Monday, July 6, 2009

Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen (2009, Michael Bay)

Michael Bay is a filmmaker infamous for being subservient to the Hollywood ‘machine’, creating films that generally appeal to the lowest common denominator of movie goers, offering strictly no substance at all with a whole lot of the worst kind of style possible: especially fast and especially loud. 2 years ago, Bay and his team delivered Transformers, the live-action adaptation of the 1980s cartoon, comic, and toy line of the same name. It carried all the Bay staples, that is, a weak plotline which became an excuse for expensive pyrotechnics and visual effects shots of ‘bad assery.’ From memory, the only sensible storytelling element present in that film was how Sam, played by Shia Leboeuf, obtained his first car in high school. The car is in fact the famous Bumblebee in disguise, and the two form a bond of sorts. A cute variation of the ‘boy and his dog’ story if you will (I believe Spielberg himself, who was involved in the creative process of the first film, specifically desired a ‘boy and his car’ tale). Once that was out of the way however, the film concentrated on the allspark of power or whatnot and proceeded to assault the viewer with schizophrenically edited scenes involving huge robots battling one another.

To put Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in a nutshell, and it would have to be a pretty darn big one, it’s like the first film, but with a worse sense of humour, minus the cute Sam-Bumblebee story, and longer, louder schizophrenic action sequences. There are some serious oddities about this movie. First and foremost, the film is far too long. Clocking in at a bloated 2h24, it becomes evident by the halfway mark that the movie does not have any interesting or coherent story to sustain the running time. And yet, just like that dastardly Megatron, the movie keeps on marching and pounding the audience to death with loud noises and confusing special effects. The ‘story, as I guess we shall call it for the time being, has Sam off to college without his trusted Bumblebee, hoping to live a normal life, only to soon discover that a small piece of the allspark behind left from the previous instalment uploaded critical information to his brain. The information? Something about another kind of allspark (the matrix of leadership I think) and more powerful, deadlier Decepticons named the Fallen, who desires nothing more than to destroy the Earth’s sun. Why? Jealousy perhaps. Cranky about some rusty parts could be as much a plausible explanation as any other if you ask me, which I know you are since you’ve chosen to spend time reading this review. Meanwhile, the Autobots are combating Decepticons across the globe with the help of a special human military squadron, as is seen during the opening action set piece in Shanghai. Strange that there is still a cover up regarding the existence of these machines given that it should be rather hard to miss 5 giant robots reducing downtown Shanghai to a pulp. Anyways…the Autobots are soon called in to help Sam with his problem, and thus begins this overly epic journey across the U.S. and in Egypt to destroy the Decepticons and this oddly named Fallen creature.The route the film takes to finally, finally kick the crap out of the bad guys is dragged on far too much. Every new character Sam thinks he needs to read the ancient text locked in his head can’t seem to do so, so they always have to keep marching onwards to another set piece or another robot who, we hope, can somehow decipher this gibberish. It’s not very original, nor is the pay-off, involving a machine hidden inside a pyramid that, when activated, will destroy the planet’ sun. Wow.

In the case of some action films, a silly, convoluted plot can be forgiven with solid action and some amusing dialogue and characters. I’ll get to the action in a moment, but allow me to reserve a few lines about the characters and dialogue. I realized at some point during the movie that Sam isn’t a particularly interesting character, not are any of his Autobot buddies. He’s just a young adult with a hot girlfriend who goes spastic whenever the shit hits the fan. Shia Leboeuf has shown in the past that he can deliver some good lines, as was the case even, dare I say, in the first Transformers. But here I didn’t get anything out of him. That’s not entirely Leboeuf’s fault mind you. When a script has its main character a young, naturally nervous college kid under constant threat of death, then he won’t be doing much other than acting crazy. Not to mention that this sequel gives Sam a sidekick who behaves exactly like him. Should I even mention Megan Fox? What hasn’t been said already exactly? Pretty on the eyes but hasn’t delivered any special performances yet, or at least hasn’t laid hands on any script that would allow her to do so. Revenge, alas, is no different. None of the Autobots are particularly interesting either. Optimus Prime is a commander, that’s pretty much it. Bumblebee still can’t talk and in fact isn’t even used all that much in the film in comparison to his screen time in the original. Megatron well…he still barks orders, only this time he also takes orders from the Fallen (which was a bit of an odd choice given how in every other Transformers series Megatron is usually the leader) But a worse crime committed by the film is the odd sense of humour it champions. Dogs in the act of procreation, a miniature robot shagging the leg of Megan Fox, a toothless Muslim in a butcher shop yelling that he can’t touch pork, Sam’s mother acting like she was on crack cocaine after taking in a tiny dose of pot, and, lest I forget, those god forsaken twin Autobots. I forgot what their names are and I quite frankly don’t think it matters. Their voices resemble that of Black urbanites, call their friends and foes pussies and claim that they ‘don’t do much readin’!’ If any of what I wrote above in the last few lines made you laugh while you watched the film, then fine, that’s just what tickles your funny bone. None of the above tickled mine. In fact, I was shifting uncomfortably in my seat, especially during the scenes involving the twin Auobots (many in the crowd laughed and I was sitting next to a huge Black man. Even if I did find it funny I think I would have held it in anyways).

With brings us to the action and special effects. Truth be told, anyone who says the movie has bad visual effects must be kidding themselves. I’m not referring to the ridiculously fast paced editing and cinematography. I’m merely pointing to the how seamlessly the giant robots fit into the locations, real or studio created, where the movie was filmed. The Autobots and Decepticons look like real, giant killing machines, even though it’s often hard to differentiate one from the other. Their individual designs may get repetitive after a while, but there’s no question that the effects team put their heart and soul into making these machines look freaking real and awesome. Yay, Revenge of the Fallen has scored a point! Sadly, much like in the first film, the action is often difficult to follow precisely because of the fast paced editing and close up shots of robots that, like I briefly mentioned already, do tend to look like one another after a while. Many robots tend to pop up for a brief moment to shoot things down and then disappear for long stretches at a time, such as Arcee (a popular Autobot in Transformers lore, here reduced to small action-oriented cameos). By the time Devastator appears, nothing really mattered anymore. Do you know which robot was Devastator?* The only reason I do was because I liked the franchise as a child because the film does absolutely nothing to set it up. All in all, the action sequences are a mess for the most part, which is a shame because those darn robots look impressive.

I could go on and on about other, smaller details due to my fanboy past, but I shan’t bog down into trivialities. Suffice to say that this is the last movie that needs to be seen this summer. Of course, it’s far too bloody late for such a claim to carry any weight. It has grossed close to 300 million dollars thus far and it’ll be playing in theatres for another while. Up is playing, Public Enemies is playing, even The Brothers Bloom is still playing. Any one of those three films is far more deserving of your hard earned cash. That’s just my opinion however. If you like shit blowing up on epic proportions and at an insanely fast rate without one iota of plot development, then this is the film for you. Granted, those robots do look mighty impressive, but I’m sure you’ll be able to notice that quality by renting the Blu-Ray for a few dollars.

*The giant sand eating robot formed by all the construction trucks in the final battle.

Is Revenge of the Fallen a brilliant comedy? Possibly...Check out the review at Big Thoughts From a Small Mind.


Anonymous said...

No Hot Rod in my Transformers movies makes me a sad, sad panda.

Thomas said...

Sad panda ]:, ??!!