Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is almost not worthy of being called a movie. Read on!
Movie Review 24/6/09
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox
Directed by: Michael Bay
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
It’s a sequel. Based on a line of toys. And directed by Michael Bay. These are warning signs if there ever were any. Still, being a summer tentpole blockbuster, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen generated impossible amounts of hype. Here is my advice up front: don’t buy into any of it.
It has been two years since the events of the first film, and the military has formed an alliance with the good-guy Autobots to rat out the bad-guy Decepticons. The Decepticons are still after the hero from the first film, Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf), now a college freshman struggling to live a regular life after saving the world. Now, he has Cybertronian glyphs imprinted into his brain, making him the key to find an ancient device.
This device is the Star Harvester, turning suns into energy for the robots, which the Fallen, the vengeful last of an early generation of Prime robots, is after. Upon this flimsy fragment of plot are piled endless skirmishes between the Autobots and Decepticons, with plenty of military involvement as well. Sam, his girlfriend Mikaela (Fox), conspiracy theorist roommate Leo (Ramon Rodriquez), Major William Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and Air Force Combat Controller Robert Epps (Tyrese Gibson) from the first film and even Sam’s parents (Kevin Dunn and Julie White) are all flung into the thick of the action at one point or another.
The film is pure, unadulterated Bayhem – read: noisy, overblown and very unintelligent. Director Michael Bay relishes in packing as many explosions as possible into most of his movies, this one being no exception, and consequentially leaving very, very little room for anything else. The target audience of teenaged boys ultimately wants to see giant robots bash each other up, and this the film offers up plenty of. However, the melees between Transformers are excessive and get old very quickly, even when supplemented by F-16 bombing runs and tank artillery fire and locales as exotic as the Great Pyramids of Giza and the rose-red city of Petra. There are only so many ways that one robot can trash another, and by the last act one would be hard-pressed to even care.
The problem with the action sequences, in addition to their excessive nature, is that none are very inventive or engaging, turning the film into a same-old same-old smorgasbord. One major action set piece is almost an exact duplicate of another from the first film. This is a pity as Bay clearly had the resources to make something special at his disposal. Bay famously has connections to the military, so in addition to a messy robot wrestling match this becomes a sort of propaganda film as well. The film’s running time of 147 minutes is also merciless overkill. Revenge of the Fallen is ample proof that it is possible for a film to be overwrought and overtly simple at the same time. There is only so much Bayhem the mind can handle.
Thankfully, there are (albeit all too few) flashes of comic brilliance. John Turtturro returns as a former government agent reduced to working in his mother’s deli, his semi-delusional patriotism put across with much aplomb, particularly in interactions with Sam and Leo. Look out too for comedian Rainn Wilson’s (of The Office fame) cameo as Sam’s sleazy college professor. Unfortunately, most of the other humour is redundantly crude or offensive-do we really need irritating twin stereotype “gangsta” Autobots or a transforming toy truck humping Megan Fox’s leg?
The rest of the cast put in okay performances-considering the frustrating nothingness they were given to work with. Shia LaBeouf reprises his slightly neurotic, fish-out-of-water portrayal of Sam Witwicky and shows he is somewhat deserving of his current Hollywood it-boy status. Megan Fox manages to look sexy not only when perched suggestively atop a motorcycle but also when running away from killer robots, and looking sexy is all she needs to do. Kevin Dunn and Julie White are a hoot to watch as Sam’s embarrassing parents, their caricature performances grounding the movie somewhat. In the end though, character development of any sort is drowned out by the pyrotechnic bells and whistles, and the characters’ believability is stripped away as the film progresses. Michael Bay’s affinity for crazy camera movements even during simple dialogue scenes does nothing to help either.
The saving grace of the film is ultimately the stunning computer-generated effects by ILM, Digital Domain and other effects houses. As with the first time around, the idea of transforming robots in our world is sold effectively enough with incredibly realistic textures and movements. Unfortunately, apart from several close-ups, Bay’s epileptic camera movements ensure we never get to see a decent shot of the robots, particularly when they are brawling. In one fight scene where the camera was relatively still, the screen was mostly occupied by big honking pillars. And there is also the sneaking suspicion that we’ve seen this all before. Alas, this film is evidence that no film can ride on visual effects, no matter how spectacular, alone.
Forget the Decepticons. Michael Bay is the biggest menace to the human race.
RATING: 2/5 STARS
Jedd Jong Yue