Monthly Archives: July 2011

"The Fanboy Who Lived."

Last weekend, I joined a record-setting chunk of America in seeing the eighth and final installment of the Harry Potter film franchise. It was a midnight screening filled with plenty of mixed emotions, though that had less to do with the movie and more to do with the ninety minutes it took to drive to East Bumble Fuck, Wisconsin. I could’ve personally done without the awkward Epilogue at the end, but Mr. Yates handled Snape’s final moments quite tastefully. Before I knew it, it was 2 AM and yet another addition to my summer blockbuster experience had concluded.  I never really thought about it until now, but it does feel strange that we won’t have any more Harry Potter.  A bit sad when you think about it, no?  Ah well, on to the important stuff.

How about that Batman trailer?

Now it certainly helps the credit of this post to see an official version out on Monday, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t caught snippets from horribly bootlegged copies on YouTube.  Well, the wait is over,so I thought I’d offer my own breakdown.  Beware, possible spoilers and epic loads of geekery are to follow.  You’ve been warned:

  •  0:11 – 0:14  What is presumably a shot of Gotham City.  We seem to be looking at several lower-end apartment buildings.  Also, note the piece of debris falling downward.  Is the city falling apart?  That might account for the strange creaking noises.  This looks like it was rather hastily rendered on a computer, but I’m guessing Warner Bros. may have been a little low on available footage.
  • 0:15  EVERY HERO HAS A JOURNEY
  • 0:19  We hear Ra’s al Ghul’s lines: “If you make yourself more than just a man…”  This is played over a shot of Bruce on his initial climb to the League of Shadows’ fortress in “Batman Begins.”
  • 0:23  EVERY JOURNEY HAS AN END
  • 0:26  More from Ra’s: “If you devote yourself to an ideal…”  Bruce rises to his feet in the bat cave.  Another recycled clip from “Begins.”
  • 0:31  Ra’s speaks “…then you become something else entirely.”  FROM CHRISTOPHER MOTHERFLIPPIN’ NOLAN (emphasis added)
  • 0:34  The icing on the cake: “Legend, Mr. Wayne.  Legend.”  That final shot from “The Dark Knight” with the Batpod riding into the light.
  • 0:37  Cut to Gordon lying in a hospital bed.  This is new footage.  His neck seems to be bruised or scarred from something, and he’s holding an oxygen mask in his hand.  He’s clearly having trouble speaking and breathing.  Gordon is talking to a figure, presumably the one in the foreground, though we’re not able to tell who.  He croaks, “We were in this together, and then you were gone.”
  • 0:45  Gordon smashes the Bat signal, our second clip from TDK.
  • 0:47  More of those apartment buildings now.  The camera tilts upward.  More falling debris.
  • 0:50  Back to Gordon.  “Now this evil rises.”
  • 0:52  A silhouetted figure is climbing out of a tunnel or well.  Judging from the dangling rope, it’s likely the latter of the two.  It’s difficult to tell who this is, but the shot is pretty well timed with “…evil rises.”  The build on the upper body also looks a bit too bulky to be Bruce.
  • 0:54  Gordon again.  “The Batman has to come back.”
  • 0:58  This is clearly Bruce talking now.  “What if he doesn’t exist anymore?’  The footage is more difficult to make out here, but with the hairstyle and nose it looks like a heavily-bearded Bruce (yes, a rigorous nasal comparison was undertaken).  He’s doing push ups in some sort of cell.  If you pause it, you can also see figures standing in the background.  Perhaps guards?  The only question this begs is why Bruce would be in prison in the first place.  The voiceover would also seem to validate this as Bruce.
  • 1:01  Gordon.  “He must.”
  • 1:03  Very quick shot of Tom Hardy as Bane
  • 1:04  “He must.”
  • 1:06  A much clearer image of Bane here.  His mask and overall look matches what we’ve seen so far, though it’s a rather peculiar interpretation.  His face mask almost appears insect-like and it seems to function more like a muzzle, covering his mouth and his nose.  Is this how he feeds off his Venom serum?
  • 1:07  Loads of debris now.  We’re facing straight up as the outline of the Gotham skyline forms the iconic Batman symbol.  More of that pesky creaking as we zoom upward into the sky.
  • 1:17  THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.  Eggshell with Romalian type…  We also get more of those strange chants from that first bit of viral marketing back in May.  Weird.
  • 1:23  Bats is soaked and clearly out of breath as Bane’s hulking mass lumbers out from the foreground.  The set here looks damp and you can hear running water in the background.  Sewers?  Check out the bit of steam.  Maybe rain.  It looks like Batman’s rocking the same suit from TDK, judging by the abdomen and tighter-fitting neck.  There’s also someone clearly standing behind him, but your guess is as good as mine on that one.

Now for a healthy dose of speculation:

It isn’t much, but I’ll hand it to the studio for really driving the point home that this is the final chapter in Nolan’s saga.  No fourth movie.  No second trilogy.  And for the love of Bob Kane, no Robin.  That doesn’t rule out a reboot, but more on that later.  The revisiting of moments from both “Begins” and TDK is a welcome one and really gives this a sense of continuity.  There’s a sprawling story arc that’s being told here, and this is the final chapter.

Liam Neeson’s role in particular is a bit troubling to me, as one might assume he’d be limited to flashback sequences at the most.  What caught my attention was that voice-over.  Those lines are from “Begins” but not exactly.  Ra’s never repeats “legend.”  See for yourself:

So what, right?  Well, for one thing the inflection is completely different, and that likely means one of two things:

  1. Warner Bros. simply took a separate take from those dailies and slapped it on the trailer
    OR
  2. Liam Neeson recently did some additional voice-over work for “The Dark Knight Rises”

Two scenes from both films are already used, which makes one wonder why they wouldn’t just do the same for five seconds of dialogue.  Neeson has officially signed on to reprise the role, but how much he’ll be in the film remains uncertain.  There’s a fair amount of chatter on message boards you wouldn’t dream of going on about a “Lazarus Pit.”  To make it brief, it’s basically a supernatural bath tub that Ra’s al Ghul used in the comics to gain immortality:

 “Quick.  Hand me my Loofah of Shadows.”

Here’s what was spotted on location in India that’s got all the nerds so riled up:

Hole in the ground.  Big frickin’ deal.  The key part of that photo is the green, which is actually only there for post-production purposes.  The studio will presumably insert whatever is actually supposed to go in there.  That could indeed be a Lazarus Pit.  It could be that same well from the teaser.  Or it could be the secret hideout of Crazy Quilt:

Yes, that’s a thing.

It’s a total leap of faith at this point.  Plus, the problem with bringing back someone from the dead is that it sorta would flagrantly violate what has been Nolan’s hyper-realistic take on the franchise thus far.

Gordon is where we get the real meat and bones of the trailer, or at least as “meaty” as a teaser trailer can get.  At least it’s meatier than TDK’s was, right?  I’m going to stop saying “meat” now.  It’s made pretty clear that when Batman leaves at the end of TDK, he stays out of the picture for a while.  “We were in this together” and “Then you left” both validate that.  What’s interesting is that Gordon mentions both a “you” and “the Batman.”  Since he seems to be talking to Bruce Wayne, that begs several questions.  Does Gordon know they’re the same person?  If so, for how long has he known?  Gordon seems to buy Bruce’s staged car accident in TDK, so it seems unlikely he would’ve figured it out on his own.  Then again, Gordon’s glasses are off, and if his prescription is as bad as mine–minus 10 in both eyes, thank you very much–he might not even be able to tell who he’s talking to.

More importantly, how did Gordon get there in the first place?  And what about those marks that ring his neck.  Did he have a bit of a tumble at the hands of Bane?

I’m digging what we’ve seen of Bane so far, especially that last shot.  It’s amazing how a few camera tricks and the right staging can make Tom Hardy, who’s only 5’9″, look that massive.  The old batsuit from TDK suggests that this fight sequence takes place earlier on in the film, as Nolan has been keen on necessitating upgrades in the previous installments.  Oh, and in the “Knightfall” storyline, Bane breaks Batman’s back.  Literally.

As far as that weird chanting playing behind the title card?  The two main camps of speculation credit the language as either Spanish or Moroccan.  While I can’t make out a word of it, a supposed translation either gives you “Bane, Bane.  Kill him, kill him.” or “He Rises.  He Rises,” respectively that is.  I know about four phrases in Spanish and my Moroccan is as rusty as my Esperanto so you’ll have to take the geek community’s word on this.  The good news is that either interpretation seems to fit with Bane’s South American background.

This brings me to my final point.  Again, this journey supposedly “ends.”  It’s a complete arc, so the back-breaking’s worth mentioning only because we can’t rule out Bruce becoming incapacitated or I dare I say, even dying?

Woah.  Easy.  Sit down, and put your pants back on, please.  Let’s agree on a few things:

  1. Box office records or not, this movie is going to make a shit ton of money.
  2. Rest assured, those Warner Bros. executives aren’t going to sit through the third quarter of 2012 and think, “Well, we’ve clearly milked Batman for all it’s worth.  Let’s respect Mr. Nolan’s creative vision and refuse to make another movie ever again.”
  3. An inevitable reboot isn’t likely to have any actors reprise their same roles.
  4. Christopher Nolan isn’t afraid to kill off characters.

This movie could totally end with the death of Bruce Wayne.  If one indulges the idea of a complete, three-film story arc, we should go back and look at some of those exchanges between Bruce and Señor al Ghul:

  • “Death is not considerate, or fair! And make no mistake: here, you face death!”
  • “You must become more than just a man in the mind of your opponent.”
  • “Is Ra’s al Ghul immortal?”

Suddenly that stuff about mortality and transcendence kinda fits in with all this “rising” nonsense, eh?  Legend, Mr. Wayne.  Legend.

I need to go outside today and try talking to a girl or something.

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"If This is a Nightmare, Will You Wake Me After We Hit Lightspeed?"

George Lucas didn’t rape your childhood.  He certainly didn’t rape mine.  Believe me, I’m infuriated by his seemingly endless string of “improvements” to the originals; my four separate boxed sets would attest to that.  Yet as big of a Star Wars geek as I am, I’ve never quite bought into the notion that Lucas somehow “owes” everyone for changing what are ultimately his movies.

That brings me to “The Phantom Edit.”  Now chances are if you’ve had any contact with the opposite sex, you’ve never heard of it.  It’s essentially an alternate fan version of Episode I.  That means somebody went through and cut out all the unnecessary fat, bad dialogue and sinister glares from Senator Palpatine and whittled down the first entry in the Star Wars saga enough to find a well-crafted, robust and misunderstood storyline somewhere in there.  Well sorta.  Not really, but what do you expect from something that was originally circulated through copies on VHS tape?  Huh?  Oh right, sorry.  “VHS tapes” were those black plastic boxes with little spools of film on the inside.  Still not registering?  Movie stores would sometimes charge you for not rewinding them?  What’s a “movie store?”

Following speculation that Kevin Smith was the one behind the alternate version, the Phantom Editor, Mike Nichols, revealed himself by writing two separate letters: one to the Washington Post in 2001 and the other to the Los Angeles Times in 2002.  Kind of like the Zodiac killer, though that’s not to suggest that Star Wars fans are mentally unstable.

Threepio’s not gay.  He’s just well-versed in the binary language of load lifters.
The edit cuts nearly twenty minutes of the film, an especially impressive feat when you realize that not much actually gets changed.  Sure, the Phantom Editor trims some overdone exposition, lots of Jar Jar moments, and the more (ahem) taxing political jargon, but most of these omissions remain so small they’re only likely to be noticed by someone who’s watched “The Phantom Menace” fifteen times over.  But what kind of loser would even admit to that, am I right?  The problem in the Phantom Editor’s approach is a fairly obvious one: you can’t take too much fat off these scenes lest you risk making them even more awkward and have to remove them entirely.  As an example, take the fateful first meeting between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker:
Knowing what their relationship is destined to come to, this is significant territory to cover and quite a big deal, right up there with blowing up the Death Star or the duel on Cloud City.  This is a friendship that will blossom and then crumble before our eyes.  It’s Shakespearean really, or it could have been.  “The Phantom Edit” springs from the same “could’ve been” line of thinking Star Wars fans are all too familiar with.  All the edits in the world couldn’t help this scene from being poorly written.  This is a moment that deserves more than whiny pleasantries and a limp handshake, but like the prequels as a whole, it’s really all we have.  It’s also a swift kick to the groin.  If it’s any compensation, that great lightsaber duel remains untouched, even if I wouldn’t have objected to this version instead:

When I said this is really all we’ve got, I meant it.  Unless George is saving the real versions for a posthumous release, we’re stuck with that stupid kid from “Jingle All the Way” and Ahmed Best.  Yes, the creative force behind Jar Jar Binks’ last name is Best.  Irony works in mysterious ways.  On the prospect of an alternate prequel trilogy though, how awesome would that be?  You disappoint your fan base for over a decade only to pull the Wrodian carpet out from under them.  Rest assured I’d see each of those movies ten times each.  It would be the single greatest marketing ploy never to happen, that is unless at the end of that “Dark Knight Rises” trailer they threw in a clip of Heath, alive and well, Joker makeup and all, flashing a thumbs up to the camera:  “Nah, just fuckin’ with ya!”

The solution to these films is not, and has never been, to edit them.  They need to be remade, but the likelihood of George bequeathing those rights to Joss Whedon in his will are… slim.  You can probably guess some of the necessary changes, though:

  •  DON’T include the same damn droids.  C-3PO doesn’t need to have been built by Anakin.  It’s not clever, it’s sloppy storytelling.  It’s also stupid.
  • DON’T kill off Darth Maul.  Less is more.  Besides, the villains only get lamer anyway.
  • For the love of God, DON’T start with Anakin as a child.  You could’ve told the entirety of “The Phantom Menace” in two pages of script and been done with it.  This would also critically avoid having to cast Jake Lloyd in anything ever again:

That she-bitch at the beginning of the clip is Robin Gurland.  The fucking casting director.  Look at some of those YouTube comments.  Seriously, even YouTube commenters, who fall somewhere between those preteens that whoop my ass on XBox Live and pond scum, couldn’t have messed up casting that badly.  Yeah, Anakin’s character is just “that complex.”  Jake’s range would be perfect for the role.  At least you can’t screw up the same decision twice, right?

I should start a hit list.

Is George Lucas a bit of an idiot who probably gets more credit than he deserves?  Of course, but here’s an even better question: How can we be surprised when an independently-financed film from a director with virtually no creative restrictions turns out to suck major ass?  At the end of the day, George Lucas is a “big picture” kind of guy.  You know why “The Empire Strikes Back” is so good?  The director, Irvin Kershner, had enough cinematic foresight to look at the script and think, “No, Han Solo wouldn’t look at Leia and say ‘I love you, too.’  That’s terrible writing.”  And what did we get from that?

Now that’s filmmaking.

Take three minutes out of your day and look back at some of the initial reviews for Episode I.  Sure, Wikipedia says they were generally “mixed,” but if you actually read some of them, you’ll find a bizarre mix of denial and confusion.  I don’t know if the site was even around in 1999, but one has to wonder what a collective “WTF?!” would rate on the Tomatometer.  Here’s the kicker.  A lot of nerds just didn’t want to accept that they waited sixteen years, stood in lines for days, and probably turned down a few opportunities for some solid boob grabbage for… well, this:

I get it.  I may have been only eleven at the time, but I get it.  Emotion and ungodly amounts of time were invested in this.  Loins were collectively shat when this sucker first hit in 1998.  But is it too bold to think that “The Phantom Edit” is just regret in the form of fan fiction?  Is there even such a thing?  It’s like we’re refusing to admit that we were excited for this.  But we were.  Everyone was.  If you were the only kid who didn’t see “The Phantom Menace” that summer you fucking sucked.  Some people paid full admission just to see that damn trailer, and I’m no better.  I went and skipped school to see “The Incredibles” back in 2004 for the same reason.

No, you read that correctly.  I was more excited about a Hayden Christensen trailer than PIXAR.  Hindsight’s a real bitch, ain’t it?

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"Writings of a Damaged Youth"

Here’s a story: Last week I was discussing Disney movies with a rather reclusive primate researcher and after revealing that I had never seen “The Little Mermaid,” I was unceremoniously labeled a “damaged youth.”  Now anything said by someone who gets paid to watch monkey sex all day should be taken with a grain boulder of salt, but I was worried that she may have had a point.  As a child, I singlehandedly wore out the VHS reels on our copies of “Pinocchio” and “101 Dalmatians.”  We even owned the bottom shelf stuff like “Simba’s Pride.”  In my defense, that was a gift from the grandparents and the reason why I refused to go to the funeral.  Principles, man.  It goes without saying that I’m no slouch when it comes to Disney movies.  Still, having never experienced the undersea adventures of Ariel firsthand, I felt a pivotal gap in my formative years was missing, so I figured I’d save myself any further humiliation, sit down and finally watch “The Little Mermaid.”

That sounded much better in my head.

The real appeal in all of this was learning that I had another story for comparison.  Apparently some Danish dude, Hans Christian Andersen, completely ripped off the movie and gave it a grittier re-imagining.  And get this: he did it 152 years beforehand.

Hans Christian Andersen.  Plagiarizing the s%*# out of
beloved children’s classics since 1837
I didn’t even know there was an original version of “The Little Mermaid.”  Of course I knew the Brothers Grimm popularized folk tales like “Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White,” but even those interpretations are vastly different from what most of us know today.
I took the time to read a condensed (and probably flawed) version of the story and noticed quite a few differences.  Hans’ first transgression takes the form of one of the Seven Disney Sins; there are no cutesy animated companions to be found.  That’s right.  No Flounder.  No Sebastian.  Christ, not even Scuttle.  And in case you’re curious, here’s the complete list:
  1. Animal Companions – The more, the better.  Can your squirrel talk?  Perfect.
  2. Catchy Songs – If Randy Newman can’t play piano to it, it ain’t worth my time.
  3. Source Material – Is that an original screenplay?  Well get it out of here and find a Tibetan folk tale for us to rip off.
  4. Royalty – If the main characters are human, chances are we’re going to need a princess.
  5. Broken Homes – You’re not an interesting character unless you’ve lost a parent in a tragic hunting accident.  Orphans get bonus points.
  6. Decades –  If we made it in the last ten years and PIXAR wasn‘t involved, you’re probably better off re-watching “Toy Story”
  7. Stereotypes – Sometimes we do it just to see if you’re paying attention.  When you get a chance, re-watch that Chinese Dance segment in “Fantasia.”
Despite having seen “The Little Mermaid” exactly once now, I still feel confident in saying it may have my favorite Disney cast of supporting characters.  It’s refreshing to see a lobster with charm and the balls to take matters into his own claws.  And really, what’s the competition here?  A French candlestick and a clock?  Abu and a magic rug?  Timon and Pumbaa take almost half an hour to even show up.  That scene where Sebastian and Flounder double-team Flotsam and Jetsam is totally awesome.  Let’s see Rafiki pull some shit like that.  I’m also surprised how little love Scuttle gets.  I honestly haven’t laughed out loud at a Disney movie since hearing Doc sputter like a sqoodlebug in “Snow White.”

Doc went to Johns Hopkins and got his M.D. in high comedy.  What I find strange is that there is no “Ariel” in the fairy tale.  The little mermaid doesn’t have a name.  She’s like Clint Eastwood in “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.”  Just, you know.  With boobs.  Regardless, she makes for a pretty flat protagonist either way.  Sure, her curiosity defines her, but what’s her motivation?  Better yet, what’s the moral of this story?  In the movie, Ariel gets what she wants (Prince Eric), but for some reason she has to be human to reach that goal.  There’s an important lesson to be learned here, girls.  If a guy thinks you’re kinda okay but would prefer it if you changed one little thing, like say…. your entire genetic makeup, you should go ahead and do it.  And be thankful because you’re probably not going to do any better than this anyway.  Now go make me a sandwich.

Andersen’s version presents a more obtuse lesson:

You will be able to live your three hundred years down in the sea with us, before you die and become foam on the ocean... But men have souls that live eternally, even after their bodies become dust.  They rise high up into the clear sky where the stars are… they rise up to the unknown, the beautiful world, that we shall never see.

Sure, it’s obvious, but when you look at some of the other changes, the whole religious caveat is pretty mild.  In both versions, Ariel loses her tail and grows a temporary set of gams.  What the movie leaves out is that every time the little mermaid walks, it feels like knives are stabbing the bottoms of her feet.  It gets worse.  By the end of the story, the pain is so excruciating that she literally starts bleeding from her soles.

In keeping with this theme of anonymity, Ursula is also just “the witch.”  Here’s her introduction:

At last [the little mermaid] came to a great, slimy open place in the middle of the forest.  Big fat eels played in the mud, showing their ugly yellow stomachs.  Here the witch had built her house of bones of drowned sailors, and there she sat letting a big ugly toad eat out of her mouth, as human beings sometimes let a canary eat a sugar candy out of theirs.

Now I’m as guilty as anyone of spoiling the crap out of my canary, but that is a messed up image.  Ursula’s already weird enough with that creepy Chia Garden of Souls.  The worst is when she crawls across the ship deck using only her arms:

Yeesh.  It’s like if Lieutenant Dan joined the Carnival of Horrors.  The real kicker is when Ariel loses her voice, though.  We’ll go ahead and ignore any sexist implications that might arise from silencing a female protagonist for thirty minutes and stick specifically to the changes Disney made.  Here’s the scene from the film:

Andersen’s version tells it the exact same way.  Well except instead of using magic the witch literally cuts out the little mermaid’s tongue.  Still, when you add that to the misogynist code of silence and copious amounts of foot stabbing, it isn’t all that bad.  Nineteenth century Denmark was a different time and place.  Lighten up. There’s also a pivotal point in the original story where the little mermaid has to decide whether to remain a slave to the witch or break the spell and return to her mermaid form:
Here is a knife that the witch has given us.  Look how sharp it is!  Before the sun rises, you must plunge it into the heart of the Prince; when his warm blood sprays on your feet, they will turn into a fishtail and you will be a mermaid.
Thank God.  I was worried she’d have to do something really fucked up this time.  To spoil the ending, she pussies out and throws herself into the sea instead, her self-sacrifice transforming her into a “daughter of the air.”  Check it out:
We, daughters of the air, have not received an eternal soul either; but we can win one by good deeds… If for three hundred years we earnestly try to do what is good, we obtain an immortal soul and can take part in the eternal happiness of man.  You, little, mermaid, have tried with all your heart to do the same… Do your good deeds and in three hundred years an immortal soul will be yours.
I find it a bit odd that Disney would go to such lengths to avoid these religious connotations when they’ve embraced them in so many other movies.  There’s that one about the kids and the magic wardrobe.  Then that Narnia movie.  Oh, and what about that one with the Jesus lion?  And to answer your question, no I don’t understand this story’s apparent obsession with the number 300.
“DAUGHTERS!  TONIGHT, WE DINE IN HELL!”
The truth is, this damaged youth didn’t feel anything watching this.  Maybe it’s because the whole nostalgia factor only works with “The Lion King,” movies I’ve habitually watched over and over again.  It’s entirely possible that you just can’t experience this stuff as an adult for the first time – not in the same way at least.  I realize that’s not some huge secret, but this reminded me of when I watched “Labyrinth” for the first time a few years ago.  Mother of God that was rough.  And I actually like Muppets.  Maybe it was all the David Bowie pedophilia going on there.  At the same time, I could just be an overly cynical bastard.  It doesn’t quite seem fair to sit back and pick on this stuff now.  I can only assume I would’ve enjoyed it more seventeen years ago, though it’s hard to imagine how my five-year old self could relate to a ginger mermaid-turned-princess.   And no, I don’t care what my Dad might argue to the contrary.

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"Aborting My Inner Child"

So I huffed a bunch of nitrous and listened to Dark Side of the Moon this weekend.  Whoops.  Wrong blog.

So I huffed a bunch of nitrous and saw “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” this weekend.  Can you really blame me?  I know I speak for myself and the rest of you true Beliebers in expressing my disappointment over this year’s Summerfest lineup, so what better way to protest than helping to buy Michael Bay’s next stretch Hummer?

On Friday, I actually re-watched “Revenge of the Fallen.”  Yes, I’m aware that implies I had already seen it.  I can safely say that it still gargles balls.  There was something about a forgotten Decepticon robot with plans to destroy the human race by sapping the sun of its energy using blah, blah, blah.  The gist is that Louis Stevens and his Autobot pals needed to stop the end of the world.  Now the simplified plot isn’t to suggest “Revenge of the Fallen” is without its merits.  The special effects remain every bit as impressive, and they even managed to improve the dialogue over its predecessor.  Some highlights:

“BUMBLEBEEEEEE!!!”
“OPTIMUUUUUUUS!!!”
“SAAAAAAAAM, LOOK OUT!”

These are the same dudes who wrote “Star Trek?”  As I sat in the theater the following day, the opening titles rolled and I happened to notice the “In Association With Hasbro” credit.  That’s Hasbro.  As in the toy company.  Now in all fairness, the Transformers franchise was a toy line before a movie, so I can’t fault a theater full of grown men for that.  Right?  Still, I have to wonder if the success of fighting robots isn’t in part responsible for the slew of 80s nostalgia coming soon to a theater near you.  Hollywood isn’t just pillaging shitty tween vampire novels for ideas anymore.  Once you consider that all the cool superheroes have clearly been taken, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that producers are looking to start film franchises by resurrecting cartoons like He-Man and Voltron.  If you don’t already see the slippery slope in this, look up Ridley Scott’s “Monopoly” movie that’s in the works.

“Pardon me, Mr. Scott, but it looks like you could use this.”

Don’t forget there’s a “Battleship” movie set to come out next year already, and I can only imagine the tag line: “Sinking Your Hopes This Summer.”  Studios are snatching these things up fast.  I just hope it’s not too late to shop around my Rubiks Cube screenplay: a jumbled, LSD-fueled detective story told from six different… sides.  Imagine a mix of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “Saw II.”

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first.  “Dark of the Moon” is essentially the same movie you’ve already seen twice with some new toy- I mean robots thrown in.  Following a sequence where an Autobot ship is linked to the American/Soviet space race and Michael Bay takes a leak on one of the greatest human achievements of the last century, Shia and friends have to save the world from the Decepticons… umm again.  Now I honestly can’t be-liebe I’m saying this, but Megan Fox should’ve been in this.  I’m not sure what a “Rosie Huntington-Whiteley” is, but it cannot act.  Of course I realize she’s only there to purse her lips and make her bottom available for as many slow tilts as “Michael” calls for, but this one makes Kristen Stewart look like Meryl Streep.

You disgust me.

The real travesty here is that after using up two films to make such a fuss over Sam and Michaela’s relationship, they completely write her out of this one.  God, why am I acknowledging these people as legitimate characters?  I guess Michaela just dumps Sam, who then becomes relegated to the lowly position of boy toy for this wealthy, British ambassador, Carly.  No, I don’t know why she’s British.

“SAAAAAAAAM, LEWK OUT!”

Out of curiosity, is “boy toy” a real job?  If so, where do I apply for the position?  I feel I’m pretty well qualified.  I can straddle the charming/rugged line.  I can rock the half-shaven pseudo beard.

I’ll still applaud Mr. Bay for mixing things up a bit this time around.  The battlefield even shifts from Egypt to the exotic locale of Chicago.  Illinois.  Not to give too much away, but the Windy City gets totaled.  It’s kind of a bummer, but on the plus side I’m pretty sure U.S. Cellular Field got leveled at some point during all that fighting.  There’s also an emotional crux to the story this time.  Well, parts of one, but hey that’s still an improvement.  So if you’ve ever wanted to see a teary-eyed man-boy fight off the urge to hug a robot, get your butt to the theater ASAP.  Or just wait until October for some “Real Steel.”

“I don’t suppose there’s any chance of a ‘Prestige’ sequel?”
I wonder what kind of a bet Hugh Jackman lost.  I realize I’m not making any groundbreaking statement here, but it baffles me that what is essentially a kid’s film for men can rake in so much cash at the box office.  “Dark of the Moon” currently has the biggest opening weekend of the year thus far,  and I might have been the only one of my friends to go see it.  In their defense, I can see how fulfilling the most basic male fantasies might get old after three movies:
  1. Car chases?  Check.
  2. Explosions?  Check.
  3. T & A?  Check.  Check.
  4. Ludicrous Military Lingo?  Check.

Look at some of this stuff:

“Operation Predator is now in effect.”
“Let’s thread the needle.”
“We need to move quick on this before it goes hot.”  “Sir, it just got hotter.”

Who talks like that?  That reads like a transcript from a bunch of 30 year-olds planning out paintball tactics.  I wonder if Michael Bay makes his entire production crew talk like that at all times while on set:

“Alright, where’s my DP?  Amir, we got cams rollin?”
“Cams are a lock, sir.  We’re rollin hot here.”
“Roger that.  Alright, people.  Operation Toilet Tank is now in effect.  Action!”

Okay, I’ll admit it.  When I first saw “Transformers” back in 2007, it was pretty awesome.  The explosions, special effects, and Megan Fox’s engine repair techniques pretty much hit it on the head for my testosterone-fueled high school self.  Yes, that was four years ago, when I knew very little about filmmaking or what real women actually looked like, so I like to think I’ve grown since then, even if I did illegally download the thing to my hard drive.  But as I sat there in the movie theater, watching a giant Decepticon snake destroy the Chicago skyline, something unexpected happened.  I yawned.

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