Tag: michael bay

6 Underground


6 Underground (2019)
★ / ★★★★

Pointless, loud, and constantly on the move, there is no denial that “6 Underground” is a Michael Bay movie. I enjoyed the first fifteen minutes which features an extended car chase in Florence—on labyrinthine streets, through cafe dining areas, inside museums, with little regard for pedestrians—but it’s a nosedive the moment we leave Italy. The story revolves around a vigilante group (led by Ryan Reynolds) whose goal is to rid of the planet of what they consider to be evil persons, groups, or organizations. This time, they set their eyes on a dictator of “Turgistan” for… generic reasons why a dictator is a very, very bad individual. The picture is so reductive with its politics that it is almost satirical. But this is no political thriller; it is an action-thriller. However, the action scenes are no good either in that they fail consistently to incite excitement. A case can be made that these sequences are anti-action: viewers are inspired to sit back and simply absorb images as if we had just undergone lobotomy. Production value is sky high: we visit at least three countries; cars are cut in half, explode, and crash onto one another; stuntmen crawl up and down skyscrapers like spiders; there is even a yacht that sinks. Despite this, there is no heft in whatever the hell is going on (if you can make sense of it). Reynolds’ try-hard would-be comic one-liners are especially annoying when spouted in the middle of dead dull action. The experience at offer here feels worse than eating junk food because at least when you’re eating junk food you feel happy until you get to the bottom of the bag. Co-starring Mélanie Laurent, Ben Hardy, Corey Hawkins, Adria Arjona, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Dave Franco.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon


Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
★ / ★★★★

When Americans landed on the moon in 1969, astronauts discovered the remains of Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy), a deactivated robot of alien origin. Fast-forward to the twenty-first century, the rivalry between the Decepticons, robots that want to enslave the human race, led by Megatron (Hugo Weaving), and Autobots, robots that protect mankind, led by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), reach overdrive. Lacking proper means of transportation to return home, the evil Decepticons plan to use Sentinel Prime, former leader of the Autobots, to teleport their planet onto Earth.

Written by Ehren Kruger and directed by Michael Bay, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is filled with noises of metals scraping against each other, swish-swoosh of zigzagging bullets, and characters yelling orders or simply out of frustration. Its attempt to inject a human aspect to the war between the robot races is obvious and barely there. In addition, the picture lacks an identifiable protagonist.

Sam (Shia LaBeouf) is a recent college graduate without a job. But life is still good somehow because he has a spankin’ new hot girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), who is more than happy to provide him daily meals. The first third of the film showcases Sam whining because he fails to acquire a fancy job right after he graduated from an Ivy League school. And since, as he mentions more than once, he saved the world twice and received a medal from the president, he feels that he should be regarded highly in society. In a other words, Sam is a narcissistic jerk who thinks a good life should come to him. Not for a second did I feel sorry for him nor did the screenplay attempt to get us to like him.

I wished the picture has focused more on the government employees, like Mearing (Frances McDormand), who has special clearance to certain kinds of information. I believe that if Sam’s character is completely excised from the film, the material would have had a chance to make characters like Mearing to be more multidimensional. At this point in the franchise, an unexpected twist might have been a great idea: she is a strong woman who does not need macho men to make decisions for her. Instead, Mearing ends up looking like a stuck-up government official instead of bona fide leader who has to make difficult choices for her country.

The action sequences still consist of junk flying around although there is one that really impressed me. While the soldiers’ plane is slowly being destroyed by the Decepticons, they have to jump before it explodes and, equipped with a wingsuit, have to navigate their way through the massive skyscrapers of Chicago. The scene gave me goosebumps because, for a second or two, the booming score is absent and all we hear is the air gliding along the suits. The Nuclear Emergency Support Team are not necessarily important characters in the film but I caught myself really caring about whether they will land safely. That is more than I can say about Sam, his girlfriend, and the robots.

I did not get the impression that the director made “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” with true passion. If he did, he would, in the least, have given the picture a proper ending. The way it ends reminded me of how young children would end a story: right after the climax, they would cutely say, “The End.” Essentially, the same thing happens here but far less cute.

The Avengers


The Avengers (2012)
★★★★ / ★★★★

The Tesseract, a cube with the potential energy to destroy the planet, was obtained by the egomaniacal Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from S.H.I.E.L.D., Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistic Division, led by one-eyed Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Overpowered by Loki’s strength and otherworldly powers, Fury sought help from Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) eventually joining the party. Based on the screenplay by Joss Whedon, comprehensive character development in “The Avengers” was simply out of the question because each superhero contained an interesting personality filled with quirks and unique sense of humor. The main question was how to keep the story interesting apart from massively entertaining explosions and jaw-dropping action sequences. I found that the film was similar to a great swimmer. Because of Whedon’s direction, the film knew how to pace itself so it didn’t drown in its own ambitions. When the movie kept its head underwater by delivering the intense and often breathtaking battle scenes, they were allowed to play out to our satisfaction without overstaying their welcome. For example, the duel between Iron Man and Thor was simply wonderful to watch. Out of the six, not only did the two of them have the biggest egos, they were my least favorite characters compared to the rest. (Personally, listening to Thor speak is as boring as reading about the history of differential equations hybridized with Shakespearean lingo.) Yet it didn’t matter because I was so involved in what was happening. Their brawl, and of those to come, was within the story’s context. Thor, prior to joining the group, wanted to convince his adopted brother against enslaving Earth while Iron Man worked for a cause and had to deliver Loki to the proper authorities. When the movie gasped for air, they were quick and memorable. The sense of humor stood out because the script played upon the elementary personalities of each hero or heroine. For instance, the material had fun with what the audience expect of Black Widow and her sex. The script was balanced in subverting the typicalities of women’s roles in superhero movies, given that they’re usually the romantic interest or object of desire, and remaining loyal to her character as a woman on a global and personal mission. Since she, along with Hawkeye, did not have a stand-alone movie, having not read the comics, I appreciated that her character was given a little bit more depth than her counterparts. While there were still unanswered questions about her history and the intricacies of what she hoped to gain by joining S.H.I.E.L.D., by the end, I felt like I knew her as well as the other guys. I felt like she had her own stamp in the dynamics of the group, that they wouldn’t be complete without her. Naturally, the film’s climax involved a lot of extirpation of expensive skyscrapers. But the main difference between the destruction seen here as opposed to, say, Michael Bay’s “Transformers,” was the action didn’t feel incomprehensible. Things blew up but the quick cuts weren’t injected with multiple shots of epinephrine. Each jump of perspective had something enjoyable to offer instead of relying on a false sense of excitement. In other words, the destruction was actively made interesting instead of allowing it on autopilot. “The Avengers” could have used more Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow), less speeches between Loki and Thor, and an explanation on how The Hulk became more manageable toward the end. Nevertheless, such negatives are so small compared to the cyclopean roller coaster ride that the filmmakers had given us. When I was a kid, I played with a lot of action figures. Some even revolved around crazy narratives I made up, one of which involved a live caterpillar and beetle destroying Legos that stood for Gotham City. I must say, the sight of The Hulk tossing Loki around like a piece of spaghetti made me feel like a kid again.

Real Steel


Real Steel (2011)
★★★ / ★★★★

Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) was addicted to robot gambling which was inopportune, in the least, because he was neck-deep in debt. After his robot was demolished by a raging bull, he was informed that his former girlfriend had passed away and his son, Max (Dakota Goyo), needed an official guardian. Charlie was to appear in court to pick up the boy, but Max’ aunt, Debra (Hope Davis), who married a rich man, wanted to adopt him. For a hundred thousand dollars, the gambler made a deal, unbeknownst to Max and Debra, with the husband: Max was to spend time with his father over the summer but he was to be returned in Debra’s care after their trip to Italy. Written by John Gatins, Dan Gilroy, and Jeremy Leven, “Real Steel” managed to be quite involving as it explored the connection between father and son through robot fighting. The picture was smart in first establishing Charlie as our protagonist on the path to self-destruction. He was a good guy, but he often relied on instincts instead of measured calculation to make a quick buck. On the outside, he seemed to do it for the money. He was a former boxer who saw himself as a failure in that field. I looked at him and considered that perhaps he gambled for the rush. Maybe watching his robot fight was like being in the ring himself. As his machines were eradicated, so were his personal connections. Bailey (Evangeline Lilly), his somewhat girlfriend and the daughter of the man who taught him to box, really needed the money that Charlie burrowed to pay for the gym she managed. This made him so desperate, he didn’t even think twice to sell his son. Charlie and Max were quite opposite but the same in important ways. Meeting for the first time, the son suspected that he’d been sold and asked his father if he, in fact, was. Charlie told the boy the truth but Max, plucky and sarcastic, digested the information with dignity and dealt with it on his own. When presented by bad news, neither shriveled; both saw it as a chance to start anew and to prove everybody wrong. That was the reason why I wanted Charlie and Max to succeed as robot gamblers and as father and son. Notice that I haven’t even discussed the robots. That’s because they were secondary to the human drama that propelled the movie forward, yet necessary as a catharsis for these characters. Max stumbled upon a robot named Atom in a junkyard. It was a sparring robot, designed to take a lot of hits but not actually hit back as effectively. With the help of Charlie’s robots, Ambush and Noisy Boy, that had been destroyed, Max was able to extract necessary pieces from them to make Atom stronger in both offense and defense. Eventually, they won enough fights to gain popularity and be invited to World Robot Boxing Tournament in which they had to face Zeus, the undefeated robot champion. Based on “Steel,” a short story by Richard Matheson, “Real Steel,” directed by Shawn Levy, was ultimately a story of redemption. Our decision to emotionally invest in the characters, if one so chooses, was worthwhile because it wasn’t just about metals clanging against each other like in Michael Bay’s egregious “Transformers” movies. There was something real at stake. That is, a father finding his son and recognizing that he was good enough even though he wasn’t perfect.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen


Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
★ / ★★★★

Everyone told me that this was probably the most pointless movie they’ve ever seen, but I decided to see it anyway because I wanted to judge it for myself. While I don’t think it’s one of the worst movies ever made, I do think it’s one of most unnecessarily long. With a running time of two hours and a half, there were too much action and not enough reasons why we should care for Sam (Shia LaBeouf) and the Autobots except for the fact that the Decepticons wanted the sun’s energy so that they could continue living. What I loved about the first “Transformers” was its sense of wonder. It hid the robots for pretty much half of the movie and developed some sort of heart and genuine funny moments with Sam. But in this picture, everyone’s simply shooting guns and running away in slow motion (especially Megan Fox, which I understand was the eye candy for guys). I also didn’t like the fact that Michael Bay, the director, kept adding unnecessary (and annoying) characters such as those played by Ramon Rodriguez as Sam’s new college roommate, Kevin Sunn and Julie White as Sam’s parents. Their pathetic attempts at comedy were so embarrassing. When I did laugh (or was it scoff?), I was laughing at the characters instead of with them because of their utter stupidity. No one in their right mind would do the things they did. It’s difficult for me because I do like to give credit for films that are ambitious and this is undeniably one of those films. I could feel it wanting to be “bigger and better” than the first but it doesn’t have a concept of overload. The many negatives far outweigh the very few positives. People who would most likely enjoy “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” are those who don’t want to think or even make sense of the plot. (I found myself very confused with pretty much half of the movie.) In other words, mindless action sequences with big explosions and women running around half-naked. That’s completely understandable. After all, sometimes movies are supposed to be pure escapism. I kind of like the fact that Bay still makes movies despite critics and audiences alike tell him that he makes the most brainless movies ever. It’s just that you can still have a popcorn action flick that is funny and intelligent. The writers and the filmmakers just have to try a little harder to put the right pieces together. This film coming out only two years after the first one, I think they rushed into it and made a very messy, very incomprehensible junk. I just hope the third one will be better (the standard is low) because it’s a shame that people actually pay to see something that they can see in a video game at home.