[Published 26 June 2009; Updated 28th October 2009]
One of my favourite ever film reviews was in Photoplay. I forget who the critic was (I was about twelve), but it was for Friday XIII Part V. It read: “Not since Citizen Kane has there been a film so … just kidding.” And that was it. Puerile, dismissive, haughty and daft, but there’s something delicious about bad film reviews. I have no intention of seeing Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Filler; I don’t want to be judgmental about a film I haven’t seen, but having spent valuable time on his other films and been infuriated every time, I feel confident that I’ll be better off gving this one a miss. It’s time to stop blithely accepting this crud as “just a bit of fun”. I know, it’s not supposed to be Bergman. But it might at least aspire to being Simon West. I’ve spent a good portion of what passes for my academic career defending spectacular cinema from charges of simplistic numbskullery. Spectacle has an important cultural role to play in exercising the physical, visceral aspects of spectatorship. But the wow factor is always multiplied when it’s packaged in a thought-provoking way. Whatever you think of the Matrix films, you can see how their visual effects compliment the themes and philosophical issues they want you to mull over, probably on a repeat viewing. Glorious eye candy sweetens the bitter pill of even the grimmest dystopia or challenges preconceptions of what it means to be a human in a human body. Or it can make big robots hit each other.