Sunday, July 3, 2011

Disappointing weekend at the movies

I saw two new movies this weekend and, well, neither of them were all that good. So fair warning, I've got a couple of negative reviews in store this time.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

So surprising even to me, I actually didn't really like this movie. I didn't hate it, but I felt it was by far the weakest of the three movies. After the first two, I instantly felt that I had to see them again. With this one, though, it was hard enough sitting through the first half one time, I couldn't imagine doing it again.

That's basically where this movie suffers, there's about a good hour that really should have been cut out. Things start interesting enough in the beginning, when they're talking about the moon landing and tying it together with the Transformers arriving to Earth. But after that whole sequence, the movie begins to drag. We pretty much figure out what's happening early on, but the film feels need to drill the point home over and over, and it drags on so much that by the time the action finally starts, I just really don't even care anymore.

And when the action does start, it just didn't feel right somehow. For one thing, the focus is placed far more on the human characters than ever before, relegating the actual Transformers to the background for the most part. But also, it just wasn't as exciting. For instance, Optimus' little rampage in the trailer gave me goosebumps every time I saw it. But here, it did absolutely nothing for me, and that's sort of how I felt about all of the action. It just felt a little deflated, even if it was more coherent than the previous movies.

Concerning the Transformers, as little as we see them, they, too, don't feel right. Optimus Prime in particular is completely out of character in this movie. He's supposed to be a merciful being, but here he's not just merciless, he's straight up blood-lusted. And yeah, his change in attitude is certainly justified, but it's just not right. It goes completely against his character as its been established not only in the film franchise, but in every other medium as well. But not all of the Transformers were off, we actually got to see a little more of Starscream's character this time, which is always a treat.

I will say this, though, the love interest is about a million times more likable than Megan Fox ever was, but that's honestly the only thing this movie has over its predecessors. Some of the humor works, some of it doesn't, some scenes are cool (Sam being ejected from a transforming Bumblebee was awesome), but a lot of it falls flat. I don't really have much else to say, it was what it was, but this time I actually left the theater disappointed.

The Tree of Life

Wow, whoever said this movie was pretentious nonsense wasn't lying. Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life is completely obnoxious and full of itself, and it left me rolling my eyes and groaning just about every other minute with its pointless artsy-fartsyness.

The thing is, there's actually a potentially decent movie hidden underneath all of this mess. Really, there's about a good 90 minutes of random shots of nature and shiny, cloudy things that could have easily been cut out. This is especially intrusive during an entire sequence portraying the evolution of the world which really probably should go. In the end, it just sticks out like a sore thumb and doesn't really fit. I understand what he was going for with it, what with the whole "life goes on" message and all, and I can actually see why he tried to include it. But it was just executed so poorly. It was so boring, and it dragged on for so, so long.

Really, that's the major problem with this movie, it never gets to the point. Scenes just drag on and on and on and on, and when it finally looks like its getting somewhere, guess what? It doesn't. Nope, just keeps going, and by the time we finally do get to the point, I'm completely removed from the movie.

At times this movie almost becomes a drinking game. I almost wish I saw this with some people, because I kept screaming in my head every time he cut to a random shot of nature. "Tree!" or "water!" And when he cut to the sunflowers at the end, I literally facepalmed and almost walked out right then and there. Not that it would make a difference, the movie's all but over by that point, though it's not like that was the first time I was considering walking out. But no, that shot wasn't clever, that was ridiculous, and I wasn't the only one in the theater who thought so, as someone behind me was laughing hysterically throughout the entire ending sequence (which totally wasn't intended to be funny at all).

But like I said, there actually is a potentially interesting story to be told here, and interesting concepts to be explored, they're just not executed well at all. In the beginning, we're introduced to a mother and father who receive news that one of their sons has died. We then see how they, as well as their eldest son, relive their past and try to cope with this loss and come to terms with everything leading up to the moment of his death.

The main story of the eldest son growing up with his increasingly strict and borderline abusive father, and how his father's actions chip away at the family little by little is legitimately interesting. Seeing the effects this has on everyone, and watching the evolution the eldest son undergoes, and how this effects his own relationship with his younger brother, really is almost fascinating at times. Brad Pitt, who plays the father, is by far the standout of this movie. His character is the most intriguing, especially given how he's introduced at first as this really caring guy, only to see that raising his kids, he really was just a straight up asshole. But I think seeing this evolution of his character really did strengthen our earlier impression of him, seeing how regretful he's become for his actions.

None of that matters when the rest of the movie is nearly unwatchable, however. Malick tried way too hard to be artsy, and his movie suffers tremendously for it. This is admittedly a very polarizing movie, with everyone who sees it either absolutely loving it, or completely hating it. I just happen to fall under the latter group, though I know plenty of people who did enjoy this film, so take that for whatever it's worth.

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