Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) / Action-Sci Fi
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, language, some crude and sexual material, and brief drug material
Running time: 150 min.
Cast: Shia Labeouf, Megan Fox, John Turturro, Ramon Rodriguez, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, Isabel Lucas, John Benjamin Hickey, Michael Papajohn, Glenn Morshower, Hugo Weaving (voice), Tony Todd (voice), Peter Cullen (voice), Michael York (voice)
Cameo: Deep Roy, Rainn Wilson
Director: Michael Bay
Screenplay: Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Review published July 3, 2009
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen starts off in 17,000 B.C., when humanity was little more than a burgeoning collection of hirsute scavengers and spear-wielding hunters. Perhaps it's appropriate that we start there so that the makers of this second near-incomprehensible mish-mash of stupidity could see the demographic they're aiming for in the intelligence department -- illiterate cave dwellers. It's difficult to believe that the screenwriting team is the same one that worked on 2009's critically acclaimed Star Trek. I guess it goes to show how much the director and producers control the overall quality of the finished product.
It is in these times that humankind first came face to face with the Transformers, a race of metal robots that can transform themselves from everyday objects into humanoid constructs, and back again. Though they may have shared space with humans way back when, they have laid dormant until the times of today. Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf, Eagle Eye) continues as assistant savior of humanity, on the verge of college on the East Coast and a sense of normalcy, but further events in the battle for supremacy of Earth's dominion erupt yet again, as the evil Decepticons plan on kidnapping the lad now that he's apparently tapped into visions regarding the ancient artifacts left behind eons ago. Meanwhile, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), leader of the goodly Autobots, has joined with the governmental authorities, in a military force called NEST, to rid the Earth of the resurgent Decepticon forces, which are now bolstered by the return of Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving, Happy Feet) from his watery prison at the bottom of the ocean and the new badass wayward Autobot, the Fallen (voiced by Tony Todd, Final Destination 2). who are looking for the remnant pieces of the powerful cube from the first film, the Allspark.
Another head scratcher in terms of massive appeal, the second installment in the Transformers franchise offers up pretty much the same dish we received in the first entry. Long, bloated, and overrun by special effects and explosions, what's delivered is another young boy's fantasy played out in an adult world, full of hot babes, hotter rides, big guns, gigantic explosions, and simplistic concepts.
I've already grown tired of slamming Michael Bay's (The Island, Bad Boys II) directorial style, as his approach to storytelling is the same in every instance. Bay concentrates on the surface aesthetic only, filling up each role with actors based on looks first, or comedic appeal, and letting them do what they do -- look hot or ad-lib whatever they feel like. But, really, why should he change when people keep handing over their dollars to see more of it, and seem genuinely ecstatic to do so? Bay continues to relive his pre-adolescent boy fantasies of getting the hottest chick in school, playing around with his army men and big-gunned toys, and letting them smash it up in a variety of monolithic landscapes.
It's a safe bet that whatever viewers Transformers garners are of the "I just want to see stuff blow up" variety. On this level, the films is a success. Things blow up. They blow up real good. You'll be hard pressed to find a scene in which there isn't at least one explosion, and if there isn't I can guarantee you that these rare non-explosive scenes are packed with other goodies, like Maxim cover models for socially-constipated nerds to drool over, or zany one-facet comedians to distract us from the fact that there aren't any real characters to care about or storyline to make sense out of. Then there are the controversial new twin street racer robots, Mudflap and Skids, who rattle off Ebonics in a grossly stereotypical fashion that many African-Americans, and many others, will no doubt find too offensive to be amused by. It's basically a level of entertainment akin to watching a bully give a dweeb a wedgie, and then the geek and bully instantly explode, raining down fire and brimstone for 30 seconds.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen isn't so much a movie as it is an assault on your senses of sight and sound. How much you find entertaining will greatly be determined by how titillated you are at seeing massive doses of intricately detailed CGI carnage crunching, sparking, and exploding for 2.5 hours. Speaking as someone who cannot even begin to fathom what someone could find entertaining about the first entry, I am equally flabbergasted that people are continuing to line up around the block for even more of this cinematic aberration.
Earlier in the year, I felt a little guilty for giving the fourth Terminator film a good review. It's films like this that probably make me go overboard on praise for sci-fi that actually doesn't lull me to sleep from a lack of brain activity. Robot on robot violence can be exciting when there is a story behind the thrashing they give each other. Enjoying the clash independent of purpose or meaning is purely pushing buttons of titillation in the audience based on meticulous research on what appeals visually to humans. This is especially true when you can't tell which robot is fighting which, and whose side they are on. It's just metallic wrangling with carnage with no discernible distinction. Explosions, metal crushing, fire, Megan Fox (Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen) in short shorts -- I think I've just described 90% of the appeal of the movie in six words.
I know there are readers out there who are clearly shaking their heads thinking that I am obviously an idiot for thinking that 2+ hours of pornography of carnage would be better served with a story between the scenes of action. Here's my retort: when you have $200 million to spend on a movie, why not put some effort into the script? Why not make it appealing to more than those who are easily entertained by visceral displays of violence and cheesecake? Personally, I find a film with start-to-finish money shots to be tedious in the extreme. It's the cinematic diet equivalent of taking a heaping pile of dog poop, deep frying it, then slathering it with whipped cream and chocolate syrup. It's tasty only so long as you make a determined effort not to give even a nanosecond of thought as to what it is while you're consuming it.
- Followed by Transformers: Dark of the Moon
©2009 Vince Leo