In which I grouse

You may have wondered, if you are of an inquiring mind, whether there is anything on the planet as vapid, obnoxious, irritating, and offensive as a Michael Bay movie.

I am now able to assure you there is: a theme park ride based on a Michael Bay movie.

To wit: the Transformers 3D ride at Universal Studios Resort in Orlando. Sweet Cthulhu, what an indictment of humanity!

It did not help that during the supposed 30-minute wait the ride experienced “technical difficulties,” and so we were stuck in one room for an eternity listening to the same loud sound effects and storyline video without air conditioning or indeed circulating air. Or that this took place in mid-afternoon when I had about had it with all the intense joy generated by theme parks in general.

But my lovely first wife is for some unknown reason a fan of Michael Bay’s oeuvre, if I’m allowed to use the term in connection with a man whose entire output seems deliberately designed to kill off humanity’s fascination with plot once and for all. What Jorge of Burgos accomplished in The Name of the Rose1 with Aristotle’s missing treatise on comedy, Bay seems determined to do with the remainder of western civilization’s theory of drama.

And so I found myself dutifully accompanying my spouse into this disaster, knowing there was a possibility that I might not find it very enjoyable.

I did not find it enjoyable.

It may be that in the dim, dark future—and here I am thinking specifically of Idiocracy—Michael Bay will be hailed as a genius of filmic structure and this blog post will be included in one of those tidy anthologies of critical snipings that entertain us so today, e.g., the critic who called Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 “a gross enormity, an immense wounded snake, unwilling to die, but writhing in its last agonies, and in the Finale bleeding to death.”

Permit me to doubt it.

Full disclosure: I have never watched an entire Michael Bay movie, yet somehow I do not feel disqualified in assessing his skills as a storyteller. If you’ve seen one Transformers preview, you’ve seen the whole series.

So what exactly do I think about Transformers 3D: The Ride? It was loud, splattered over enormous screens, and visually incoherent.2 Perhaps aficionados of the genre could distinguish friend from foe, but I suspect that is beside the point. The visual field was simply filled with roiling bits and pieces, none of which ever stopped moving long enough to establish the who/what/when/where (and I understand that some consider this a feature not a bug.) Focus was always diffuse/split, and Bay seems to understand “pacing” to mean “sempre fortissimo e presto.” The whole thing was a brutal assault on both sense and sensibilities.

Lest you think that I did not enjoy this ride because I am an old fart, remember that I had waited even longer to ride Minion Mayhem earlier in the day, and it was essentially the same ride in terms of throughline and effects: swoops, jerks, reversals, zooms, bumps. But it was delightful: I laughed and giggled the entire ride. In Transformers 3D, I simply closed my eyes halfway through the ride to escape the boredom of the violence.

Likewise, even earlier in the day Harry Potter & the Escape from Gringott’s was a superb example of the exact same technology in service to a carefully crafted sequence of encounters.

So, yes, I am capable of enjoying a simulator/dark ride. Just not this one.

Here, for those who doubt me:

And get off my lawn.


1 RIP, Humberto Eco

2 In other words, a Michael Bay movie.

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