That which has been seen cannot be unseen

July 14, 2009

Of course once you start a blog you have to keep it updated — I’ve been slipping. I could say I was busy with my real life, but in fact, I’d been rendered catatonic after seeing Transformers 2.
You’ve probably heard it’s a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad film. It is that and more. Even Harry Knowles — a man who (literally) loves big, dumb, loud action movies the way a fat kid loves cake — said it was, and I quote: foul mouthed, racist & misogynistic! It also runs an hour too long! That’s the film-critic equivalent of Cronkite saying Vietnam was unwinnable on the nightly news: if you’ve lost that guy,you’ve lost Middle America.

If you want a detailed description of how and why this movie sucked, the esteemed Roger Ebert has a good one on his blog:

There was no starting out slow and building up to a big climax. The movie is pretty much all climax. The Autobots® and Decepticons® must not have read the warning label on their Viagra. At last we see what a four-hour erection looks like.

And now for my verdict: Transformers 2 was so bad .. (“How bad was it?”) … so bad it made The Spirit look good by comparison.

Allow me to explain: I saw The Spirit on DVD, and could not for the life of me decide if it was a lousy superhero movie or if it was supposed to be a bad-on-purpose spoof, in the vein of Big Trouble in Little China or Buckaroo Banzai — that is to say, whether I was supposed to be watching Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin or the Adam West TV show. (Apparently it was supposed to be Adam West after all.)

Regardless, I kinda liked it (as did Harry) — enough, anyway, to track down some anthologies of the original comics and find out what went wrong. Frank Miller, the man behind “Sin City” (both the cartoons and the movie) had known and greatly admired Will Eisner, creator of “The Spirit” cartoons. Was he, as some had speculated, purposely dishonoring the work of his now-deceased mentor ?

No, it turns out that the movie is actually surprisingly faithful to the comic, in its basic ingredients — but the tone is completely wrong. What do I mean by that?

There. That, in a nutshell, is the problem. Frank Miller could copy the scenes and the characters but not get The Spirit right any more than John Hughes could have directed “Blue Velvet” (or vice versa as the case may be).

The point is, Miller may have failed, but at least he tried to stretch his creativity and do something different and original. I guess a man’s got to know his limitations. On the other hand, Michael Bay purposefully aimed for the lowest common denominator, repeating the same old crap and, incidentally, fully indulging his own obsessions, and whatever the result is, it ain’t art.

The Spirit, for all its flaws, at least encouraged me to learn more about Will Eisner, one of the all-time great comic artists, whose work I had never encountered directly before. Transformers 2 almost made me ashamed I used to play with those toys when I was a kid.

At least, based on the respective showing of these two films at the box office, we now know the answer to the old riddle: “If you set out to fail and succeed, which have you really done?”

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One Response to “That which has been seen cannot be unseen”

  1. broses said

    I remember The Spirit (the movie). I had the same feeling of “Did they MEAN that to be so . . . cheesy?”

    Good to know that it both was, and wasn’t mean to be that way.
    Also good to know that we weren’t the only people on the earth who saw the movie. *grin*

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