Cinema Cocoa
Remake Rumble Review: Oldboy

Remake Rumble…? More like Remake Execution.

So, against my better judgment I’ve decided to do this particular Remake Rumble! I guess it wouldn’t leave my mind until I had seen it through. Read, and feel the frustration!


Oldboy
(2003)

The definition of a revenge tale, beautifully savage and cynically dark in humour, Oldboy is one of those films that gets better and better each time you watch.

A drunken, hopeless father is abducted on his daughter’s birthday and imprisoned in a room for fifteen years. When he is mysteriously released, he swears vengeance on whoever took his life away.

It is hardest to write a review of a film you like so much. If you look at Cinema Cocoa’s first post, you will find Oldboy makes the twentieth spot on my top fifty films, yet I don’t remember how I came by this film originally. All I do remember is the impact it left on me as a piece of film making!

Directed by Chan-wook Park, Oldboy crams almost every facet of revenge into its two hour runtime and packages it with great cinematography and a wonderful score. With Min-sik Choi as the leading man providing a great range of acting talent, there’s a fantastic sense of dedication and integrity to the film.

But praise doesn’t stop there. The film is remarkably well paced for how many scenarios it plays out and how complex the screenplay becomes. Like peeling an onion, every scene and every set piece has a purpose to unlocking the mystery behind our hero’s plight, the writing just dropping enough hints that… if you are clever enough and reading between the lines… audiences can start to puzzle it all together.
I’ve seen this film at least three times now and it is safe to say I appreciate more and more each time!

Why only three times? I’ve had the DVD in my collection for years! Well, Oldboy is not the easiest film to watch, it certainly might turn some people’s stomachs and there is one scene involving a claw hammer that makes me squirm every time and just thinking about it makes my teeth hurt…
But while the film is intensely violent (the corridor fight scene has gone down in cinema history by now!) I forget the wicked, black sense of humour that runs all the way through also. This film has an awesome script and Min-sik Choi delivers his lines and reacts to his internal monologues with incredibly sick jest. I laugh with him, and as the film says: “Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Weep, and you weep alone.”

How much longer can I gush about a film? Not much longer as I don’t want to spoil it by telling you too much. The film has a surrealist edge, though like the violence it is somewhat restrained in preference of a calm, methodical dive into madness. At times Oldboy just seems like a casual stroll with morose, almost reluctant tones, and I think that’s why I enjoy it so much; while the violence is visceral at its heights, it isn’t a slasher movie… it is a thriller.

With a screenplay so layered and mysterious, with acting both subtle and outrageous, intense action and a script both comic and horrible, Oldboy offers everything and fails at none of them. By the end your mind will be bruised and sore from the ordeal, yet amazed at the masterful execution of it all!




Oldboy
(2013)

Spike Lee directs a watery, shallow remake of the cult Korean film. Josh Brolin weeps, and Josh Brolin weeps alone.

A drunken father and failing husband finds himself imprisoned for twenty years in a mock-up hotel room. When he is released he aims to clear his name, reunite with his daughter and find whoever locked him away for so long.

Okay, so as you can tell already I love the original movie and a remake by its very existence will frustrate me. In fact I boycotted seeing this film originally, that’s how low my expectations were! This Oldboy received such a critical hammering (no pun intended) that I was prepared to forget it even existed… but that would be ignorant of me…

Initially, I had some hope this film would be just “average” and not the train wreck I feared; Josh Brolin is probably the best American to fill the acting range and physical ability to fill Min-sik Choi’s formidable shoes, and automatically I knew (mostly from having such an indepth understanding of the original) how this American version’s twist ending would differ. It seemed vaguely promising.

But almost like a reversal of the original film, where it gets better and better, this film gets worse and worse… and worse.

None of the original’s black humour is present, none of it, unless you count laughing at all the wrong parts to be edgy comedy. The editing is terrible, what was Spike Lee doing with this?? It has zero gravity or atmosphere, and feels more like running through a checklist of requirements such as the shoehorned nods to the original like… showing us an octopus! For no reason! The characters even act unnaturally in scenes just to have a shot framed like the original! Then… there’s the hammer scene. Badly choreographed, badly structured… it pales in comparison.
Part of what made the original so interesting was how interwoven its screenplay became as you watched the puzzle unlock, but here, there’s none of that, it just plods along like any other cliche hostage movie.

Oh, but we have Samuel L. Jackson, and he swears a lot! Is that… supposed to be the humour coming through? Having an actor playing the same role he plays in sodding everything he’s ever done?

Then…
There’s Sharlto Copley. The guy who used to be cool from District 9. Good… lord.
So, this film becomes something of a “who done it?” in the second act, Brolin’s Joseph is trying to find who had imprisoned him. He gets a phone call from Copley’s Adrian who is putting on the most generic, cringeworthy, stereotypical upper-class British accent you can fathom! Good god, Spike Lee, what… This is NOT acting, this is hamming it up! I swear, at the end of this film, he is walking around like Nosferatu!

And remember, we are in America. Are you telling me that when Joseph finds the antagonist went to the same school as him he didn’t consider: “Hm, who at my school had a CARTOONISHLY BRITISH ACCENT LIKE THE ONE I JUST HEARD ON THE PHONE?”

Sorry, I will try to regain my composure.
Asides a cartoon villain, Nick Fury, bad film-making, and terrible homages to the original I tried to see this as a unique film. Many people say don’t compare remakes to the original (despite how that is a completely ridiculous concept)
America’s Oldboy could have been quite interesting had it distanced itself more from the original, what we get it something lost in translation, like an abridged version or worse: a parody. I think what damages it most is its finale, and its villain’s motivations… or rather lack thereof.
Even the violence is toned down, I even saw a computer generated blood splatter. Seriously? Though the sexual content was higher than expected, given how America hates that sort of thing.

This film isn’t just a direct insult to the original masterpiece, this is an insult to American movie making. If you are going to remake something, at least try and do a good job with it! Don’t say something like: “Oh, well the Korean film was weird, so dumb Western audiences will take my shoddy, cliche script and bad directing as avant garde and self-aware that it is of Asian origin!”

Additional Marshmallows: Why one full, happy, marshmallow-filled cup of cocoa? You ask? Josh Brolin… and the sliver of original thought that was buried under the nonsense of abusing someone else’s original idea.

Review: I Saw the Devil

Korean cinema once again blurs the line of good and evil while at the same time twisting your stomach and fraying your nerves. This film isn’t Oldboy but it is certainly memorable.

When a police officer’s fiancee is tortured and killed by a serial killer, he vows revenge by hunting the killer down and… instead of handing him over to authority or even killing him, the officer instead exacts his own torture and deprives the killer of further victims.

Directed by Kim Jee-woon (The Good, the Bad and the Weird; a cult favourite of mine) and starring Min-sik Choi and Byung-hun Lee in the lead roles, this film certainly delivered what I was expecting. Some great acting with disturbing characters and good film making.
Who are these people, you might ask, Min-sik Choi is most recognised as the lead from the original Oldboy (within my top 20 films) and you might recognise Byung-hun Lee as he features in recent western blockbusters such as the G.I Joe films.

I Saw the Devil is not for the faint of heart. Our serial killer, who we follow for most of the story, is rapist and murderer of young women, and we see a lot of what he does. Unlike a lot of western cinema this film doesn’t pull its punches very often, but the effect is exactly as the narrative requires. The killer is merciless, but our “hero” becomes so unhinged with revenge that he becomes something of a monster himself.
While many can sympathise with revenge, especially on someone so hideously deprived as our killer, the calculated lengths in which our law abiding officer goes to make him suffer makes the audience start to question his integrity.
The film’s best moments are surely when these two characters connect; the brief moments when the murderous hunter is hunted down himself. Byung-hun Lee is an excellent on-screen fighter and even shows some parkour skills here too, coupled with Min-sik Choi’s terribly disturbing finesse at acting as a psychopath, you have a great chemistry between the two.
I was a little worried for repetition when the character looked to reenact the hammer scene from Oldboy, but it wasn’t so. Instead we get a similarly great fight within a moving taxi cab!

But, this isn’t as good as Oldboy (the theme of revenge makes the two supposedly comparable) certainly my expectations weren’t too high and this easily exceeded them, but I Saw the Devil felt a little drawn out. I think twenty minutes could have been cut easily from it and still have the impact. This feeling is exaggerated with multiple moments of “is that the end?” It also suffers from some occasional cliches, though I can’t say it was predictable.

It isn’t for everyone, sex and increasingly agonising torture scenes are rife, but fans of the slasher genre definitely need apply! The film making is above average and doesn’t fall into too many cheap shocks and the acting is excellent, making it one of the best in the genre.

Review: Dead Poets Society

On Monday, 11th of August we lost one of Hollywood’s most remarkable and charismatic men, and it was such a shock that I still don’t think it has quite set in yet…

Now I don’t care what the News articles say about Robin Williams now, I don’t want cameras and reporters prying into his family after such an overwhelming tragedy. I would rather watch his films and remember how great and magnetic an actor he really was.
The problem here only is: there are so many to chose from!

Sure, Williams has been in many a bad film… but who hasn’t? What’s startling is the number of truly inspiring and excellent films are in his filmography:
Aladdin, Jumanji, Mrs Doubtfire, Hook, FernGully: The Last Rainforest (shut up, it is a personal favourite of mine!) he even played the live action Popeye, and that is just his family and kids movies!

My all time favourite “Vietnam war film” is not Apocalypse Now, or Full Metal Jacket, or Platoon, rather it is Robin Williams’ Good Morning Vietnam. I’ve only seen it once, and I may watch it again soon, but I remember it vividly and it was at the top of my list that year.
Then there is the murder thriller Insomnia, one of Christopher Nolan’s first films, where Williams extends his acting talents, Kenneth Branagh’s definitive Hamlet from 1996 and of course Good Will Hunting!

The list is endless for a talent that was endless, and I couldn’t keep a tribute post below four films! So instead I chose to watch one of the classic Robin Williams films that I had not seen before.

Rest in Peace Robin Williams, you will be missed by millions, but your legacy will endure for ages! 


Dead Poets Society
(1989)

A simple narrative story but watched for the excellent performances throughout, the film is inspiring and ageless.

Following seven school boys after they register into a new prep school in America, they find the unforgiving study, old and passionless teachers and strict principles stifling. But when they meet the new English teacher, John Keating, a graduate of the very same school, they find him to be an unorthodox free-thinker who wants them to appreciate life rather than be subdued by the school’s systematic regime.

I very much enjoyed watching this as I understood some of the message our English teacher Keating was trying to get across to the boys. His first scene involves the classroom of boys to tear the entire introduction of their school textbooks out, an introduction proclaiming the rationalization of good and bad poetry; fundamentally stifling creativity within the parameters of closed-minded thinking. This scene very much colours the entire story to come, and as someone who has studied social conformity and the systems depleting creativity in individuals, I related to Keating’s teachings!

The film does centre around the boys from the class and their unity, Todd Anderson (played by a very young Ethan Hawke!) an introverted boy who Keating tries to inspire to speak out. Neil Perry, the boy who’s father demands he become a doctor but his interests lie elsewhere, his father played by the relentless, intimidating Kurtwood Smith.
The film’s best moments are with Keating’s classes, and within Robin Williams’ energy and conviction in portraying such personal belief. Sure, there is a scene were Williams gets to do his famous range of pop culture impersonations, but when the character of Keating meets with intense, philosophical debate, it is delivered with such simplistic honesty that you would have a heart of stone to not be moved by it all.

Of course I did find some of the film a little distracting, at least by today’s standards and through the lense of Cinema Cocoa’s growing frame of reference! For a start, Todd’s character is quite obviously an audience surrogate; he does nothing and contributes little and is even quoted as being there to “just listen”. This is irksome at first, but upon further study Todd may be a surrogate but he also embodies the audience’s own trepidation, making for one of the most startling and incredible moments the film has to offer between Todd and Keating…

The story is quite predictable, though events that lead us along are sometimes surprising. With a distinctly unorthodox teacher as Keating in such a strict, brutishly traditional school you can’t really not see where things are going to go! But you should watch this film not for the plot or the narrative structure but for the personalities and the heart lying underneath it.

But, these are minor problems as the film does one thing but does it incredibly well! It teaches something that should be taught to all; that self belief is important and that creativity, art and culture should not be disregarded because it isn’t as financially stable as other careers. The film expresses a lot about breaking out of society conformity, making its story still very relevant today.

Watch it with an open mind, and appreciate that while some elements feel forced or even misguided, you should embrace the ideals that it teaches.

Additional Marshmallows: Despite Williams’ more familiar pop cultural roles over the years, I don’t think I could have picked a better film to watch in his honour.

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2D)

(I’d like to say that this is the first time on Cinema Cocoa that I got the image for this review months before. I just love that poster!)

So in one grasp Marvel Studios attempts to draw all the loose ends developed over their Cinematic Universe so far together. What we get is Guardians of the Galaxy, a wayward child with so much energy and brash enthusiasm for itself it forgot to explain anything.

Peter Quill was abducted by aliens when he was a young boy in the 1980s and now, living among the stars and with alien races, his only solace is his old Walkman music player. This awkward, out of place man finds himself part of a ragtag team of fugitives and mercenaries (most with their own agendas!) roped into defending a civilization from total destruction!

You might think from my initial comments that I didn’t enjoy Guardians, but it is quite the contrary: I really enjoyed it! It feels like a long time since I watched anything like this, and as a sci-fi fan I saw a lot of Star Trek, Star Wars and other space opera influences; Peter Quill’s (aka Starlord) casual flings with pink, green skinned girls is unmistakably James T. Kirk, for example. It is wonderfully designed too with incredible, unqiue colourful visuals. Sets are full of life and energy or mystery, space ships are grand and have exciting technology to make you look on in wonder. That, and some very quotable dialogue that had the whole audience laughing out loud!

But this is Marvel taking the most liberties with its franchise I have seen yet. While Guardians is a hell of a ride, boys-with-toys, action comedy romp with all the great witty dialogue we come to expect from the likes of Tony Stark, it never goes into details.
There are loads of characters, and I mean loads. We have our five leads, we have at least four villains as well as two or three contending factions at war with each other, we also have numerous planets as well as the overarching Marvel story to elaborate! The film is a carpet-bomb of narrative chaos!
The definition of this, for me, is the inclusion of Benicio Del Toro’s “The Collector”, a shady individual seen in the post-credit sequence of Thor 2: The Dark World. Now I don’t know the comics, but I know this man is important… But Guardians doesn’t do anything with him! He has one scene and that’s it. I want exposition Marvel, I want to learn more! Guardians hurls so much at you that if you aren’t “with it” you will be left behind.

Luckily, I was with it, and forgave the shortcomings of narrative. What does make sense here is a stereotypical space opera; you know what’s happening and what will happen in the broader narrative, actual surprises are with the character designs themselves rather than the plot.

I enjoyed it a lot! It is a throwback to classic, pulpy blockbusters before movies had the requirement to be “realistic” or pretentious. I would definitely see it again for the colourful characterisation, the sense of fun, the music, and the dazzling visuals and tech. In fact I regret not seeing this in 3D, not to say this film is gimmicky, but I believe some scenes would be even more dazzling.

Review: The Purge - Anarchy

Last year’s The Purge is probably the one film in recent memory that requires a remake. Its sequel Anarchy makes up for a lot of the first’s problems to make a decent dose of urban violence.

The film follows a man out to partake in the sixth annual Purge in an American city. His reasons are not explained, but he is armed like a small army and has a modified car to survive the violent streets. But not long after the Purge begins he finds himself defending four innocents trapped and being hunted down…

The problem with the first Purge was its lack of enthusiasm for its creative and original premise. We have a scenario for any crime to be legalized for twelve hours once a year, and yet all it did was give us the sort of murderous home invasion film we always get.
Anarchy does slightly better. We see a much broader view of what the Purge does to regular people as our characters move through a major city. The idea that the Purge is an outlet for personal rage and frustration depicted with bloody carnage and wanton violence.

It even extends the premise into something of a class war, giving the film series much needed teeth to elevate itself above the hordes of generic slasher movies. Is the Purge just to relieve tension in American citizens and provide safety and security for 354 days of the year as advertised, or is it something more insidious? The rich can defend themselves, but what about the poor?
The idea gets great foundations to begin with; two of our characters are part of a struggling family and feel sympathy towards a rebel cell fighting against the government that founded the Purge. The characters here are much, much stronger than in the previous film (not that this is a difficult task…)

The film does take the concept in some very eerie directions towards its conclusion, there is even a couple of great grey areas around the human capacity for violence, which is exactly the sort of head-turning controversy that this film series needs (and can easily provide!) to get noticed. It also has a lot less of the cliches that plagued the first film, our lead protagonist’s motivations are kept so secretive that we still have something to look forward to besides the film’s more traditional narrative trappings.


But while Anarchy plays the premise far better (practically erasing the first film from memory, yay!) it still seems as though writer/director James DeMonaco doesn’t want to go into the intellectual side of his creation… Sure, Anarchy has a lot of weight when you read between the lines (dare I even say it has some real promise at times!) but it is too easy to see it as just another slasher movie.
Again, we don’t see anything other than murder. Just, plain old murder. Sure there are different means this time, but the ends are always murder. While if this sort of scenario came to be, yes, murder would be the main threat and cities would become a chaos of marauding thugs and trained killers, but there must be a more insidious and personal side to crime at work that we aren’t seeing in these movies. The Purge could still be a deeper, more character driven study into psychopathy and the depravity of the human animal… but DeMonaco is clearly going for the more marketable approach: blind violence.


It obliterates its predecessor. If you are concerned this is more of the same, don’t be as Anarchy delivers a better dive into its rich premise and potential themes. But it isn’t the edgy masterpiece it could easily be, and does seem to preach the idea that all Americans seem to think about when given the freedom from law is nothing but murder.

Review: The Purge

What with The Purge: Anarchy coming out this week, I decided I best catch up with last year’s film that I failed to catch in cinemas. I had been told already that it was a bad movie, but sadly it didn’t fail to live up to its reputation.


The Purge is set in near-future America where for one night in the year, all crime is legal. The film follows Ethan Hawke, a wealthy husband and father of two who designs home security against The Purge, but when his son rescues a homeless man and takes him into their home, a band of purgers arrive demanding their prey back otherwise they will kill everyone in the house to find him…

It has been said many times, but The Purge has a great premise, with near endless possibilities, and is not entirely dismissible as a real concept: society is seen to benefit from it as individuals can vent their most terrible anger and frustrations for just one night, rendering every other day of the year peaceful. What would you do during such an event, where you could do anything that is normally prohibited?
But unfortunately… the film takes this inspired, original premise and takes it down to its most base implementation: James, our protagonist, must defend his home from a horde of murderers. Yawn!


As a result the film is terribly uninteresting and very cliche. I find that horror films, or slasher films in this case, rely upon their setup, and you can tell a lot about them from the first fifteen minutes. The Purge needed to show more of its premise and its effect on the country as a whole before reducing it down to the narrow setting of one house; this feels like a sequel to a better movie. With such a premise, well developed characters can swing wildly out of balance; we could see seemingly normal everyday people commit crimes no one would expect of them. This film should be a fantastic delve into complex and/or deplorable acts humans are capable of!
 

But what little character building we get in the first few minutes is so transparently deliberate that there are zero surprises for the rest of the film; you know how it is going to play out, even down to its final dying minutes. 
It isn’t laughably bad (although of course there are moments of character stupidity) but it is so mercilessly bland and colourless to behold that it is instantly forgettable. A lot of the film is shot in their house after the power has been cut, so we see a lot of stumbling about in pitch dark corridors, coupled with some of the lamest jump scares I’ve seen in recent memory (and I tend to fall for them, even the predictable ones, but some of these didn’t even make me blink.)

Which is all very sad, because the premise is extremely interesting… but I cannot say that this film is worth watching for the premise alone since it so badly misses the opportunity. 

I somehow doubt this year’s Anarchy will require watching The Purge in advance… So really there isn’t much here to be interested in.

Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (3D)

Feeling a little more like a formulaic blockbuster than its predecessor, Dawn still packs a heck of a wallop in action, emotion and intensity.

Set ten years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn shows us that the ALZ-112 virus (later known as the simian flu) has wiped out nearly all human life on Earth. The ape known as Caesar has prospered with his tribe and now several of them can speak both with sign and vocally. But when human survivors enter their territory hoping to repair a hydroelectric dam that supplies their town, there is civil unrest amongst the apes…

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was unprecedented in its integrity and emotional weight, as well as its subtly when explaining its characters’ complexities. In the sequel ten years have passed and our characters’ roles have been established for this second act’s more kinetic story; we have a struggle of territories and a struggle of trust. Both sides, human and ape, have taken causalities and their pasts are bleak and full of strife. 

This is the tipping point where the reality of the premise comes to a head.

At the centre of this is the relationship between Caesar, the ape leader, and Koba, a scarred ape who was also given accelerated brain treatment in Rise. This conflict is incredible and is easily the driving force for the film’s second and third acts, Koba has memorable scenes in equal measure to Caesar in the first film.
On the human side things are more formulaic. Jason Clarke plays Malcolm, a survivor and father who sees the possibility of peace between the two races, and Gary Oldman plays the humans’ nervous leader Dreyfus extremely well. But most of the characterisation for the humans only lies between Malcolm and Caesar, who both struggle to protect their families against uncontrollable dangers.
It does continue Rise's faithful continuity to the original film; I caught one or two familiar aspects that should grow in importance as time moves on around our characters.

The CG effects and motion capture here is stunning. Really stunning. The lighting and animation of these animals during all kinds of events, rainstorms and infernos, is really something to see. Koba himself is portrayed especially in a terrifying light! You are properly away with the premise, occasionally I would think: “I’m watching two monkeys beat the snot out of each other… and I am completely invested in it!" but then the success of such a premise lies in the technical execution, and it definitely succeeds here!
 

For a 12A, I must admit, this is a grim and scary film. While Rise established Caesar and global events, Dawn goes for the jugular and is probably the most intense 12A I have seen since The Dark Knight.

It isn’t as compelling as its predecessor. It feels ever so slightly too long: the second act feels quite padded for time with some repetitive scenes. Why explain something twice when you can do it once with more efficiency? Certainly Rise's subtly isn't present; this is a blockbuster designed to have you at the edge of your seat, and I certainly was!

I highly recommend it! I love a good villain and Koba has been building up to this since Rise, and as a sequel it has paid off awesomely. What it lacks in subtext it makes up for in sheer brutality and emotional intensity.

Additional Marshmallows: Ah yes, the 3D. I wouldn’t say you need to see this in 3D, although the effect didn’t detract my enjoyment at all!

Saga Review: Planet of the Apes

I love my science fiction, yet it has taken me this long to watch the original series of Planet of the Apes films from the 60s and 70s! In fact the first film in the series I ever watched was Tim Burton’s 2001 remake upon release… unfortunately, and I believe I was reluctant to watch the original film due to parodies and spoilers existing about it. There have been other classics I have really disliked purely because I knew what happens because of these parodies…

But with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes arriving this week, I get the chance to fill this gap in my knowledge!
First things first, it turns out there’s a lot more Apes movies than I thought! That, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes may seem like a long title… but it is in keeping with the series’ continuity!

Here’s the account of my seven days of monkeying around:

Planet of the Apes (1968)

The one great thing about remakes and pre/sequels is I get to watch some classics I’ve never actually seen. Better yet is when the classic still stand the test of time!

A team of astronauts flying a faster-than-light spacecraft crash upon a mysterious planet where mute, timid human-like creatures are enslaved by intelligent talking apes. The lead pilot George Taylor is then studied by the curious apes; his ability to talk and show intellect challenging their understanding of their society and history.

I was actually afraid to watch the original Planet of the Apes until now, not just because of how it may have dated (a film’s age doesn’t bother me, it can still amaze if made well enough) but because I knew the twist ending. Who doesn’t by now? It has been referenced and parodied over the last four decades.

But I really enjoyed the film! It has a surprising depth to it as our characters explore a multitude of philosophies from social, environmental and even religious issues. Also having watched 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes first, there are direct references between the two that I was not aware of before, also increasing the film’s (and more importantly the franchise’s) depth significantly!
I was concerned about the apes themselves, concerned about the make-up the actors have on, and while it can look a little bad at times (I could see two sets of teeth sometimes: one real and one fake!) it often looks good enough to convince. Plus the ape characters are actually the most entertaining and compelling of the cast! You can appreciate them, the culture they have made, their beliefs and their personalities through the storyline very well. Lead actor Charlton Heston was very good; his character is far, far from likeable and yet becomes the voice for Humanity and what we can represent…
It has a great sense of atmosphere; often perilous and full of danger, and has landscapes that show barren expanses as far as the eye can see. Plus some of the stunt work is incredible and alarming to watch.

There was some dissonance from watching it nowadays and with the prior knowledge of the twist… I found it a little hard to believe that Taylor and the other astronauts didn’t consider what planet they had crashed on. They only knew that they were thousands of years into the future, nothing more. If I were on a planet that just so happened to have an exact human species, a breathable atmosphere, horses and ape species… I would have caught on to the possibility long before the twist! I think if the initial setup had suggested humanity had colonised other planets, or may have in the time the crew had been in stasis sleep.

But this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the film as a lot of it could be put down to retropective viewing and knowing the ending ahead of time.


Overall, I really liked it; it certainly is a milestone of science fiction and considering I knew the twist it is doubly impressive that I still found it compelling for other reasons.
If you haven’t seen it, I suggest that you do! Just get over the monkey-makeup first and appreciate the characters behind them!

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

A sequel with its potential squandered by massive budget cuts and the questionable future of the franchise. It has its moments, but comes across as more like a traditional science fiction action movie without its predecessor’s intellectual gravitas.


In an unlikely turn of events, two astronauts are sent to find the lost George Taylor and find themselves thrown through the same time shift, arriving on the planet of the Apes. The lone survivor, Brent, meets Nova - the native girl Taylor had befriended - and they look for him together. However in their search they find the Apes are under a military upheaval, and that a society of native humans living beneath the surface are their target.

Despite the success of the original film, its sequel’s budget was positively halved due to Twentieth Century Fox almost going bankrupt (that is almost hard to imagine today!) due to several expensive box office films that failed to make good returns. Charlton Heston’s role is very reduced, mostly since the actor showed little interest after the first film.
Here is the first problem. The film opens with yet another space craft crash landing on the planet, and once again we have a lone hero discovering where he is. It really feels like the film wanted to continue with Heston’s character straight off the back of the first film, and as it stands it is a little tiresome to get into at first.
The apes characters are still good; Kim Hunter returns as Zira and Maurice Evans as Dr Zaius, I was sad to see that Cornelius actor Roddy McDowall did not return, although he and Hunter weren’t as prominent in this story.

The film still has a good sense of pacing despite what budget cuts might have done to the screenplay, the film flies by with its involvement of exposition; there’s less time for philosophy here. We have our hero Brent discovering a world of telepathic humans who have used illusions to avoid detection from the apes above ground, yet they are little better than the apes, depicted as religious fanatics. This is probably the most intriguing part of the film and builds nicely off the back of what we learned from the first film. I was further intrigued by the history of this planet.
They continue some alarming physical stunts in the films too! At one point a man mounted on horseback is pulled to the ground by a net, but the horse goes down with him, falling virtually on top of the man!


What kills the film though is the ending…! It was doing well considering its flaws and narrow scope, but then everything just stops. Disappointing and a little bewildering.

It is far from the first film, it is more of a chase film with a few notable flaws occasionally, but if you enjoyed the first film there’s enough continuity to make this one worth a watch too.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

So from the moment of reading this film’s synopsis, I was very worried… and while it could have been worse I do find that the series has finally cheapened itself in this installment.


Ape scientists Cornelius and his pregnant wife Zira escape the presumed destruction of their world by using Taylor’s crashed spacecraft. But though similar mishap that befell Taylor, they find themselves thrown back in time, back to 1973 Earth.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes is, by its very premise, the first film in the series to be taking style over substance; here we have the budget answer to sci-fi by just plonking your character into contemporary surroundings without taking the time of explaining how.
The films have never explained exactly what causes these spacecraft to time travel, but Escape tells us that these advanced craft - with their stasis beds and faster than light engines, as described in the original film - were conceived and launched in the late 60s early 70s, since the Government officials in 1973 know of George Taylor and Brent. Do I… need to explain how stupid that sounds? Perhaps a failing on my part, but I assumed Taylor originated from a future society of man, one capable of interstellar travel!

And that’s ignoring the fact this film glosses over how these Apes repaired and restored either of the two destroyed spacecraft.

1970s humanity however appear to like and have a fondness for our ape heroes, and rightly they should; Kim Hunter again plays Zira and happily Roddy McDowell reprises the role of Cornelius! The first act of the film though is gratingly saccharine. Gone are the moral and philosophical implications, now we have the Planet of the Apes equivalent of the PG-Tips chimpanzee television adverts. We see them touring around the American cities, being measured for suits, going to boxing matches, a surreal moment were Zira leads a feminist meeting. Oh dear, the franchise can be seen withering and dying!
But there is one man who sees between the lines, and questions what kind of world these Apes came from, what roles the Apes had with humans, and what the future holds. Eric Braeden plays Dr. Otto Hasslein, probably the most interesting character here as the embodiment of human paranoia and deceit.
This takes up the greater portion of the film as doubt and distrust becomes an issue, the issue of atrocities that have and will take place, and yet the ultimate similarity between human and ape cultures. The film’s strength lies in its stark reality; these characters are now trapped in Earth’s past and have no means of escape.

But I find the film’s attempts of a moral and social ambiguity to be quite needless; the film becomes something of a narrative parody of the first film’s more subtle approaches to all philosophies tackled. It feels as though Escape is reiterating for the layman, and when it is taken from that context, I feel bad that this is the progression Zira and Cornelius have been given…

It isn’t a terrible film and by the end it does have its own strengths, and the characters are well maintained, but I cringe at the gimmicky premise and the exposition filled script that explains what we already knew. It is something of an “average” film.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

With a meager budget of $1,700,000 Conquest does its best to tell of the future uprising of the Apes, and the inevitable self-destruction of Man. By no means a terrible film, but sorely lacking in emotional involvement.

Set about twenty years after Escape and the demise of Zira and Cornelius, this story follows their son, now named Caesar, and his discovery that humans have begun enslaving apes after their realisation that apes could one day rule the world. Sickened by these events, Caesar is spurred on to overthrow Man’s rule of Earth.

Like with several of the Apes films so far, one could be confused by how the timeline works; the films rarely explain the issues of divergent timelines. Here, due to Zira and Cornelius’ intervention in Escape, the future that had been prophesied in the 1968 film has been accelerated. This film actually corrects a lot of the flaws I was seeing throughout Escape and feels more like a second part to that film than a sole experience.
(everything but that film’s dogged insistence that Taylor orginated from the 1970s…)


This film is only let down by a short runtime and minimal budget (it had $1million less than Escape did, and a fifth of what the original film had) so what should be a both traumatising and important event in the entire franchise falls quite flat in terms of emotional investment.
We don’t get to know Caesar. He is played by his father’s actor Roddy McDowell, which is fine only as far as you can distance yourself from believing it is just Cornelius: voice and monkey mask are identical, and he has speeches like Cornelius and little development to distinguish himself from his father.
As a result his uprising feels quite sudden. The leap of twenty years from an ape-loving humanity to an ape slave driving dictatorship is also hard to swallow and while Caesar has every right to act against it, his rising anger and madness feels hastened when the film’s runtime demands it.

I also watched an edited version with an altered ending… I found the original ending on Youtube and greatly preferred it! The edit has been given a poor treatment: it is cleared dubbed and extended with little more than looped footage, and the scene’s mood and itsoriginal intention does not match the new dialogue and narrative given. There’s little worse than a detectable edit, especially one that sways the lead character’s story and the film’s conclusion!

It is not a bad film (certainly better than Escape's silly gimmick) but it falls far from what grace it should have had with its slight studio backing. It is perhaps a testament to how good writing can override the restraints of a low budget.

Additional Marshmallows: It should be noted that by this point I find the series remarkably strong willed in its convictions. It is determined to continue a good narrative despite the drawbacks it is continuously under; something film would only attempt some thirty years later.

Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)

And so the original Planet of the Apes saga concludes with another rather lacking installment that suffers yet more continuity problems.

Set only ten years after Conquest we see Caesar, his family and his human adviser McDonald overseeing a mutual peace between human and ape. While humans are not treated exactly as equals Caesar vows no harm to come to them. But the remains of human resistance in the Forbidden City sparks yet more war as the gorillas, led by Aldo, plan to overthrow Caesar.

What can be said about the previous three films in the saga can be said about this film: the budget was once again sorely lacking, not even $2 million, and everything feeling woefully short in exposition. But even with the benefit of the doubt, like the previous films, Battle isn’t even well written like the others often were.
Way back in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, one of Zira and Cornelius’ final prophecies were of Aldo, a gorilla who was described in foreboding; as the harbinger of doom:

"he did not grunt. He articulated. He spoke a word which had been spoken to him time without number by humans. He said, ‘No’."  

Fantastic stuff, and Aldo appears in Battle as a direct opposition to Caesar’s peaceable nature but… the film (and in fact Conquest before it) took a major misstep. In just ten years, all apes have learned to talk! This makes Caesar, and more importantly Aldo and his prophecy, even less prominent! What does it matter if he says “No”, they could all speak.

There were script re-writes, and older outlines of the story that speak of much darker content for Battle, and much like Conquest before it this film has that same sensation of doubt towards the production team. Which is really sad given the great potential this series has been building towards.

Of course… one cannot deny that Zira and Cornelius spoke of their past (our future, by the time of Escape from the Planet of the Apes) and that their involvement changed history. That is a perfectly valid argument, one I have mentioned before, but sadly there is no narrative device in play to suggest this… in any of the previous three films!
Furthermore, Battle has a contradiction proving this unwanted ambiguity. If Caesar is the x-factor that changes history, due to Zira and Cornelius, why then does he still employ the old rule of law: “Ape will kill no ape”, clearly excluding the humans he has sworn to protect? Clearly provoking one to fight the other. One can theorize Caesar’s motives, but they will forever remain muddy and unclear due to a lack of explanation.

It is a sad note to end the series on, and perplexing. All four sequels were released within four years, how could things get so muddled and confused!? You wouldn’t think there would be time to rewrite scripts and screenplays. But by the end there were one too many changes that reduced the saga’s powerful initial message.




Planet of the Apes
(2001)

Looking back at this retrospectively, remakes have had the same problems for years.

This Tim Burton directed remake re-envisions the original Planet of the Apes story: we see Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) a pilot in our future training monkeys to fly spacecraft. But when one craft is lost in a temporal storm in space, Leo pursues it only to be dragged into a dystopian future were apes rule the world and humans are slaves. Can he return to his own time?


The term “re-envision” can be used as a safeguard for this movie, because it is clear the team behind this film had no intention of honouring the original 1968 film! Burton’s film is a trashy, poorly edited and poorly written action flick, with none of the original’s intent or sincerity.

Let’s look at Tim Burton’s filmography for a brief moment: Beetlejuice>Batman>Edward Scissor-hands>Batman Returns>Ed Wood>Planet of the Apes>Charlie and the Chocolate Factory>Corpse Bride>Alice in Wonderland>Dark Shadows. You could say PotA was the end of a flawless track record!
Mark Wahlberg too is phoning in his performance, though one can appreciate this is early in his blockbuster career and he has yet to find the nonsensical gimmick he has now. He is positively unmemorable here.

What is sad is how this film gets a few things right (shock horror!) I do like the ape make-up in this film, despite the casting making it more a game of Spot the Actor than any serious narrative, and Tim Roth’s villainous General Thade is great! Thade is possibly the only valid addition to the franchise this film gives.
The music too. Danny Elfman puts his own spin on the Apes themes and it is has a great sound to it, without being generic Elfman sound. Set design also is very nice to look at with plenty of practical effects.

But the film remains incredibly forgettable, a parody of what came before rather than any serious attempt at remastering the franchise. This film ignores the original’s themes, or at the very best it brushes them to the side as if irritated by the responsibility. Instead let’s have a chase scene that rampages through the homes of apes so we can see a silly, lurid cross section of their society.
Sure, I am happy to see a “retelling”, or a new vision or interpretation of a story, but why do so many remakes blatantly ignore the themes and the moods of the predecessor?? Changing that changes too much, and what you get is a parody like this and not a remake!

After watching the decline of the original saga, the terrible budget cuts etc, seeing this film with all its lush visuals, expressive ape characters and great music I feel extremely disappointed with everything else. The lack of inspiring characters, the absence of any story or pathos… the entire thing just gets monotonous.

Additional Marshmallows: If it weren’t for Tim Roth’s Thade and Elfman’s music this film would be down in the gutter!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

This retelling of the initial events that started the race of intelligent apes has a quickfire pace equal to the speed of their evolution!


Set in contemporary America, Rise of the Planet of the Apes sees Will Rodman (James Franco) a scientist attempting to cure his father’s alzheimer’s disease by testing on various apes. In the process, a pregnant ape under the effects of the virus gives birth to Caesar, a chimpanzee with remarkable, accelerated intelligence development.
As the tagline says: Evolution becomes Revolution, after Caesar is placed in confinement after an accident, and the world might never be the same again…


You know, originally I had only seen Tim Burton’s remake before I saw this… and while I enjoyed it a great deal I don’t believe I gave it enough credit at the time. Watching them all and now Rise (days before Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) I can see a massive rejuvenation for the franchise!
Rise does what very few blockbusters ever do; it is surprisingly subtle when it needs to be. While Franco’s performance brings reality to the premise’s conception, this film is ultimately about the apes themselves… and unlike the 1970s films, these are apes and nothing more… for now at least. It plays around with wonderful scenes both joyful and cruel to show the increasingly human intellect growing within Caesar; we see his thought processes through actions and the actions of those around him. While yes motion capture artist Andy Serkis derseves a lot of credit for the character’s energy, most of the film’s strength comes from the ironclad production decision: let the audience figure things out, don’t over explain.

Caesar’s evolution is fast, and perhaps my initial reluctance was due to feeling left behind in the rush. But upon a second viewing I find the one-hundred minute long experience full of great nods to the original, and create subtle characterisation with the apes. These animals have bare minimal distinction, yet we know who they are and how they are each going to evolve. Very fascinating. In terms of technical achievement, this film makes us and the human characters really feel something for these computer generated creatures.

While it doesn’t go into the heavy subtexts and social messages of its predecessors (that isn’t necessarily its function) it is incredible how faithful it is to its potential future and past successes. It does a lot with very little, and is a film with no wasted opportunity.

It is the literal beginnings of the franchise, or at least a new vision of the beginning. There’s a lone shot of a television telling us of a space voyage to Mars that is in progress… and I’ve never seen a silent end credit sequence more loaded with narrative significance than here! I guess 20th Century Fox weren’t sure of the film’s success and treated this as a single experience with the potential to grow. What I am saying is: I left the film wanting more!



Looking at the series as a whole, it isn’t surprising that it has been abandoned for so long. Twentieth Century Fox treated it extremely badly in the 70s due to their financial troubles (although one can’t imagine why they would produce four films in four years if they had such problems funding the series!) and Tim Burton’s indulgent time waster did not improve the opinions of young and old audiences that the series was salvageable.
But with Rise, director Rupert Wyatt breathed new life into the series the only way left available to the studio at this point: a prequel.

Reviews so far for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes have been just as good (if not better!) than they were for Rise, so here’s hoping we have a great progression for this franchise!

Review: Transformers - Age of Extinction (2D)


This first part in a new trilogy by Michael Bay has restored most of my faith in the film franchise! Most of it. This outing goes to far edgier, darker places and actually gives the titular characters time and space to breathe!

Set a few years after the events of the third film, Dark of the Moon, this new film opens with the bleak reality that humans have had enough of the Autobot/Decepticon war destroying Earth, the devastation of Chicago made as a public reminder of their menace. But the CIA has gone a step further: allying themselves with a mercenary Transformer called Lockdown, they are hunting down and killing all robots, including Autobots.
Optimus Prime, who has been in hiding since Lockdown’s appearance, is discovered by kind hearted inventor Cade Yeager (that’s quite the name) his daughter and her boyfriend. Optimus then vows never to defend Humanity again… the cost has become too high…

Let’s talk about what’s wrong with the film first. The robots have been given a new appearance, all except Bumblebee for the most part, and I don’t really like them. What I like about the first films (especially 2007) is how you can see the vehicle (or alt) mode on the robot, here the characters are better and more distinctive, but the vehicle they turn into is completely lost. Example: the Autobot character Crosshairs has a longcoat, I have no idea how the coat goes into his car mode! Or Lockdown, he has a Lamborghini alt mode, but before he transformed into one I had no clue.
There are also new Transformers. Sufficed to say, humans have acquired technology to make their own Transformers, and they have a very, very different way of transforming; think of particles, totally breaking down and reforming. I didn’t like that.

And tonnes of product placement. Good lord.


But you could say these things are superficial, I really enjoyed the film. I enjoyed the hell out of it!
You know all that dumb, childish, toilet humour of the first three films? You know: Sam’s Mom; robot fart and pissing jokes; “Deep Wang”; Wheelie humping Mikeala’s leg; basically all of TF:RotF? None of that presents itself here, and I am not exaggerating! With the focus on Mark Wahlberg’s Cade the story takes a more mature, edgier feel. Sure, there’s still humour, but it is wittier than the teenage-grade jokes before. Bumblebee has some very funny dialogue.
You know all that terrible rapid cutting and editing that plagued the first three films? Bay has actually listened to complaints and the action here is actually far more legible!
You also remember all the overpowering glorification of the US military in the previous films? Gone. The military doesn’t even feature in this movie!

The robots take a more prominent role too. Lockdown is a vicious new villain! I really like his character, and the Autobots were lively, had very humanoid faces (something the fandom bemoaned about the first trilogy) and all very distinct from each other.

The first act is decent. We see that our human characters are genuine (if very borderline pretenteous, something Bay must avoid doing in the future!) I think Wahlberg knows how to work for Michael Bay, and the second act does some intense, dark stuff! I was actually surprised with some of the things they did: they clearly want to separate this from the pulpy, teenage melodrama of the previous films!
Of course, the third act becomes overlong and the film’s runtime is barbaric at two hours forty-five minutes! Completely unnecessary. But as these films go on, I feel like I am watching a TV series and just binging on a whole season at once!

I will say it: I am stoked for more movies! If they can maintain what this film is going for, and don’t screw it all up like they did with RotF, we could be on to a really good trilogy! I know what they are building up to now, there was a heavy theme of creators and creation in this film, and any fan will be able to tell you what’s coming next. I liked this a lot.

If you never liked the original trilogy, this probably won’t change your mind too much (despite the lack of toilet humour and edgier tone) but if you are one of those people who are on the fence, uncertain, this will make you a fan again!

Additional Marshmallows: Something else worth noting. The “Witwicky Trilogy” was certainly fun in a childish way, but what could happen is that this new trilogy goes too serious, that it stops having its sense of self-awareness.
I know that’s what’s in right now; to “Nolanify” everything, but I will be honest Transformers: Age of Extinction does borderline this sort of severity at times, and really… it doesn’t work. Not because it is Michael Bay, but because it is a franchise based off toys!

Banter: Transformers (Part 2 of 2)

Speaking as a fan, as someone who will defend Michael Bay’s Transformer films (or the Bayformers, as they are called without affection) I will say right now: There’s a myriad of awfulness scattered throughout the trilogy. There are scenes that are so bad that I still cringe and feel my childhood withering under their vast stupidity.
I am making an individual blog post about these scenes, to prove to you all that despite my apparent love for the films and my defense of their existence I agree with those that do not. I am not ignorant and I am not a fool (or “retarded” or a “fanboy” or an “idiot” or someone who doesn’t appreciate good film-making!)
These scenes and these characters are so unnecessary, so hideous and often completely terrible that one can easily see why people hate entire movies because they are included.

I want you to know that I sympathise with your hate. If you argue with me about how bad they are, I won’t try and convince you otherwise. I will however feel bad for you that these scenes I am about to list are exactly why you find so much venom and hatred towards films about giant robots fighting each other.


Word of warning, this post does contain spoilers for all three films.

Let us begin.    

Transformers (2007)

Glen:
Played by Anthony Anderson, an American comedian I’d never heard of before watching the film.

This character’s main narrative addition was to provide data analyst Maggie the means to decrypt the Decepticon transmissions. For some reason this meant stealing the data away to his house, interrupting his cousin’s game of Dance Dance Revolution (or similar) and shouting at his momma, only to climax with a SWAT team breaking in and tackling his cousin into a swimming pool. For some unknown reason, he was brought along for the film’s third act to witness the All Spark… he then disappears from the narrative. Oh, he does help solve the crucial “We have no microphones” problem I suppose.


This guy does provide the odd laugh (the doughnuts) but ultimately he does not need to be there.

Miles:
Let me summarise everything the character Miles contributed to the film and its story, simultaneously reminding you what you know of him: He hung upside down from a tree.That’s it.

Honestly, if the term “narratively expendable” was in the dictionary, his picture would be there! Even Glen was given a reason to exist by the wandering plot but Miles… he literally did nothing but give the line: “Bros before Hos”.


The Police Sheriff:

This is probably the first point in Bay’s Transformers trilogy were audiences genuinely felt alienated; a momentary lapse in the senses that brings with it the thought: “What am I watching?”
Utterly needless. One isolated scene, one isolated character who never returns. The joke of the scene is Sam’s dog is taking painkiller medications, the pillbox has “Mojo” printed on it (the dog’s name), the Sheriff misunderstands that Mojo is slang for drugs… “hilarity” ensues…

Relevance!


Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

This might take a while.


The “Kitchen Bots”:

While Revenge of the Fallen opened (naturally) with a big action sequence, the Shanghai battle, we’d expect to get a healthy sequence of character development afterwards? Hahaha, not in Bay’s universe. Enter one of the most cluttered, awfully designed fight sequences in the entire series, in my opinion.
To show Sam’s shard of the All Spark has transformative powers, we get an ensemble of kitchen appliances changed into murderous Decepticons that proceed to chase him through his home. While these are probably a callback to the Transformer “minicons”, they are really really badly designed. Taking the already “mangled metal” look to new extremes.

But then, if I told you that Michael Bay (due to the writer’s guild strike) designed some of the RotF robots himself… well there’s your answer.

The sequence is both awkward and unwelcome, and is the beginning of the end of RotF’s credibility.


Sam’s Mom:

Oh yeah, because everybody who saw 2007’s Transformers demanded more of Sam’s parents, I couldn’t get on with my life for the endless comments, blogs, articles and forums based entirely on how incredible these characters were. Especially Sam’s Mom’s “masturbation talk”.
The film introduces our family again not only with his Mom crying over Sam’s move to college and his toddler-sized shoes she found, but continues relentlessly with their arrival at the college grounds…… and frankly, the rest is history. 
This exaggerated and overlong scene destroyed all possible credibility for this film and remains the spearhead of many haters’ arguments against the film.
Why is it included? I actually have no idea.


The dogs:

It is a sequel see, so while we had one dog in the first film we naturally need TWO dogs now. Seriously, why? I didn’t pay admission for precious seconds to be wasted on two dogs humping on a sofa. You aren’t filming Youtube: The Movie.
Sure, having the two animals running away from their… kennel… birdhouse… thing… as it explodes is kinda funny, but I ask again, why?


Leo:

Leo’s inclusion to the story was a screenplay choice. Because Sam has first hand experience of the Transformers and his no longer amazed or shocked like he was in the first film, the writers felt the need for another audience surrogate in case people hadn’t seen the first film ahead of time.
What does this mean? Leo spends most of the second and third acts crying, moaning and screaming hysterically. Oh… joy.
Again, who cares if people haven’t seen Transformers 2007? I doubt even those people do! This character could have been completely cut, from every scene he features. He doesn’t feature in Dark of the Moon either.
He helps Sam locate Agent Simmons, but honestly, the film does include GIANT ALIEN ROBOTS that could have helped instead.

But I suppose we need internet culture and kitten calendars, wait.. what am I watching again?


The college Dean:

She only appears for one shot…………………………….. But what I want to know is WHY she even needs to exist? Why did the screenplay progress to such a degree that this was necessary?
This single shot is actually my definition of what’s wrong with this film
.


Skids and Mudflap (aka The Twins):

I don’t feel like I need to explain these two… surely everyone hates them by now?

Skids and Mudflap’s inclusion is another device similar to Leo’s, the screenwriters believed that Bumblebee, like Sam, had evolved with experience and that younger Autobots were required to fill the gap of inexperienced characters.
Because actual story evolution over a film franchise is so overrated!

What we get are Autobots created solely for the film series; they never featured in the original cartoons. More than that, they do next to nothing asides fight with the gestalt Decepticon Devastator, and spout as many racist cultural terms as possible. The film’s finale actually forgets to mention what happens to them, and they do not feature in Dark of the Moon because of the massive audience backlash. Possibly the worst things to happen since Jar Jar Binks. 


Alice (aka the Pretender Transformer):

Even some fans of the entire Transformers franchise (and I mean toys, comics, cartoons and films) had never heard of the Pretender Transformers. Pretenders were a toyline Hasbro invented that bombed quite severely, and involved ugly plastic Transformers to be hidden inside a shell of plastic that looked like a human character. So Bay decided… paradoxically… to add this to his “bigger and better” second film!

Sure, we had Scorponok (an homage to Beast Transformers) in Transformers 2007, but the character of Alice is an obscure reference and also knocks a massive plothole in existing lore. If a Transformer could be so advanced that it could perfectly disguise itself as a human being…. why don’t they all do that? Why not kidnap/kill Mikaela and replace her to get close to Sam?

Her inclusion provided a poorly executed lovers’ quarrel between Mikaela and Sam, which did absolutely nothing for subsequent scenes asides prove Mikaela is incredibly dumb by not noticing the girl was a homicidal killer robot.
Perhaps if they knew Megan Fox was going to drop out of the series they could have capitalised on the story arc. Then again… why am I trying to justify this?     


Agent Simmons and too much information:

Do I need to write about this?
Okay, so sequels follow a trend of “more of the original, only better”. We saw John Turturro disgraced by Mikaela (with plenty of reason, I might add!) by stripping down to some ugly, baggy Hawaiian boxer shorts.

But in Revenge of the Fallen… Simmons proves not only that the previous fashion was an off-day for him, but also proves he doesn’t care about exposing himself, willingly undressing in broad daylight.
With a ridiculous foreground shot.
Thanks Bay… Thanks.

Completely avoidable, added nothing but a cheap laugh and an image scarred into audiences’ collective minds forever. Why the scene exists, can never be answered.

(I really am very sorry I had to show you that again)


Egyptian checkpoint guard:

Did we really… really need a scene were Agent Simmons convinces an Egyptian police guard that Sam, Leo and Mikaela were is family so they could proceed? Would anyone think the film was unbelievable if they hadn’t been shown this??
WHY does this exist??


Devastator’s junk:

This example, is the most telling and most devastating (ba-dum TISH) for Michael Bay’s creativity, or lack thereof.
Revenge of the Fallen was written and produced during the writer’s guild strike, and as a result Bay himself “helped” with the script. Already that explains a lot, no?
Well, go onto the blu-ray extras for RotF and you will find documented footage of a concept artist showing Bay artwork for the Decepticon Devastator (sans testicles) Bay is seen looking at it before having a stroke of creative genius…

(seriously, go check it out: the RotF Special Features disc, under “The Human Factor” feature and in the “Seeds of Vengeance” chapter. It is truly depressing.)

Funnily enough, despite Devastator himself being made of several robots/construction vehicles, not one of those vehicles are equipped with wrecking balls.

Again, provides nothing but a cheap laugh at the robots’ expense. If I were a robot with the name DEVASTATOR you know what I wouldn’t do with two giant wrecking balls? I WOULDN’T HANG THEM USELESSLY BETWEEN MY LEGS FOR ABSOLUTELY NO REASON AT ALL.


Transformers: Dark of the Moon


Carly’s butt camera:

Now… normally this sort of thing wouldn’t qualify in a list like this, especially given this is a Michael Bay film and this is expected. But this example, this scene, is Bay at his most deliberate and self gratifying.
Dark of the Moon opens with the Autobot and Decepticon war that destroys most of Cybertron, important and valuable history never shown in the film series in such detail. This follows with the serious, inspirational (and not to mention, a proud American moment) NASA moon landing that is sanctioned by President Kennedy to uncover the Transformer Ark space ship, integral to the plot of the film. You can imagine, serious overtones, dark foreshadowing, lots of men in suits talking and looking grim.
Then BOOM. One cut later and we see Michael Bay’s camera practically climbing up and inside his not-Megan-Fox starlet-of-the-day Rosie Huntington-Whitely.


There’s juxtaposition, then there’s just smashing the audience in the face with how much you don’t care.


Carly, herself:

So between Revenge of the Fallen and the third film, Michael Bay and Megan Fox fell out over creative differences. Fox was quoted as saying something like: “I want to be in films that require actual acting” - only to go and star in Jonnah Hex. Good job, Megan.
So because Bay needs a hot girl, the third film introduces Carly as Sam’s new girlfriend, and that is about all she is to the storyline. My gripe is that, in terms of character development (and making the best of an actress leaving your franchise) having Sam single during Dark of the Moon would have been far more powerful!

Sam is lost and angry: he has lost everything, lost his girlfriend, lost his hero status, lost Bumblebee, lost his purpose. He has nothing and he hates himself for it. Oh, but he does have this supermodel-hot girlfriend for no discernible reason. Wait… how?

Something we suffer from with Bay, he doesn’t understand that sometimes having less is to actually get more. 


Dutch:

Alan Tudyk, what are you doing?
This character is a mystery to me. So at some point Agent Simmons required to get a butler/bodyguard, played by cult favourite Alan Tudyk. He seems relatively meek and straightforward, a background character without much purpose. But during Simmons’ unmemorable subplot, Dutch goes berserk and awakens some dormant military training that Simmons had been repressing… what am I… what even is this?


Sam Vs Starscream:

During the film’s finale, we see much loved Decepticon Starscream attempt to destroy Sam, to not only fail… but to be killed in the process.

Dark of the Moon did a lot to show that humans could also fight Transformers. That’s fine… the original 1980s cartoon did as much (sometimes, and usually with robot suits) but a line is crossed when you kill Starscream. Another line is crossed when you kill Starscream with Shia LeBeouf.

Compared to everything else on this list… this scene was horrible to watch. I don’t mean horrible to watch because it was frantic and badly photographed no, I mean it was heartbreaking to see a character (regardless of his new appearance) from my childhood getting killed slowly by metaphorical paper cuts.
You have to understand. In the cartoon, both Autobots and Decepticons were given personalities (term used loosely) and as such you had your kids who sided with one or the other because the characters were all uniformly awesome. This, narratively, is presumably revenge delivered on Starscream and Decepticons in general. While in every other story this would be met with victorious cheers as we support the hero… no fan should see this! Starscream has died before in the history of the franchise but this… this is just an awful way to go, it is a bloody, nasty way to die. Why Starscream?? Why not a dime-a-dozen Decepticon instead?

I was gutted, to the pit of my stomach.
Poor Starscream…


Carly Vs Megatron:

This scene is bizarre, and frankly shows how little Bay cares about character progression throughout the franchise, and how he takes scenes as isolated incidents.
During the penultimate scenes of Dark of the Moon, love interest Carly discovers a battered and despondent Megatron in an alleyway. Carly manipulates him into join the fight, calling to his tyranical nature, to destroy himself in the process.
Carly is new to the series, Carly doesn’t know Megatron. Carly is naturally terrified of most Decepticons.
Megatron is the leader of the Decepticons, a leader of evil robots who are named with the art of deception in mind!
How does this scene make sense? It feels like a leftover from when Mikeala was still involved. This scene ultimately becomes important as it seals Megatron’s fate, but for Carly to be the one to do it?? Carly didn’t even show this side of her character; she never came across as manipulative or deceptive before now. The scene comes bang out of nowhere!
Megatron has had zero luck and zero compassion from these screenwriters and I think it reaches a new low here. Like a lame dog he is forced back into the light of day only to be put down… again… by a random-hot-chick!

Poor Megatron…