Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Review: "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"
I understand that with most summer blockbusters, one shouldn’t expect a classy piece of cinematic genius, specifically from Michael Bay. Mr. Bay’s found a tried and true formula to his seasonal epics: downplay the plot, blow a lot of stuff up, and throw in some cheap gags. 2007’s "Transformers" was an enjoyable summer flick, with all the easy laughs and over-the-top action I expected for seven bucks. I entered the theatre at midnight this Wednesday ready for nothing but another trip full of inane and mindless entertainment of incredible proportions.
But somewhere between giant robot testicles and Shia taking a quick
trip to robot heaven, it was all just a little too much.
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" continues the ongoing war between the peace-seeking Autobots and the true-to-their-title Decepticons. It’s been two years since the events of the last film, and Optimus and crew have joined the U.S. military to battle their nasty counterparts across the globe. The Decepticons are on the hunt for the remaining pieces of the AllSpark to restore their leader Megatron, who in turn will help restore his leader The Fallen, an ancient bot who was stopped from activating a machine that would absorb the sun and wipeout life on Earth. Meanwhile, Sam (Shia LeBeouf) touches a piece of the AllSpark, engraving its knowledge into his mind and driving him slightly insane. While dealing with his temporary bouts with madness, he’s balancing his relationship with Makaela (Megan Fox) and attempting to fit in at his first year in college… and that’s just the half of it.
Yeah, it’s convoluted, even for a two- and a half-hour plus movie. When it comes down to it, though, very few are piling into the theaters to see Sam and Makaela’s relationship evolve or how the Autobots feel about their assigned positions of guardians of Earth. Bay knows this, so he doesn’t bother with any character development or background. The first movie set up characters and at least attempted to give them some depth. Here, everyone’s one-dimensional enough so you can tell who’s good, who’s bad, and who’s comedic relief from the get-go.
"Comedic relief" is a term I use loosely, though. In the first flick of the planned trilogy, jokes were maybe a little over fifty-fifty hit-or-miss. For a high-budget, summer blockbuster, that’s pretty good. The sequel warrants more laughs from poor acting and ridiculous moments than it does from planned bits. Case in point, Sam’s parents. The two got a majority of laughs in the first film from their horribly awkward yet, at times, identifiable banter. Here, Sam’s mom purchases and ingests a pot-brownie before tackling an unaware Frisbee thrower. Wacky, wacky, wacky! And also fairly unfunny. Perhaps the worst attempts at humor comes from the Twins, two new Autobots that speak in ebonics, throw in obscenities because it's edgy, and, from a CGI standpoint, looking absolutely terrible. By throwing in some breaks for laughs, it’s clear Bay expected the audience to lose it when one Twin tells Sam’s frightened roommate, "You a pussy," and the other advises him to "run to [his] boyfriend." Even better, these guys receive the most screen time compared to all the other bots. Awesome!
Bay must’ve taken notice when fans complained about how "Transformers" only had a handful of robots in it. The number of Autobots and Decepticons is nearly tripled. However, we never really learn a single thing about most of these new guys (save for two) and most seem pretty generic. Example: All this hype about the behemoth that is Devestator? The ultimate, gigantic bad ass of epic proportions that’s been teased since the sequel was announced? Pulling a Venom, he’s in it for a solid ten minutes and SPOILER ALERT gets taken out by one-shot from a human weapon END SPOILER. How anticlimactic.
At the very least, they look nice.
Visually speaking, the movie ranges from stunning to cheesy. Some of the clashes between the giant bots are a thrill to see. "Transformers 2" heeds the criticism of the first movie’s fights which often times left the viewer confused and clueless as to who was fighting and what has happening. This time, the camera’s pulled back a bit, and we get to see these technological monstrosities’ bouts of fisticuffs in full, breathtaking glory. On the other hand, you have the phoned-in effects of the Twins and several other unimportant bots. It’s not a huge deal; it’s just disappointing how great some aspects of the movie’s visuals are, yet others remain so horribly flawed.
From a technical standpoint (as if anyone going to see this movie cares), both the cinematography and sound are lacking. Expect the typical Bay shots: dramatic 360 spins, angles accentuating Fox's assests, etc. The editing at times is laughable, and it seems no one in the theater could understand what bots were saying half the time. Could've just been the system here, or it could be a giant mistake by the crew.
The movie clocks in around two- and a half-hours, and it FEELS like two- and a half-hours. The first flick, with all its major flaws, at least kept me captivated to the end when I saw it in theaters. This time around, I kept checking my phone every ten minutes, hoping that the whole thing would come to its sloppy conclusion soon.
It’s not near as entertaining as it’s predecessor, but this sequel is not without its merits. Let’s just hope that cast and crew get it together for the inevitable, "epic" conclusion.
"Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen" receives a Thin Frenchman.
Coming in the next day or two: Reviews of "Fanboys" and "Year One"