Untransformed by Transformers

Trip Start Jul 08, 2011
Trip End Jul 18, 2011

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Went to the Drive-In

Flag of United States  , Pennsylvania
Friday, July 8, 2011

Okay.  I'm going to save you the trouble and expense of going to see Transformers 3.  If you have just been dying to go see it, then stop reading here, but I really recommend that you just read the blog and skip the movie.  It wasn't as bad as The Last Airbender, which I immortalized or rapierized a year ago here, but it was a very close second. 

We toddled off to the Sky View Drive-In in good spirits last night, as the rain had stopped and the sky was blue.  Looked like a perfect night for outdoor movies.  We started the evening, however, with a run-in with the owner, Charles, who did not like our taking pictures of the lot and was rather rude about it.  However:  after awhile, he evidently felt bad about having been rude, because he came along to the car and apologized, and then engaged in a lengthy conversation about drive-ins which was quite interesting and informative, and he ended by giving us a tour of the projection room.  All annoyances amply amended.  I can, therefore, cheerfully recommend the Sky View (if you want to take pictures, call Charles and arrange to do it before he opens for business.  He said he'd be comfortable with that.)  Don't go when Transformers 3 or 4 or 5 or any other number is playing, though.  I promised not to put pictures on the Internet, so I'm including only the one taken outside the property.

Naturally neither Tim nor I had seen Transformers 1 or 2, and, actually, since the only thing I know about Transformers is that they are toys, I was expecting a children's movie, which this definitely is not (unless you like unremitting violence for almost three hours as a child's entertainment.)  The first hour and a half of the movie was okay--not good, but okay--but then the whole thing goes to hell in a handbasket when the "story" finally reaches the climactic scene which lasts almost an hour.  (Not an exaggeration.)  It consists largely of an endless chase scene involving blowing up every building in CGI Chicago, and 45 minutes of it are absolutely pointless, as the plot is advanced not at all.  We all know what is coming:  the bad guys' plot to enslave the human race is going to be foiled with the last-second destruction of the Death Star (really the Pillar with the red light in it, but you get the picture), so we definitely do not need 50 minutes of running and screaming and blowing things up before we finally get there. 

En route to your fun-filled experience with the longest last-scene in Hollywood history, you are treated to such scintillating dialogue as: 

"I love you."
"I love you."
"Don't ever leave me."  (This from the hero and heroine, Shia LeBeuf, who looks 14, and some dishy Australian bombshell with legs about 6 feet long--totally out of his league.)


"We will never abandon earth."  (This from the Autobots, the Good Transfomers who came to earth in the wake of being trouced by the Bad Transformers, called Decepticons, in a war at home.  Really?  You abandoned your own planet, why should we believe that you are so devoted to mankind that you would stay and fight to the death on our behalf when you wouldn't do it for yourselves?)


"You will never fail yourselves."  (This is obvious crap.  We fail ourselves on a regular basis; the point is what we do in the aftermath.)

One character, surreally named Bumblebee (a black and yellow sports car that transforms into a 12-foot mechanical Sylvester Stallone), seemed to serve the sole purpose of dishing out pop cultural references:  "Missed it by that much" and a John Wayne imitation.  (This puts him ahead of Michele Bachmann, who recently confused John Wayne with John Wayne Gacy....)  At one point he spewed about about six of these in one speech.  No one could even follow them.

Most egregious pop cultural reference of the night, however, came from Sentinal Prime, the Traitor Autobot who joined forces with the Decepticons and sold out the other Autobots all in the name of ruling as a God on earth (which he harped on several times throughout the movie).  Leonard Nimoy was the voice of Sentinel Prime (Tim wonders how much he was paid--I say if it was less than 7 figures Nimoy has lost his mind; why else would he be party to such a piece of crap?), and out of the blue in a completely random moment, Sentinel Prime says:  "The trouble with you is you have never learned that the good of the many outweighs the good of the few."  (He left off "...or the good of the one.")  That would have been bad enough, but it was also completely irrelevant, as in this case, the Decepticons are clearly trying to destroy the many for the good of the few in their club.  Stupid.

Speaking of stupid, let me add a word about the so-called "plot."  The reason the good transformers and the good humans had to blow up the red lit "pillar" is that the bad transformers, aided and abetted by the bad humans, were putting these floating pillars all over the globe to form a massive insto-transport network that would allow them to beam their home planet to earth so that humans could then be enslaved to use earth's natural resources to restore the transformers' home planet, destroyed in an earlier war, to its former glory.  The reason that the planet has to be beamed to earth is that "they can't beam humans."  Huh?  How many things make this idea idiotic?  Let me count the ways...  But I'll settle for just one:  where the heck were they going to put this planet once they beamed it to earth?  On top of earth?  In geo-sychronous orbit around earth?  Sure.  Because that wouldn't disrupt the physics of the region in any significant way.

And then there were the extraneous characters:  the girlfriend appeared to have absolutely no function except to run around in short skirts and be a trophy, and deliver the fabulous dialogue indicated above.  Even more bizarre were the characters of the Shia LeBeuf character's parents.  They show up in polyester leisure suits and driving an RV the size of a city bus--a LARGE city bus--and proceed to do nothing at all.  In their one big scene, the Shia character rushed in to tell them that he didn't have time to visit them because he had a fight with the Aussie Trophy Girlfriend and had to go find her.  He was then thwarted in this intention of going to find her for about 10 minutes while his mother lectured him on why he should never let his girlfriend go and thus should go find her.  That was it.  They never appeared again, as they didn't get to go to Chicago and be chased and blow things up.

Bad.  Just bad.

Oh--and the Transformers violate the laws of Physics, as conservation of matter does not appear to apply to them.  Their car-shapes are significantly less massive then their Autobot/Decepticon shapes, but far be it from me to look for actual science in such a stupendous display of failure to adhere to any rational framework.  Suffice it to say that Michael Bay has now joined M. Night Shyamalan as directors whose work we will go a long way out of our way to avoid.  Cross any movies in the Airbender, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Transformer sequences off our list of future experiences.

By the end of the movie, a thick fog had rolled in (not quite thick enough to block out Transformers 3, alas, but thick enough to give the subtitlte (Dark of the Moon) a whole new meaning, and quite thick enough to make us give up on the second movie, which is the one we actually thought, going in, might be reasonably good.  We did give it a try, but by 10 minutes in, when the critical scene happens (story based on the idea that some middle schoolers, making a zombie movie at the train station in the middle of the night, catch on Super 8 film some dire deed) and we couldn't see what happened, we gave it up.  Trying to broadcast a movie at a drive-in in the fog works about as well as shining your high beams on it does.  Hopeless. 

Fog.  It's so seldom foggy in the east, in my experience, that it never occurred to us that we could be fogged out of a drive-in.  And then we had to drive back to the hotel in it.  Fortunately, this was only about 10 miles, because this was the serious stuff.  Pea soup. Reminded me of the worst days driving over Fish Ranch Road from Berkeley back to Walnut Creek.  Nasty.

So the evening was not a terrific success. 

Saturday we are off to Wheeling, WV, and the site of the last battle of the Revolutionary War.  Then it's off to Akron, OH, and a minor league ballgame.  Cross your fingers no more fog!
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