Monday, June 22, 2009

Metal Fatigue

(Or "Why I won't be subjecting myself to Transformers 2")

It would not be strictly true to say that I have a blanket disdain for the oeuvre of Michael Bay. The Island didn't totally suck and, like Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, I too have an unhealthy affection for Bad Boys II. Anything that extreme and that offensive - that pushes the buddy-cop movie so far past the breaking point until all that remains is a clotted mess of spent shell-casings, twisted metal and bleeding eardrums - deserves some kind of warped recognition.

But I remember my experience of being battered by Bay's first Transformers movie. And it's not something I'd willingly put myself through a second time.

A couple of years ago, I had a blistering job interview that left me reeling. It was more like a sustained attack on every single element of my professional and personal life to date. My interviewer made Sir Alan Sugar look like a pussy. It was interminable and painful, like a trip to the gym after decades sitting slumped on a couch, and the interviewer's opening gambit was "I don't believe half of the shit that you've written on your CV, but we'll come back to that later."

Two and a half hours later, I staggered back out into the murky, welcoming air of London, loosened my tie and tried to remember how to walk again. I was completely and utterly spent. I hopped on the Tube and headed towards Leicester Square, figuring that I deserved to treat myself to a movie. Something big and dumb that I wouldn't have to think about. Something that would just wash over me. I chose Transformers.

At that point, it would have behooved me to remember that Michael Bay calls his style of filmmaking "fucking the frame". In Transformers, the frame should have brought Michael Bay up on charges for sexual assault.

I'm just old enough not to have any kind of nostalgic affection for the robots in disguise, so I wasn't concerned that an icon of my childhood was going to be defiled by a movie. That was one thing working in my favour. Turns out that was the only thing working in my favour.

Not only was my choice of movie a boneheaded move, but I thought I'd catch it on the largest screen of the Empire Leicester Square, where everything is bigger and louder. It's easy to describe the Transformers movies as "robots hitting each other". It felt more like "robots punch me in the head over and over and over again for two and a half hours."

And another thing. I really don't comprehend the enduring appeal of Shia LeBeouf. He's a perfectly adequate performer, but he's not leading man material. But then, he is playing second fiddle to clanking metal.

And I sat there thinking "You know, big robots are inherently cool. Big robots changing and unfolding should be visually interesting. But when the director keeps cut-cut-cutting and the soundtrack keeps clang-clang-clanging, what is the point of all these horrendously expensive visual effects when I can't keep track of whatever it is I'm supposed to be looking at?"

I also thought: "This is giving me a fucking headache."

For the second time that day, I weaved outside dazed from a not-particularly-pleasant sensory onslaught. And that's why I won't be pissing any of my money up the wall to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

(Postscript: It was worth subjecting myself to the interview, though. I got the job. I've still got the job to this day. My interviewer likes someone who can hold their own against a verbal reaming. So the day wasn't a total bust.)

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