Strange Times in the Cinema – Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Back in 2009, my (grown) nephew was visiting my family in Australia, and we decided it would be fun to take in a movie.  So the two of us took a look at what was out there, and decided to go see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  I think we had already heard the bad reviews, but were willing to give it a go for the benefit of seeing something big and loud and hopefully fun.  So off we went to the last theatre in the downtown of Perth, my home located on the West Coast of Australia.  It was a fun little theatre called the Picadilly, which has since closed down, and used to show movies a little later than you’d see in the multiplexes, and for a lot cheaper.

I barely remember this movie, although I know it wasn’t very good.  I should say, I suppose, that I’m not one of those people who think that Transformers 2 somehow ruined a potentially great franchise that was established by Transformers 1.  I thought Transformers 1 was a kind-of-stupid over-the-top piece of nonsense, and I thought Transformers 2 was basically more of the same.  So rather than ruining anything, it just sort of continued it.  The difference was that the second one had less robots in it (to my memory) and thus I found it easier to remember who was who.  (Who knows why I, who can tell you the real names of home planets of most members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, find remembering the names of basically any Transformer other than Optimus Prime and Bumblebee so difficult.)  Also, the second movie sold me on the idea that Optimus Prime was actually the awesome fighter he was supposed to be.

But anyway, this post is not a review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  It was a stupid movie, we all know that, and it’s a bit beneath us to spend time dissecting why.  Rather, this post is about the odd experience I had going to see this movie in the cinema that day.

We decided to go late on Friday afternoon.  And we were late to the showing.  We slipped in after it had started (unlike other theatres, the Picadilly didn’t normally have 1/2 hour of trailers and commercials before the movie started), and settled in to watch cars turn into robots that would fight each other.  And that’s when I noticed the first odd thing…

It was the fact that the theatre was completely jam-packed and crowded.  There was hardly an empty seat in the house.  Now remember, this was an afternoon show–not the biggest movie going time.  And it was in Perth–in all my years in Australia, I’ve never seen a theatre in Australia completely packed, and certainly not the Picadilly.  Then I noticed something else–almost everyone in the cinema were guys.  Not guys with their girlfriends, just guys.  That’s strange, I thought to myself, as I tried to focus on the movie.

Then, somewhere along the way, Megan Fox showed up.  Not in real life, of course, but on the screen.  If I remember properly (and really, I barely can recall this movie) we first see her leaning awkwardly over the open hood of a car, wearing tight shorts.  Immediately, the crowd erupted:  “Whoaaa!!” they all cried out.

And immediately, I’m like, What the–??!  I mean, I can imagine that a whole bunch of guys might respond like that internally to an intentionally provocative image of Megan Fox…but to verbalize it like that?  How weird is that?  I remember sitting there wondering about the impression of Australia my nephew was getting!

Anyway, the movie continued along, with robots turning to cars, and cars turning to robots, and Shia LaBeouf running around, and then somewhere along the way Megan Fox did something else or said something or stood a certain way, and then the nearly all-male audience erupted once again in a way that gave voice to their adolescent-like inner conversation.  But the next really weird thing that happened came when US battleship or air craft carrier got involved in the action, and the Decepticons shot it or hit it or something, and smashed it to pieces.  The audience clapped.  They cheered.  Loudly.

Now, remember, this is all happening in Australia, where I’d been living at that time for about 12 years.  Australia’s relationship with the United States is funny one.  Politically, the two countries are friends, but individually, Americans can certainly get on Australians’ nerves.  So when this happened, I just thought, Have we done something?  Has there been something in the news?  Something with the military?  I’m not always completely up on the news, even from America, so I thought who knows, maybe our military had been up to some activities that the rest of the international community wasn’t happy about.

Again, I wondered about the picture of Australia my nephew was going to go home with!

All the while the movie continued to unfold with its over-the-top everything except subtlety. Later, there were more scenes set aboard US warships of various sorts (the US military even made a reasonably good showing in the battle against the shifty Decepticons, if I recall properly) and though we never had anything again like the eruption of applause that had come earlier, there was definitely a buzz of excitement and conversation during these scene.  And that’s when I finally got it.

Perth is on close to the Indian Ocean.  It’s one of our chief attractions, really–some very beautiful beaches.  Really, if you’re into beaches, you should check it out.  Don’t neglect Perth on your Australian visit, just because it’s thousands of dry and dusty kilometers from everything else that you’ve ever heard of in Australia!

Anyway, Perth is close to the ocean, and it’s closely connected to the nearby port city of Fremantle (or Freo, as you are likely to hear it described), where you’ll find the busy and active Fremantle Harbour.  And on this particular occasion, one of the many vessels that making use of the Harbour was, of course, a US Navy ship.  I don’t know remember if it was a carrier or something else, but the practical result was that the movie theatre was filled to the gills with hundreds of American Navy Seamen, on their weekend pass, taking in the local blockbuster o’ nonsense before presumably hitting the clubs later on that evening.

And suddenly, it all made sense.  The crowd.  The mostly guys.  The lack of restraint at the sight of a good looking woman being displayed before them.  The excitement of seeing the US Navy getting in on the movie’s action.

And I didn’t have to worry about my nephew’s impression of Australia after all!  It was all Americans.  Phew.

By far, my funniest and most confusing cinema experience ever.

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