Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

3 Nominations, Wins TBD

Nomination: Best Achievement in Sound Editing - Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
Nomination: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing - Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, and Peter J. Devlin
Nomination: Best Achievement in Visual Effects - Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew E. Butler, and John Frazier

The Every Oscar Ever Project has given me the opportunity to watch wonderful films that I would have otherwise never seen: insightful documentary shorts, foreign films that shed light on places and issues completely new to me, and hundreds of older films that have been largely forgotten by all but the most devoted fans. Yet I have also been forced to spend far too many hours watching films that have managed to sneak a nomination or two, usually in the technical categories, that are truly awful. In their infinite wisdom, the Academy has chosen to bestow nominations on all three films in the Transformers series, forcing me to watch 448 minute of mindless dreck. The last time I enjoyed a Michael Bay film I was 14 years old, a fact I am embarrassed to admit since the average 14 year old is far too sophisticated for the idiocy of Michael Bay's movies. What surprises me most is not that the Academy nominated these films - the technical achievements are actually quite stunning - but that any Academy members, all of whom are presumably older than 14 years old, could sit through these films.

There isn't much to say about the Transformers movies in terms of plot, character development, theme, or anything so trifling. Not only are the narratives moronic, but Bay neglects to put any real heart or emotion into the films. In his earlier films with Jerry Bruckheimer, Bay was, if anything, guilty of laying on the emotion too thickly. Once he began to work without Bruckheimer, Bay seems to have thrown all emotion out the window, and has replaced it with bigger effects and broader humor. Though the narrative suffers, if Bay's goal was to focus less on story and more on the visuals, he has succeeded. The visual effects in Dark of the Moon are quite possibly the most impressive and most detailed effects ever put on screen. During the film's biggest set pieces, the amount of visual stimulation Bay packs into each frame is completely overwhelming, as the eye can only focus on so much, but the effects team deserves to be commended for the enormity of their accomplishment. Transformers has raised the stakes as to what can be put on screen.

Yet despite the technical brilliance of the visual effects, I was left feeling hollow by the visual wizardry. Visual effects in service of a good story can be magical, but visual effects in service of a silly plot populated by hollow characters are little more than expensive magic tricks. Because the Carly Spencer character (played by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) is one of the least interesting leading characters I have ever seen in a film, I didn't care at all what danger she was in, no matter how beautifully rendered the robot attacking her. In films such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II and Hugo, the drama created by the story was so significant that the effects had much more weight and significance; though they weren't as impressive, they were far more important.

If the teams responsible for the visual effects, sound mixing, and sound editing in Transformers win Academy Awards, it will be well deserved, as the film is a technical marvel. But these achievements are not created in a vacuum, and since they should exist only in service of the story, it would be a shame to see rewards given to a film that dispensed with the need for anything as trivial as plot or characters.

Remaining: 3179 films, 869 Oscars, 5458 nominations

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