Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon

Coked-out self-congratulation addict, all too coked-out self-congratulation addict.


If hating trite set‑ups makes me a feminist, then...I don't know...cunt!
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Reported on 15th of July, 2011

Last Wednesday, I was attending a seminar on Nietzsche’s short essay ‘Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense’, which was required reading for participation. This was a lucky break for me, since Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon had just come that same day. I was going to have to read it anyway.

Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon

29 June 2011 @ The Brighton Odeon


$1.00 or, if one must be prosaic, and one must... 
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

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The little ditty in question, ‘TALIANMS’, begins quite concisely: ‘Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing’ (and no it doesn’t say ‘invented autobots and decepticons. ‘Nietzsche just wasn’t that prescient), the gag being with a multiplicity of viewpoints and consciousnesses, there is no way to establish which one sees what is real, since that would mean you already knew which one did, AKA: ‘Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions’. The implications of this would be serious if reality was super important, but as someone who has seen every movie ever made can attest, reality is fine and all, but only for making films, which allow me to escape it.

Others, I would say, might dismiss the film as a exhausting, overwought mess, as the culinary equivalent of thinking that extremely hot chili peppers are the same as flavor, or as proof that one can be exposed to 10,000 images per second and still keep checking your watch to see if time is moving more slowly.

Of course, like all the other jokers before him, as soon as Nietzsche correctly disproves the idea of a ‘true’ reality, he immediately posits his own, which, unlike all the others, is the right one, or simply put, reality doesn’t exist, except for mine, which does. As a fan of action movies, I detest illogic, and hoping to really get into it with the resident Nietzsche guy from Dublin about whether metaphysical realism is purely phenomenological or based on a longing for ontology.

It’s the simple things.

Sadly it quickly devolved into the old question over whether Nietzsche’s perspective more Kantian or Schopenhauerian (spoiler alert: it’s Kantian. Weirdly, you can also apply the same spoiler to Georgia Rule). Bored out of my mind, and desperate to justify wasting two separate two-and-a-half hour blocks in the same day, I decided to argue that Transformers: DSOTM is a kind of Dionysian masterpiece.

Others might dismiss the film as a exhausting, overwrought mess, as the culinary equivalent of thinking that extremely hot chili peppers are the same as flavor, or as proof that one can be exposed to 10,000 images per second and still keep checking your watch to see if time is moving more slowly. They might have even opened with a long sentence to what they’re not going to say, in that sneakily journalistic way of showing their true feelings instead of hiding them in a fake Nietzschean parody. They might then call attention to the fact that they’re doing a parody in that sneakily postmodern way of avoiding to have to actually be funny.

I won’t do that. I just don’t know that much about Nietzsche.

Mr. Michael Bay, on the other hand, knows a lot about Nietzsche. The opening monologue exposes its philosophical origins when it says that the Autobots represent freedom, and the Decepticons represent tyranny. As any post-19th Century philosopher knows, ideas like freedom and tyranny are not real ‘things-in-themselves’, but as Mr. Bay puts it, ‘representations’.

Mr. Bay, clearly beyond good and evil himself, continues this motif by making the two types of robots totally indistinguishable from one another, and then cutting every 1/10 of a second in case you accidentally figured out which was which. I’m 65% sure that one of the good robots was yellow, but I’m also 35% sure that one of the bad ones was also yellow, which makes me 45% sure of the first proposition, which in turn increases the certainty of the second proposition by 25%, making it impossible. Or absolutely certain. I think. You’ll have to ask Mr. Bay. He’s the Nietzsche expert.

Mr. Bay then goes on to literalize Nietzsche’s maxim: ‘Giant Robots are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions’ (Nietzsche’s use of the German Wahrheitsbeweis leaves it open to interpretation, since it can be translated either as ‘truth’ as ‘machine with death arms’. Nietzsche should have used, as he does elsewhere in the essay, the more precise Vertrauen, ‘truth’ or, sometimes, ‘the feeling that your shoelaces are untied but not wanting to look down’).

Mr. Bay explores this proposition by simply jettisoning the central concept of Transformers, that they can, wait it’ll come to me. It has something to do with the name. That they can be-one-thing-and-then-be-another-thing-later…-ers. And so having forgotten that they are illusions, the transformers basically spend the whole movie as giant robots, not transforming at all, and either smashing each other, or waiting around for no reason while Chicago gets destroyed, and then showing up and smashing each other. This is possibly because they can’t tell each other apart either. At least 65% of the time. There is one exception, a transformer that actually transforms, but it turns out to be a Mercedes, so we knew already it was evil from the start.

(…german…)

Unfortunately I had to abandon this argument as the film plodded onward and devolved into the most democratic film ever made. Democratic in the way which would not only terrify Nietzsche, but which would terrify all of us as to the future of our respective governments. If they have ever had to make a movie with Mr. Bay, that is.

The film suffers, possibly more than any movie ever made, from a-scene-where-ism, as in every possible person at one point saying ‘what if we had a scene where…’Some directors have a filter to keep some, if not all suggestions out. Michael Bay, the champion of the democratic ideal, instead includes every sub-agent’s love of the History Channel, every focus group lackey’s can-the-girl-complain-that–he’s-not-spending-enough-time-with-me-even-though-technically-speaking-he’s-saving-the-world-and-if-I-shut-up-for-five-seconds-we’ll-go-on-a-nice-trip-to-Greece-later-instead-of-us-being-dead-and-the-world-a-smouldering-ruin (I have got to shorten that, since it is in every movie ever made, including the parts I fast-forward over in JFK. Fine, women can’t have their own motives or desires, I get it. But can they at least not be total idiots? And if hating trite set-ups makes me a feminist, then…I don’t know…cunt!), every bit-player’s desire to see Ken-Jeong’s diaper issues, every fourth-draft, sixth-polish screenwriter’s need to see John Malkovich appear, and, then, just as inexplicably, disappear, and every co-executive producer’s memory of the time he saw that movie where that thing happened that he liked that was like that. No he can’t put it into words. That’s your job, screenwriter with the Malkovich issues.

Casting my vote for 1 less dimension.

Casting my vote for 1 less dimension.

There is a kind of an allergen scratch test appeal to the movie: if you wait around, at some point in the two and a half hours, you will get ten seconds that you react to. It’s a guarantee, of sorts, and as long as you’re suitably irritated the rest of the time by everything else, it’s virtually the same as being entertained. It’s as fun, and I don’t mean this disingenuously, as a shotgun blast: like a superfast clock, it’s right one out of a hundred times. It flies by too fast to notice, but at least the clock isn’t stopped. There is that.

Is Mr. Bay, the greatest proponent of democracy since Thomas Paine, or do we take serious the position voiced by Ms. Megan Fox’s upcoming paper in the Fall 2011 issue of Millennium: Journal of International Studies: ‘Michael Bay is like a fascist or something’?

Or is Bay is constructing a deliberate dialectic between the demo- and autocratic, acknowledging that each has the value with which we imbue it? It has to have some kind of meaning, some kind of purpose. It couldn’t be the incomprehensibly random by-product of coke, desperately desired and thus inversely inversely deserved praise, ego, hookers, test screenings, test screenings with hookers, and just plain old-fashioned incompetence. Only a cynic could believe that. And you know what Nietzsche had to say about cynics.

That they were, uh, bad. He said that they were bad.

The Take

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Profits!
For better or worse, Mr. Michael Bay is probably the only living auteur, being that you can distinguish a film of his by a single frame…
$4.00
Total Profits!
 $4.00
Losses!
…which you then must watch.
$1.00
‘The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’ spoken by Mr. Leonard Nimoy as the villain, was a low point in cinema history.
$2.00
Total Losses
$3.00

$1.00

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