Do superhero movies really suck?

Posted by Sanjeev 
Scopedog Wrote:
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> What?

Anyone who reads The Prince without context is going to get stuck on the most superficial interpretation possible - that Machiavelli was supporting tyranny, not mocking it. This usually happens because the work does not contain it's own satirical punchline of, "No, just kidding. Fuck monarchies." To understand what Machiavelli is actually getting at you have to know more about him than that he simply wrote The Prince:

The notion that The Prince is what it pretends to be, a scientific manual for tyrants, has to contend not only against Machiavelli's life but against his writings, as, of course, everyone who wants to use The Prince as a centerpiece in an exposition of Machiavelli's political thought has recognized.... The standard explanation has been that in the corrupt conditions of sixteenth-century Italy only a prince could create a strong state capable of expansion. The trouble with this is that it was chiefly because they widened their boundaries that Machiavelli preferred republics. In the Discorsi he wrote, "We know by experience that states have never signally increased either in territory or in riches except under a free government. The cause is not far to seek, since it is the well-being not of the individuals but of the community which makes the state great, and without question this universal well-being is nowhere secured save in a republic.... Popular rule is always better than the rule of princes." This is not just a casual remark. It is the main theme of the Discorsi and the basic assumption of all but one of Machiavelli's writings, as it was the basic assumption of his political career.


> What?

Boll is good at getting financed. Which is how he keeps making movies. I've also read interviews with him where is public FUCK-YOU persona is not on display. He's actually quite reasonable in some circumstances.
Gcrush Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> gingaio Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> Taken on its own, it doesn't. However, none of
> those other heroic killers was enmeshed in so much
> ludicrous excess. They were, to the best of my
> recollection, in movies that played it straight.
> (Aside from Stop, or My Mother Will Shoot!, but
> you'll see how that supports my theory about
> cues.) Yes, they were goofy, unbelievable
> caricatures, but their framing never did anything
> to suggest that they weren't to be taken
> seriously.
>
> Conversely, nothing about the TF movies suggests
> earnestness aside from the roles we subconsciously
> assign to the characters, slightly edged along
> with knowing winks from the score and script.
> Because, looking at them as a whole, the sheer
> lunacy eclipses any intentional seriousness.
>
So when we consider the incoherence of the plot/characters, where we're diverging is that you think it's part of an intentional plan rather than typical Hollywood incompetence.
>
> Suggesting that Prime is a hero is a feint at the
> audience, it's a ruse. It plays us for suckers by
> preying upon our nostalgia and desire for
> simplistic roles.
>
> In a movie about god-like sentient robot aliens,
> could the grotesque materialism really have been a
> mistake? Did someone accidentally let the
> robo-piss jokes slide? Maybe once. But what
> about the people-piss jokes? Or animal
> piss-jokes? Multiple times and across six hours
> of film? Impossible.
>
> I conclude Prime is distinct from Dirty Harry
> because DH was always played with a serious face
> and never indulged in grotesque humor.
>
Have you forgotten all those one-liners in Ah-nold's movies after he offed someone: "Stick ah-round," "You're fired," etc. That didn't really make Predator or Terminator satires. They had satirical or parodic elements, sure.
>
> Remember, satire is not always easily recognized,
> even in it's lifetime.
>
I'd like to think I got a pretty good handle on satire and can recognize it...:)

> A Modest Proposal and The
> Prince confused a lot of people, the latter being
> especially difficult for people to pin down. But
> both, by virtue of their absurdity, satirize
> particular values. In other words, the narrative
> itself does not need to provide the lecture. It's
> GOTCHA! satire that critiques people by virtue of
> their endorsement or inattentiveness.
>
I knew you were going to bring these up. The thing about something like a Modest Proposal is that the narrative is the lecture--the combination of the speaker's voice, the substance of his advocacy, the gradual build-up and reveal, and the social context in which he's working.

Back to our original divergence--there are two ways to consider this--1) that the extreme violence, the characterization, and the plot are a wink & nod at an audience in tune with the moral message that Bay has sequestered underneath the layers of craptastic fun that is Bayformers, or 2) all that stuff is pandering to an audience that expects that stuff.

> Again, go back to what I said about PETA. Prime
> is engaging in fratricide/patricide for unclear
> reasons. He willingly sacrifices the salvation of
> his native planet for what comparatively amounts
> to gerbils. As an audience this fucks with us
> because we are the gerbils, and so we naturally
> want to root for the gerbils.
>
The problem with the PETA comparison, which seems to be the foundation of your satire theory, is that one of the fundamental disconnects between animal rights people and non is an agreement on whether animals have sentience, feelings, rights, etc. It's not simply about one creature being more powerful than the other, which is the case with the Transformers. There's an actual question about what the "other" is and what rights the "other" is entitled to that isn't in these movies.

We should not forget that Prime and the Autobots are like any other anthropormorphized alien creature. They're all part human as far as having been invested with our values, our desires, our beliefs.

Equating us with animals, even relative to the Transformers, requires more substantive criteria than just they're bigger and can kill us.

A more appropriate real-life comparison would be a tiny race of dogs that can think, cook, make movies, and vote.
>
> But change the setting while keeping the rationale
> the same. If science could stop global warming
> and produce clean energy by enslaving all the dogs
> on the planet to run on a giant treadmill, what
> would we think of people who used AK-47s to kill
> dog catchers? As much as we like dogs, the
> gun-toting vigilantes would be obviously nuts.
> Hell, we already collectively agree that it is
> wrong to curb serious environmental problems
> because it's too inconvenient. You think we'd
> really step up to bat for saving dogs if it came
> down to it? Some people might. And it would be
> easy to label them nuts. Because killing people
> to save animals represents a type of moral
> extremism that we almost inherently see as Wrong.
> Which is...
>
Right, because in our world, there's a question of whether animals should be equated with humans. But in the movie, are you seeing the same ambiguity?

> ...part of the TF satire. Recall that despite
> being in command of a superior army and having
> just defeated a mutual foe, instead of killing
> Prime, Megatron attempts to sue for peace and
> Prime responds by excising Megatron's spine. The
> movie stages a moment in which the "villain" has
> the upper hand and offers a non-violent
> resolution, suggesting it is a viable truce, and
> the "hero" outright rejects it. That's fairly
> ironic.
>
And seconds before Megatron offers the "truce," he stabs Sentinel Prime (his former partner) in the back. At this point we've been through 3 movies that show Megs to be incapable of a "peaceful resolution." In fact, what we've learned is that if Prime spares Megatron, he'll just come back and try to end the world in the 4th movie, just as he did in the 2nd and, uh, the 3rd. Here, what's emphasized by the sequence of events is that if Prime accepts the devil's handshake, he'll likely end up like Sentinel Prime. If anything, it shows self-preservation and pragmatic thinking on Prime's part.

And the idea about sacrificing his planet for dogs...in the movie, we're shown a round metal carcass devoid of life. Again, the parallel you're drawing is to a planet filled with life that is in danger. There may be some choice about Prime weighing his planet and ours, but from what we're shown, there really isn't much of one.

I mean, it goes back to my point about the choices Prime had. Or he didn't have. Or put another way, Prime is essentially Leonidas from 300, right down to being offered the devil's bargain from Xerxes, right down to "kill everyone to preserve freedom." But is 300 a satire of the war epic?

> The films are goading us in to rooting for moral
> extremists mired in piss-gags. Extremists that
> kill their brethren without so much as a moment's
> deliberation or acknowledgment of wrongdoing.
> Hell, the "good guys" don't even mourn their own
> dead. They just surround themselves with
> buffoonish human pets and we're supposed to cheer
> for them. That might be the most shallow criteria
> to ever be substituted for heroism in an action
> film.
>
> Which comes to the second part of the satire.
> It's not about superheros per se, it's about the
> action genre and our gullibility for it. We have
> three movies given hollow construction from the
> start, layered with grotesqueness otherwise
> inappropriate to the genre, and played out for
> atypical run times with confused pacing. Yet they
> made gobs and gobs of money because people were
> too shallow to look past the surface.
>
> If you have the stomach, re-watch the films
> without preconceptions. It won't be difficult to
> grab the satire.


I'd like to think I'm capable of looking at this with some measure of objectivity. :)

Anyway, we've had hollow action flicks before. I guess for me, satire has to have a way of developing its point through characterization, plot, and subtext, and for me, there really wasn't much subtext here, and that's where we're disagreeing.

Going back to A Modest Proposal, it's clear to anyone reading that eating babies is wrong. Now--what is it about what Prime does that makes us question the basic rightness/wrongness of what he does (he's defending a civilization from murderous fiends)? We may question the degrees to which he fulfills his mission, but the mission itself really isn't up for discussion. If it were, if there was doubt that his primary narrative purpose was unheroic, then I could buy the satire angle.



Edited 7 time(s). Last edit at 07/13/2011 08:46PM by gingaio.
Prometheum5 Wrote:
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> The action in Transformers
> is heartless and stunted... it's flat and
> emotionless. Nothing actually elicits a visceral
> reaction from you

Nearly 100% agree with you, but I have to say that the part in the 2007 TF movie where Barricade is menacing Sam in the parking garage is very good. It was a very tense scene and felt pretty realistic to me. IT was very easy to imagine how it would feel to be Sam in that situation. It got less so when Barricade transforms into his robot form, but the car bits of the scene were pretty damn good. Not much else was though.

More serious than thou
gingaio Wrote:
> asterphage Wrote:
> >
> > I think the movie is taking it as a given that
> > anyone who threatens an unarmed person with a
> > weapon is a "bad guy" - and that the scene is
> > carefully constructed to make Stark's actions
> > defensible, by showing that the people he's
> > defending have no chance of reprisal or
> > self-defense. The guys with guns could be Ten
> > Rings or Taliban or reckless Afghan security
> > forces, and the meaning of the scene would
> > still
> > be "only bad guys point guns at civilians".
>
> This sentence, and the idea of "could be anyone
> else" is exactly why I think there's a rather
> not-unsubtle undercurrent of what I've mentioned.
> Yeah, the bad guys could be anyone, but they're
> not. They're constructed a certain way to, as you
> mention, ennoble Stark's character and at the same
> time vilify a group of people our government has
> classed as enemies. The villains are chosen
> specifically for a mimetic effect given what's
> going on in real life. If you think the choice was
> random and unintentional and should be taken as
> such, then I don't know what else to say.

Not unintentional - obviously the Afghanistan setting was chosen, if for no other reason, to echo the Vietnam setting of Iron Man's classic origin. Additionally, it was presumably chosen for reasons of audience recognition, emotional identifiability with the American soldiers Stark rides with, etc. The question is twofold:
1. Is the choice of Afghanistan an utterly superficial one, or is it one meant to have greater significance? I argue that it's superficial. From listening to Favreau talk about the Iron Man films, I don't think he considers his work to have any symbolic meaning. He's far more concerned with style, and the immediate, visceral impact of what's on screen..
2. Does the choice of Afghanistan NECESSARILY TAKE ON a political meaning? Which you get to in your next statement:

> I mean, I guess I could see your point (the bad
> guys just happen to be Afghans) if I consciously
> willed myself to forget the real-life context.
> But, like, the movie itself is actively making me
> remember the context, right from the opening scene
> in which Stark is riding in a Humvee in
> Afghanistan with a bunch of soldiers. Which makes
> sense since the genre itself was maybe sorta built
> as a vehicle for nationalist propaganda:

This makes sense, but I don't think it's inherent in the work. I think the most accurate way to describe this is that the implications you see are inevitable from the way the film is constructed and presented. It is meant to be a largely positive and upbeat story, presented to Americans as light entertainment. Such a work cannot deal with a current conflict without making its (inevitably American) protagonists look like the best of the good guys. I think the movie was never intended to be jingoistic propaganda, though - and works towards NOT being read as propaganda through gestures like making the final villain another American (someone who, at the start of the film, is essentially the same type of person as the protagonist), and the clarity of the good guy/bad guy divide in Afghanistan.

> International context, yes, but with a political
> argument. I think where we differ is you see the
> choices in a movie like IM as coincidental or
> incidental. I think the filmmakers are a bit more
> intentional than that.

Yeah, definitely. I think it has certain implications from how it's presented (to Americans, in the late 00's, as blockbuster entertainment), but that they cannot be said to be an argument made by the work - only something that viewers like yourself can't help but see in the work. For me, I am inclined to see it as "just a story" in the absence of greater indication of authorial intent.

> > It seems to me that sequence is establishing a
> > point that the rest of the movie fails to
> > follow through on - that the superheroic idea
> > of arbitrary, unilateral international
> > intervention is disruptive,
>
> If the theme of the flick really were how
> disruptive and harmful his actions were, then it
> wouldn't have built to a climax in which his use
> of the armor is the basis for saving himself and
> his girlfriend and a bunch of civilians. I think
> you're looking for nuance and moral ambiguity in a
> film that only teases it, but doesn't follow
> through. At all.

Isn't that what I just said in the quote you're replying to? I think that sequence signifies something very different from the climax of the film, and that the plot is disjointed in this fashion. This is part of why I can't see the film's overtones as intentional - because different sequences of the film support different ideas. The Afghanistan sequences have multiple potential readings pertaining to politics - the film's climax is just about a noble, honest dude versus a greedy, heartless bad guy.

> Like, in this F-22 scene, it's
> not his interventionist actions (shooting down bad
> Afghans) that get him into trouble. The problem is
> caused by a military that doesn't properly
> understand him yet. They don't even know what the
> hell they're shooting at, is how incompetent they
> are. And not only that, they failed to save the
> Afghan villagers that Stark himself just saved
> (i.e., he was doing their job for them). And how
> does the scene end? He ends up rescuing one of the
> pilots from the pilot's own mistake (of crashing
> into the superhero). Stark is not presented as the
> problem in this scene. He behaves in a capable,
> heroic manner. The pilots are the ones operating
> with the blinders on, figuratively and literally.

This is a good point, but I think we're still supposed to sympathize with Rhodes in this scene. He wants Tony to tell people what he's doing, listen to those with more experience, essentially be more like a military officer instead of deciding everything himself. If Tony represents America here, who does Rhodes represent?

> And if we're going to talk about seemingly random
> decisions, why make Rhodey a military officer for
> the movies? And one who eventually becomes Stark's
> armored buddy. I remember reading an article that
> talked about how Favreau was intentionally trying
> to portray the Air Force in a positive light. It
> could have been Favreau's own words.

I think the positive portrayal of the military is all about getting access, not ideology. Basically, the DoD will let you film all kinds of stuff for free (as in Transformers 1) if the military looks good on film. For instance, the DoD supposedly didn't let the GI Joe movie film military assets because they were depicting the Joe team as an international force. In contrast, you can hear Favreau on the Iron Man 2 commentary bragging about how they rolled out one of every aircraft for the scene where Rhodes lands the silver Iron Man suit at an air force base.

> Stark as a stand-in for American power?
>
> Come on, fellas. Is it even a question?

But if Rhodey is a representative of the U.S. military in every way, and he's constantly trying to reign Stark in and get him to behave in a more controlled, regimented fashion, what does that make Stark? Blackwater / XE? :P

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/13/2011 03:59PM by asterphage.
Gcrush Wrote:
>
> Well, the part about Prime becoming a Decapitron
> was a joke. But the rest is serious. It's not
> that Bay has made a bad trilogy. It's that he
> presided over one of the most monumental satires
> in contemporary pop culture. Pull back on the
> subjectivity for a moment and take a look at the
> cues contained within the work itself. Literally
> everything is so exaggerated beyond belief that it
> is impossible for it to have been an accident.
> When was the last time three movies in a row were
> so utterly incoherent by accident? One movie,
> maybe. But a trilogy? Impossible.

What about Pirates of the Caribbean?

> When people
> say, "Absolutely nothing in these movies makes any
> goddamn sense!" they're 100% correct. The claim
> of GENUINE BAD FILM would only be a problem if
> some of the stuff made sense while the rest
> didn't. Which is not the case.

I disagree. For instance, the moon landing sequence at the start of TF3 (aside from the confusion over the dark and far sides of the moon, and when Apollo would actually be out of radio contact) is done in a rigorous, convincing fashion, with great attention to how the scene is composed... there are other moments like this as well, like the ice cave in the first film. The whole throughline, from Megatron laser-etching the spectacles, to Labeouf inheriting them and putting them on eBay, to the Decepticons tracking him down, was fairly well constructed and amusing. There are elements of these films that hint at a fun, lighthearted surrealism, but in the end they're always given over to grim incoherence.


Sanjeev Wrote:
> Gcrush Wrote:
> > Remember, satire is not always easily
> > recognized, even in it's lifetime. A Modest
> > Proposal and The Prince confused a lot of
> > people, the latter being especially difficult
> > for people to pin down. But both, by virtue
> > of their absurdity, satirize particular
> > values. In other words, the narrative itself
> > does not need to provide the lecture. It's
> > GOTCHA! satire that critiques people by virtue
> > of their endorsement or inattentiveness.
>
> I hate you, G. Every fiber of your being. On ever
> single level.
>
> Because you're starting to convince me.

Well, yeah, it's certainly precedented - what he's saying there sounds to me just like the more recent reappraisal of Verhoeven's Starship Troopers.


Gcrush Wrote:
>
> Recall that despite
> being in command of a superior army and having
> just defeated a mutual foe, instead of killing
> Prime, Megatron attempts to sue for peace and
> Prime responds by excising Megatron's spine. The
> movie stages a moment in which the "villain" has
> the upper hand and offers a non-violent
> resolution, suggesting it is a viable truce, and
> the "hero" outright rejects it. That's fairly
> ironic.

Well, he did just watch Megatron betray the last person Megatron formed a truce with. I don't think the film is confronting us with an unjustifiable act here and daring us to accept it - I think, like most action movies, Transformers 3 does the bare minimum to justify the heroes' actions.

On the other hand, someone I know from Transformers fandom back in the day says the next film should be Ultra Magnus showing up to arrest Prime for war crimes. Which would be just delicious.

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/13/2011 03:51PM by asterphage.
Sanjeev (Admin)
@Paul and Hillsy...

I don't mean to speak for gingaio, but if we're just looking at the liberal racism of Iron Man, yes, it existed before the movie was made...but I think it was portrayed a lot more blatantly in the movie (or...not--I don't think I've ever actually read the original comics detailing IM's origin, so I'm not 100% sure).

Rather than dive into the details like gingaio is doing, I think it's just a lot easier to take a step back and look at the whole origin story and how it fits in with the context of The White Man's burden. It's not to hard to see the condescending "nobility" of Stark waving an armored hand and cleaning up the Middle East. It's really only a degree of separation or two from Cameron's Avatar/Dances With Wolves/Pocahontas/etc.

After seeing the movie, I talked to an Iranian buddy of mine. I asked him what he thought of it, and he immediately rolled his eyes. Of course, I poked him a bit and we both laughed, saying it was still pretty bitchin'!
It could be....in the comics he never went back to take out the VC. But in the film, he really goes back because it's HIS weapons that are being used in the massacre, no? If the militants hadn't been using HIS weapons, he probably wouldn't have even considered it. I guess the other issue would be if he felt THAT badly, he would have taken out the US Stark Industry weapons, as well, because they probably were used to kill civilians in "friendly fire" incidents.

---------------------------------
[pgaijin.blogspot.com]
Sanjeev (Admin)
Well, in a certain sense, it goes back to G's hilarious Cracked vid, right? If Stark (i.e., the noble and terribly burdened white man) really wanted to help the situation in West Asia, he'd ally with existing people and organizations there, learn, and help where his wealth could do the most good...rather than using that loot like a fist to smash "bad brown people" while saving "good brown people".

But Stark, for all his "nobility", really just wanted to sleep better at night. Fly in, blow shit up, save a few grubby villagers, and BAM--clear conscience! Job well done...now pass the (expensive imported) beer!

Same thing with Bruce Wayne and beating up some goons. That shit's just plain fun! Hell, if *I* were a rich motherfucker, you don't think I'd be rocking some ill armor and fucking up scumbags every night!? Sheeeet.
why'd they have to make the girl such a bitch in that video
You'd better work the fro into the costume, Sanjeev.

---------------------------------
[pgaijin.blogspot.com]
Sanjeev Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> @Paul and Hillsy...
>
> I don't mean to speak for gingaio...

Feel free, man.

> After seeing the movie, I talked to an Iranian
> buddy of mine. I asked him what he thought of it,
> and he immediately rolled his eyes. Of course, I
> poked him a bit and we both laughed, saying it was
> still pretty bitchin'!

When the first IM came out, I actually had a student whose parents were from Afghanistan. She said at that point that her family just laughed off stuff like IM. It was pointless to get worked up about it.

> I think the positive portrayal of the military is all about getting access, not
> ideology.

Maybe; that's certainly explained Bay's relationship with the military. Still, Favreau's motives for glorifying the military are less important to me than the fact that that's the cumulative effect of the film.

>But if Rhodey is a representative of the U.S. military in every way, and he's
>constantly trying to reign Stark in and get him to behave in a more controlled,
>regimented fashion, what does that make Stark? Blackwater / XE? :P

Comic book movies are, by dint of what they are, American male wish fulfillment fantasies. When I say American, I mean American, including but not restricted to the military. The military, after all, is just a representative of the American majority/gov't, by which I mean a powerful minority.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/13/2011 09:09PM by gingaio.
gingaio Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> So when we consider the incoherence of the
> plot/characters, where we're diverging is that you
> think it's part of an intentional plan rather than
> typical Hollywood incompetence.

Yes. Kind of. The incoherence is an important leg of the argument, but equally important is the material grotesqueness. As is the extended nature of both. And the financing. Nearly every scene across three big-budget movies defies belief. The dialog, the camera work, the lack of characterization, the incoherent plot points... All of it has been taken to an exhausting level that, I think, has never been approached before. It's like watching a carnival with giant robots. For six hours. The amount of deliberation necessary to achieve that is staggering.

I don't think it is likely to be incompetence. But it could be the result of a headless process. In which case I go back to one of my questions - can we imagine an acephalic satire? I think the TF trilogy would fit perfectly with that. No one person may have intended to weave together a satirical work, but somehow that's what happened. It should still be given credit as such.


> Have you forgotten all those one-liners in
> Ah-nold's movies after he offed someone: "Stick
> ah-round," "You're fired," etc. That didn't really
> make Predator or Terminator satires. They had
> satirical or parodic elements, sure.

Sure. But did those films feature so much repetitive grotesqueness? And I don't just mean exaggerated violence, but specifically bodily eliminations. If an Ah-nold/Rambone film was loaded with scatalogical humor I might see the comparison as more relevant.


> I'd like to think I got a pretty good handle on
> satire and can recognize it...:)

Sorry - I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. I was suggesting that mainstream audiences would not recognize TF as a satire without appropriate marketing. Which would be in line with Bay's apparent view of them as rubes.


> I knew you were going to bring these up. The thing
> about something like a Modest Proposal is that the
> narrative is the lecture--the combination of the
> speaker's voice, the substance of his advocacy,
> the gradual build-up and reveal, and the social
> context in which he's working.

Again, my comparison got lost there. I was trying to point out that, at the time of its publication, AMP flummoxed people who couldn't see Swift's intent. But enough people could that we can hold it up as a classic example of satire today. By contrast, I still hear people touting The Prince in earnestness despite all of the countervailing evidence present in Machiavelli's life and other writings. The difference between the two, to me, is that TP is really clever satire because it can be read two ways - the surface reading, and the satirical reading. AMP has, and perhaps only ever had, the satirical reading available.

And in that sense I think TF is more like The Prince. The surface reading is "Hollywood Action Crap", but the satirical subtext and grotesque exaggeration are so omnipresent that (intentional or not) the alternate reading holds - "Making Fun of Fans of Hollywood Action Crap".


> Back to our original divergence--there are two
> ways to consider this--1) that the extreme
> violence, the characterization, and the plot are a
> wink & nod at an audience in tune with the moral
> message that Bay has sequestered underneath the
> layers of craptastic fun that is Bayformers, or 2)
> all that stuff is pandering to an audience that
> expects that stuff.

I don't think the elements above have a wink/nod connection to the audience. Consider those some things in, say, Planet Terror, and they have that kind of tone. PT is an homage to a schlocky genre and uses those elements to that effect. It's friendly to the audience. TF, by contrast, appears contemptuous towards the audience or characters it portrays. Like the way some of De Sade's work comes across as satirical and mean-spirited. Or the way Archie Bunker was/is generally misunderstood by audiences. Or, perhaps more like GG Allin who ate shit on stage because he was nuts.


> The problem with the PETA comparison, which seems
> to be the foundation of your satire theory, is
> that one of the fundamental disconnects between
> animal rights people and non is an agreement on
> whether animals have sentience, feelings, rights,
> etc. It's not simply about one creature being more
> powerful than the other, which is the case with
> the Transformers. There's an actual question about
> what the "other" is and what rights the "other" is
> entitled to that isn't in these movies.

I didn't intend for that to seem like a foundation. Just another point in an ongoing string of absurdities. But I would suggest that the level of separation in sentience between an interstellar, nearly immortal organism and human beings is akin to how people generally see dogs or other primates, and especially how militant animals rights activists see them. With the Transformers there seems to be enough sentience in humans to justify companionship and the extension of trans-species fundamental rights [FREEDOM!]. But the fact that dogs don't make movies is no more important than the fact that Transformers don't go to the cinema. Hardcore animal liberation people are just extending the concept of human freedom to animals that may or may not understand or reciprocate it. That is, I'm not sure there's anything in the films that could suggest the Transformers are not simply projecting their values on to us. Because they're speaking out language and not the other way around, how can we assume that we're catching everything? We know they have their own language. Maybe the even use wireless and infrared communication. Maybe they process thought at speeds far greater than humans. Aside from being (mostly) humanoid in shape and using vernacular English, the only way to tell the good guys from the bad guys is who is and isn't squashing us.

And the gerbil analogy was meant to reflect how we ride around in their asses.


> Equating us with animals, even relative to the
> Transformers, requires more substantive criteria
> than just they're bigger and can kill us.

I think the technological and physiological rifts between species are pretty substantive. Transformers don't even eat. Most of human civilization is based around refining and managing subsistence. For us to be more than clever monkeys to Transformers we'd first need to find a way to live without eating or breathing. (Though pissing is still somehow God-like.)


> A more appropriate real-life comparison would be a
> tiny race of dogs that can think, cook, make
> movies, and vote.

But can we really understand Transformers? The difference in perception of time is probably at least as vast as between us and our closest companions. To dogs, we're practically immortal in terms of lifespan. And our concerns are incomprehensible to them.

The main dilemma posed throughout the films is the conversion of our mass to their energy. Decepticons seem to think our sentience is irrelevant, while Autobots think it's wrong to use us for such purposes. On a fundamental level this is the same as the PETA argument about sentience and consumption. While pigs may not have civilization or art, they are sentient enough to seek companionship, create social hierarchies, solve problems, avoid pain, and play. Ergo, we should not consume them.


> Right, because in our world, there's a question of
> whether animals should be equated with humans. But
> in the movie, are you seeing the same ambiguity?

Yeah, see above. Autobots act as if humans are equal in some respect to themselves, while Decepticons do not. I think that's the central tension between those two groups.


> And seconds before Megatron offers the "truce," he
> stabs Sentinel Prime (his former partner) in the
> back. At this point we've been through 3 movies
> that show Megs to be incapable of a "peaceful
> resolution." In fact, what we've learned is that
> if Prime spares Megatron, he'll just come back and
> try to end the world in the 4th movie, just as he
> did in the 2nd and, uh, the 3rd. Here, what's
> emphasized by the sequence of events is that if
> Prime accepts the devil's handshake, he'll likely
> end up like Sentinel Prime. If anything, it shows
> self-preservation and pragmatic thinking on
> Prime's part.

Eh, maybe. But clearly the technology exists to imprison Transformers. Humans even had Megatron on ice twice. And the Decepticons were seen taking prisoners. It's equally plausible to suggest that Prime could have imprisoned Megatron just as easily as killing him. Maybe use the space bridge to send him back to a desolated Cybertron.


> And the idea about sacrificing his planet for
> dogs...in the movie, we're shown a round metal
> carcass devoid of life. Again, the parallel you're
> drawing is to a planet filled with life that is in
> danger. There may be some choice about Prime
> weighing his planet and ours, but from what we're
> shown, there really isn't much of one.

That the movie sidesteps this conundrum is important. Sentinel Prime, the greatest mind and leader on Cybertron, seems to think humans could rebuild their world. Why would Prime not even stop to consider that? Instead, the militant human lover irrevocably destroys his planet of origin, seemingly without compunction. Justice in the barrel of a laser gun, hang the expense.


> I mean, it goes back to my point about the choices
> Prime had. Or he didn't have. Or put another way,
> Prime is essentially Leonidas from 300, right down
> to being offered the devil's bargain from Xerxes,
> right down to "kill everyone to preserve freedom."
> But is 300 a satire of the war epic?

It's a close analogy, but it differs on some important points. Leonidas is knowingly sacrificing himself. Prime doesn't appear to sacrifice anything. (Aside from his home planet. But Leonidas was sacrificing himself to preserve his home.) And all of the framing in 300 is earnest. TF is never serious.


> I'd like to think I'm capable of looking at this
> with some measure of objectivity.

Yet again I didn't come off sounding like I wanted to. I linked to the above scene to show just how impossible it is to suspend disbelief in TF. That scene could have come from The Other Guys or even White Chicks. But it didn't. It came from a movie that starts with the pretense of sci-fi action, not genre comedy.

In the trilogy there is no authenticity. None. It's not like Star Wars or Star Trek in which we can look past the technology and wizardry to see human characters. All of the characters in TF are a-human, sub-human, super-human. And all of their dialog and actions reflect this.

So what I meant to get across was that the satirical reading of TF is more palatable. As part of the audience, if we remove all preconceptions of seriousness in the film and go into it expecting a satire we will be highly, and cleverly, rewarded.


> Anyway, we've had hollow action flicks before. I
> guess for me, satire has to have a way of
> developing its point through characterization,
> plot, and subtext, and for me, there really wasn't
> much subtext here, and that's where we're
> disagreeing.

I think the inversion and conscious manipulation of those elements creates satire. It's no accident that all those elimination scenes made their way into TF. Even if Bay has open disdain for his audience it doesn't make it a hollow product. And in light of the things I've mentioned, I think it actually points to a conscious degree of manipulation that leads to satire.


> Going back to A Modest Proposal, it's clear to
> anyone reading that eating babies is wrong.
> Now--what is it about what Prime does that makes
> us question the basic rightness/wrongness of what
> he does (he's defending a civilization from
> murderous fiends)? We may question the degrees to
> which he fulfills his mission, but the mission
> itself really isn't up for discussion. If it were,
> if there was doubt that his primary narrative
> purpose was unheroic, then I could buy the satire
> angle.

Prime is a moral zombie. I think the zealousness of his actions is what is up for ridicule. Preserving freedom by killing everyone is a fairly ironic moral stance. It's even been topical in how people have debated our nation's political activities in the last decade.

Putting Prime and Old Glory on the screen at the same time is a strong association. If it weren't for the grotesque materialism and exaggerated caricatures also included in the films it would be an earnest metaphor, not a satirical juxtaposition.

Put another way, I submit that you could edit out the body humor and screaming characters to such a degree that you would be left with a typically inane summer action film in trilogy format (like Paul's suggestion of Pirates of the Caribbean) that would have been shorter and cheaper. But instead of pulling those things out, they were played up with a FUCK THE AUDIENCE attitude by the director. That's fairly atypical and, to me, more than hints at satire.
asterphage Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> What about Pirates of the Caribbean?

I think that's pretty close, except that PotC had earnest humor without the grotesque materialism and scatology. Consider that about half of the gags in TF wouldn't fly in a PG-13 movie if they used humans instead of robots.


> I disagree. For instance, the moon landing
> sequence at the start of TF3 (aside from the
> confusion over the dark and far sides of the moon,
> and when Apollo would actually be out of radio
> contact) is done in a rigorous, convincing
> fashion, with great attention to how the scene is
> composed... there are other moments like this as
> well, like the ice cave in the first film. The
> whole throughline, from Megatron laser-etching the
> spectacles, to Labeouf inheriting them and putting
> them on eBay, to the Decepticons tracking him
> down, was fairly well constructed and amusing.
> There are elements of these films that hint at a
> fun, lighthearted surrealism, but in the end
> they're always given over to grim incoherence.

Good point. The moon landing sequence felt really out of place to me. I remember wondering where they were going with it. I think the inclusion of mock-chival footage is what did it. And the lack of screaming nutters.

The basic plot points connect, if only haphazardly enough to string the events along.


> Well, yeah, it's certainly precedented - what he's
> saying there sounds to me just like the more
> recent reappraisal of Verhoeven's Starship
> Troopers.

I think it's a hallmark of good satire that the audience can receive it multiple ways. I mean, that's basically the mechanism of discerning earnestness. Is there any basis for suggesting a work is mocking an audience or viewpoint? If not, we should assume it's an earnest effort. But if we can glean things from the presentation or context that suggest otherwise, we have to leave open the possibility of satire - even if it is unintentional.

Like in Starship Trooper, the director says the work is about enthusiasm for war and death. Now, that's ambiguous enough that pro-war people will find it validating their views while anti-war people can still find it mocking their hawkish counterparts. The key to Verhoeven's stance is the hyperbole. And the grotesque materialism, though there's a lot less scatological stuff. The pro-war aspects are sooo exaggerated, even in the face of abject horror. I think that totally applies to Transformers, though Bay is probably not as sophisticated a director as Verhoeven.


> Well, he did just watch Megatron betray the last
> person Megatron formed a truce with. I don't think
> the film is confronting us with an unjustifiable
> act here and daring us to accept it - I think,
> like most action movies, Transformers 3 does the
> bare minimum to justify the heroes' actions.

Remember, the humans kept Megatron locked down twice and the Decipticons were seen taking prisoners. Prime surely could have come up with a solution. Hell, even the bad guys had simply demanded the Autobots leave as opposed to asking for their outright destruction. I mean, alternatives existed. Easy ones. Disarmament. Expulsion. Incarceration. Or, Heaven forbid, reformation and a genuine, lasting peace.

Then again, perhaps the reason Cybertron melted down was because they never developed these concepts.


> On the other hand, someone I know from
> Transformers fandom back in the day says the next
> film should be Ultra Magnus showing up to arrest
> Prime for war crimes. Which would be just
> delicious.

Agreed.
Sanjeev (Admin)
hillsy Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> You'd better work the fro into the costume,
> Sanjeev.

Whenever I try to think of how my costume would look, all I can picture is MF Doom. ;)


Gcrush Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> can we imagine an acephalic satire?

I don't think that whether a work has a head or not is what allows something to be satire...it's intent.

Anyway, I'm still on the fence about the dog analogy. I mean, I know it was never meant to be the foundation of your satire argument, but I can see how the Autobots uphold sentience as the one single, true criterion for deserving freedom. I mean, it's Prime's motto, isn't it? So despite that these alien robot gods are functionally immortal (yet defecate), space-faring, etc., our sentience could be "enough" for some of them to give us a pass. In other words, in their eyes, we're more like them than dogs are like us.

Of course, this makes the point of Prime's executing Megatron at the end even more laughable.

But anyway, this brings up another nerd point: are eugenics appropriate for Transformers? I mean, are the Decepticons a "race" that are inherently anti-social? Is it part of their programming? I mean, why have a different name for Transformer constituency groups UNLESS it's to denote some some fundamental difference in programming (unlike the human concept of race, incidentally, which hasn't been genetically verified) or ethnicity (history)? So perhaps Decepticons are inherently bad...and Autobots SHOULD genocidally hunt them down...despite their obvious sentience. Perhaps it should be "Freedom is the right of all sentient lifeforms...unless they infringe upon other lifeforms' freedom...in which case, we slaughter them mercilessly."


> Preserving freedom by killing everyone is a fairly
> ironic moral stance. It's even been topical in
> how people have debated our nation's political
> activities in the last decade.


Indeed. If you contradict my principles, I blow your ass back to the stone age. Not to get into a crime and punishment discussion here, but the ideal resolution is to engage with and help to rehabilitate the person/space-robot-god exhibiting anti-social behavior. Anti-social behavior is fundamentally in contradiction to sentient life (at least, on Earth), so there is some disconnect resulting from chronic or intermittent distress in the individual's past: this must be addressed in an ideal society...and it's what someone like Prime ought to stand for. Rather than de-spining motherfuckers.

Unless, of course, Decepts are programmed to destroy. In which case, Prime's whole "paragon of justice" persona is absurdly unnecessary...and he should be instead cast as a great, galactic exterminator.


> So what I meant to get across was that the
> satirical reading of TF is more palatable. As
> part of the audience, if we remove all
> preconceptions of seriousness in the film and go
> into it expecting a satire we will be highly, and
> cleverly, rewarded.

Okay, you've convinced me enough. Your theory isn't proven, as yet, but it's sound enough that we need a plan. I'm thinking we need three test groups of individuals who haven't seen these movies. Each group should consist of as accurate a cross section of American society as possible (different ages, races, genders, class backgrounds, education levels, disabled vs able-bodied, etc.). We inform the first group that they are going to be seeing a trilogy of three movies (without telling them what they are), and simply show them all three (this is the control group). The second group, we tell that they're about to see a kick-ass action trilogy featuring cool characters and American values. The third, we tell they're about to see a mocking satire of American movie-goers who would normally love a trilogy like this. After each group screens the trilogy, they fill out some sort of form to gauge their responses. I think if the satire group "enjoys" the experience more, you're onto something...

Anyway, one of the funniest things about this whole discussion is that you seem to be defending these god awful TF movies...while you're still tough on comic movies and toys :P
The most unrealistic thing about these Transformers movies is that women like Megan Fox and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley would be interested in a dweeb like Shia.

-Ginrai
Golden Gate Riot on dead trees at: [www.destroyallcomics.com]
The Beef is actually a huge chick magnet.
Gcrush Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> gingaio Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> > Have you forgotten all those one-liners in
> > Ah-nold's movies after he offed someone: "Stick
> > ah-round," "You're fired," etc. That didn't
> really
> > make Predator or Terminator satires. They had
> > satirical or parodic elements, sure.
>
> Sure. But did those films feature so much
> repetitive grotesqueness? And I don't just mean
> exaggerated violence, but specifically bodily
> eliminations. If an Ah-nold/Rambone film was
> loaded with scatalogical humor I might see the
> comparison as more relevant.
>
I'm not sure I understand how the scatalogical humor in a summer blockbuster flick with a primary target demo of adolescents is that out of the ordinary, though....as is, Bayformers is different from other violent action flicks in that it's based on a toyline that still targets children, so the crossover appeal (or what Bay thinks would appeal to kids) strikes me as fairly natural, resulting in the hodgepodge of mature/immature qualities in these movies.

In fact, I think what you've cited as ironic excess (the stupid characterization, bad dialogue, lame/childish humor) is actually a concerted, sincere effort to broaden the appeal to a younger, toy-buying crowd.

Instead of mocking the adult action genre, I think he's actually trying to make it kid-friendly.
>
> Again, my comparison got lost there. I was trying
> to point out that, at the time of its publication,
> AMP flummoxed people who couldn't see Swift's
> intent. But enough people could that we can hold
> it up as a classic example of satire today.

I think the Prince was probably easier to read as satire back in the day, given the greater tension of republic versus tyrant, a tension that's not so dominant in our cultural consciousness now.

This dude provides better context than me: [records.viu.ca]

> By
> contrast, I still hear people touting The Prince
> in earnestness despite all of the countervailing
> evidence present in Machiavelli's life and other
> writings. The difference between the two, to me,
> is that TP is really clever satire because it can
> be read two ways - the surface reading, and the
> satirical reading. AMP has, and perhaps only ever
> had, the satirical reading available.
>
One thing I've noticed that's common to all effective satires is that there's something the satirist values--Machiavelli and the idea of a republic, Swift and the plight of the impoverished Irish, Chappelle and the state of race relations today. The mockery (essentially the parodic elements) exist insofar as to help allow for dual readings. But they are not an end to themselves. The shock value has to be part of a consistently developed surface narrative and a consistently developed counternarrative. Given that consistency/coherence is a huge issue with these movies, if they are satirical, and that's a big if, they're piss-poor ones.

> I didn't intend for that to seem like a
> foundation....That is, I'm not sure there's
> anything in the films that could suggest the
> Transformers are not simply projecting their
> values on to us. Because they're speaking out
> language and not the other way around, how can we
> assume that we're catching everything? We know
> they have their own language. Maybe the even use
> wireless and infrared communication. Maybe they
> process thought at speeds far greater than humans.

> Aside from being (mostly) humanoid in shape and
> using vernacular English, the only way to tell the
> good guys from the bad guys is who is and isn't
> squashing us.
>
Interesting point, and certainly that's the implication in the premise, that they're super-advanced beings beyond our comprehension, but what we're shown repeatedly are robots who no more intellectually or emotionally sophisticated than people.

I mean, what's the trigger for Megatron turning against Sentinel Prime? The hottie calling him a bitch. That's the mastermind behind the Decepticons? And yet, it shows a certain unintentional regard for the hottie's native intelligence that her words would motivate him.

It would be like my neighbor's dog sidling up to my fence and going, "Hey, I think you should reconsider your retirement plan," and me going, "Oh, yeah, that's a great idea."

This is not to even mention that Starscream, Megatron's lieutenant gets wiped out by a kid.

The mass/energy argument you make is nice, and that's why to me, a more apt comparison would be colonizer/colonized. There's a difference between, "Let's kill this pig because I like bacon and besides, it's only a pig," and, "Let's kill these people because we want their land and timber."

Anyway, this really should be a sidebar to the main argument.
>
> Eh, maybe. But clearly the technology exists to
> imprison Transformers. Humans even had Megatron
> on ice twice.

And they never exactly worked, right? The point we're heading toward is that Prime had heroic options other than wiping out his enemies. Besides that issue of choice (which we're going to disagree on), wiping out the enemies is a trademark of these action flicks. I'm not seeing how this makes Prime unheroic. The Rock, Bay's other movie involved the usual systematic wiping out of the rogue military unit, and this plot structure seems to be a staple of Bay-styled or just general action movies.

> It's a close analogy, but it differs on some
> important points. Leonidas is knowingly
> sacrificing himself. Prime doesn't appear to
> sacrifice anything.

He actually died (for all of about half an hour) in the 2nd movie, saving Sam, if I recall, and at the end of the third, he had one arm ripped off and the other was falling off, too--this would indicate at least a willingness to again die for his cause.

> Prime is a moral zombie. I think the zealousness
> of his actions is what is up for ridicule.
> Preserving freedom by killing everyone is a fairly
> ironic moral stance.

The point, though, is that he doesn't kill everyone. He only kills the bad guys. The film functions, to me anyway, like most other blockbuster action flicks in this respect.

There's nothing offered by these movies that really puts the reader in the privileged and distanced moral position that good/effective satires allow.

As Ian Johnston said in that link I pasted: If The Prince was originally written as a satire and if (as is evident) a majority of readers fail to recognize that, then the fault lies in the writing—the ironies are not sufficiently clear throughout (for whatever reason) or, alternatively put, are too lightly shaded or require too much of a contemporary Florentine sensibility, so that the literal meaning overwhelms the moral purpose.

The literal meaning of the Bayformers--good robots defend earth against bad robots--isn't really presented ironically in a consistent fashion, if at all.

For example, if that last shot had a victorious Prime standing in front of the American flag and surrounded by the charred skeletal remains of various civilians, then that would cut it as ironic. As is, it's a straight-up hero shot.

> Put another way, I submit that you could edit out
> the body humor and screaming characters to such a
> degree that you would be left with a typically
> inane summer action film in trilogy format (like
> Paul's suggestion of Pirates of the Caribbean)
> that would have been shorter and cheaper. But
> instead of pulling those things out, they were
> played up with a FUCK THE AUDIENCE attitude by the
> director. That's fairly atypical and, to me, more
> than hints at satire.

Again, "fuck [or shock or awaken] the audience" to me is really just the starting point of satire. There needs to be more.



Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 07/14/2011 09:39PM by gingaio.
Sanjeev (Admin)
gingaio Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> One thing I've noticed that's common to all
> effective satires is that there's something the
> satirist values--Machiavelli and the idea of a
> republic, Swift and the plight of the impoverished
> Irish, Chappelle and the state of race relations
> today. The mockery (essentially the parodic
> elements) exist insofar as to help allow for dual
> readings. But they are not an end to themselves.
> The shock value has to be part of a consistently
> developed surface narrative and a consistently
> developed counternarrative. Given that
> consistency/coherence is a huge issue with these
> movies, if they are satirical, and that's a big
> if, they're piss-poor ones.

Not to speak for 'crush (maybe all three of us are the same person???), but within the construct of his theory, I think the thing that Bay allegedly values--the counternarrative--is that movie-goers SHOULD hate movies like this. In satirizing the propensity of the common man to cause himself pain willfully, Bay is telling us to STOP. To value our sanity...our standards...our time and money.

It's...plausible.
Sanjeev Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> gingaio Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > One thing I've noticed that's common to all
> > effective satires is that there's something the
> > satirist values--Machiavelli and the idea of a
> > republic, Swift and the plight of the
> impoverished
> > Irish, Chappelle and the state of race
> relations
> > today. The mockery (essentially the parodic
> > elements) exist insofar as to help allow for
> dual
> > readings. But they are not an end to
> themselves.
> > The shock value has to be part of a
> consistently
> > developed surface narrative and a consistently
> > developed counternarrative. Given that
> > consistency/coherence is a huge issue with
> these
> > movies, if they are satirical, and that's a big
> > if, they're piss-poor ones.
>
> Not to speak for 'crush (maybe all three of us are
> the same person???), but within the construct of
> his theory, I think the thing that Bay allegedly
> values--the counternarrative--is that movie-goers
> SHOULD hate movies like this. In satirizing the
> propensity of the common man to cause himself pain
> willfully, Bay is telling us to STOP. To value our
> sanity...our standards...our time and money.
>
> It's...plausible.

Mocking shit by making shit?

My grad school mentor would call it fallacy of imitative form.

It's just that in typical satire the counternarrative is sustained throughout, with an also consistent and discernible gap between the literal reading and implied one.

The gap is huge in something like a Modest Proposal.

It may be smaller in something like the Prince (though given the proper context, maybe not).

It's definitely smaller in something like Chappelle's "Niggar Family" sketch, in which the audience is simultaneously baited into laughing at the use of the word and simultaneously chastised.

The key thing, though, is that "Niggar Family" gives the audience the tools to discern that it's satire (parodying a show about white families from the 50s, the anachronistic interjections by Chappelle's character).

The thing about Bayformers is that big chunks of the movies are pretty standard action fare (hero needs to get something, goes to get it, needs to avoid bad guys, etc.), riddled with lowbrow humor and messy action scenes, but, very rarely, also peppered with some genuinely good moments. So the gap is pretty hard to discern because it feels like a lot of the times there's usually only a literal reading allowed, as far as them being what they are, which is big, sloppy, visceral action movies.

The movies themselves have to provide a sustained, consistent counternarrative for the satire to make sense. The assumption that Bay is throwing shit at us is hard to argue because the starting premise (the movies are complete and unqualified "shit") is not something that we can even agree on in the first place.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/14/2011 04:30PM by gingaio.
Sanjeev (Admin)
Not to keep playing the devil's advocate here, but I don't actually see how Bay's *alleged* counternarrative is any less sustained or consistent than any of the other mentioned satires. Like, I know I only saw the first one, but it was over-the-top lunacy from start to finish. It's a caricature of an action flick. Doesn't that make the counternarrative of "modern Hollywood blockbusters are terrible" just as sustained and consistent as "dehumanizing Irish people is wrong"?

Yeah, it's a bit more subtle...but it could still work. I mean, I look at it this way: If *I* were hired (in earnest) by some big studio, and given carte blanche to make a summer blockbuster...but in reality, I secretly wanted to fuck with people...I'd honestly do something VERY similar, right? Something grotesquely over-the-top, inane, and self-contradictory...yet still within "reason" for such a Hollywood spectacle. Otherwise, if it were more overt like Swift, someone would catch on and pull the plug.

Look, this can only be settled in one of two ways: the experiment I proposed...or Thunderdome.

[edit: whoops...Jon Swift, not Milton]



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/16/2011 10:19AM by Sanjeev.
Speaking of superhero movies....this looks fucking cool and I don't care what y'all say:

[spinoff.comicbookresources.com]

---------------------------------
[pgaijin.blogspot.com]
Hill, I am ALL OVER Cap... really looking forward to this one for a variety of reasons. The 'grounded' depiction of Captain America looks awesome, in the same way that Iron Man felt really fresh. The actual designs and actors all really look the part... I'm sure it'll be tastefully full of fanboy nods, and it should really get them boners hard for the upcoming Avengers effort. Based on Thor, I am also confident that the Avengers world-building will be subtle, where some people complained there was too much in IM2 (I call those people dumb). Plus, I do love a good Nazi-punching movie. All in all, suppppper stoked for this.

Introducing Prometheus Rising Studio.
[prometheusrising.net]
I make 3D printed mecha action figures.
We don't call anyone dumb, Ben....this is ToyLoveDX. This is literally the movie I've waited for since my childhood. Cap was always my favorite. Not sure why...gaudy patriotic costume? No real super powers? Yes to all.

---------------------------------
[pgaijin.blogspot.com]
IMO, there's a much better argument to be made for Robocop, Total Recall, and Starship Troopers being parodies/deconstructions than these Transformers.

-Ginrai
Golden Gate Riot on dead trees at: [www.destroyallcomics.com]
hillsy Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> ToyLoveDX.

Nevarr!

In all seriousness, post-war Cap is just another one of those great examples of the Marvel Way of having flawed characters. He's the ultimate wimpy-guy empowerment fantasy of getting perfectly in shape, but he ends up an anachronism trying to figure out a world that has all but forgotten him. 'Compelling' is an overused adjective, but Cap is compelling... his trying to cope with and figure out modern life while his mental and physical past continues to haunt him.

Introducing Prometheus Rising Studio.
[prometheusrising.net]
I make 3D printed mecha action figures.
Sanjeev Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Not to keep playing the devil's advocate here, but
> I don't actually see how Bay's *alleged*
> counternarrative is any less sustained or
> consistent than any of the other mentioned
> satires. Like, I know I only saw the first one,
> but it was over-the-top lunacy from start to
> finish. It's a caricature of an action flick.
> Doesn't that make the counternarrative of "modern
> Hollywood blockbusters are terrible" just as
> sustained and consistent as "dehumanizing Irish
> people is wrong"?
>
The problem is I'm not seeing a caricature of an action film here, and that's why I'm also not seeing much of a counternarrative.

And technically, something that's simply a caricature would be a parody, not a satire. Satire by definition has to involve a particular message (parody just mocks for no greater end than mockery, like Weird Al videos). The Naked Gun movies are caricatures (parodies) of cop movies, for example. There is a) humor, and b) that humor is derived from exaggerating/undermining the defining tropes of the given genre.

The stupid humor that Mr. Crush mentioned are by and large sidebars to the main attraction of robot-porn-violence. If the humor was somehow derived from the robot-porn-violence itself, if it was sending up robot-porn-violence in a clear way, there'd at least be the potential for parody and, eventually, satire. The problem is that a lot of action movies are shot just like Bayformers (handheld cameras, snap cuts, disorienting angles), so what's to say that Bayformers isn't just another action movie?

Anyway, I think Mr. Crush's point about satire is different than what you're saying. I think he's leaning toward something to do with our attraction to stupid, amoral violence in action flicks, which is why Verhoeven was mentioned, but one reason Robocop worked so well was that the structure of the film itself was altered to 1) accommodate the parody and satire and 2) detach the audience from the central narrative enough so that it has the ability to recognize the satire. Mainly, I'm referring to the use of the fake commercials, which besides the corporate criticism embedded, makes us feel like we're watching a crappy, violent TV show instead of an actual movie. That said, Robocop was still borderline satire. The core narrative is still very much an action film.

Anyway, that's why Mr. Crush and I have been going back and forth on the characterization of Prime. Because there's the heroic mythic Optimus you get from the literal reading of these movies and for satire to exist here, there needs to be a counternarrative that consistently shows Prime and the Autobots to be the opposite of actual heroes.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 07/14/2011 09:32PM by gingaio.
Gcrush Wrote:
>
> In which case I go back to one of my questions -
> can we imagine an acephalic satire? I think the
> TF trilogy would fit perfectly with that. No one
> person may have intended to weave together a
> satirical work, but somehow that's what happened.
> It should still be given credit as such.

You're killin' me with this stuff, because YEAH, I kind of CAN imagine that.

> I think the technological and physiological rifts
> between species are pretty substantive.
> Transformers don't even eat. Most of human
> civilization is based around refining and managing
> subsistence. For us to be more than clever
> monkeys to Transformers we'd first need to find a
> way to live without eating or breathing. (Though
> pissing is still somehow God-like.)

This doesn't affect your larger point, but I don't think their not eating is a big deal. It's not as if Transformers used to eat and then developed past the need - they have no reason to consider humans' nutrition-dependent state to be primitive and animal-like by comparison, because it's foreign to their experience of what "life" is.

Also, their need for Energon is analogous to humans' need for physical nourishment as well as our need for electrical/mechanical power to maintain our standard of living. That's kind of the whole idea of Transformers as a life form, that their way of existence combines both the natural and artificial aspects of human existence.

> But can we really understand Transformers? The
> difference in perception of time is probably at
> least as vast as between us and our closest
> companions. To dogs, we're practically immortal
> in terms of lifespan. And our concerns are
> incomprehensible to them.
>
> The main dilemma posed throughout the films is the
> conversion of our mass to their energy.
> Decepticons seem to think our sentience is
> irrelevant, while Autobots think it's wrong to use
> us for such purposes. On a fundamental level this
> is the same as the PETA argument about sentience
> and consumption. While pigs may not have
> civilization or art, they are sentient enough to
> seek companionship, create social hierarchies,
> solve problems, avoid pain, and play. Ergo, we
> should not consume them.

This is much more interesting. I'd like to see a Decepticon contend that humans are worthless because we never live long enough to accomplish anything that truly matters (on a Cybertronian scale), that we are ridiculously ignorant by comparison with even a newborn Transformer, that we are impulsive and erratic and lacking reason and discipline. Instead, Decepticons are always brutish and eeeeevil, wrecking humans' shit because they just don't care, never sophisticated enough to truly look down on us.

> That the movie sidesteps this conundrum is
> important. Sentinel Prime, the greatest mind and
> leader on Cybertron, seems to think humans could
> rebuild their world. Why would Prime not even
> stop to consider that?

I find it impossible to parse this plot point rationally, because the idea that humans could rebuild Cybertron more easily than Transformers (e.g. the army of Decepticons seen in the film) makes no sense on the face of it, and the movie gives us no reason to think Sentinel Prime's plan is anything other than lunacy.

> Prime is a moral zombie. I think the zealousness
> of his actions is what is up for ridicule.
> Preserving freedom by killing everyone is a fairly
> ironic moral stance.

This is, of course, correct, but it's also a very funny sentence.

> Like in Starship Trooper, the director says the
> work is about enthusiasm for war and death. Now,
> that's ambiguous enough that pro-war people will
> find it validating their views while anti-war
> people can still find it mocking their hawkish
> counterparts. The key to Verhoeven's stance is
> the hyperbole. And the grotesque materialism,
> though there's a lot less scatological stuff. The
> pro-war aspects are sooo exaggerated, even in the
> face of abject horror.

This may be an obvious thing to point out, but it feels to me like the thing that puts ST over the edge into unmistakeable satire is the Federal Network - the fact that the protagonists, and the audience through them, are essentially treated like children or idiots by their leaders.
It's kind of mystifying to me today that people took it as an entirely serious action film at the time. My excuse is that I was a teenager back then.

> Hell, even the bad guys had simply
> demanded the Autobots leave as opposed to asking
> for their outright destruction.

Well, they did then try to blow them up. The movie works hard to present no possible outcome for any situation other than violence.

> I mean,
> alternatives existed. Easy ones. Disarmament.

Can you really ever disarm a movie Transformer? Their reformatting capability is seemingly endless.

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
gingaio Wrote:
>
> Interesting point, and certainly that's the
> implication in the premise, that they're
> super-advanced beings beyond our comprehension,
> but what we're shown repeatedly are robots who no
> more intellectually or emotionally sophisticated
> than people.
>
> I mean, what's the trigger for Megatron turning
> against Sentinel Prime? The hottie calling him a
> bitch. That's the mastermind behind the
> Decepticons? And yet, it shows a certain
> unintentional regard for the hottie's native
> intelligence that her words would motivate him.
>
> It would be like my neighbor's dog sidling up to
> my fence and going, "Hey, I think you should
> reconsider your retirement plan," and me going,
> "Oh, yeah, that's a great idea."

...are you saying that Megatron is the Cybertronian Son of Sam?

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
Sanjeev (Admin)
gingaio Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> And technically, something that's simply a
> caricature would be a parody, not a satire.

I think I agree. However, IF you agree that these movies are a grotesque caricature of the American action movie in the first place (which is more the point of contention), I think they would qualify as satire, not parody. Epic Movie was a parody of such movies because it simply made fun of them through mockery. But with Transformers, it's not overt "making fun of"...I feel it's more than that. Again, IF 'crush's theory is true and that Bay's intent WAS to "punk" Hollywood, as it were, THIS would be the way to do it. Just like Swift draws (English) readers in by proposing a way to deal with the "Irish situation", Bay draws in movie-goers, promising the usual summer blockbuster tripe. But then, just like how Swift drops baby-eating to shock the reader and satirize their dehumanization of the Irish, Bay delivers what could only be described as an all-out war on sense and good taste. And that constitutes a satire of our corrupt, bread-and-circuses society.

Naturally, just like with Machiavelli, this is all speculation without knowing Bay's true intentions. I happen to think that there's enough "meat" to the theory that we should test it, damnit.

> The problem is that a lot of
> action movies are shot just like Bayformers
> (handheld cameras, snap cuts, disorienting
> angles), so what's to say that Bayformers isn't
> just another action movie?

Quite true...this is why we need to get beyond the intellectualizing, and get out into the field and start testing!

> Anyway, I think Mr. Crush's point about satire is
> different than what you're saying. I think he's
> leaning toward something to do with our attraction
> to stupid, amoral violence in action flicks...

Oh, no, I agree with this^^. I'm just not as flowery wit me werds as you gents. But, yeah, that's what I was trying to get at. My "bread-and-circuses" reference was obviously to the Roman plebian's affinity for the colosseum.

> Anyway, that's why Mr. Crush and I have been going
> back and forth on the characterization of Prime.
> Because there's the heroic mythic Optimus you get
> from the literal reading of these movies and for
> satire to exist here, there needs to be a
> counternarrative that consistently shows Prime and
> the Autobots to be the opposite of actual heroes.

But I thought that's what G was trying to say by referencing Prime's indiscriminate killing..? Like, we (as the audience) are presented with a hero that's supposedly incorruptibly virtuous. He's willing to die for his principles. But then, we're witness to him being the complete opposite of that when he butchers Megatron or whatever. And, in general, the genocidal attitude the films seem to show towards the "bad guys" (think bad guys in police or US military terms) is pretty fucking contradictory to those principles (freedom). Wouldn't that qualify as a sound counternarrative IF the intent was to satirize the American public's affinity for (and inability to recognize) amoral violence?

[edit: whoops...Jon Swift, not Milton]



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/16/2011 10:20AM by Sanjeev.
Sanjeev (Admin)
Don't believe the hype.

Saw Cap last night. If you're on the fence or aren't committed to these Avengers movies, avoid. If you're following these flicks and are a Marvel/Avengers fan, well, you know you need to see it regardless. Do so...just be prepared. Low expectations aren't required, but they sure woulda helped. My gods...they sure woulda helped.

:(
So does this put a dent in your "Marvel Studios = good" theory? :)

(Just asking--I haven't seen this yet and have no particular inclination to.)
Yeah, I guess having creative control doesn't necessarily mean you'll still do it right. It just means you can't blame anyone else.

More serious than thou
I'm looking forward to Cap and by all accounts (reviews), it's supposed to be earnest old fashioned zippy fun, like the "Rocketeer" - I'm fine with that if they can pull if off.
Isn't the whole "Johnny Storm" becomes "Cap'n 'Merica" a continuity goof?
I'm hearing praise from all the usual places I tend to fall in line with. Will end up seeing it in the next week or two regardless.

Introducing Prometheus Rising Studio.
[prometheusrising.net]
I make 3D printed mecha action figures.
Sanjeev (Admin)
gingaio Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> So does this put a dent in your "Marvel Studios =
> good" theory? :)

Oh, abso-fucking-lutely. It's not like I had them on a "can do no wrong" pedestal, but here're my grades for them...in order of movie release:
Iron Man: A
Incredible Hulk: B
Iron Man 2: B+
Thor: A-
Captain America: C-

See that trend? With Thor being so good, I was sure expecting Cap to be up there, too. Instead, we got an *extremely* literal/sequential movie. It was almost watching a documentary on the origin of Cap...or rather, a dull history book come to life. This happens, then this happens, then this happens...so uninspired. And the dialog is just as bad, if not worse: it's totally you talk-then I talk-then you talk-then I talk... And, of course, the actual lines are horrifically cliched.

You take any of the other movies, and the dialog is leaps and bounds more natural, dynamic, and unforced.

And the plot? Well, yeah, I guess it's comic-accurate...but there's just no soul to it. Cap's only inner conflicts throughout the movie were his awkwardness around women and about two minutes of near-emotion when Bucky dies. Holy hell. In fact, the way Bucky is treated by the movie damn-near nonexistent.

Obviously, my C- grade isn't objectively the worst review ever, but when you're used to much better, it's disappointing as hell. I guess the one saving grace is that it's just ONE "episode" in the Avengers run-up. They can't all be winners, I guess...so this can be easily skipped in future viewings of the whole series. In fact, now that I think of it, if you already know Cap's origin, you can totally skip this. The movie comprises the origin...and THAT'S IT. I mean, at least Iron Man one added a bunch: it wasn't JUST the bare-bones origin story and that's it.

Eh well...
Sanjeev Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This happens, then this happens, then this
> happens...so uninspired. And the dialog is just as
> bad, if not worse: it's totally you talk-then I
> talk-then you talk-then I talk... And, of course,
> the actual lines are horrifically cliched.
>

Thankfully, with Joss Whedon behind "Avengers", we won't have to worry about that in the script (hopefully).
Sanjeev (Admin)
Oh, I didn't know that. Right on. I'm not a huge fan of his (though I liked Firefly), but he can sure throw down some sick grammar.
So I really enjoyed Cap, especially the first half or 2/3rds or so... Chris Evans embodied the character quite well and though kitschy, there's something warm and comforting about watching a straight arrow hero in a straight arrow adventure flick that harkens back to the old days. But like all of the Marvel films, you get the sense that they're either holding something back or just can't seem to reach for the fences and take risks. Still I think I liked it slightly better than "Thor" and definitely much better than "Green Lantern".
Sanjeev (Admin)
H-man Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Still I think I liked it slightly better than
> "Thor"...

You're clearly on mind-altering drugs. :P

Nah, I forgot to reply to Gcrush before, but I think Chris Evans did a pretty bang-up job. Completely 180 from the douchebag he played in FF. So my beef is wasn't the lack of acting talent on Evans' part, but the script itself. Oh, and was it me, or did the Ultimates-style costume they put him in make him look like a 12-year-old? Again, not Evans' fault, but I wasn't impressed with the costume.

That's cool that you dug it, Harvey. But for me, my favorite Cap stories were the more poignant, introspective ones...where his ideals were put to the test. Those storied humanized him in a way that always fascinated me enough to look past the blonde hair, blue eyes, and stars and stripes. And honestly, given the (relative) sophistication of the previous Marvel Studios movies, I was expecting that sort of treatment in this picture.

So, yeah, I'm not sure I'd compare it to Rocketeer...but it's just as low-calorie.
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