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Review: Michael Bay’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

Transformers Dark of the Moon

"Visual, therefore visceral," snaps John Malkovich in Transformers: Dark of the Moon as some sort of wacky Michael Bay proxy, a conglomerate martinet who screams at his crew, checks out the leading lady’s ass and purrs like a kitten at the metal feet of one of the giant robots. A sniper’s command later on is even more indicative of the film’s aesthetic credo: "Take out the eyes!" Neither the Antichrist nor the second coming of Brakhage, Bay is modern cinema’s purest peddler of technocratic pageantry, full-bodied and hollow-headed, a neo-DeMille pulverizer engrossed by shiny chrome and spiraling movement and other "cool shit." The climactic blitzkrieg, to use just one surreal example, encompasses flying soldiers, a clanging Cyclops, and Mr. Spock’s voice emanating from a bearded automaton. The 3-D technology in the franchise’s third installment provides the calligraphy exercise so needed to calm this hyperactive kino-fist: For once the images can be seen for more than three or four seconds, the choreographed mayhem often hits notes of sustained, almost lyrical abstraction, and the eponymous behemoths—toys dilated into deities, or is it the other way around?—actually attain a certain ludicrous grandeur. The deceleration makes the other facets of the Bay Touch all too visible as well: Jockish disdain for the humanity of characters and viewers, unchecked racism, truculent humor, chortling objectification (the camera licks Rosie Huntington-Whiteley up and down while Patrick Dempsey waxes rhapsodic over a scarlet convertible offscreen), rampant Shia LaBeouf smirking. And yet, by now it all comes together into a personal vision, imbecilic and undeniably whole, in which singling out the acrobatic mugging of a Ken Jeong cameo as "too much" is akin to singling out a diagonal or a patch of orange on Dalí's Tuna Fishing as "too much." Truly the "artillerist" my colleague Ignatiy Vishnevetsky once described, Bay makes American pop detritus gleam, the better to blow it up—it's no accident that the much-mocked shot of the heroine’s vacant visage surrounded by explosions is an explicit echo of Zabriskie Point.

This article is better than the other one.
What’s with all this internet ink being spilled on Transformers 3 doing on MUBI. You guys got nothing else to talk about?
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I smell Hollywood marketing dollars.
It’s the most interesting thing out right now, and certainly worth talking about seriously.
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Really and honestly? Not to press you or your editorial leisure, but here are some other newsworthy items from the cinematic world that should maybe be worth talking about seriously: - Zelimir Zilnik’s new film “One Woman – One Century” premieres this month at the Motovun Film Festival in Croatia. - Bollywood filmmakers and stars are visiting the Jerusalem International Film Festival as part of “Project Interchange”. - LACMA is hosting the series “Celebrating Classic Cinema: Curator and Audience Favorites”, the swan song of outgoing curator Ian Birnie. - John Carpenter’s “The Ward” is opening this week. - Controversy is surrounding Michael Rapaport’s new documentary “Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest”.
All no doubt worthy topics, except the film I saw last week was this one, and I found it very interesting.
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But the MOST interesting? And worthy of two reviews? You’ve answered my questions. Don’t mind me. I’m just bitching and moaning!
A lot of our casual team here likes Bay and I’m always open to them writing on what they find interesting. I think we may have a third (!) one in the lineup.
I, for one, support that method as I’ve found these essays to be interesting and useful. For example, I largely agreed with Daniel’s take on Bay even if I personally come to a different conclusion about him., It’s through that sort of discrepancy in thinking that one can reach new ways of thinking about movies. I think it is much better to have writers write about what excites or interests them than it is to have them try to write about something they aren’t as interested in even if it is “important” since more productive discussions arise from that which engages the viewer most as that engagement often leads to more original, and therefore valuable, thinking.
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A third one? That’s going to get as boring as reading reviews of “The Tree of Life”! I’d be interested in someone widening the scope and writing about Bay’s career in general, or maybe focusing on “Early Bay” (sounds like a title for one of his movies). Clearly you all feel it’s time for a (re)evaluation. Maybe you can score an interview since you’re giving Bay consistent, real critical attention.
Mac
I’m interested in why you are choosing such a cretin to be the canvas you can project your own pop detritus onto. It’s not like Bay or his films are a blank slate. Everything is already there. It’s all on the surface. If you like hot chicks and corn-pone comedy and shit blowing up, then just say that. But now you guys are just twisting yourself into pretzels trying to find meaning in something that has no meaning. Zabriskie Point? Nah. Bay isn’t referencing Antonioni. He’s just referencing himself. Dive into that, instead. Head first.
Mac
I know. It’s a bad habit. But it’s either this or I’m screaming at my dog to Shut Up. Bare with me. I’ll lose interest eventually. Long after you have, though, so that kind of blows, I guess.
These aren’t reviews, they’re obituaries.
can’t wait to see this one… even if it were only for the effects!
Viacom’s buying MUBI, that’s what it is. Zabriskie Point, right. Puhhhh-lease. This is already the third piece on this shit at this site. David Hudson did a 1600+ word round-up with links to reviews by some dozen sites ranging from NY Times to Twitch to IFC to Variety. Look, no amount of postmodern poetic waxing makes the Transformer mubiiiiiiiiiiiiis worth seeing. There’s nothing new being said in any of this. This is all just an absurd exercise in which scribes try to outdo another in saying the same basic thing in as clever a way as possible—that Michael Bay’s films lack any depth of human characterization while featuring stylized slick scenes of shit blowing up. I’d rather listen to the sage observations of Beavis and Butthead—“You can’t polish a turd.”
Wow. Imagine if I had actually loved the love…
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Transformers movies are definitely worth examining and talking about from a sociocultural perspective. It’s the 21st century, people.
Mac
Everything can be examined and talked about from a sociocultural perspective. That doesn’t mean that everything should be. Especially the artifacts that having nothing on their mind. Let Michael Bay do his own heavy lifting. Oh, whoops, he can’t. Well, off to finish my 10,000-word piece on The Whoopee Boys, Voodoo Economics, and the Recapitulation of the Frontier Myth in mid-80s Reagan America.
The constant, check-your-watch-to-it love for Michael Bay (and Tony Scott) at Mubi is about as predictable as their love for Godard. Anybody who has read this site should know what’s coming. Yet I’m still befuddled each time.
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It’s the new generation auteurism (for those who aren’t traditionally thought of as auteurs). Instead of Hitchcockco-Hawksians we have Scott-Mann-Baysians.
Well, for myself at least it’s not so much love for Bay as ambivalent fascination with some of his stylistic strategies. But point well-taken, sir.
Thanks Glenn — but to clarify, I like Scott’s work but in regard to Bay’s I’m in Fernando’s category — ambivalent fascination.
Danny, That sounds right. Thanks for the clarification. For you, ( and Ignatiy if I remember right), Scott has been a long-gestating topic of interest, whereas Bay is a momentary, fleeting fascination.
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Come now. Auteurism has no room for ambivalent half-measures. If you like him say you like him. Better to buy the stock now while it’s cheap rather than wait and pay through the nose 20-30 years from now. Actually, you guys are more like the brokers. I’m not necessarily saying I’m ignoring your sales pitch, just that I need to see more of the films before deciding. Personally, I’d be more in the market for a Scott. Anything beyond one sequel is bad business for a director’s reputation.

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