I’m going to admit something which might be a little controversial – particularly if you’re an avid listener of Wittertainment on Radio 5 Live and laugh along to Mark Kermode’s rants.
I liked the first Michael Bay Transformers movie.
Why? Well, mainly because I lost a transformer somewhere in Northampton when I was about six. To this day, it’s one of the worst things that has ever happened to me. Some bastard has probably still got it and is no doubt ‘brumming’ it across his living room floor, every swipe across the carpet accompanied by a wry smile in my direction. It’s mine. But he’s got it and he’s going to keep playing with it until his arm falls off.
I loved Transformers as a kid. They were as big a part of my childhood as Sensible Soccer, giant gob stoppers and Panini stickers. Seeing them come to life in an all-guns-blazing live action film brought out the little boy in me.
As a director, Michael Bay isn’t Francis Ford Coppola. He isn’t even Thor Freudenthal who, despite a supersonically cool name, directed Hotel For Dogs. Which is about a hotel. And dogs. And that’s it.
No, Michael Bay makes films that rear up to your face and shout incoherently at it for at least two and a half hours while simultaneously stabbing you in the ear with a pointy sound wave. Expect anything which could be loosely described as ‘cultured’ and you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Last night, I went to see Transformers 3 and, after the utter tripe that was Transformers 2, wasn’t expecting much. I didn’t get much, either.
It starts off – as 99% of all American films do – with a little bit of creative history rewriting. Remember the moon landing? Well, it all definitely happened, but apparently we didn’t see the bit where they found a big Decepticon spaceship and a dead robot. No, while that was happening, they played us some fake footage instead so that we thought everything was fine. Unbeknownst to us, everything had gone dreadfully wrong and during their return home parade the astronauts were secretly harbouring the sickening realisation that, one day, we were all going to be killed to death with lasers and pointy things by massive alien robots.
The film then fast forwards a bit and we join Sam, played by the eminently vacuous Shia Labeouf. This boy, whilst possessing a name which suggests he might be some kind of ninja frenchman, could bore an inanimate object to death. I could have performed better than him and I’m very rubbish at acting.
Sam is mates with the Autobots (are you keeping up?) who are still really hard but more cuddly than the Decepticons and are intent on keeping peace on Earth. Everyone’s happy (apart from those astronauts, who have presumably been trembling behind their sofas for the last sixty years).
Then, everything goes very wrong indeed and the mother of all fights breaks out. Robots punch each other continuously in the face and generally make a terrible mess of Chicago.
But what’s it like, you ask? Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you’ve long since gone to another part of the web. Never mind.
For those that are still with me, let’s start with the overweight elephant in the room which is the film’s rather odd stab at humour. It simply doesn’t work. This is mainly because you can’t hear a word anyone is saying. Take the two little Laurel and Hardy robots – they are clearly there for comic effect, but because their voices simply sound like a collection of clicking and bleeping noises, you simply don’t get to hear the start, middle or punch line of any of their jokes. You’d have more of a laugh listening to the inner workings of your watch.
In fact, you can’t hear anything in this movie apart from eardrum-shattering noises. I watched an IMAX screening which appeared to have The Rolling Stones’ PA hidden behind the screen. I’ve never heard quite so much subsonic material in a movie. They were the kind of sub 30z rumbles which either make you feel physically sick or poo yourself. They were, indeed, brilliant.
I was also disappointed by Optimus Prime’s trailer which for all intents and purposes looked like an oversized Oliver Adams sandwich van. I didn’t notice this in the first film, but I couldn’t take my eyes off it last night; its corrugated silver cover shining in the film’s ever-present sunlight and promising warm sausage rolls, cans of diet coke and over-priced sandwiches.
But, you know what? I enjoyed it. I can’t remember any of it, or what it was about, but I enjoyed it.
Mark Kermode detests these films. ‘It’s just robots hitting robots,’ he said. He’s right – it is, but that’s exactly what I did with my toy robots on the living room floor and there was nothing wrong with that.