6/24/09

Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)


There is no better "Transformers" movie than the one every little kid who ever saw the cartoons or owned a "Transformer" toy (or one of many rip-offs of varying coolness) created while watching or setting up pitched bedroom-floor battles between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons. Full disclosure: I had Optimus Prime and some others and watched a lot of the cartoons myself as a kid in the mid-eighties. They're pretty cool toys, and it was a pretty good cartoon. Any movie is going to fall short of when real imagination meets really good toys.

Still, I was pretty bummed out by the first live-action Michael Bay movie. I didn't write a full review of it, but my capsule review would be: pretty cool effects, which you could actually see if the director and editor weren't on meth. The chief flaw of the first film (besides general hokiness, expected) is that the Transformers are very hard to see, because no cut lasts more than a few milliseconds. I don't know if somebody slipped something relaxing in Bay's coffee or what, but this is not a flaw of the second movie, Revenge of the Fallen.

Like Steven Spielberg did with The Lost World, the sequel to Jurassic Park, when he let the humans be lame and focused on showing cool dinosaurs, including pterodactyls, in this much-superior sequel, Bay has largely, and wisely, shunted the humans aside to focus on showing us more and cooler-looking Transformers. Thank goodness, that's all I wanted.

The film opens as Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), the main human character from the first movie, is headed off to college. He finds a shard of some Transformer-world artifact or other in his old hoodie, and it unleashes evil Transformers bent on destroying him. For some reason, despite this major development, he still heads off to college and like, goes to frat parties and stuff. I don't want to get too much into the plot, which hardly matters, but suffice it to say that the Decepticons are rallying for a pitched battle with the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime and now allied with the U.S. government, and governments around the world, to track down and eliminate the remaining Decepticon population.

There's another couple of Transformer-artifact MacGuffins for everybody to chase, and some tension as the Transformer/military strike force is put under a new, political White House liaison who is promptly and fully ignored by the fascist human soldiers who assume they know better than their Commander-in-Chief, and, of course, they do, because this is a stupid action movie.

All right, that's more than enough plot. The point is to watch Transformers, see them transform, and fight, and blow stuff up good. This is well accomplished, even if the movie could only have been improved by cutting out another half-hour or more of the lame human plot crap (it's two and a half hours long, for cripe's sake!). But the Transformers are satisfying in the main, and there are even some cool moments when we think of Optimus Prime and Bumblebee as heroic characters, which must be a hard thing to pull off with essentially ugly cartoons.

That said, there are some pretty inexcusable flaws, and I blame them all on Michael Bay, because I do not like Michael Bay movies (The Rock excepted). There are many times when it's unclear which robot is which, or what exactly is happening when a few of them get tangled up chasing or fighting each other. Some of the Decepticons use the b-word to refer to female characters. This is so stupid and unacceptable, I don't feel like I need to say why. Inexplicably, many of the Transformers have various ethnic accents which, in some cases, do help create character, but in others, seem senselessly offensive. And "elderly" Transformers, with canes and embarrassing flatulence? What could this even mean? Sometimes somebody just should have vetoed certain things for being too stupid.

And the human characters are just stupid, stupid as characters, stupidly portrayed, stupid, stupid, stupid, even "stoopid," which is stupider than stupid. Also the human writers, and director.

Despite its flaws, however, the movie is just cool to watch. With the glitchy editing fixed, it's a Transformer feast, with interesting underwater Transformers, transforming household items, animal Transformers, multi-piece, "Voltron"-like Transformers, all manner of flying Transformers, an Earth-orbiting satellite Transformer--and you can see them all, which is really quite awesome. If you go, go for the Transformers, and feel free to ignore the humans and the plot. It's worth it for--you guessed it, the Transformers.

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

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