Movie Review – Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

new-transformers-revenge-of-the-fallen-poster

I went into Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen with fairly low expectations (21% on the Tomato-Meter and STILL dropping), but I couldn’t possibly fathom that it would be as bad as nearly every critic is making it out to be (I read Ebert’s review after seeing the film and it’s BRILLIANT).  I loved the TV show as a kid.  I consider myself significantly less cynical than most reviewers out there, and actually enjoyed the first Transformers for the big stupid popcorn flick it was meant to be taken for.  If I received more of the same, my need for giant robots beating each other up would have been satiated.  Unfortunately, reality can be cruel.

I never thought I’d say this, but Batman and Robin has a rival in the area of franchise-destroying action movies.  Revenge of the Fallen foregoes substance, wit, depth and intelligence for mindless wanton action, a bloated sense of self-importance, horribly poor-taste jokes and absolutely nothing that resembles coherency or plot.  It’s a tedious, impudent, inflated mess of a movie that looks real pretty and sounds real pretty without delivering anything worth remembering. 

Congratulations guys!

A proud day for the Clooney Bat-family.

Revenge of the Fallen is so elementary in its plot that it’s summation takes one sentence: humans run around the world as giant robots fight each other searching for a map that leads them to a device that could destroy the solar system while the bad guys hope their true leader will be resurrected as things explode.  There.  You know the entire movie.  The ENTIRE movie.  All two-and-a-half hours.  And…wait a minute.  Isn’t that..isn’t that the SAME EXACT PLOT from the first movie?  It is?  REALLY?  So the writing team replaced “cube” with “matrix” and essentially cut and pasted the rest of the script from their old one?  And they somehow managed to ditch any semblance of the humor that made the first movie somewhat bearable?  There’s…there’s absolutely no original creativity here?  What?  HOW COULD THIS BE?!?  The script writers are the same dudes that did Star Trek (Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci) and that was a great movie!  And also the dude that wrote the script for The Ring 2 (Ehran Kruger), which was an OK movie.  How could it possibly go wrong?  Answer: J.J. Abrams (the man whose mere touch creates high quality awesome juice) was not involved with this production.  Instead, we get Michael Bay again (the man whose mere touch induces a slow-motion, IQ dropping trance rocked by explosions and riddled with helicopter blades).  So an already moronic script is souped up with slick, sexy, bling-filled explosions and populated by the reject extras of the few remaining MTV music videos (which are aired on MTV2…no, MTVU).  At least the fairly prolific actors/voice actors from the first film are back, right?  Right? 

Prolific

Prolific

Somewhat.  The basics are still here – Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhmel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, Peter Cullen, and Hugo Weaving.  No more Jon Voigt, Michael O’Neill, Anthony Anderson or Rachael Taylor.  Instead, our new recruits include Frank Welker (yay!), Rainn Wilson (in a cameo),  Isabel Lucas, Ramon Rodriguez and Jon Benjamin Hickey.  Then there’s the multitudinous rabble of extras and bit parts that nobody will remember because there are so many explosions surrounding them.  Tom Kenny as The Twins will get his own paragraph of rage.

 So let’s tackle this actor-by-actor, shall we?

Peter Cullen.  Optimus Prime.  Hero of children and man-children everywhere.

Peter Cullen. Optimus Prime. Hero of children and man-children everywhere.

 Shia LaBeouf gets a worse deal than he deserves.  The guy’s my age and is a professional blockbuster actor and he doesn’t do this by playing brawny heart-throb types, but by playing geeky, fast-thinking dorks.  So my hat is tipped in his direction.  Unfortunately, his role of Sam is much less interesting this time around.  Despite dealing with a long distance relationship, crazy visions and going off to college, Sam’s written as a coward one moment and as a strong-willed boy scout the next.  His neurotic energy is gone, wisecracks are few and far between and there are no opportunities for LaBeouf to flex his “finding humor from awkwardness” muscles (which is what he does best).  Megan Fox’s Mikaela  is a little sadder this time out, but still a bit of a plastic robot.  She’s actually a bit more cute than hot in this installment.  I’m still waiting for a movie to actually force her to flex ACTING muscles, because right now she’s at her most convincing when the Visine tears are streaming down her perfectly symmetrical cheeks and filling her disturbingly icy eyes with woe.  Mostly, Fox runs away from explosions as select areas of her body bounce in slow motion, functioning as a misogynistic fantasy for the editors of GQ magazine.  The military team from the first Transformers get absolutely no character development.  Josh Duhmel and Tyrese Gibson, both decent actors, are reduced to barking orders and acting rebellious against military authority.  My goodness, we’ve never seen that before!  Kevin Dunn and Julie White have slightly elevated roles compared with the last movie, and definitely do deliver on at least a little comedy.  I know John Turturro gets a lot of flack for his role in TF1, but I hope most audience members realize that he single-handedly SAVES the third act of Revenge of the Fallen.  He seems to be the only one who realizes how flat-out idiotic the movie is, and his acting is amongst the only tongue-in-cheek within the film.    Finally, Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime is perfect as ever, but I still want my Frank Welker to play Megatron because Hugo Weaving is certainly not sinister enough.  Speaking of Welker, he does appear as the voice of Soundwave (as he was in the ’80s show) and Devastator.  As always, his work is brilliant.  Rainn Wilson’s college professor is flat-out creepy and not all that amusing.  Isabel Lucas gives Megan Fox a run for her slow-motion Barbie money and proves she can play the seductress pretty well.  Ramon Rodriguez and Jon Benjamin Hickey are just flat-out annoying.

 If there’s one reason Revenge of the Fallen should donate all of its proceeds to charitable organizations that target inner-city development, it’s the character duo of The Twins (voiced by Tom Kenny…the PASTY WHITE GUY WHO VOICES SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS).  As written, they’re gross racist stereotypes of the urban illiterate.  As voiced, they’re Chris Tucker giving in to a bigotry not seen since the 1960s.  And as animated, they may as well be 1800s Minstrel singers belting “Swanee” while eating fried chicken, watermelon and drinking grape soda.  The U.S. has an African-American president.  We’re past this bilious tripe.  We’re past this bullshit representation of a cultural generalization.  We’re past this immature, archaic, disgusting and despicable form of “humor”.  Not once did the large audience I saw Revenge of the Fallen with laugh at these repugnant characters.  I thought we’d left Birth of a Nation in the past, but apparently racism in film isn’t as stamped out as I’d hoped. 

Bad taste just got a whole lot spongier

Bad taste just got a whole lot spongier

There’s also an agent who represents the President (actually stated as being Obama) that forces the Autobots to stop fighting the Decepticons because the President wants to “negotiate with the Decepticons,” clearly implying that diplomacy is a foolish option in foreign policy.  Because the global situation is just like an alien invasion by one-dimensional evil robots.  Obviously, the movie’s still stuck in the Bush administration where patriotism is equivalent to waving a flag whilst blowing the Middle East to high hell.  Which happens.  Again.  That was SO 2007…

Yes we can....hand the US over to Decepticon rule

Yes we can....hand the US over to Decepticon rule

 *pant*  Okay enough pulpit pounding…

 Moving on.  Special effects, right.  Well they were pretty good, considering they’re the main reasons most people want to see this movie.  They’re sleek, glossy, metallic, big and expensive.  It’s obvious a lot of money was shucked into Revenge of the Fallen‘s effects.  Too bad this time around a majority of the transformers look alike.  Is it Brawl?  Is it Starscream?  Is it Megatron?  I DON’T KNOW!  Virtually all Decepticons are a metallic silvery-gray.  While the Autobots are conveniently color-coded, you never know WHICH baddie they’re fighting, and that’s not really a good thing, except for the super-bot Devastator and Decepti-intelligence gatherer Soundwave.  Devastator is a giant ape-like robot who is made up of many smaller robots and has wrecking-ball genitalia.  His weapon of choice is a vacuum-cleaner mouth that sucks up sand and Autobots alike.  Whenever he’d switched on, I was tempted to chant “Suck, suck, suck,” to quote Spaceballs.  Soundwave was once an enigmatic spy-like trusted apostle to Megatron (in the old show at least).  Now he’s a satellite that just sorta hovers in space and does nothing.  You know he’s not fighting because he’s useless.  Explosions were pretty but by the ten thousand five hundredth smoky fireball, it got a little redundant.  Which leads me to the editing.  I have a hunch that a good hour of action could have been cut.  The story would have been more coherent, the explosion count wouldn’t jade the audience, and I wouldn’t have had to hold in my desperate need to pee for half the movie.  There was just too much bloated action, too much budget flaunting and too much unjustifiable time-wasting.  The 11-year-old boy behind me kept asking his mother what time the movie would be over.  If your pre-pubescent boy audience is bored with too much robot fighting, then something has gone terribly wrong.

 I really enjoyed Steve Jablonsky’s initial Transformers score.  It transcended the usual Zimmerian imitations in favor of some wonderfully melodic work.  This time around, I don’t even know if there WAS a score.  His music didn’t detract from the viewing experience, but I don’t ever remember a punctuated moment where a familiar theme kicked in.  The score was simply absent.  However, the Linkin Park quotes are everywhere.  The band even got partial music credits during the end crawl with Jablonsky, which is insipid and obnoxious. 

Not again...

Not again...

So Mister Michael Bay has created a magnum opus of expensive IQ-reducing absurdity.  There’s no denying that everything in Revenge of the Fallen is gigantic.   Everything is expensive.  Effort was put in by many crew members.  But it’s not good.  It’s offensive.  It’s sexist.  It’s racist.  It’s certainly not for kids.  And it’s a terrible movie.  The actors do what they can.  It’s not their fault (though they did read the script).  My sympathies to all crew members who put their blood, sweat and tears into making the final product come together.  But Orci, Kurtzman, Kruger, Bay and Executive Producer Steven Spielberg…WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!?  To quote a character from a GOOD Spielberg blockbuster…”That is one big pile of shit.”  I give Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen a 2/10.  And that’s being GENEROUS.  Necca out.

Your brain on Bay, with an extra side of Kurtzman, Orci and Kruger.  Spielberg not included.

Your brain on Bay, with an extra side of Kurtzman, Orci and Kruger. Spielberg not included.

NOTE: All photographs from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen are the property of Hasbro, Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks Entertainment.  Linkin Park is property of themselves, as released by Warner Brothers Records.  I am in no way profiting from their use in this article.  The scrambled eggs are by an unknown cook with an impeccable aesthetic sense.

Batman is, of course, the property of DC Comics.  Batman and Robin is the (unfortunate?) property of Warner Brothers Pictures.

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