“Slightly Less Appalling!” The Critics Rave

June 29, 2011

Film, Humor

I went to the movies last night and when I exited – this is about 11:00 pm – the lobby of the theater was filled with people. People lining up, people getting snacks, people milling. The parking lot was a flurry of activity. And why? I finally backtracked and looked at the head of the line: “Line starts here for the midnight showing of Transformers 3.”

No, no. Wrong kind of "lines for transformers." But I understand the confusion.

This means that not only are people going to see this movie, not only are there people who want to go to the first showing, not only are there people who will go to a midnight showing… there are people who will line up for an hour to see the midnight screening. It will probably not be a huge shock that the overwhelming majority of people there were adolescent males, though it was a little shocking that not every single person was.

Okay, fine. Enjoy. I’ll put on my black turtleneck and go watch Le Samourai again and contemplate the sublime pointlessness of honor in a meaningless world while everyone else has a big old time shouting, “YYYEEAAAHHH!! That living robot car beat the SHIT out of that other living robot car!” and won’t I just feel so superior. That’s not, actually, why I bring it up. I bring it up for another reason.

No, not to reiterate that Michael Bay is evil.

Even though he is.

I actually bring it up because of the general tone of the reviews of the film, today.

And, okay, let’s just get this out there: Yes, I am the kind of person who goes out of his way to look at reviews for movies I know will be terrible and have no interest in seeing. I’d tell you it’s because sometimes you find hidden gems that way, but we’d all know that’s about 5% of it. About 60% is because the reviews are often funny, and about 35% is so I can go “YYYEEAAAHHH!! That critic panned the SHIT out of that terrible looking movie!” (Then I put my turtleneck back on and go watch The Bicycle Thief)

Every bit as exciting as Transformers. Every bit. Will he find his bicycle?! You don't know!

The reviews I looked at, and I quickly looked at a few figuring the first one I read was an anomaly, generally said this: That this is the best of the Transformers movies, and one said it was possibly the best movie Michael Bay has made. What’s got my monocle popping out is why. The reviews said that it’s still virtually plotless, in any tangible way, it’s still grotesquely

Drink! Steve. Drink, Steve. Steve? Uh oh.

misogynistic (you could make a drinking game in which every time you see cleavage in a Michael Bay movie you take a shot, but I wouldn’t recommend it because of the certain death), it’s still bafflingly moronic, the dialogue is trite and pathetic… but, this film doesn’t have any overt racism in it, and while the majority of the fight scenes are protracted and incomprehensible, several of them can actually be followed (but are still protracted).

This is how low the bar is? “I loved this movie! It wasn’t racist and at a few points I could follow the action!” This is what earns Bay kudos? I can see giving a film like the original Pirates of the Caribbean praise because they took a goofy summer movie and gave it a little plot, a little characterization, and little dialogue. In other words, they took that standard formula and then figured, hey, we could also make it pretty good. It isn’t that it had to have metaphor or anything, but it didn’t treat its audience like morons, and it just made it the best version of itself it could be.

So it isn’t that I’m actually against silly summer movies; I’m not saying that a Transformers movie should be the robot cars contemplating their inevitable extinction as fossil fuels run out, or an allegory for slavery as they rail against being worked to death for human’s selfish pleasures. However, it’s one thing when the state of commercial entertainment has reached a point where we’re making movies about sentient robot cars without a trace of satire, but when the response is to commend the film for being about 20% less stupid and offensive – to give the film decent marks for this – that’s just really kind of sad. It’s like admitting defeat.

Now, where’d that monocle pop out to? I need to patch my turtleneck.

For what it's worth, Le Samourai really is pretty awesome.

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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9 Comments on ““Slightly Less Appalling!” The Critics Rave”

  1. Blogdramedy Says:

    The only way to enjoy these types of movies is to leave your brain at home. But then, I’d get lost so if forced, I bring a flask of tequila with me when I go. 😉


  2. madtante Says:

    I enjoy some stoopid films yet my BA (embarrassingly) is in Film (I missed monocle hand-out day).


    • Byron MacLymont Says:

      Oh, you’ve got to have a monocle. I can recommend a guy.

      And I definitely can get in to films of the “Sexy Dumb People Blow Shit Up” variety, but I can’t figure out what separate one’s that work from one’s that don’t for me. It isn’t that they have to be self-parody (a la Demolition Man, Crank 2, Point Break) necessarily; although Transformers is ripe for self-satire – can you imagine how awesome Paul Verhoven’s Transformers would be? I’d line up for the midnight showing of that one.


      • madtante Says:

        And there are some (like Demolition Man) I’ve tried so hard to like but cannot. Wanted to, desperately.

        One that comes to mind: Skyline. Absolute shite. Yet, I enjoyed watching stuff (read: people) get squashed. Absolutely crap movie and cannot recommend to anybody, yet I didn’t mind “looking” at it.


  3. Margie Says:

    I read about “Dumbing Down”. Is this what this type of movie exemplifies?


    • Byron MacLymont Says:

      I think so. I know some would disagree, but there’s just some forms of entertainment that go beyond simple escapism and become the metaphorical equivalent of huffing gas by encouraging our minds to bring out passive, objectifying processes, and diminishing any real engagement.


  4. stevebetz Says:

    The premise relies on that the moon rotates and that that the Sea of Tranquility was on the dark side for a while.

    Errr — Mr. Bay, the same side of the moon ALWAYS FACES THE EARTH. The Sea of Tranquility is ALWAYS visible to earth. I mean, a movie doesn’t have to have a science degree, but good god.


    • Byron MacLymont Says:

      That’s awesome – they actually changed the basic physics of the moon? Option 1: Bay and his creative don’t know, and no one had the nerve to tell them. Option 2: They do know, and decided that the fundamental orbit of the moon is a minor detail not worth sweating. I love it.

      Maybe they’re trying to get on NASA’s “least scientifically credible movies” list. (see a partial list here)


  5. Zahra Mayeesha Says:

    I fell in love with you the moment you said “Michael Bay is evil.”


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