Where Have All the Good Movie Takedowns Gone?

Transformers is bad. Could critics eviscerate it with a little more relish, please?

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The reviews are in for Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which opens in theaters tonight at midnight, and they're not good. Considering the material (the second sequel to a movie based on a line of toys) and the presence of director Michael Bay (right), this was not unexpected. What is disappointing--or tragic, if you happen to enjoy the simple pleasures of a good critic going to town on a silly movie--is the lack of enthusiasm in the Dark of the Moon takedowns.

"[O]h, what a hollow experience Dark of the Moon is!" laments the Miami Herald's Rene Rodriguez. At the Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips calls it "a work of ineffable soullessness and persistent moral idiocy." Writing in the Newark Star-Ledger, Stephen Whitty compares the movie to "a machine itself--gargantuan, well-oiled and lifeless."

To be fair, the dispassionate pan seems to be in vogue with critics this summer. In his (negative) review of ThorNew York Times film critic A.O. Scott bemoaned the fact the movie couldn't even function "an interesting, appalling train wreck because it lacks the spoiled grandeur of ambition gone off the rails." Boston Globe critic Ty Burr topped that backhanded compliment when he said that director Kenneth Branagh's film gave "mediocre a good name."

Of the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, New York magazine critic David Edelstein wrote: "I've never seen a film in which what was actually onscreen seemed so irrelevant." At Slate, Dana Stevens agreed. "More than anything," observed Stevens, "this kind of elephantine 'summer' blockbuster now registers as a miracle of sheer logistics."

We can't disagree, but we still miss the days of critics using their best material on the worst of summer blockbusters, like when the Washington Post's Stephen Hunter called Speed 2 an "existential prank merrily engineered by Jean-Paul Sartre in heaven" or when Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman called director Brian De Palma both "a cinematic serial killer of common sense" and "the masturbator of suspense" in his evisceration of 1998's Snake Eyes. We miss that summer sparkle.

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