Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Review

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Director: Michael Bay
Notable Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, John Turturro, Ramon Rodriguez, Julie White, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Peter Cullen

Remember the magic of playing with your favorite action figure, using your imagination to create perilous action-adventures. Michael Bay dashes those thoughts by putting the toys in a garbage disposal, and makes the shiny metallic objects into something that not even WALL-E would salvage. He’d rather keep the cardboard packaging.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is what happens when you give Michael Bay $200 million dollars to play with. Excess is not the word I want, but it’s the first word that comes to mind. For close to two-and-a-half hours, Bay assaults you in ways you never thought imaginable. The plot is incomprehensible, downright nonexistent. And you’re left to wonder why you bought a ticket to this in the first place.

Let’s look at the facts. First there were the toys, then a hit ‘80s cartoon, comics, and spin-offs – all this before becoming a Hollywood tentpole picture. Take out the robots, and the first Transformers is a story about guy going through adolescence; he gets his first car and is infatuated with the resident hottie. Then the Transformers show up, and it goes from being about teenage love to being about robots fighting…a lot. The planet Earth is their Coliseum.

Two years later and the robots are back, and so is the senseless destruction of metropolises with an utter disregard of human life. We’ve seen it in Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and a number of others. But at least those took the time to let the action seethe; here there’s no letup. It’s one spectacular (I’ll give it that much) SFX-filled set piece after another. The dialogue is a cacophony of screams over helicopter rudders and robot-on-robot mayhem. Giant explosion; people scream stuff of no importance; more stuff goes boom. That’s the pattern of the story, so it should be easy enough for 12 year olds to follow. But who has the time for an intriguing story with characters of interest, when you have things blowing up.

At the start, the U.S. military is working with the Autobots (the good guys), led by Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen). They are working in tandem to kill the remaining Decepticons (the bad guys). Their presence on Earth should be a shock to the good guys, since the object they came to find – the Allspark – was destroyed already. It’s a non sequitur. Moving on: the Decepticons are looking for a different object. Gee, what are the odds? Also convenient is Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) finding a small piece of Allspark in his jacket pocket and he himself becoming the key to finding this new object the Decepticons seek.

Two years ago Sam went from being a nobody to helping save the human race from impending doom. Now he’s a college man, leaving his girlfriend with collagen-infused lips (Megan Fox) back in California. He has problems with saying the “L” word when it comes to their relationship. His punishment: bizarre visions and outbursts. Oh, that’s the Allspark’s doing. Now he must man up and save the world once again.

But first we must suffer through dogs humping dogs (not once, but twice!), a mother eating pot brownies, and two Transformer robots that are prime candidates to join the Jar Jar Binks Hall of Shame of characters that reinforce racial stereotypes. Such a cruel twist of fate, but then I remembered: this is a Michael Bay movie.

Back in 1996, he directed The Rock – what I consider his best film overall – a fun popcorn movie with a nice ensemble of actors and a good story. This is a popcorn movie, only the butter has been replaced with globs of motor oil, which is fine if you are the Tin Man on your way to Oz. But after 150 minutes you’ll be making like the Scarecrow and wondering if you only had a brain.

Okay, so the story makes no sense and there’s doggystyle action. The super-sized action scenes stretch the running time an extra quarter hour. And with the SFX-driven special effects, can anyone honestly identify the Autobots and Decepticons fighting onscreen?

The trailers do a great job disguising what the movie was about, because its narrative has no focus. As to what it is about, here’s the condensed version. More Decepticons are led by The Fallen (voice of Tony Todd), think Darth Sidious to Megatron’s Darth Vader. Megatron makes an action-heavy return after being resurrected. It and the other Decepticons must first kill Optimus Prime so that The Fallen’s plan can be carried out. The plan would see The Fallen invade, and taking hold of the key that will help unleash a weapon to destroy the Earth’s sun. Robot-on-robot action ensues.

The action is relentless in its excessiveness, similarly to Bay’s bigger, overblown sequel to Bad Boys. And it’s no surprise that a poster for Bad Boys II adorns the walls of Sam’s college roommate, Leo (Ramon Rodriguez). It’s a constant reminder that either Bay suffers from ADD or he is appealing to those who do. Robot fighting for the sake of robot fighting becomes loud white noise. Too much and you are well past the point of being a vegetable. 30 minutes could have been cut and you wouldn’t even notice.

So apparently Shia LeBeouf is supposed to be a star on the rise. But when he’s standing next to Megan Fox do you even notice him? She returns as the eye candy, and she serves her purpose well. John Turturro and newcomer Ramon Rodriguez act as the comic relief, but neither is funny. Actually the entire flick is devoid of humor. The Transformers are more humanized than their human counterparts. We want to care if Optimus Prime lives or dies; the humans could perish under the metallic feet of Megatron to nary a whimper.

I almost don’t want to believe that the screenwriting duo behind this summer’s Star Trek (Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman) were responsible for this mess of a film. Besides the Star Wars references I’ve already mentioned, there are moments where I saw Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark glorified onscreen. All that was missing was a gigantic bolder chasing after Shia LeBeouf.

Transformers was a $300 million success domestically, and this sequel will have the people lining up those first few days. It will make a ton at the box office, and the process will be repeated with yet another super-sized sequel in a few years. More scrap metal for the junkyard.

FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):

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