Saturday, July 2, 2011

Michael Bay: Big City Bombast (Transformers:Dark of the Moon)

     Transformers:Dark of the Moon, Paramount Pictures, Shia Labeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whitely

The third film in havoc auteur Michael Bay's action extravaganza contains some of the most mind melting set pieces in recent memory. Not since Battle: Los Angeles has the utter destruction of an American city been so hypnotically numbing, nearly narcoticized.

For, if nothing else, Bay is the one  American filmmaker who knows how to tap into the inner boys of men, the sheer love of a good explosion, for better or worse. His chaotic template can be alternately grinding and blinding. His best films(The Rock, The Island, Transformers) are pop cinema perfection, welding the distinctly American art of the actioner with classic B movie plotline love. His weakest (Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, this film) are fascinating messes which never quite converge their elliptical elements.

Love him or hate him, Bay is a master of the cinematic form. Transformers 3, the weakest in the series, contains some of his most riveting tour de force sequences. Yet it is hampered by a sub par script by the usually reliable Ehren Kruger. The first half is slavishly painful exposition, with Bay's curious combo of slapstick and straight face he has lent the series. Offensive racial and sexual stereotypes and the jarring absence of Megan Fox are only the beginning of stumbles from which the picture never quite recovers. At least Revenge of the Fallen, steeped in its slam bang platitudes, felt cohesive. This time, with a wrenching run time of 154 minutes, nothing comes together.

Labeouf is reliable, Turturro, Duhamel and Gibson return, while John Malkovich and Frances McDormand are left to flounder. The second half is long in coming, but Bay mercifully delivers us from the confines of the inane plot and revels in the glory of his gift. Steve Jablonsky's music score is riveting, and the opening is fascinating in its incorporation of American history, tweaking it into the film's storyline, recalling the much better X-Men earlier in the season.

Reviled or revered, there is no denying that Bay has left his mark on our pop culture consciousness. His passion for pyrotechnics and drive in story splendor is an art form in and of itself, touching us even when he fails.

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