Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Use Your Brain! or, How to Avoid Robot Porn

I want to convey a simple message: Using your brain is a good thing. I know the phrase "mindless entertainment" gets used a lot, especially to justify big blockbuster films, but here's the thing... "Mindless entertainment" is really not entertainment at all.

To quote Jackie Treehorn from The Big Lebowski (1998), "People forget that the brain is the biggest erogenous zone." And it's true. Without things like character development, believable acting, good writing, and a strong narrative you basically just end up with porn. In the case of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)... Robot Porn.

The media, through advertising, has been working very hard to make people believe that what they need to do in order to enjoy themselves is to "turn off" their brains. After all, the world is big, loud, and stressful, so sit back, take a load off for 2 hours and 50 minutes and watch some robots blast each other for fun! But ultimately, this should leave you unsatisfied. When a robot is destroyed in Transformers, it means nothing, because we are given no context, no reason to care about the fate of the characters. The action is there for prurient interest alone, which is the literal definition of porn.

So just think. Literally! Think about how great it would be if Hollywood had decided to hire a good director and screenwriter to make a Transformers film. After all, the original cartoon was great, and it was filled with messages about environmentalism and the bonds of friendship and loyalty. In the original show, when Bumblebee is trapped under rubble you care because they spent time developing the characters and the audience becomes invested in their fates. Just think about how great it would have been if the film adaptation had a fraction of the show's emotional content, or at the very least, a script that wasn't laugh-out-loud awful. Steven Spielberg should be embarrassed that his name is on that movie and Michael Bay should never be allowed to direct another film again.

On the bright side, there are several examples of action/sci-fi films that are both entertaining and good. See: Star Trek (2009) and Terminator Salvation (2009). So, all I ask is this: The next time someone says "Dude, it's mindless entertainment! What were you expecting, Casablanca?" kindly explain that the brain is required in order to really have a good time. Hell, even porn itself is better when there's a bit of a plot.


  1. I never get tired of reading people’s rants on Transformers 2 (it is a pain to always write the full name, but I refuse to use an acronym for this movie as to reduce any confusion with the brilliant T2). If nothing else, this movie has to be complimented for inspiring thousands, if not millions of movie fans to write some of the most intelligent, humorous and literary uplifting reviews in the history of movie-making (most of them bad, of course). After all, there is just so many ways to state that a movie is brilliant and well made, but when it’s bad, the number of ways to bash it is limitless. It seams like everyone wants to find a new way to express their disgust and/or disappointment with this film.
    And for this I salute them!
    “Mindless entertainment” used to mean something like “not a deep serious drama”. Character development and coherent storyline was a base on which special effects and thrill sequences were laid over. Some of the movies nowadays just look like ads for technical achievements with “directors” screaming at us “Look at what we can do with this”. It all reminds me of the scene from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. He describes the TV programme shown on the wall size TV screens, as incoherent scenes and images composed to arouse emotions on the most superficial level. In the 50s this probably did fall in the realm of science fiction, but sadly now it feels like a certainty.

    Which brings me to the main theme of your blog – This movie is clearly showing us the road Hollywood is taking us on and we should wonder weather we are all to blame for letting it happen. After all, it does not matter how many bad reviews this movie got, nor the incredible spree of word-to-mouth bashing of it – It still made over 600 million dollars worldwide in the first two weeks of showing. Even I paid to watch it in my local Cineplex, just to see for myself how ridiculous it really is. And since we know Hollywood is all about the bottom line it is likely that we will be seeing more of this kind of movies. Especially now that, like you said, names of movie business’ icons are being attached to such “projects”.
    I wish I could say I had a constructive idea as to how this trend can be side-stepped. Safe of a revolutionary take-over of Hollywood by a group of wealthy movie lovers I really don’t see a way out. Even the incredible wave of negative responses to Transformers 2 wasn’t enough to prevent a third instalment. All it did was to possibly postpone it.


  2. U make me want to see this movies just so that I can join the conversation. "Hell, even porn itself is better when there's a bit of a plot." true!

  3. I haven't seen this movie, either, but I do think there is something to be said for movies that are pure escapism. I'm not saying I never want to see a "deep" movie, but my life is stressful enough without paying a fortune to go to movies that have heart-wrenching themes that keep me up nights dwelling on them. Sometimes, I just want to laugh at stupidity, or enjoy a sappy, predicitable happy ending.

  4. But why should you WANT to see something that's based off the same formula they keep selling to you over and over? If you're gonna fork over your money to see a movie, shouldn't it be not exactly like every other movie ever made? I'm not saying everything needs to be a David Lynch mind bender, but there's a right way and a wrong way to make fun/escapist films and too often than not Hollywood takes the easy way out.