Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Transformers 2: less than meets the eye...

I was wrong. After watching the first movie and trailers seeping with action, I figured there was no way Transformers 2 could let me down. Even if the story was weak the movie might still be entertaining, right? I have never been a big Michael Bay fan, but it boggles my mind how he could take a concept built around nothing more than giant warring robots and still bore me to death. I love Transformers and writing this makes me sad.


The first film had a few very funny moments with the family. Someone must have told Bay that people felt that way, because Trans2 was filled with almost nothing but painful, poorly written one-liners. As I watched our boy hero banter with his family about leaving for college I knew something did not feel right. The script and acting were so bad that when Bumble Bee finally showed up I could not even enjoy the visual.

I did not expect a deep sophisticated plot, but I did expect it to be watchable. Most of the robots had no introduction. Time after time they were blown apart and I was never sure what I was seeing. There was only one moment in the whole film where I found myself caring, and that moment was plagiarized from the 1980s cartoon movie. The take-home here is that a 1980s cartoon was working with a better, more sophisticated script. The old cartoon had the trash bots, but this film has the racist “Twins” who added nothing at all to the film. I heard the racism buzz but was on the fence until one of them declared himself unable to read. Ethnic caricatures who are Illiterate are hilarious, right...? There was a female Autobot, but Bay seems to feel that women are only good for eye candy, which brings me to my final rant.

Last time I checked we are living in a time when a female actress can be both beautiful and have a personality. I understand that glamour shots will bring in the teenage boys, but glamour shots were all we had. There was no depth or interest to Megan Fox’s character. As I am writing this I don’t even remember what the character’s name was.

The hero and his eye candy arguing over who would say “I love you” first was forgivable once. I mean a writer will slip up now and then, but over and over throughout the whole movie? From what we can tell the guy is from a stable family and this is his first girlfriend. Are we to believe that he has emotional baggage and is afraid of commitment?

The other girl in the dorms might have been interesting as a love triangle. Instead she ended up being one of the most WTF (in a bad way) moments of the film. Every Transformer in the film is something mechanical but suddenly we are presented with one that can look human. There is no back story. There is no reason. And why is the tip of the tentacle still looking like a tongue?

The film was so shallow and empty that even with breathtaking visuals I felt like it would never end.


Visual effects is the one area where Transformers 2 shined. The CG characters and compositing were beyond breathtaking. I am sure those have to be the most complicated rigs ever built. I fully intend to own the DVD so I can frame through every scene. There were some designs I thought were strange but the execution was still beyond anything I have seen. I can say nothing bad about that area of the film. The artists who worked on that did a phenomenal job.

Regarding cinematography I think Michael Bay might need to learn some new tricks. Slow motion is ok once or twice, but not in every action scene or explosion. There are better ways of creating drama besides making us watch the film at half speed. Things like story or character development so I really care about the last thing I saw get blown apart. I never cared.

We saw the scene where the camera looks up at the screaming woman as an Autobot flips over her in the last film. We saw high views of robots doing flips as they shot down at their targets in the last film. In Transformers 2 that was all we had. Even the music was a repeat. Yeah we get it … the action is slowed and the music is intense. You want us to care about what is going in this fight. We don’t. There are a few people who will love this movie. The group I watched it with has a few of them. Most will watch it only once and forget about. If you don’t like robots and slow-motion explosions you might even hate it.

Transformers 2 brought nothing new to the table. I had wanted to see the IMAX version but I don’t think I will waste my money.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Welcome to jesse-nicodemus.com. This is my place to discuss and document my path through the world of VFX. I have always been interested in creating art, and from the first moment I laid eyes on CG I was in love. Even back in the ‘80s, I knew that with enough processing power an artist could use CG to recreate anything that could ever be imagined and I was hooked. The greatest aspect of visual effects is breathing life into an artist’s vision, creating something no one has ever seen or bringing a story to film that could not be done any other way.

Currently, aside from basic schoolwork I have two projects in the works. One of the projects is collaboration with fellow students. The project will have some nice wind and water effects. I’ll talk more about that project in another post.

The other project is a collaboration with Nathan Hackett. The concept has the potential for some really interesting particle and compositing work. I will talk more about that a little later.

I need to get back to building my site so I will come back to edit and add a little later. If you end up reading this, chances are I was asking for input on my site design and that is why you are here.