October 21, 2009
After seeing the first installment of what will likely be a long-lived franchise (Transformers 3 is currently “in development” according to IMDB.com, and the first two films raked in loads of dough for salivating movie executives, so sequel-spawning is virtually a given), I walked away with a resounding “eh, it was okay” response to Michael Bay’s handling of the story and characters loved by so many of my generation. Really, it seems like Bay would be the perfect director for these movies, which anyone could predict would be light on story and heavy on effects-laden mayhem. No one in their right mind would’ve expected Revenge of the Fallen to be any different, and it certainly isn’t. But as mediocre as I thought the 2007 Transformers effort was, I’m sorry to report that the 2009 sequel is far, far worse.
Shia LaBeouf once again reprises his role as Sam Witwicky, a high school graduate who is about to embark on the great adventure known as college. In typical Bay fashion, Sam ends up at a university that’s populated by the stereotypical frat guys, super-model sorority chicks, and nerds who have developed theories about alien invasions based on the events from the first film (And exactly how was the colossal destruction of downtown L.A. concealed from the public? Don’t worry—you’ll quickly learn that it’s best not to ask questions). As he’s packing up his things and preparing to leave home, Sam discovers that a shard from the AllSpark seen in the original Transformers has somehow wound up in his jacket. After it gives life to all of the appliances in his kitchen, Sam begins having visions. During his first week at his unnamed academic institution, he suffers an all-out meltdown: he unconsciously begins to lecture his astronomy class on the faults present in Einstein’s theories; he scribbles the strange alien glyphs all over the walls of his dorm room; and he constantly stutter-talks his way through any and all social encounters. The Decepticons, are, of course, hot on his trail in hopes of probing his mind and learning the “language of the Primes” in an effort to… well… who knows. They’re also trying to obtain another shard of the AllSpark, which is being kept under tight security at a secret military base. There’s also something about a “Matrix” key hidden in Egypt, which powers a device that’s designed to drain energy from stars in order to obtain the power used to give the metallic beings from Cybertron life. In all honesty the whole thing isn’t quite as confusing as I’ve just made it sound, but the plot doesn’t ever seem to work as a cohesive whole either—it feels more like a “heaped on” method of storytelling than anything else, with each individual sequence serving no other purpose than allowing giant robots that turn into different modes of transportation time to cream one another with cannons, machine guns, and glowing swords.
But that’s what Transformers is supposed to be, right? Isn’t that why we loved it as children?
It is, but all too often the human “context” of the story seems to get in the way of letting the machines do their thing. I know that the Transformers wouldn’t be Transformers if they weren’t alien robots that turned into cars, motorcycles, and jets (which requires the aforementioned human context to be present), but I honestly think this type of movie would be better served without human intervention. We’ve already established that the people here are present for no other reason than to serve as eye-candy and to setup massive intergalactic robot war zones, so why not just follow the Autobots and Decepticons themselves? Even though they’re ridiculously animated, they end up having more personality than any human actor involved in this convoluted mess. The answer, of course, is simple—the demographic for Revenge of the Fallen is teenage males. Boys who can’t control their hormones will flock to see this movie because of Megan Fox, so working her into the story is an obvious necessity for the sake of making a whole lot of money.
Okay, so what else makes Revenge of the Fallen such a botched movie, you ask?
For one thing the fight scenes, though often impressive, are incredibly loud and hard to follow. Ironically, the attention to detail found here makes all scenes involving the Autobots and Decepitcons seem like nothing more than an orgy of moving parts. Again, some battles are well-choreographed, but most are headaches that are extraordinarily difficult to process.
And if you want specific low points, I’ve got two for you. The first involves Mrs. Witwicky, who absent-mindedly consumes some sort of marijuana-laced baked good while moving her son into his dormitory. The other involves Sam talking to dead Autobots in heaven. That’s right. This movie features divine intervention of the mechanical kind. These scenes are the worst of the worst in Revenge of the Fallen. The latter is meant to be serious and awe-inspiring, as evidenced by the rising orchestral crescendo usually found in the soundtracks of Michael Bay films. There are also humping dogs and a mini-transformer that feels the need to mimic Joe Pesci, but I’ve rambled for long enough.
This is all very saddening because I think there are so many good things that could be done with the concept and characters that powers the Transformers mythos, but this latest film misses the mark on almost every level. If you absolutely must watch this because you’re a die hard fan of the series, then go for it. I do, however, strongly recommend taking a few Advil beforehand, because you’ll feel like you’ve been slapped in the face before it’s all said and done.
out of 5
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, language, some crude and sexual material, and brief drug material.