To my considerable surprise—nay, even astonishment—I actually liked this movie until the obligatory over-the-top gun battle/fist fight/car-wrecking/mega explosion ending. I was prepared for it to be about as deeply characterized as those crazy Hasbro toys it was based on, but it was a lot more than that. The transformers themselves were dazzling, as we’ve come to expect, but this was on a whole new level of spatial complexity. The kinetic energy of the thing was enormous. But that’s all technical, and what you take for granted in a Michael Bay movie (director of the awful Armageddon, the action-packed but stupid Pearl Harbor, and the almost incoherent The Rock). What I didn’t expect was a clever script, with wit, good jokes, some interesting characters, and a way of winking at its inherent preposterousness that lets us feel we’re in on the joke. The last 20 or 25 minutes is a yawn, naturally, one boring explosion after another, but I had a great deal of fun getting to that point.
One observation: Several times in the film young people, ages maybe 6 to mid-teens, react to the mayhem going on around them by observing how cool it all is. The first reaction of the people in Cloverfield to the arrival of the monster was to make videos on their cell phones. It’s as if the new generation spends so much time watching events on television and/or playing violent point-of-view video games that they regard life as a show staged for their benefit. Nothing that happens could have any real-world consequences. You just press the RESET button and start over. In fact, their whole concept of “real world” seems a bit hazy. Like Chance the Gardner in Being There, when something unpleasant happens to him he points the TV remote at it and tries to change channels. Is this the new paradigm of human consciousness?
Our beloved Griffith Park Observatory appears briefly in this movie, crawling with Transformers. (Hey, watch where you’re stepping, Bigfoot! That’s our new planetarium and it shows every little scuff mark!) This is its 39th appearance in a film, most famously in Rebel Without a Cause.