Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Towards the fakery of everything: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Okay, so here's my latest gimmicky conceit: reviews of movies I haven't seen. Inspired? Why thank you.

Let's face it, we have all, at one time or another, launched into an impassioned diatribe against some absolutely revolting piece of "art" (be it cinematic, musical, literary); something so utterly, brazenly abhorrent that to witness it firsthand would constitute an irreversible violation of the senses, thereby compromising our ability to embark on a measured critical assessment. The books of Jeffrey Archer, the films of Michael Bay, the music of Celine Dion...need I say more?

To use a vulgar and wholly inappropriate sex-crime analogy (this is the first time Harry Knowles has directly influenced my writing), it's as though you're at a wild house party, fraternising with intimidating strangers. (Let's say, for the sake of disarming the misogynistic potential of this example, that you're the actor Ving Rhames.) Dressed in the most revealing outfit you own, you flirt drunkenly with everyone in sight. You consume unlabelled substances in bulk. You flail around and make suggestive comments about the hardness of your nipples. Finally, barely able to drool, you pass out in a darkened bedroom, only to awake in the midst of a satanic gangbang scenario. A serious-looking naked man is pinning you to the bed while his bearded, chuckling acolyte circles shark-like, running both commentary and videocamera with a mysterious competence. You lose consciousness again.

Imagine how you'd feel, come morning. Soiled, diminished, betrayed? But, behind it all, wouldn't there be a nagging sense of guilt? Didn't you bring it on yourself, in a sense? Right or wrong, this sentiment would cloud your judgement of your attackers, perhaps preventing you from forming a considered opinion of their crime.

That's why I won't watch Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: I don't want to cloud my judgement.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

There is a moment, presumably, in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (hereafter Tranf:Revo't'allen) in which an enormous CGI robot smashes through a building. The building is tall, or tallish, and it looks expensive (even by the standards of tall/ish buildings). Its loss will be sorely felt by those who worked/lived in and around it, should any of them survive, and yet its passing is treated as no more than an opportunity for a spectacular effect. (Judging from the trailer, it may even be one of the Pyramids, in which case substitute "worked/lived [...]" for "admired its form and regarded it as a powerful symbol of human artistry.")

That building, reader dearest, is cinema, the art form that defined the twentieth century. That robot, my beautiful darling, is Michael "Moneyshot" Bay, the man who has replaced the artistry of yesteryear with CGI robots that smash through buildings. (And before you say, "well, is it not clever and self-aware of him to render himself thus?" hear this: the symbolism is not intentional; only the robot and the smashing is. And the building.)

Over the probably about two hours of Tranf:Revo't'allen's running time many buildings are felled, and many robots rise in their place. Human actors get an occasional look in, presumably because there's some sort of cinematic bylaw--dating from Rooseveltian times--which stipulates that at least five percent of the action on screen must have a basis in the real world, but their only purpose is to offer a sense of scale, as with the little man-shaped silhouettes you get in the bottom corner of dinosaur illustrations.

Is this a glimpse of the future? Are living, breathing beings to be banished from the screen, replaced with mere facsimiles? Some would say there is more truth in this new model, that the illusion of reality in cinema is a pernicious falsehood. I say this: the agents of the illusion may change, but the illusion itself will remain. Imagine a world where Bumblebee is one of our most popular role models, and young people work thankless, unenriching jobs in order to raise the money to have themselves metalized and painted yellow. Imagine a world where the top pastime of the youth is smashing down walls with their heads, or perhaps punching through aircraft carriers.

What kind of a race are we becoming?

And who's going to employ all those out-of-work actors?

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