Thus far I’ve commented only on movies that I won’t see on this blog. I’m not going to break the pattern now. In fact I haven’t gone to a theater for a new movie yet this year, though I’ve seen a few classics, so there’s a good supply a movies that I haven’t seen. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is only the latest one. My reasons for not seeing it could be summed up in Roger Ebert’s Review.
The series exists to show gigantic and hideous robots hammering one another. So it does. The last hour involves a battle for the universe which for some reason is held at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive in Chicago. This battle is protracted mercilessly beyond all reason, at an ear-shattering sound level, with incomprehensible Autobots and Decepticons sliced up into spurts of action with no sense of the space they occupy.
Walter Chaw’s review covers much the same ground, but with more vehemence.
Or maybe it’s the extended profanity, the wholesale and semi-graphic murder of innocents by both sides, the way the robots bleed in crimson arterial sprays in this PG-13 movie, that instigates the realization that Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a new low watermark for Bay and this naughty-little-boy franchise that highlights Bay’s misogyny, puerility, and imbecility for all the world to see.
I’m content to accept their word that Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a dumb, vulgar, and nasty movie, and thus I will not see it, nor say any more about its aesthetic qualities. I will say that I’m concerned about the fact that so many people, particularly young people, are watching this sort of thing. Now, if anyone on the internet expresses that sort of concern in a public forum, they usually get buried by a stream of two main responses.
1) The ‘it’s supposed to be be dumb’ response. Hey, look buddy, what were you expecting–Citizen Kane? It’s only supposed to be stupid summer fun! So just turn off your brain and enjoy it for what it is.
2) The ‘same as always’ response. So Hollywood is releasing big-budget, stupid, exploitative, violent movies? What else is new? They’ve always done that! We survived the gangster shoot-em-ups of the 30’s and we’ll survive this stuff too.
Both responses irritate me because they are ways of ducking the argument, rather than confronting it intellectually. The first response presupposes that there’s a clear split between entertainment and serious movies, as well as other types of art. It assumes that whatever is on the entertainment side cannot have any serious affect on a person. But this is not true, not for anyone and certainly not for children. Anyone who’s ever had a child or been a child should know that their entertainment affects them, that they imitate what they see on the screen, absorb what they see on the screen, incorporate what they see on the screen into their mindset. Wise people have been aware of the importance of entertainment since long before cinema was invented.
As for the ‘same as always’ response, it simply isn’t true. Sure, Hollywood has produced a lot of dumb, violent movies since its inception and other media have been dumb and violent since long before that; even Shakespeare wrote Titus Andronicus, after all. But stupidity exists on a spectrum and today’s stupid spectacles may be more problematic than yesterday’s. I honestly feel that Hollywood has been plumbing new lows this year. The trailer for Your Highness exists only to inform us that this movie had many women wearing thongs, and they’re somewhat more revealing than ordinary thongs; I did not appreciate having this pop up every time I logged on to YouTube for a stretch of several weeks. Sucker Punch was another one that had aggressive, exploitative ad campaign. If these movies and others like them represent what a typical audience member wants, there is reason to be worried.