Transformers 2: Big, Loud and...Boring?

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With Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, there isn’t “more than meets the eye,” as the franchise’s iconic tagline might have you believe; there’s much, much less.  While its visual effects are undeniably impressive, this film is a narrative mess that not even millions of dollars worth of pyrotechnics can salvage.

Director Michael Bay’s first attempt at bringing the Hasbro toy line to the big screen proved to be an unexpectedly exhilarating  summer thrill ride back in 2007, its financial success ensuring that we hadn’t seen the last of the epic battle between the heroic Autobots and the devious Decepticons. However, rather than giving audiences more of what worked in the first installment—namely large-scale battles between giant robots—Bay decided to once again make the title characters a sideshow in their own movie. Instead, for much of the film, we’re forced to put up with a half-hearted romance between Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox) as they collect an increasingly irritating assortment of comic-relief misfits on a convoluted globe-spanning treasure hunt. As a result, this movie just isn’t as fun as it should have been.

Two years after the events of the first film, Sam is getting ready to begin his freshman year at college, leaving behind his incredibly sexy girlfriend and his Autobot guardian Bumblebee. While going through his things, he comes across a piece of the Allspark which, as fans might remember from the first film, has the power to give life to ordinary machines. When Sam comes into contact with the shard, information is imprinted onto his brain, causing him to see strange symbols, act erratically and freak out his conspiracy theorist roommate, Leo (Ramon Rodriguez). What’s inside Sam’s head is very valuable to the Decepticons, prompting Autobot leader Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) to again ask him for help. When Sam refuses, Optimus explains, “Fate rarely calls upon us at a moment of our choosing.” So, it’s up to Sam and the Autobots to save the world for a second time. So much for higher education!

The story of Revenge of the Fallen is certainly more ambitious in scope than that of the first, pitting the Autobots against an ancient evil called the Fallen (Tony Todd) who wishes to harvest energy from the sun to cement his rise to power. But it’s presented so clumsily that it’s rarely engaging on even a base level. The script was penned by Transformers vets Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman—who wrote J.J. Abrams’ phenomenal Star Trek reboot—alongside series newcomer Ehren Kruger, but one would swear that Bay was just making the film up as he shot it. The plot slows to an excruciating crawl around halfway through, characters disappear and reappear whenever it’s convenient and there seems to be little regard to continuity throughout. Whenever things aren’t blowing up, the film stagnates and resorts to lowest common denominator toilet humor to hold the audience’s attention.

Granted, the first movie was pretty heavy on the low-brow comedy, but it’s employed with groan-inducing ferocity in Revenge of the Fallen. We’ve got robot farts, Decepticons humping legs, dogs humping each other and even a giant pair of robotic testicles during the film’s climax. To make matters worse, two of the main Autobot characters, Mudflap and Skids, are appallingly negative black stereotypes that are supposed to be funny. Voiced by Reno Wilson and Tom Kenny, the twins talk in foul-mouthed ghetto-speak, bicker constantly and are illiterate. The pair has sparked a controversy since the film’s release, and for good reason. Not only does a lot of this film’s humor fall flat, but it manages to offend on more than one level.

Questionable jokes aside, it’s important to note that Revenge of the Fallen boasts some incredible action scenes. It’s just a shame that there aren’t more of them. The film opens strong with a pulse-pounding showdown between the Autobots and Decepticons in the streets of Shanghai. Soon after, we’re treated to a forest smackdown pitting Optimus Prime against a newly-revived Megatron (Hugo Weaving) and two other Decepticons. After that eventful face-off—which changes the focus of the film considerably—there isn’t much action to speak of until the explosive final confrontation between good and evil among the pyramids in Egypt. When Bay isn’t preoccupied with near-pornographic shots of military equipment, the finale is actually quite good. But as one considers how much of the film’s 150-minute running time is squandered on cheap jokes, undeveloped characters and subplots that are only tangentially tied to the central conflict between the Autobots and Decepticons, that thrill will likely subside by the time the credits roll. Mindless action movies can and should be fun. They should never be this boring.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is occasionally entertaining, but it spends a lot of time and money not getting to the point.

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  • RabidArt

    RabidArt Jun 30, 2009 at 2:45pm

    If only all the reviews and the fact that the movie was horrendous stop people from going to see it and make all that money. It's a sad day in my confidence in what people find interesting and worth spending their money on. This movie might as well be called Michael Bay's Summer Movie '09 cause it sure wasn't the Transformers.

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Jun 30, 2009 at 7:03pm

    I'm not a Transformers fan and have no childhood nostalgia regarding them so I don't have the same investment many have in the characters. However, I kind of feel for those saying what a disappointment this movie was because of its tedium factor. I watched the first Transformers film and was bored to tears so if true fans are saying this one is significantly worse I'm going nowhere near it. Not even on DVD.

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Jul 1, 2009 at 6:12am

    I'm a fan, kindoff, not a rabid fan but I sure as hell am not watching those movies! Robot farts be damned!

  • James Wortman

    James Wortman Jul 1, 2009 at 10:33am

    Bart, "robot farts be damned" just might be my new motto.

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