned earlier, surprisingly), or killing her might be an issue (by the way, anyone else notice that Peeta was the only one to mention her name as Foxface and not until after she died… it just seems kinda rude by this point).

So, insert dog things with even less reasoning than the book gave, and 11’s Hulk gets a canon, bringing us to the final showdown. Which is actually where toning down the violence actually kills it a little, ‘cause there would have been a tension moment in waiting all night for him to die, but nah, just swish… dog’s vanish, and nope, rules changed again because we’re not as worried about a riot as we thought we were, and then oh’no, not the berries… silly Katniss.

Games are over, and we bum-rush the ending, because we screwed up all the tension moments in the Games already, so it would be just damn embarrassing to put it all in now. And we’re done, no moments of anyone feeling traumatized or anything, roll credits, wonder what happened to Sting… I mean, somewhere in all that we also threw in scenes between the Game Maker and the President that made no sense, and served more to completely ruin everything that was going on, and the Game Maker was locked in with a bowl full of berries… silly Game Maker.

And, I think that covers it… I probably still missed points because there were so many to cover, but all in all, out of 5, I’ll give it 1 ½, most of that comes from the couple of scenes that actually played off well, and because I was impressed with the girl the chose for Foxface, out of everyone, she actually looked the most like what I saw when I read the book.