July 01, 2014

Podcast Episode 20: TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION Falls Down Like A Fat Ballerina

"Some things should never be invented."
Sunday morning I was cleaning up around the house and I found The Sting playing on TV.  It's one of my all time favorite movies and the best Newman/Redford pairing - Butch and Sundance are fine, but they're no Hooker and Gondorff.  It's also got one of the single greatest scripts in the history of movies, full of smart narrative twists and clever dialogue.  ("Relax kid, we had him ten years ago when decided to be somebody.")

So it was probably unfair to follow that up by going to see Transformers: Age Of Extinction, a movie that is aggressive in its lack of plot or character development.  It's almost three hours long and the overwhelming majority of it consists of car chases, fight scenes and action sequences that are completely untethered from any semblance of storytelling.  Characters both human and robotic all run around blowing stuff up with absolutely no motivation for any of their actions.  Shit just happens, and it keeps happening until it stops happening and then something else happens while the audience is completely overwhelmed by sensory overload.  You almost don't have time to realize that nothing you're seeing makes any damn sense and it isn't until the two hour mark, when Tiny Negro Transformer sits everybody down and describes the plot that's apparently been happening entirely off screen, that you full appreciate the full measure of insanity to which you've subjected yourself.

But Bay doesn't give a shit about things like "story" or "character development."  He cares only about awesome things being awesome and in that regard he does not disappoint.  Age Of Extinction brings new meaning to the phrase, "sit in the theater and turn off your brain."  This is three hours of pure, uncut id, outright pummeling the animalistic pleasure-centers of the human brain through spectacle and imagery devoid of any context or meaning.  The fact that this is (and continues to be) one of the most profitable franchises of all time only proves that Bay is satisfying some kind of carnal craving by theater-goers worldwide.  But from an intellectual standpoint the whole thing is endlessly fascinating and from a cinematic standpoint, doubly so.  You simply can't argue that Bay is incompetent.  He knows exactly what he's doing and what he's doing defies all logic and reason.  You need only look at the IMAX presentation, in which he constantly changes the aspect ratio not just from scene to scene, but from shot to shot.  A single exchange of dialogue will haphazardly swap from full frame to widescreen so many times it will make you dizzy.  But each individual shot is composed with such care and precision it's absolutely remarkable.

Is Transformers: Age Of Extinction a good movie?  No.  Not at all.  Not by any appreciable metric of filmmaking.  But is it an entertaining experience?  Weirdly, yes.  This isn't a case of "so bad it's good."  This is a case of "so wrong it's right."

The 20th (!) episode of the podcast goes into all this and a lot more.  This week we welcome certified film scholar Jason Michelitch to the show and we try to wrap our heads around just what sort of madness Bay hath wrought.  We also introduce our new Trailer Of The Week feature (because The Rock as a lion-hatted Hercules simply demanded it) and discuss the future fate of Predator, Pacific Rim 2 and Harrison Ford's legs.

Next week we'll be talking about Snowpiercer and I cannot wait.

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