Thursday, September 23, 2010

Transformers movie review

Yes I know it's old, but I was re-watching it and after "Shaolin Soccer" and 2012 I felt a quick recap necessary.

What can I say about this film? Well if you teach any sort of film-making class this film should be near the top of your list as an example of the art of direction, cinematography and pacing and all because of that old adage - "You don't realise how much you appreciate something until its gone". Yep this film should be taught as a how not to do it.

There's so much that's wrong I'm not even sure where to start, so why not at the beginning. The shadows of the helicopters ripple above the sand then after way too long we finally pull back to the aircraft themselves and an interior shot. Now I suppose this is to introduce the army group and to this end we learnt that the leader hasn't seen his newly-born daughter and that one speaks Spanish. Don't bother remembering that last bit because it has no relevance whatsoever to anything. Of the others in the group - nada, zip. Character depth what's that?

Once they land we get a very long shot showing that we're in the desert and the leader of the group goes off for a video call to his wife and daughter. Yep this entire shot completes removes the need for that previous shot other than "Hey shadows and copters how cool" and that pretty much sums this film. Not - is this required; no - does this advance the plot, but instead  - will it look cool?

Transformers fails most epically in its action sequences. Okay hypothetical situation - you're filming a fighter jet in the sky; if you're Michael Bay which of the three standard filming techniques do you use -

1) Keep the camera fixed and let the jet move across the frame,
2) Move the camera so it tracks the jet,
3) A combination of both used consecutively - say, track and then freeze to allow the jet to zoom off.

Trick question the answer is 4) None of the above. In the Michael Bay school of directing those are all boring. What you do for action sequences is you force feed the camera operator caffeine (or something else) so they have the jitters then tie one of their feet to a ball and chain. So if the fighter are moving to the right, the camera moves to the left, or up, or down. Rather than maintain a perspective the camera will lag behind then run around then stop and back-up. The result is incoherence. Your eye can't track what's happening and everything becomes a messy blur.

Oh and here's a good one. Combine the aforementioned camera dance while concentrating on a group of khaki uniformed soldiers, running though a khaki desert, with khaki sand being blown around, towards some khaki coloured tanks.

As for pacing. Here's the stand out moment - it's the big fight between Optimus Prime and Megatron, the two square off to fight and.... we cut off to a bunch of army guys running down an alley and then watch as they attack another Transformer from behind who's heading towards the big fight which is the one we want to be watching; then after all that we return for the end. I think I saw maybe one punch being thrown between the two most awesome transformers and that was it.

The really scary thing - critics think that the sequel isn't as good as this one [shudder]