Hollywood

Good Robots Fight Bad Robots

July 06, 2011

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I had long wondered why critics loathe the Transformers movies about giant alien robots more than they hate any other summer blockbuster series.

On the other hand, I’d never wondered enough to see one. Unlike reviewers who have to watch every movie that comes out, my policy is: If it sounds stupid, don’t go.

The Transformers were a 1980s Hasbro line of toys for little boys: robots that convert into cars. That a lot of big boys are excited to see these films says more about 21st-century audiences than about the series. If the audience for childish subjects has grown, which it has, how much of that is the fault of director Michael Bay and how much of elites encouraging mass uneducated immigration?

Last weekend, however, there wasn’t anything better opening, and I was looking forward to the robots demolishing Chicago, a city of which I’m quite fond.

“The Transformers movies celebrate American imperial muscle. As teenagers grow more diverse, their longings for order have grown more militaristic, more authoritarian.”

Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the third in Bay’s franchise, turns out to be fine. It’s quite a bit better than it had to be. I yawned once about 55 minutes into the concluding battle, but the previous two hours were fun.

The budget was large enough that Bay was able to siphon a few percent into punching up the screenplay with jokes and filling the supporting roles with Coen Brothers regulars John Turturro, Frances McDormand, and John Malkovich. While Turturro can stand out in almost any character role, Malkovich, a sort of neo-Vincent Price, is only good at being John Malkovich. Here, fortunately, screenwriter Ehren Kruger molded a hilarious part for him as Shia LaBeouf’s creepy control-freak corporate boss.

Why the hate for the three Transformers movies? For one thing, most critics are frustrated fiction writers, so they normally love writing plot summaries. But recounting a Transformers storyline, which has been molded to make perfect sense to a small boy, seems demeaning. “Did I read all those Raymond Carver stories to get my MFA just to transcribe complicated gibberish about Deceptibots and Autocons?”

In a refreshing change from most recent sci-fi movies (with 2009’s District 9 standing out as the reductio ad absurdum of this trend toward human heroes teaming up with alien invaders), the good robots are on our side.

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