Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Much less than meets the eye
Much less than meets the eye
How about a background check for those who want some context of what kind of movie viewer I am. I am both a) a huge fan of the original Transformers cartoon, b) a person who likes the first live-action Transformers enough to give it a thumb up, and c) someone who likes big, loud, dumb action movies. This means that I am the primary target demographic that the filmmakers are aiming to appeal to. When I say that Michael Bay is a great choice as the director for the Transformers movies, I stand by that statement. His brand of overblown spectacle is a perfect fit for how the Transformers story should be presented on celluloid. He’s not exactly a director that I would defend on a normal basis, but I will admit that some of his movies (The Rock, Bad Boys, and the first Transformers) are very entertaining and fun movies. But let’s also remember that he has directed such low grade blockbusters as Pearl Harbor and, worst of all, Bad Boys II. In fact, Revenge of the Fallen reminds me a lot of Bad Boys II in terms of how self indulgent, bloated, and downright insulting that film was.
Plot Synopsis: It has been two years since the Autobots and Decepticons first intruded on Sam Witwicky’s life, and now he is off to college. Meanwhile, the Autobots are working with the military to fend off any remaining Decepticons on Earth. After being taken down by the Autobots in Shanghai, the Decepticon Demolisher mutters that The Fallen, an ancient Decepticon who lost his power over time, will rise again. Matters only get worse when old enemy Megatron is revived and goes after Sam, who has found a shard of the Allspark (the cube in the first movie) in his clothes and now sees visions that will help the Decepticons regain their power. But conveniently there’s another shard that the Decepticons steal from the military, even though they are already going after Sam (Note: you can already see the sloppy writing shine through). There’s more to plot than this, but it would reveal some big spoilers (and more herky jerky writing).
Okay, I’m going to get the good out before I let loose and rant about the bad. Shia LeBeouf is passably engaging as the human protagonist, Sam Witwicky, and is deft with his rapid-fire line delivery and twitchy mannerisms. He’s the glue the barely held the film together and made it at least watchable. Also, the action scenes, when they are good, are very good. Bay listened to the fans who found the first films action shot too close up and decided to pull the camera back to allow us to get a better view. And I will admit that, although I didn’t have the problem about close up action in the first, this is an improvement. The fight between Optimus Prime and multiple Decepticons in the forest is the highlight of the film and a great example of Bay’s skill in big action. Here’s where the film hits one of its bigger snags though…plot holes and incohesive storytelling. The forest fight actually starts as a chase from Sam’s college but then suddenly jumps from the city street to the forest. Ideas, MacGuffins, and plot points are introduced and quickly discarded in order to move on to the next ones without any central focus. Characters also disappear from the story and fight scenes, notably the end, with no reason or explanation. One minute, two Autobots are keeping a Decepticon distracted, the next minute the Autobots are gone and the Decepticon goes about its business.
The two Autobots I’m talking about happen to be the twins Mudflap and Skids, who may be some of the most annoying and stereotypically racist characters since Jar Jar Binks stank up Star Wars Episode I. Seriously, they look like caricature drawings of blacks from the late 1800s with their big eyes, floppy ears, and buckteeth (Skids has a gold tooth). Normally I might say that I’m being a little judgmental, but the appearance of a real black person who also acts mentally retarded and has huge buckteeth cements my opinion. In fact, what really brings the movie down is how the humor aspect has been dialed up considerably. This wouldn’t be so bad if most of it was actually funny, but aside from some of Sam’s parents’ lines, everything falls flat on its face. There is an incident with a pot brownie that is too overblown, two instances of dog humping, one instance of the little Decepticon Wheelie humping Mikaela’s leg, and a shot of “balls” on Devastator (a shockingly huge and powerful Decepticon who turns into a wasted opportunity of true mayhem). The humor is simply overblown to a level that would still be problematic even if most of it worked.
Just to add to the list of annoying characters is Leo (Ramon Rodriguez), Sam’s roommate, who is pulled along for the ride but quickly wears out his welcome. John Turturro, as ex-agent Simmons, has thankfully toned down his character’s personality since we last saw him, but that doesn’t save him from some bad one-liners and an ass shot. Megan Fox, as hot she is, just looks bored here and I’m saying this because at least in the first movie she seemed to try to be interesting. Peter Cullen also reprises his longtime role as the voice of Optimus Prime, but the story doesn’t provide much for the character to say. Providing the voices for the two big baddies Megatron and The Fallen are Hugo Weaving and Tony Todd respectively, but like the plot points they are both lost in the story for very long periods of time leaving a distinct lack of menace or danger most of the time. On the positive side, one thing that I felt was missing from the first film was the Megatron/Starscream bickering that defined their relationship in the cartoon and it was nice to see it at least brought up here.
There are a lot more little things to say about what I liked and didn’t like about Transformers 2, but I think I’ve hit the nail on the head here. So all I’ll say is that, if you didn’t like the first Transformers, then you will loathe Revenge of the Fallen. If you did like it or you are a big fan of the cartoons, then it could go either way. Unfortunately for me, my way is the highway…far away from this movie.