WW2 era fighter planes buzz low over a ball-field while a game’s in progress. The players look up in awe. ^ A lone American Sailor screams in triumph as his heavy machine gun shoots down an enemy plane. ^ Several fighters fly so low their wings almost touch the walls of the buildings around them. ^ The camera follows the tail of a Japanese bomb as it bears down on an already burning American battleship. ^ When I first saw these shots, I was, as the British would say, gobsmacked. They were eye-popping and I actually felt excited enough to run out and see this movie. Then I saw it: The commercial ended with the credit “From Jerry Bruckheimer and Michæl Bay.”
Damn it, I said to myself, I’d almost been had, bamboozled and flimflammed by the masters. I didn’t have to shell out the big bucks for a ticket. I’d already seen all that’s worth seeing.
You see, Mr. Bay, favorite director of Jerry “Hollywood Blow-Em-Up Blockbuster-Meister” Bruckheimer, doesn’t direct movies. He directs the trailer, and he’s very good at it. How many times have you seen a commercial or a preview for a Bay/Bruckheimer production and gotten excited over the movie? The trailers are thrilling, fast paced, and full of all those neat kick-a*s explosions everybody loves. So you run down to the theatre with your cash in hand, ready for some good old summer fun. Then the movie starts. You soon discover that between the exciting action sequences are long-winded scenes of bad dialogue delivered by good actors who seem lost on expensive sets. These normally talented people, lured by the promise of commercial success, end up giving the phoniest performances of their careers. Poor Ben Affleck is becoming so wooden that if he does one more Bruckheimer/Bay project, he’ll officially be furniture with cheekbones.
What were the director and producer thinking when they were making this movie? Why did they let such big chunks of their movie rot like hot compost in the summertime? The answer is perversely simple kiddies, so let me explain it to you. Scenes involving story, character and dialogue don’t go into the trailer. And, as Grampa used to say, in the world of Bay/Bruckheimer, if it ain’t in the trailer it ain’t worth the steam off their pee.
I get the feeling from these films that when Michæl Bay looks at the shooting schedule and sees a scene that’s not trailer-worthy he tells the cinematographer to put the camera someplace nice, slaps a fancy filter on the lens and yells action. Then, I guess he spends the rest of the time on setting up a power-lunch at Spago’s with his broker to talk about what he’s going to do with his share of the box-office bonanza on his brand new Nokia. All this while his actors hurtle themselves like lemmings into an abyss of creative and moral bankruptcy.
No one will dispute that Michæl Bay’s a master technician — he’s damn good at blowing things up. However, when you have to cut out all the dialogue from the trailer to keep the audience from giggling, you’ve got a problem.
I admit it, like the majority of the world’s population, I’ve stayed away from the Pearl Harbor. I’d been burned before with “The Rock” and my Momma raised me not to make the same mistake twice. However, I did see some clips on TV that the filmmakers were hoping to see at next year’s Oscars. If it weren’t so sad and a disservice to history and the memories of those who died in WW2, I would have laughed my head off. They weren’t scenes from a war movie or a love story, but a collection of stiff clichés that even Ed Wood would consider cornball.
So, I’ve saved my money, stayed home and rented Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic, and by the box-office returns it looks like most people are doing the exact same thing. After spending $150,000,000.00 to make the film and another $50,000,000.00+ to promote it, the film enjoyed a robust opening weekend and then sunk faster than a bombed battleship.
Now they’re trying to salvage the film by spending millions more to promote in the second biggest market for Hollywood films. And in further proof that God has a sick sense of humour, that’s Japan, the same country that attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Of course, they’ve made a few adjustments to history and the film to make it more palatable to the Japanese market. Lines like: “I’m going to kill as many of the bastards as possible.” Becomes in Japanese: “I myself will choose a tasty target.” I’m not sure what that means. I’m not sure if the Japanese know what it means. One thing is certain though. The Japanese audience will be treated to a real whopper of a trailer. Too bad, it’ll probably make them actually want to pay money to see this movie. Messrs. Bay and Bruckheimer should take this setback as a life lesson. Maybe they should step back and look at their work and decide to do better.
In my wildest dreams I picture them sitting around their favourite power-lunch table with the nice view of the Hollywood Hills and saying: “Maybe we should pay more attention to the script?” or “I should work more with my cast. I’m letting them, the audience and myself down.”
Maybe? Probably not. They’re probably saying: “We need more explosions next time. Everybody loves explosions. They look great in the trailer.”
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