The rise of schadenfreude

I’ve been reading reviews of the new Transformers movie with surprising cheer. Now, certainly I’m sad that something which by all accounts is so utterly despicable has earned 4/5 of the total take of genuinely good fare such as Star Trek and Up in the course of a weekend, but there’s no sense in fretting about the vox populi — the vast masses have different priorities in how they spend their free time and free money than I do, and I won’t judge simply because I’m baffled. So it goes. But no, I’m happy that the new Transformers is (by every reliable account) utterly unwatchable trash… simply because it means the new G.I. Joe flick surprisingly won’t be the worst movie of the summer.

That doesn’t mean I harbor delusions about G.I. Joe possessing any particular merits; it’s gonna be so, so bad. But early word is that unlike Transformers it actually has a plot — a plot that more or less makes sense! Not only that, it actually seems to be about the familiar cast of characters that I grew up with rather than relegating them to second fiddle behind America’s least charismatic young star. And I doubt there’ll be much in the way of insensitive, racist humor, since the casting went out of its way to turn guys who were decidedly WASPish in plastic form into real-life blacks, or Egyptians, or even Canadians (that most repressed of minorities).

They even got the look right, for the most part. Look at the Baroness! That is pretty much a perfect physical incarnation of the cartoon woman that instilled a strange attraction to Eurotrash in a generation of young Americans. Plus, who can complain about a movie that casts Christopher Eccleston as the main villain? Only a heartless monster, I think.

I was always more of a G.I. Joe fan growing up than I was Transformers — I lost interest in the latter once they started phasing out die-cast metal and phasing in stupid things like the Sharkticons or whatever they were called, while I actually bought the Joe comic right up to the end (albeit entirely out of inertia those last few years) — so it brings me a tiny, meaningless bit of satisfaction to see that it’ll come out ahead on celluloid. Even if it’s all in relative terms defined in degrees of “less horrible than.”

Of course, I’m sure Transformers will smoke it in terms of box office take, but that’s to be expected. You people got no taste at all, you know that?

41 thoughts on “The rise of schadenfreude

  1. I have to disagree. Transformers 2 had a plot. It wasn’t much of one, and hell if it wasn’t a sort of portmanteau of the original animated movie’s plot, but it had one. It’s problems are the ones every other Bay film has; it’s a Michael Bay film.

  2. Stupid and ugly, and really cheap-looking to boot. Soon as I saw those guys my allowance became allocated 100% to beefing up my modern army action figure collection.

  3. Jeremy, have you looked at any of the new Joe comics? I’ve heard nothing but good things about the, particularly the “GI Joe Cobra” miniseries, which is supposed to be phenomenal. I guess the movie tie-in series is predictably awful, but the other three (!) are getting raves from people who would otherwise not be reading them.

  4. After cartoons tried to get young boys attracted to a woman in a bird suit and a pink shapely robot, the Baroness seemed like the girl next door.

  5. One of the few people who thought 80s cartoons were stupid even as a kid in the 80s (because I’m cool like that). Although not Ghostbusters. Never Ghostbusters.

  6. Oh, we all thought the Joe cartoon was dumb back then. But it had all those cool toys and stuff, so we watched it anyway.

  7. I certainly had more fondness for the Joes, too, but I have no illusions about my sustained love for either stemming from the change from dumb kid to overly romantic man-child.

  8. “Plus, who can complain about a movie that casts Christopher Eccleston as the main villain? Only a heartless monster, I think.”

    You had me until that line. The Seeker, that horrific attempt at a The Dark is Rising movie adaptation, had him case as the main villain, and look what happened. :(

  9. I’ve seen Transformers 2, and I think G.I. Joe looks ten times worse. Transformers is enjoyable in the sense that it’s so actively bad at every moment that you can’t help but have a laugh at its expense, but G.I. Joe looks like the kind of bad that has you checking your watch repeatedly and wishing you had stayed home to do an extra load of laundry instead.

  10. Uhhh…I don’t know where you get your info but scuttlebutt around GI Joe is it got the worst audience test score in Paramount history so they fired the director, but in order to save face he still comes to the office every day and twiddles his thumbs while others try to salvage it.

  11. Quick supplement: Transformers and GI Joe have the same producer, and in Joe’s defense he said “not everything tests as well as Transformers.”

  12. G.I.Joe is going to be a trainwreck but I’m going to be there day one just to see the one thing they do right.

  13. Anyone saying Transformers 2 is bad because it is, “a Michael Bay film” has never seen a Michael Bay film. Even Bay’s worst film (pearl harbor(arguably)) is still coherent and has a comprehensible plot. I don’t know what Revenge of the Fallen was, but I can say despite having Michael Bay’s name on it, its not a Michael Bay movie. It’s an ADD mess. Sorta like how Spiderman 3 isn’t a Sam Raimi movie. It too was an ADD mess.

    I also don’t know how anyone can compare Revenge of the Fallen to the original animated Transformers movie or even use the word ‘portmanteu’ to explain the whole plot confusedly revolving around the Decepticons trying to use a machine (made by transformers that don’t transform) that would kill the sun and turn it into energon to feed Decepticon babies, cuz that’s what the plot was, folks. It wasn’t even like the original cartoon movie whose true purpose was to market a ton of new toys (by killing off all the old ones) for kids to rush out and buy after seeing it.

    The preview for the GI Joe movie on Revenge makes me very very scared it will be a run of the mill hollywood CGI sausage fest on top of crapping on your childhood being based on the SIGMA 6 cartoon (or worse). Everything I have seen thus far is wrong with the exception of The Baroness who is obviously Sarah Palin and that works perfectly on oh so many levels.

  14. In some degree of fairness, it seems that the plot/script of TF:RotF actually had more details and made a bit more sense before Michael Bay was finished with it.

  15. I was at a panel at meltdown comics
    in Hollywood a few days ago with a writer from the new transformers movie and writer from the first animated movie (he was also one of the two lead preliminary writers for the new ghostbusters game)
    The excuse that the T2 man gave for what everyone has been calling racism was “gold teeth and big ears are not a race”

  16. “Transformers is enjoyable in the sense that it’s so actively bad at every moment that you can’t help but have a laugh at its expense”
    This is how I felt watching the G.I. Joe trailer though, much more than the one from TF2. I pretty much lost it when they do the slow-mo missile dodging in those insane suits at the end.

  17. I’m surprised at the general consensus of Transformers 2. As noted above, it did have a story, just not an incredibly elaborate one. Instead the focus was on the fun moments that occurred throughout the film, in-between major story progressing events. There is a possibility that GI Joe will have a more detailed storyline, but I can almost certainly guarantee it won’t be profound enough to outweigh Transformers better, fast-paced, large scale special effects. The only time I realized the GI Joe trailer was in fact, about GI Joe’s, was when the title screen was displayed. So in that sense I think they failed.

  18. Ah, nothing better then a “My nostalgia trip could beat up your nostalgia trip” discussion. Aside from the useless discussion of what makes a good Michael Bay film (hint: Sean Connery), it basically boils down to whether you enjoy these popcorn action flicks, and more importantly, as Jay Paree pointed out, whether you were a big nerd for the series in the first place.

    Besides, it’s got to be better than GI Joe: Resolute, right? Right?

  19. @othermacguy: Thank you.

    I get rather annoyed with people who try to tell me that I’m stupid that I enjoyed a movie that they think isn’t good. As I’ve said before, I wasn’t expecting Transformers 2 to be a tour-de-force, I just want to be entertained. And I was; I loved the movie. Granted, yes, I do enjoy high-quality movies, but sometimes I just want to turn my mind off and enjoy myself.

  20. I was more of a Thundercats fan myself. I can’t even imagine how embarrassing the inevitable movie will be.

  21. Transformers 2 is simultaneously one of the worst and greatest cinematic achievements of our time; insofar as it could only take a genius to make a film that bad. Or Michael Bay.

    Honestly, I view T2 as an unintentional (and hilarious) parody of modern Hollywood’s focus-tested, testosterone-fuelled filmmaking.

    Also, you can’t write anything online about Transformers without mentioning Megan Fox. Apparently, she’s hot.

    God help us all.

  22. wow, this comments section reads like an infection of viral marketers.

    I actually went and saw Transformers 2 in a theater. I went in expecting it to be about cars and planes and stuff turning into robots and fighting each other. The internet can hate on Michael Bay’s Transformers 1 all they want, but it at least got that right.

    The story in Transformers 2 is the Decepticons want to use a machine that will destroy the Earth’s sun and turn it into energon and the Autobots must stop them: THAT’S IT that’s what the plot is. But some genius in Hollywood decided Transformers 2 should be The Davinci Code with robots. Its cramming so much unnessary accessory garbage into 2 and a half hours that the plot gets lost and the film progresses way too fast. The criticism the film ‘has no plot’ is valid due to it having so much trouble staying on topic and the topic should be cars and planes and stuff turning into robots and fighting each other over a machine that will kill the sun.

    But no. It was Dan Brown’s The Davinci Code with robots. It is what everyone feared the first movie would be: a film that rapes your childhood memories just like the GI Joe movie will because Hollywood hates you.

    I even think Transformers 2 was trying to say Optimus Prime and Sam Wikipedia are supposed to be Jesus Christ because it makes a point to kill them and bring them back to life.

    Also drooling robots.

    And dry humping sight gags.

    Reading all these swipes at Michael Bay are invalid. He’s a sucky director; he didn’t write or edit this train wreck as far as I can tell. I already said it in my other comment, but Michael Bay’s movies are a different kind of bad. Transformers 2 is so uncharacteristic its practically not by him.

  23. Learn to be less uptight people, Transformer 2 was too lengthy, and had many unnecessary parts, but the scenes of Optimus and Bumblebee kicking ass are nothing short of concentrated awesome.

  24. I haven’t seen the the second one, but I remember enjoying the first. Granted, I didn’t grow up with the original animated series, but at its best, some of the action scenes had some great eye candy. Though it did have cringeworthy moments as well, such as the leg humping. I personally think Michael Bay should work with more CGI robots and less with humans.

    But I’m hoping G.I. Joe proves to at least be a serviceable stupid action flick.

  25. If you took the script to Revenge of the Fallen and transported it back in time, modified it to fit 1980’s children programing and animated it, it would be considered one of the better episodes. This speaks to just how bad the original episodes are, and in this respect RotF is a fitting tribute, right down to the plot holes. It wasn’t until I saw the sequel that I figured out what I liked so much about the original: it fetures the booming voice of Peter Cullen amplified in surround sound, echoing throughout the theater like the voice of Robot God from the robot mountain top. No wonder why I’ve never seen it on DVD.

    I can’t speak to whether or not G.I.Joe will be better or worse. It certainly can’t be longer. I have no objections to turning my brain off to see a movie like Transformers but I can only keep it off for so long. Two hours seems to be the limit.

  26. “This speaks to just how bad the original episodes are, and in this respect RotF is a fitting tribute, right down to the plot holes.”

    Yeah, great logic there Socrates. “Well the old cartoons sucked, so the movie should suck too! Its not true to the cartoons if its GOOD.” Don’t quit your day job.

  27. blargh, I submitted my last comment too early before hitting on this one.

    “Learn to be less uptight people, Transformer 2 was too lengthy, and had many unnecessary parts, but the scenes of Optimus and Bumblebee kicking ass are nothing short of concentrated awesome.”

    That concentrated aweseome the movie was supposed to be about got less than 30 minutes of actual screen time. I am upset not because I am uptight, but because concentrated awesome took a back seat to Shia Le Beef’s Davinci Code.

    Sorry, but reading this comments section is like striking flint on my nerd steel here, it is not my imagination that Revenge of the Fallen is bad movie because its a hard to follow mess. Please, if you must see it (like a normal person and not a cyber pirate), go to a matinee. The transformers the movie is supposed to be about are second banana to Indana Jones’ retarded kid Shia Le Beef. That’s the absolute truth. I would’ve hated it less that Jar-Jar Binks doof went to college and you never saw him again for the rest of the movie.

  28. If that reads like I’m defending the movie then I’ll take your advice. But consider mine: paranoia and nerd rage do not mix.

  29. The masses will take their revenge with the next movie if there ever will be one. I imagine a lot of people who actually liked Transformers 1 have been disappointed in 2, but the sequel momentum is just too great for it to register yet. The damage will be done in DVD sales and the marketability of Transformers 3. (See Spider-Man 3. Come out disappointed.)

  30. Spider man 3 wasn’t that bad. : Wasn’t nearly as good as 2, but I was interested all the way through, so that has to count for something. Sure it had emo Peter, but I only noticed that after logging on to the internet. Kind of hard to forget it now that it has been drilled into my brain.

  31. Spider-Man 3 was interesting to me in how it’s the only movie I’ve seen that really set off my fanboy-alarms and got my teeth gnashing. Maybe it’s just a testament to how much I like Spider-Man and the mythos, but the line “My spider-sense is tingling, if you know what I mean” had me tearing my hair out.

    Also, why a voice over? Shoddy work.

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