Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Short Film Reviews: Things I Learned from Watching The Mummy and Transformers: The Last Knight

...that just because I have the cash and opportunity to take the family to see these movies, doesn't mean I should. Both of these should rightfully have been $1 specials. Sigh!!!

SPOILER ALERT (not that these movies are good enough for anyone to care)

The Mummy has so many things wrong with it, but equally fascinating is how many things it could have gotten right. The best part of the movie was thinking about all the interesting ways that the story could have gone, if only they had better screen writers and weren't married to Tom Cruise and the Dark Universe concept.

This movie's problems can boil down to so many specific and obvious issues: Tom Cruise plays an unlikeable jerk. The Mummy as a woman is cool but efforts at her back story are so painfully simplistic. Iraq instead of, you know, Egypt for the location of the Mummy. Convenient plot luck to insure things happen. A total lack of understanding of what the audience wants from this film (it caters neither to the original black-and-white film nor to the Branden Frasier fans). Too much time spent on Prodigium and Dr. Jekyll, who was admittedly a high point in the film when Mr. Hyde comes out (even though it raises lots of questions about what Prodigium or whatever the organization's name is considers a viable "leader" for their obscure cause against/for/whatever evil and monster hunting).

Compared to the Transformers, The Mummy was at least not headache inducing, and you could follow the plot, as thin as it was. In the course of watching this movie though you will see what happens when a film series tries too hard to try and emulate (without understanding) the Marvel Movie effect. D+

What my son thought of it: He loved this movie, he liked Nick (Cruise's character), and he loved the concept at the end in which Nick gains the power of Set. He spent a lot of time after the movie explaining to me the kinds of monsters he can turn in to (Slender Man and Killer Croc are the top two right now). He was riveted to his seat the whole movie. Bathroom breaks = 0. The film was short enough for a kid, and Cruise's annoying juvenile behavior was more appealing to a kid. I'll check back with my son when he turns 14 in a few years.

Transformers: The Last Knight was actually the best King Arthur movie of the year (heh) but was once again a literal grand clusterfuck of incoherence, spectacle and madness that actually makes all prior four films look sensible by comparison. Slices of a good film about the actual Transformers are jammed in between long sequences involving insanely stupid or bizarre and often useless plot bits, annoying human characters necessary to get the full sympathy of all family members in the audience, and frequent guest stars by series favorites from prior movies for no particular reason that I could discern other than "because Michael Bay can."

It annoys me so much when there are this moments when the film appears to actually be about the Transformers in all their incoherent sci-fi-fantasy-woo-woo glory and then....shaky cam jets explode and black ops dudes start running around. Oh god it's painful.

My favorite moment, though, was when Megatron decides to blow up Anthony Hopkins, knocking him into a hole where he lies, without any of the primary cast particularly concerned for him other than the bizarre Cogman who is (near as I can tell) there just "because Michael Bay Can." Cogman is simultaneously am amusing high point of the movie and a physical manifestation of the definiton of "needless excess." But I digress.....for no reason I can discern, the thought of Megatron targeting Hopkins specifically amused me a great deal.

I accepted long ago that the actual Transformers comics and cartoons I grew up with were fantastically, gloriously incoherent....but they had their own internal logic. I have no clue where this series is going now, but can safely say it is diving deep into their future movie plans with plenty of little bits floating about to suggest we should expect Unicron in a future film, and if they don't make a movie about Bumblebee in World War II and other eras I will be shocked (yes, that is probably going to be a thing).

My wife was very annoyed that we got some Grimlock/Dinobot love early on in the movie but they completely disappeared by the time we got to the grand finale. While she was worrying about that I was mulling over how the moon-sized Cybertron wasn't wreaking havoc with Earth's gravity by its mere presence (antigrav magic I guess?) and also finding great amusement in the fact that one of it's pieces somehow took out the pyramids, which anyone who survived watching the second movie will recall is the source of the Magic Sun Energy Sucker Device Thingy that the "Fallen" made for Reasons that make less and less sense with each subsequent movie.

Also, this movie if anything shows that the human protagonists all have enormous luck at not being killed in the presence of transformers, falling from great heights, crashing in ospreys, or functioning at 21,000 feet up in an intense firefight.

I like to imagine my 13 year old self (who was obsessed with Transformers) would have fully understood this movie and loved it. But I don't know......I was always a fan of the Transformers. I was never that exited when Buster Witwicky or the other humans showed up to provide the human element to the stories, such as they were.

Try imagining this movie with a different director, aimed at a 2 hour run time (or less!) with a focus on some sort of effort at coherent plot and storytelling. Just imagine! D-

What my son thought of it: I think if someone sliced this up into just the cool bits with robots he, too, would be happy. As it is he was practically shooting from his seat with excitement....when robots were on screen. Bathroom break = 1. This movie was too frickin' long for the kid crowd, but the film was packed. I was near an aisle seat and got to watch a literal, absolute never-ending stream of dads taking their children to the bathroom the whole film.


  1. Thanks for keeping my money safe in my pocket... I was planning to see Transformers with the boy, but will wait for it come on HBO...

  2. I think this film would be much easier to watch on a small screen, actually. Not better...just easier....