Last Thursday I found myself strapped once again into the roller coaster. Even though I had left Disneyland behind two days before, I felt the same churning anticipation as I waited for that first big thrill. This one wasn't coming from the movement of the car, but the pictures on the screen. This was the summer blockbuster that my son had been counting down to far in advance of our visit to the Magic Kingdom. "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" had all the sound and fury that we have come to expect from Michael Bay and his brethren. My family and I braced ourselves for the Big Summer Movie.
Last year I felt like we got off pretty easy: "Iron Man" and "The Dark Knight" were both fast and furious, but entertained past the simply visceral. There were even moments of discussion after both of these films that included words such as "character" and "plot." Such was not the case with "Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Shredded Script." I left last summer feeling like two out of three is pretty good for Hollywood.
This year? Well, I confess that I was quietly surprised at how captivated I was two years ago by a movie about robots that turn into cars, so I fought off my initial apprehension about sequels and tried to latch on to the youthful enthusiasm of my son. I must not have had a solid connection, because I never managed to get past the roar and the flash and the Optimus Prime-sized plot holes that seemed to appear every few minutes. Even if I had managed to suspend my disbelief for a moment or two, it would have eventually been brought low again by two and a half hours of explosions and computer-generated machinery.
I blame Steven Spielberg. It's no coincidence that his name appears on so much of the summertime dreck that we call "blockbuster." He is the executive producer of the Transformer series, and he was in a position to tell Mister Bay, "That's enough." Please understand, Steven Spielberg is a brilliant filmmaker, and he has earned the right to pass off some of his lesser efforts on us a compensation for the really good ones. "Jaws" was the first big summer event movie, and it is a great film in spite of its special effects. Imagine if you went to see a Transformers movie and didn't see a robot until halfway through. Outrage! But that's what Steve managed to do thirty-four years ago. I suspect now he would feel compelled to deliver a computer-generated shark in the opening reels, much in the same way he enhanced "E.T." a few years back.
Would you like more evidence of Spielbergian excess? Look no further than "1941." A pleasant enough diversion now when it shows up on cable, but back in its day it was the standard-bearer for excessive movie making. That's why I can assert that it is no happy accident that Steven has a cameo appearance in the cocaine-fueled classic "The Blues Brothers." If one cop car crashing is funny, then why not one hundred?
Returning to present day, I recall with a bemused smirk the commercial I watched before things started to blow up. As a part of an advertisement that must have been a marketing coup for the Los Angeles Times who used the moments before the film began to sell subscriptions, Michael Bay confides to us that he considers himself to be "an old-school filmmaker." John Ford. William Wyler. Michael Bay. I guess Orson Welles really missed out when he didn't make Rosebud an Autobot.
I know there will be a third Transformers movie because this one has already made a kerjillion dollars. It frightens me to imagine how the next one could be bigger, louder, more degrading to women, and less concerned with making sense than this one. But then again, since when did a roller coaster have to make sense?