Is Hollywood playing a sick joke on us? Did we somehow offend God? What could we have possibly done to be subjected to the summer movie season we're suffering through? After two months of watching one alleged blockbuster fall critically and financially after the next - save for Star Trek, Up and a comedy no one expected to be huge in the first place - Michael Bay's loud sequel to Transformers arrives, promising to exceed the simple expectations set by the first film. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen merely had to have lots of explosions and some hot women to make us happy - or at least so I thought; instead, it falls right in line with the other disasters of the summer.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is not a good movie. No, it's a bad movie. And this is coming from someone who thoroughly enjoyed the first film, even if it did have some easily avoidable flaws. I went with a friend who is a diehard "Transformers" fan, who knows all the robots and, I'm pretty sure, even owns some of the original toys. When we watched the first one together, he said it "fucking rules;" after emerging from the theater last night, it appeared as though Michael Bay himself had walked up, tore out his heart Temple of Doom style and peed in the empty cavity. That is not a good sign. If anyone were to be won over by this loud, allegedly fan boy sequel it would be him, and he was not won over.
Transformers 2, like the first one and most other Michael Bay films, is glossy and fast-paced. The visuals are good, the action scenes loud and full of explosions, the women all supermodel hot, slutty and skimpily dressed. There are more Transformers than ever in this movie, with plenty of Autobots and Decepticons for those who can tell them apart to feast their eyes on.
There's nothing in those ingredients that would indicate that Transformers 2 would be Michael Bay's worst movie since Pearl Harbor, and yet, here we are with a platter of rotten fruit and a spoiled pig's head.
Some will say that Transformers 2 doesn't need a plot. Hell, I was even thinking that. But this movie goes to show - once again - that even the dumbest of action movies need at least a semblance of a plot. The first movie was entertaining because it was simple and fast-paced, and even though it had way too many storylines, it was coherent. Transformers 2 goes the other direction, stripping down to the core characters and offering up a much narrower focus; unfortunately, the plot rarely makes sense, and even when it does, it's trash. Why not just have the Decepticons out for revenge, rather than giving Shia LaBeouf a migraine full of archaic symbols that makes him a wanted man? And wouldn't archaeologists have noticed if a giant sun-destroying weapon was buried inside the pyramids? And why would President Obama "fire" the Autobots while the Earth is being invaded by Decepticons? Even Dick Cheney wouldn't accuse Obama of doing that. Well, maybe he would.
One of my annoyances with the original film was that LaBeouf's character talked so fast and furiously it quickly became annoying. In the sequel, his character is calmer, but everyone else is extremely annoying. The dialogue comes so fast and frenetic it's hard to keep up, and after a short while you hope for the ending credits so everyone will just shut up. Beyond the dialogue, the film is just full of inconsistencies and other annoyances. Worse, the film so deemphasizes the Transformers that it's hard to like any of them. Optimus Prime is out of the movie for a good chunk of the running time, and the rest are treated as props to aid in the human story - which is not what people want to see.
People who like Michael Bay generally like Michael Bay movies. Those who don't, don't. Though Bay will never be regarded as an Oscar-winning director, there are very few of his movies that I have watched less than five times, if not many more. He knows how to make entertaining, action-packed films. But with Transformers 2, it looks like Bay got bored in pre-production. The action scenes are not bigger and badder; the setup to these scenes are minimal at best (a complaint I had with Terminator Salvation as well); and the editing looks like it was done at the last minute to reduce the film down to a still-way-too-long two hours and thirty minutes. This is Bay's shoddiest production yet.
Fox has recently been compared to Angelina Jolie, for what reasons I'm not sure. She's hot and knows it, and Michael Bay does, too. And frankly, all I needed was to see her scampering around in form-fitting clothes. While she does do a good job of running in slow motion at the end of the film, Fox tries her hardest to be uninteresting, and it works. My crush is fading fast. She doesn't look as hot as she did in the original, and that may be because the screenwriters didn't know how to progress the characters that were introduced in the first film. She's not "the hot girl next door" but simply "the hot girl who has already been won over." More importantly, the screenwriters give her so little to say or do that her presence in the film is actually embarrassing.
While we're on the topic of embarrassing, let's not gloss over the offensive "black" robots in the movie. The first Transformers had a character who spoke Ebonics and Michael Bay was scolded for that; he ups the ante here, though, with two robots with big ears, buck teeth (including a gold tooth) and the inability to read. They speak in poor Ebonics, spend most of their time insulting each other about how stupid they are, and when the battle finally arrives, they just disappear. Walking out of the theater, I heard multiple people complaining about these "Jar Jar Bots" and how racist they were.
Transformers 2 has about thirty more robots than the first film did, and that's not good. Most of the time I couldn't tell the good ones from the bad, and so many of them looked like Megatron it was hard to keep them apart. The screenwriters give absolutely no depth to any of the robots, including Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, which is quite strange; for the third film - and we know there's going to be a third film - it would be wise to focus on the robots rather than the humans. The bigger question is why are the robots so much easier to destroy this time around? In the first film, it took the U.S. military, all of the Autobots the destruction of most of Los Angeles to take down Megatron and a couple of Decepticons - and they only accomplished that by shoving a ridiculously strong power source into Megatron's belly. In this film, robots, including Megatron and his even more evil master, don't seem to be all that invulnerable (I don't get why the military bothers firing bullets at the Decepticons, though); there's nothing particularly intimidating about the villains.
The list above doesn't cover all of my annoyances, but you get the point. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a monumental screw-up, compounded by the fact that Bay shouldn't have needed to try that hard to make a worthy sequel.
In all fairness, the film has its moments. It is entertaining and has some funny moments, and even though most stuff falls flat, a few things stick from time to time. The battle scene in the forest is pretty neat, and there are some other stretches that work quite well. Unfortunately, many of the coolest moments are in the previews, leaving Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to be a loud, ridiculous, annoying, racist and surprisingly dull summer dud.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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