Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Transformers - spoilers

I don't know whether I actually am going to spoil or not, but I thought I would put it in the title line so I don't feel inhibited.

Only motherhood would have taken me to the Transformers movie. The minions were insistent, especially minion 2, who calls them Transpooormers and has already trashed the Shazz autobot his doting grandmother bought for him a fortnight ago. Which was how I found myself in a very sparsely populated cinema. Our fellow audience were all male, and all over 18, which I found disquieting. First of all, what were they doing on a Tuesday afternoon watching a movie based on a kids' toy? Secondly, why did they need mounds of cheese-covered nachos? Was that a clue to the nature of the movie?

I have to say that it was better than I'd expected. All the reviews I read gave the movie one star. I suspect that most of them would have given it no stars if that had been an option. But there were some good actors in there - Julie White, who has enlivened both Desperate Housewives and Six Feet Under, and John Turturro. I hope this helped them both pay the rent, and I am grateful to them for turning up and pleasantly surprising me. And there is a story with some coherence. And Shia LaBeouf gets to have a fantastically stupid name again - not as palindromic as Stanley Yelnats, but Sam Witwicky was fine as stupid names go. The heroine was very kick-assy: she was a trainee car thief who could hotwire a towtruck and drive for miles in reverse at highspeed, thus allowing a busted transformer to play his part in the hellish battle between good Autobots and Decepticons.

My own personal measure for a movie is whether it sends to me sleep. It's a problem I first encountered when I was pregnant with minion 2: we went to see the 2nd LoTR movie and I dozed off somewhere between Ents, Orcs and Riders of Rohan. The next thing I knew, Aragorn's horse was giving his unconscious rider mouth to mouth resuscitation, a scene I definitely don't remember from the book. Since then, I've snoozed off in many a summer blockbuster. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3, the Batman reviver, Spiderman 3 and most recently The Simpsons Movie. So I consider a movie reasonable if it doesn't send me to sleep. And yanno, Transformers kept me awake the whole way through. There are certainly holes in the plot, there's an ending wider than the Grand Canyon begging to bring on Transformers 2 and 3, there is the cheesy music, there is the endless crashing and bashing and total confusion of which bot was which in the big fight, but there were also some genuinely funny moments and some reasonable one-liners.

The main thing about Transformers that I liked was that it did what it said on the tin. It was about Transformers. The cars and planes and helicopters and trucks and tanks transformed. I had two mesmerised kids who came out saying that they had a good time. On that basis, I am prepared to rate Transformers considerably higher than say, Stanley Kubrick's last movie, Eyes Wide Shut, or the Da Vinci Code, which took a pig's ear of a book and made a pig's behind of a movie. It wasn't art, but it was honourable entertainment. Well, as honourable as you can get when made in conjunction with Hasbro...

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