Roger Ebert on “Hurt Locker” vs. “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”

Roger Ebert:

We live in a depressing time for American movies. Half the nation seems hellbent on throwing itself at the horrible “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” The movie’s fans inform me that I don’t “get it,” that what they want is mindless violence and stuff blowing up real good. They like the explosions. It’s entertainment for the whole family. I get it all, all right. Two years from now, no one will quite be able to remember its name.

“The Hurt Locker” is a great film, an intelligent film, a film shot clearly so that we know exactly who everybody is and where they are and what they’re doing and why. The camera work is at the service of the story. Bigelow knows, unlike the pathetic Michael Bay, that you can’t build suspense with shots lasting one or two seconds. Frankly, I wonder if a lot of “Transformer” lovers would even be able to take “The Hurt Locker.”

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  • Gene Branaman

    ‘Zacly, Dan. Transformers & Bay’s signature directorial stamp on that film (such as it is . . .) is now a frame of reference for Ebert & his readers. So many people have seen that movie (honestly, I don’t personally know any who have but they are out there) that I think to relate to the Current Big Cinematic Phenomenon(tm) gracing our screens while bringing attention to a film that won’t even enter the radar of most folks is a good thing. And . . . he can educate them a bit along the way. And who better than one of the best known in his business?

    I think Mr Ebert has the right to be frustrated. As one of the finest writers on film . . . ever, he’s forgotten more about the subject than Michael Bay & his ilk will ever know. But as the 1.7 billion Transformers comercials we’ve all seen in the last month have lead everyone to believe Bay is one of the greatest of his generation & that we should all flock to the cineplexes to pay homage to the man who claims to have started the careers of the likes of Shia LeBouf & Ben Affleck (among others), we who know better have the responsibility to set the record straight, I think. We need to be clear about why movies like Transformers 2 are so badly crafted, even though they may be enjoyable on some level. (Cotton candy is enjoyable on some level but when it’s gone, I wants me some protein.) Why is Chris Nolan a better filmmaker than Bay, even though they employ some of the same techinques? These things do need to be discussed & if we come from a common point of reference, the general public will, eventually, get it & begin to support the better work. Hopefully. Ebert, it seems, is in a better position to achieve this task than the average film critic. It’s what he should be doing.

  • Dan

    It’s Ebert’s style and one of the reasons he my favorite critic even though I disagree with him on quite a few of his reviews. He doesn’t have a checklist of things he writes about or a set-in-stone formula for how he reviews films. He writes what’s on his mind as he reflects back on his experience, and he does so without caring what others may think about him. There is an openness in how he writes, but also an eloquence. He knows what he is trying to say and says it. Transformers is a huge deal in the movie world now and I think Ebert is a little disappointed with audiences for being so drawn to it, so he’s trying explain the difference between good and bad filmmaking using Transformers as his point of comparison. I highly doubt it has anything to do with his personal self-esteem.

  • Rick R.

    Hmm…I went to the link expecting to find another essay on film watching and was surprised to discover these statements were made in his review of a movie. As much as I usually like and enjoy reading Roger Ebert’s reviews, I have a problem with him beating the negative Transformers 2/American public drum (once again) in a review for “The Hurt Locker.” In my opinion, enough already, Mr. Ebert. I think we get it. Time to move on. Review the movie, focus on that, and don’t waste space and our time criticizing a movie you’ve already criticized, and don’t again criticize the movie-going public during it. We already know you don’t like Transformers 2 and we know you don’t think the American public knows a good film from a bad one.

    I’m kind of with Brandon S. on this one. Though I doubt I would love or even like Transformers 2, I have my own guilty-pleasures (anyone remember Krull?), and enjoyment of crappy, b-movies doesn’t preclude my ability to enjoy and appreciate an “intelligent film” (Ebert’s words) such as The Hurt Locker. Thanks to Jeffrey’s reviews of “Blue,” “White”, and “Red”, I’ve seen and enjoyed all three of those films, far from low-brow fair. And yet darn it…I can see stuff like Star Trek and even Hannah Montana (with my daughter) and enjoy it for entertainment.

    I understand Ebert has probably been hurt personally by the backlash over his negative Transformers 2 reviews, but he’s responded to that, and it seems like he should move along and not carry that over into other reviews.

  • My problem with Ebert is that last sentence. “Frankly, I wonder if a lot of “Transformer” lovers would even be able to take “The Hurt Locker.” It’s one of the films I’m most looking forward to this year. I don’t think enjoying Transformers 2 as cheesy silly fun with great action and special effects is mutually exclusive with appreciating much finer films like, “The Hurt Locker.” It’s completely possivle to do both.