Monday, November 7, 2016

Transformers: Bayhem

Even among those who take Prequel analysis seriously, there's always some basement level of pop culture that they assume everyone agrees you can't possibly analyze. The most common example people mention of "there is no artistic merit to this" is Michael Bay's Transformers movies.

So one of the best SomethingAwful gems is an extremely close reading of the Transformers movies. And no this is not just obsessive garbage about how powerful a given Transformer is, or how many hundreds of millions it made at the box office, but it's a thoughtful look at how the cinematic choices connect to the social themes this piece of art is drenched in. For instance, on the very first scene, when an evil Transformer rises from the desert and wipes out a naive military - the most cliche sort of action porn:

Spoilers, but the “bogey” is our first on-screen Transformer, named simply Blackout. The way he’s shot here is very interesting: Surrounded by flat desert, just being this small thing in the dead centre of the screen with no real points of reference, he looks tiny, almost more like the toy he represents rather than the giant piece of military equipment he “is” in the movie’s continuity, and it further makes him look really... Alone. It’s an enormous contrast to the military scenes, which are crowded and dense, with people constantly fussing about and doing stuff in the background which creates a real impression of an ant hive. One of the interesting things about the military in this movie is that military personnel is never portrayed as individuals – there’s almost always an enormous busy hive of human-shaped insects busily trying to adjust to the changing situation. Right now, multiple jets are leaving the base to confront the bogey, and the movie goes out of its way never to show only one of them in a given frame for more than a second.
This is good stuff. If you want 500 pages of this to kill time with, go read Terry van Feleday on Transformers . And try taking your favorite piece of "trash" art this seriously.

Which is not to say there isn't any bad art out there. Just like, Michael Bay is an extremely accomplished director. Millions of people have seen his movies which have pulled in billions of dollars. He is credited with making a new style of cinematography that is very influential with other directors of this period. He knows his way around a camera.

(You'll note that I did not use the extremely obvious pun in this post's title, for referring to how something is "deeper" than commonly assumed. That's because the entire point is that no, there is nothing more than meets the eye. What the eye sees is what is there, and obsessing over what "true" internality lies behind the appearance - how "deep" something is, what they really expect or want of us - is the actual illusion.)

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