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Michael Bay is better in 3D
No force on Earth could've made Transformers: Dark of The Moon anything other than a regrettable disaster - the kind of movie that one day today's generation of young moviegoers will hang their heads in shame over the way my parents' generation did about Love Story. But it did offer up an enlightening realization: Shooting in 3D ... actually made Michael Bay a better filmmaker.
More than almost any other director playing at his (financial) level, Michael Bay is afflicted by the inexplicable need to spoil his own technically-proficient setups with too many camera moves and too much frenetic editing. But the 3D cameras used on this film, with their bulky mechanics, can't be moved quite as much... and 3D shots, requiring time for the human eye to adjust to the additional depth, can't be cut nearly as fast. The result is, well, still a pretty terrible movie; but a terrible movie with the most coherent action Bay has put together since the first Bad Boys movie.
Now, if only there was a way to attach heavy mechanical weights to bad screenplay-writing he might really turn into something...
Superheroes are not invincible ...
2011 was a year that movie lovers who were also comic-book fans probably thought they'd never see: four big budget costumed crimefighter epics in the span of a few months? Based on once thought hard-to-sell characters like Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern and a pre-Wolverine 60s X-Men?? Well, it happened... thanks to Hollywood's faith that right now, superheroes are always a sure bet ...
... as it turns out, not so sure after all.
Green Lantern - massively hyped with trailers and magazine covers a full year in advance, was the would be blockbuster failure of the year. Savaged by critics, despised by fans and ignored by audiences; it had already entered the pantheon of legendary studio busts by its second week of release.
Exactly who convinced Warner Bros. to spend this much money on such a relatively obscure character, along with whose idea it was to use this godawful script or those eye-poppingly bad effects, will be the subject of industry discussion for years to come ... but the immediate effect is that the "anything in a cape" greenlighting mentality has taken a major hit on this one - which unfortunately means that some other iffy comic based project will pay the price for Lantern's sins.
... But; superheroes are not going anywhere, either
In previous times, a crash and burn like Green Lantern would've been enough to scuttle the entire genre - that's what happened after Batman & Robin, after all. But so far, the only thing that seems to have actually been hurt by Lantern is Ryan Reynolds.
Marvel's final two Avengers lead-ins, Captain America and Thor, both did gangbusters boxoffice and opened to positive reviews. X-Men: First Class - rushed into production at Fox to avoid ceding the movie rights back to Marvel - was a prequel that I called the best of series ... and I wasn't alone. The debut trailer for The Avengers itself was the most downloaded movie-preview on the web for months; until it was overtaken... by the trailer for the next Batman movie. Warner Bros. is doubling-down on Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder's Superman reboot, The Man of Steel, while Sony is going back to the well on Spider-Man. To cap it all off; Marvel Films announced their intention to start up (at least) four to five more franchises based on its characters in addition to more Avengers sequels, the further big-screen (solo) adventures of Iron-Man, Captain America, Thor and TV series featuring Jessica Jones and The Hulk.
The writing is on the wall: The superhero fad ... doesn't seem to be a fad. For better or for worse, comic-book vigilantes have become to the mainstream pop-culture and Hollywood especially what Westerns were in the 50s and 60s: The default genre setting for escapist action. And it doesn't look like we'll be getting rid of them any time soon.
It is still possible to be awestruck by a movie trailer
Avengers? Pretty big deal. Batman? Fingers crossed. Peter Jackson - and damn near everyone else - taking us back to Middle Earth? That's the one to watch for in 2012.
Happy New Year.
Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.