In 2007 middle Americans brandishing their hotdogs and gas guzzlers lined up in drones for a peek at Michael Bay’s giant robot orgy Transformers, making its wide release on none other than July 4th, only contributing to its symbolic representation of epitomized American cinema. The movie, based on Hasbro’s line of shape-shifting action figures popular when my dad was in high school, revolved around giant robots from a distant planet coming to Earth and blowing things up in pursuit of a cube that made them giant robots in the first place. A few hundred million dollars and legions of cocky teenagers declaring it as the “best movie ever made” later and it was a phenomenon whose financial success surely prompted it for a sequel to premier less than two years later at the whims of studio executives sipping on martinis with their pockets bursting at the seams with money while thanking God that average Americans are bloodthirsty enough to spend their own hard-earned cash to watch robots wale about for nearly 3 hours.
The first Transformers was decent fun if only because the special effects were so spectacular and seamless that it made you completely forget that the robots talked and had names like “Bumblebee” and “Ratchet” and tagged alongside a kid who would probably be delivering pizzas somewhere if it wasn’t for the Disney Channel. We’re pretty much at the point where effects really aren’t going to get any better and unlike the early and mid-90s movies really can’t get by via simply cramming their frames full of CGI explosions, so the only way for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, or since I cannot stand subscript I’ll simply refer to as T2 (which the film may like because it makes it sound like a much better movie starring Ah-nold) had any chance to best its predecessor, which shouldn’t have been difficult given its mish-mash direction, was to make it less stupid. Sadly, it doesn’t, and dives into depths of absurdity thought reserved only for obscure comic books and Spider-Man 3. The original got a free pass for its laughable dialogue and horrible story because it balanced on the line between dumb fun and just plain dumb, while T2 loses its balance and falls off that little tightrope into literary oblivion.
Let’s begin. It’s been 2 years since the events of T1 and the Autobots, who can be distinguished from the Decepticons by their metrosexual paint jobs, aide the governments of the United States and England, the cool countries, in fighting Decepticons (Deception, get it?) hidden on Earth. It begins in Shanghai where we learn that a Fallen will rise or something like that and then turns to Sam Witwicky as he goes to college, feeds his mom pot brownies, and meets a girl who seems like she wants to butcher him into a million pieces and eat his entrails while drinking his blood. He finds a shard of the AllSpark, a mysterious object that turns ordinary appliances into killing machines that engraves a message in his brain that he starts transcribing and blah blah blah.
If you frequent my reviews you’ll notice my penchant for making fun of Michael Bay’s lack of ability to put together a coherent plot and I’m here to declare that I’m done with it. T2 has given me a new respect for Bay as a filmmaker in that instead of fixing the mistakes of his first film he’s simply glorified them in his second while practically waving his middle finger at the camera and giving a big “Screw you” to the critics who hammered T1 for blowing too many things up. See, a bad filmmaker, like Uwe Boll for example, is a filmmaker who makes mistakes by accident and can never quite seem to understand what he did wrong. Michael Bay, on the other hand, knows exactly what he’s doing and is going to keep on doing it because he knows that Americans eat it up like crazy. He doesn’t give a damn what serious critics want in their films and only cares about what will please the masses, which usually involves monuments being desecrated. You can argue that Bay can’t put a decent story together to save his life but you can’t argue that he doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing, which is blowing things up as much as possible with beautiful cinematography on an epic canvas.
From a story standpoint, like T1, T2 crawls along using it as a vehicle for action. In most (good) films, the action revolves around the story. In Bay’s Transformers universe, however, the story is simply filler for the action, a vehicle to get from giant robot fight A to giant robot fight B, culminating at an effects-filled climax at Giza. And you know what? This is fine.
Lost in the complaints about the plot and the dialogue is the fact that this is a movie based on freaking toys. Taking it seriously would be like expecting the philosophical complexity of Christopher Nolan in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which just isn’t going to happen. You have to go into T2 remembering that you’re there to watch giant Rubik’s cubes beat the crap out of each other, not Shakespeare.
The problem, though, is that Bay has a tendency to overdo it. Yeah, your robots look cool, even though they really haven’t improved much graphically from the last one except that now they’re covered in a layer of dust, but even so the battles and fight scenes are stretched out so long that you stop giving a damn about who wins and just want someone to die so it moves the hell on. Somehow, Bay finds a way to make giant robots beating the snot out of each other boring.
And then there’s the humans. Why do we even have them? I never watched the original Transformers show that capitalized on the success of the toys but I’m still fairly certain there weren’t gawky teenagers running around like whiney little bitches (Shia Labouef). Oh, wait, that’s right, the only reason the movie exists is to make money so Bay decided to throw in a heartthrob who makes my girlfriend swoon whenever he comes on TV and a girl that draws most men’s blood from their brains down into their pants. I’ve never really bought into the whole Megan Fox phenomenon, but whatever. She recently complained about being compared to Angelina Jolie. Who the hell whines about that? If someone wanted to compare me to, say, Brad Pitt, the last thing I’d do is complain.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is not a good movie. I can forgive poor storytelling in favor of awesome effects on occasion, but since this is the second film in what will probably be a gajillion the trick’s gone stale. What it is, though, is a decent movie. It’s honestly more of the same. If you’ve seen T1, then seeing T2 is a redundant experience. While it suffers from an intertwining plot that makes about as much sense as drunk mathematicians and contains more Transformers than anyone who’s ever been on a date can name it still manages to be fun to watch when it’s not being boring. It tries to get by using the same elements as the first: effects and cinematography, and it almost makes it. I can excuse length if the length has meaning, like King Kong or The Dark Knight, but I can’t excuse it when it’s simply the same freaking robots beating the crap out the same exact freaking robots. While this is fine and dandy for a few minutes, Bay doesn’t know when to stop and by the time the battle’s over, you’ve completely forgotten why they were fighting in the first place. The film is an exercise in showcasing the best effects ever known, besides maybe the aforementioned King Kong, but in an era where even student films are using CGI it just isn’t all that impressive anymore. It’ll make a ton of money and win over a lot of teenage and wife-beating fans, but the fact remains that T2 is just a shell, an expensive, shiny, hollow shell devoid of a heart or anything that makes any sense…or a good movie.
-Correct me if I’m wrong but I noticed that the Xbox360 Transformer from the first film wasn’t in this one…Red Ring of Death?
-When Peter Jackson finally comes to his senses and hires me to direct Halo, I’m hiring Michael Bay as my effects supervisor, but he will be banned from the writing room.
-Did the Queer Eye guys get a hold of the Autobots?