Monday, June 29, 2009

The life of a critic

Anton Ego, critic

I saw Transformers 2 this weekend. I personally felt it was an awful, trite film with an incohesive plot, poor dialog ("Only a PRIME can destroy me!"), unnecessary explosions, and a terrible violation of the honor and power of the original Transformers cartoon. This review sums it up almost perfectly (just a quick warning to my more conservative readers: the "review"--it's really more of a humorous, though accurate, Q&A regarding the massive holes in the movie--contains strong language and several spoilers).

While many critics agree with me--the film is sitting at a 21% on rottentomatoes.com--I am not with the majority. Numerous friends and people I know have reported it as "10x better than the first" and "incredibly awesome." Similarly, the film is a box office hit bringing in $387.3 million during this opening weekend worldwide. Obviously people wanted to see this film and ignored all critical responses. (I can happily report that I didn't pay to see it; I got a free showing.)

There was a report going around that Michael Bay had decided to quit making action movies due to all the bad reviews. This was later reported to be false, sadly. One thing about the internet is that rumors can spread quickly, especially when you want them to be true. If Bay was in fact giving up the Transformers franchise that would give another director and filmmaker a chance to actually make the movies good, and not just in a "stuff blows up and it was entertaining if you ignore any and all elements of story or quality" way. I'd like to see J.J. Abrams do the next film, but that won't happen--he's too busy dominating with films like Star Trek.

Of course, I can say all this because I'm simply a movie fan. I'm not a film maker. I'm not a director, a screen writer, a cinematographer, a special effects designer, a sound editor, a makeup artist, or an actor. I'm just a guy who watches movies. That's it. In Pixar's Ratatouille--a remarkable film in every aspect--the fictional, famous food critic, Anton Ego, writes, "In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little,

"In many ways..."

yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so."

He's right.

As a viewer and amateur critic (aren't we all?), my job is simple: I go to films or listen to an album or watch a TV show and I just say what I liked and didn't like about it. I'm not responsible for writing the script or fixing it. I'm not required to suggest alternatives to the trite love scene dialog. I don't have to play a complex guitar solo for Katy Perry when I say that her music is terrible to show her what good music is. I'm under no obligation to create better character development for a television series that I don't find engrossing. There is absolutely no responsibility on my part to choreograph a better fight scene when I feel the action is dull. It is simply my privilege to say "I felt the dialog was well written" or "The character development fell flat."

While I received very little pleasure out of Transformers 2--truthfully, the degradation of my childhood memories did far more harm to my mind than any positive effects of the short-lived enjoyable moments of the film--it is highly unlikely that I could ever create such a work. At this moment I feel an odd sense of respect for Michael Bay, a man who has placated the masses across the world with explosions, un-inspired writing and attempts at humor, and the gratuitous use of overly sexualized females. He has created something that I could never create. I like to think that, should I enter the world of filmmaking as a director or producer, I could create something better, but it is not likely.

I'm curious to see what my brother will think of the film. He actually is a filmmaker. While none of the films he's had creative work on have gone on to become Summer blockbusters or gross millions of dollars, he's in a position where he can say "I would have done it like this," which I respect. He's far better at reviewing films for that very reason--beyond knowing what doesn't look good, he knows what does. I think that's what makes a good critic.

2 comments:

lucal1002 said...

Jesus Christ, what is it with you and Transformers?? It's just another summer blockbuster providing light entertainment. It's not meant to be any more than it is. I don't understand why you say it's violated your childhood: do you really think the original show is that much more profound?

--jeff * said...

actually, lucal, it was tim who wrote the post.

funny, reading the your post, i was thinking that with all the bad reviews and the fact that so many of my friends (including you) have already seen it, i may end up not seeing it (until "riff trax", anyway). but you did say you'd go with me to see it.

wisely said, though, about critics. i had a film teacher who said that if michael bay came and gave a lecture, he would expect every one of us to go and take plenty of notes for the reason you said: he's still doing a lot more than we are, and we do have a lot we can learn from him.

thanks for the kind words.

"til all are one..."