Last weekend, I saw 9, the Tim Burton-produced vehicle about odd-looking burlap dolls saving the planet from... whatever the Hell is was that had taken over the planet. It's only been a few days, but I can barely remember the thing at all. All I seem to remember is that the main character (Doll #9) was attempting to save his fellow dolls' souls that were trapped in this machine, and at the end, the dolls were still dead. I guess I thought saving them would involve saving them. That's why I'm a soulless bastard.
More than the movie itself, I remember the conversation I had with my fellow 9-ers. I went with a friend of mine and some friends of his, and one of his friends (who is much more optimistic and jolly than I) said that he likes movies because life is just too hard not to. He loved both live-action Transformers movies for the simple reason that he wanted to see stuff blow up (and Michael Bay movies occasionally feature such things.) Honestly, I cannot blame him. Movies are supposed to be an escape from the drudgery of every day life. However, must we sacrifice quality for explosions?
I pointed out to my friend's friend that J.J. Abrams' Star Trek re-make had plenty of action, and a few explosions, and was an excellent movie. far better, in fact, than anything Michael bay has ever directed. He concurred, yet was not swayed from enjoying Transformers. Which is good, because for whatever reason, I have a tendency to try and convince people that they are wrong and whatever movie they liked and I despised is, in fact, terrible, so I applaud him for sticking to his guns.
We live in curious times as far as our entertainment goes. We may forget that movies, as we know them, have not been around all that long, and yet there are so many of them that the audience takes good movies for granted and now just wants to be mildly amused for a couple hours. Plots, themes, being amazed by the special effects, these are all lost amid giant fighting robots who are mostly indiscernable from each other and super-heroes, who seemingly have to suffer such strife, yet always manage to defeat the villain and get the girl at the end. Of course, people will try to convince me that, sure, the story sucked, but the effects in Transformers were really awesome. Well, of course they were. They were all done by computer programs that we can purchase at our local Best Buy. To me, knowing that, if I had the time and money, I could do the same thing takes a little of the magic away.
This is why Jurassic Park is still one of my all-time favorite movies. There was still an element of "How did they do that?" when it came to the dinosaurs. The special effects wizards behind the Raptors and T-Rexes combined elements of CGI and animtronics to create creatures that actually looked real because they were. The dinosaurs had weight and dimension, things that no Transformer had. That logic, to me, also applies to the story. A man breeding his own dinosaurs opens up a big can of worms (the morality, the idea that they are selling this scientific boon that could probably used for more noble means. Or as Ian Malcolm adequately puts it, "What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world.") Jurassic Park takes the first half-hour introducing the premise and developing the human characters before we even see a dinosaur. Transformers didn't waste a whole lot fo time developing Shia LeBouf or Megan Fox (not that she needs much developing). As I recall, the robots landed and the chaos ensued.
I think the same can be said for movies in general.