Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Directed by: Michael Bay
Written by: Ehren Kruger, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, Isabel Lucas
It still seems weird to me that a cartoon and toy line that I grew up with in the ’80s is now one of the biggest blockbuster movie franchises of all time. Of course, in reality the Transformers movie franchise doesn’t have all that much in common with its source material; Michael Bay just injected all the right elements needed to make it cool and profitable. Hot women, slick sports cars, machine guns, adolescent humour, nu-metal, and military choppers all add up to over $700 million worldwide.
Clearly Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a movie that needs no introduction. Now that the series is a proven success, Bay’s strategy was simply to duplicate the first movie but with even bigger robots and higher decibel levels. Let’s not kid ourselves here — it’s not like there are any unfinished story elements or compelling characters that are drawing people back in. It’s just another excuse to create giant CG robot carnage on a massive scale. Does it deliver? Well, let’s just say that if you thought Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was bloated, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
When we last left Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), he had saved the world and won the girl. He is no longer that dorky kid with a beat up looking car, and he’s heading off to college while trying to maintain a long distance relationship with Mikaela (Megan Fox). In the time since the first movie, the Autobots have teamed up with the U.S. military to hunt down and eliminate most of the leftover Decepticons. However, when Soundwave intercepts a message revealing the location of Megatron’s dead body, he dispatches forces to revive him. Meanwhile, Sam discovers a leftover shard of the All Spark cube, and he starts having visions of weird alien symbols, which could hold the secret to defeating the Decepticons once and for all.
While that describes the plot of this movie on a very basic level, the movie is two-and-a-half long, which means there is a LOT of filler to get through. For the most part it’s just a blur in my mind, either because I didn’t understand half of what went on, or because my mind failed to retain it. Things move so fast at points that it’s nearly impossible to process, but even if it wasn’t moving so fast, none of it would actually make any sense. On top of it all, the amount of action compared to juvenile comic relief and useless exposition is surprisingly low.
Shia LaBeouf continues to prepare for his rumoured upcoming role in the Wall Street sequel with another sweaty, stuttering, coked-out performance. While I found him endearing and funny in the first one, this time around he just seems spazzy and unfocused. Perhaps his real-life ego is starting to appear on-screen, but he is not heroic in any sense of the word. Meanwhile, Megan Fox is as vapid as ever, but in order to one-up her hotness they had to introduce another supermodel who throws herself at Sam throughout the first half of the film. While there is an obvious explanation for it, it is derivative of a million other movies, and introduces plot loopholes galore.
However, as most of the first movie’s supporters will tell you, no one cares about the humans… it’s all about the robots! But don’t get your hopes up, because all of the new Transformers characters are either non-descript or annoying as hell. Fans were excited about the introduction of Soundwave, known in the cartoon as Megatron’s loyal right hand man. Unfortunately here he is just a satellite in orbit who sounds like Dr. Claw. Jetfire is an old Scottish dude with a beard and a cane, and apparently the female Autobot Arcee is in this film but I couldn’t tell you who she was. Then there are Mudflap and Skids, aka “The Twins”, who have been the subject of many complaints. While their faux gangsta personalities aren’t as offensive as some would have you believe, they get more screen time than just about any other Autobot, and they are just dumb as bricks and not funny at all.
I will say that the action scenes are slightly more coherent this time around, which is an improvement. There seems to be actual choreography to some of the fights, and the Optimus battle royale in the woods and Bumblebee vs Devastator bout were indeed somewhat dramatic. However, it was still hard to distinguish when certain characters had been killed or just injured, and I continued to have trouble figuring out who the individual robots were most of the time (I still wouldn’t know Megatron, Starscream or The Fallen to look at them).
Steven Spielberg is listed as executive producer again, but his influence is a lot less strong this time around and I think the movie suffers because of it. Most of the stuff relating to Sam and his family is played for cheap laughs and seemed unnecessary, while Michael Bay’s mindless military melodrama takes center stage. Tyrese Gibson and Josh Duhamel mostly just stand around looking cool in front of sunsets, and it all leads to a finale that feels like a complete rehash of the first movie (only instead of running with a cube, Sam is running with a bag of sand). Yes, in the midst of all the metallic mayhem, the only significant thing humans can do is run.
While I didn’t love the first movie, I could still understand some of the appeal. It was a must-see movie based solely on the groundbreaking special effects, and the idea that it was offering something that hadn’t quite been done before on the big screen. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen tries to improve on that, but it simply pummels your senses into submission to the point where you are numb to all the explosions and special effects on screen. It’s evident that a lot of work went into this movie, but it’s just not organized into anything compelling. It might look bigger and more expensive, but there is nothing about it that stands out, and I can’t find a good reason to recommend it to anyone. Honestly, if you skip it, you’re not missing a thing, and that’s the bottom line. Regardless, I know the movie is a guaranteed success being both critic proof and recession proof… just don’t blame me when you find yourself checking your watch after the first hour! — Sean
Recommended If You Like: Transformers, Crank, War of the Worlds