Friday, July 3, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

The title for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has multiple meanings, though it mainly refers to the franchise, which has fallen into despair and is now seeking revenge against us, the innocent moviegoers. Michael Bay has upped the ante in every department, especially those departments that didn’t need any ‘upping,’ resulting in a loud, unintelligent explosion-fest that fails to recreate the magic of the first Transformers. Many will say that you can’t bring high expectations to a movie like this, but if you come to a bad movie with low expectations, and your low expectations are met, what kind of praise is that? I was at least hoping for the same level of quality as the original, but Michael Bay tried to fix what wasn’t broken, giving rise to a computer-generated bore.

The film opens with the Autobots (the good Transformers) fighting alongside the US Military to hunt down the Decepticons (the bad Transformers). Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) heads off to his Freshman year at Princeton, beginning a long-distance relationship with his scantily-clad girlfriend, Mikaela (Megan Fox). As Sam begins to have strange visions of alien symbols, the Decepticons plan to kill him and use his brain for their sinister purposes. Sam must team up with the Autobots to defeat The Fallen, an ancient Decepticon who hopes to exterminate humanity by destroying the Sun.

If that plot sounds both convoluted and stupid, then my summary was a success. Honestly, in a movie about alien robots, who cares about all that junk? The first Transformers worked because it had the right blend of character development, action, and humor. A charming performance by Shia LaBeouf sealed the deal, creating a surprise blockbuster that appealed to viewers across different age groups. On the other end of the spectrum, Transformers 2 has the worst kind of mix: one that won’t appeal to any age group. In trying to please everyone, it pleases no one. This movie has absolutely no idea who its target audience is.

When it comes to a Summer movie about robot cars from outer space, it doesn’t take a Hollywood executive to know that the target audience consists of young teenage boys. Why, then, is this movie bursting with inappropriate content? The language and sexual humor are so over-the-top that parents won’t be pleased, and the kids sitting next to their parents will probably just feel awkward. The charming humor of the first film is long gone, replaced by gags that fall somewhere between third-rate and downright bizarre. Metallic robot testicles, racial stereotypes, and a robot that humps the heroine’s leg all turn up at various points. That last one struck me as an especially cheap laugh. Do machines actually procreate as we do? The only thing missing is a Transformer fart joke.

When Sam arrives at Princeton, the movie resorts to every college cliché ever filmed: the weird roommate, the bad first day of class, legions of girls that look airbrushed, ridiculous parties ... I half-expected a CG John Belushi to run past in a toga. Apparently, Princeton traded its Ivy League status and became a talent pool for “Girls Gone Wild.” Sam’s mom even gets high on Pot brownies and runs around the campus like she’s on LSD. I don’t know what happened to the writers between films, but there’s no excuse for the dense plot, dimwitted jokes, and treatment of sexuality like it’s something funny and shameful. If the first Transformers reminded me of the carefree fun and playfulness of youth, the sequel reminded me more of the guys’ locker room.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen runs for roughly the same length as its predecessor, though it feels twice as long. In its final act, the film descends into an endless barrage of robotic mayhem, explosions, and slow motion shots of Megan Fox’s boobs bouncing up and down. There’s no sense of wonder because we don’t care about the characters, the story, or the machines. The transformations themselves aren’t even as innovative this time around. There’s nothing here to rival the moment in the first film when Starscream flies in as an airplane, transforms in midair, and begins ripping fighter jets out of the sky.

The short list of pros includes impressive effects, the return of Agent Simmons (John Turturro), and the innovation of Decepticons defecting and joining the Autobots. The list of cons might overload my poor laptop’s processor, so I’ll close by saying that the inevitable third film had better pull itself together. Michael Bay & Co. obviously stumbled into success with the first, and now it’s time to look back at that movie and take a few pointers. The first Transformers, while entertaining, still had major flaws. It shouldn’t have been hard to match, or even surpass, but sitting in the theater during Revenge of the Fallen, I began reminiscing about the first like it was an old classic.

Click here to view the trailer

For the Parents:

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, language, some crude and sexual material, and brief drug material.

The language and sexuality go way beyond the original Transformers. This film is rated PG-13, though I’d say 14-15 is more like it. Regardless of age, no one will enjoy this film more than the first, so unless your kids are absolutely dying to see it, I’d stay home, save your money, and watch the original Transformers again.


  1. Finally got around to seeing this last night... while I didn't disdain this flick as it seems you did, I agree with a lot of what you wrote here. Off the top of my head, I can think of about 30-35 minutes that could have been removed and the film still have been plausible.

    See, I thought the plot was halfway decent. Bay and Co. were very up front with their intentions of actually diving into the lore of the Transformers universe this time around, so I didn't expect a generic "Autobots vs. Decepticons" storyline like we got with the first.

    Let's face it, the first was pretty ridiculous at points as well; the MacGuf... I mean, "CUBE;" Jazz being a hip hop talking, break dancing 'bot (ironic how he was the only one killed, wasn't it?); even Bumblebee "peeing" on Turturro's character was pretty lame.

    However, what made that film work compared to this one, as you put it so well, was the character development. Everyone can relate to those awkward moments with their parents, the struggle to fit in, and the desire to be involved in something that is greater than ourselves. That may be a little grandiose regarding a "Transformers" movie, but you understand my point.

    This sequel simply tried too hard. Too many stupid jokes, too many unnecessary storylines (let's face it, the roommate's purpose was only to lead them back to Turturro halfway through the flick), too much generalizing to the masses, and actually too predictable (SPOILER ALERT: as soon as OP died an hour into the movie, I knew he'd be back by the end. There was no doubt in my mind. I was right, lol. END SPOILERS).

    I think that when the first installment came out, no one had really high expectations for it; when it did so well, it caught everyone off guard and blew them away. Because of that, people had such high expectations for the sequel. However, I think the quality of the sequel is what everyone was expecting from the first installment. While this movie had its flaws, I definitely believe it suffered from the success of the first.

    Hopefully Bay will step away for the third installment and we get a true sequel. I didn't hate this movie; merely disappointed. It could have been so much more...except Bay got in his own way this time around.

    One more thing: I would argue with you the idea this movie is marketed to little boys. The first one was made for its fan base. Anyone who grew up in the eighties and nineties, even if they weren't a fan of the franchise, at least knew what Transformers were. And I think more people came to see the first one out of curiosity to see how a movie could be made when simply based on a line of TOYS.

    That being said, I think that the main target audience for this movie, like it usually is with any summer blockbuster, was that infamous 18-35 male demographic. Yes, some of the content is probably inappropriate for younger kids, but it's definitely not R-rated material, nor merely PG material, either. As usual, the flaws of the MPAA's ratings system once again reared its ugly head with this movie. There needs to be another rating between PG13 and R (or maybe make PG12 and PG16 ratings).

    Most of the jokes were tasteless, yes, but I don't think the generalization can be made that this movie was simply targeted to "young teenage boys." We've definitely seen a lot worse from other PG13 films.

  2. Wow nice reviews. Revenge of the Fallen, for my two cents, was boring, despite the nonstop tintinnabulation. Kinda like watching my nephews bash together action figures for 3 hours.

  3. All this time, and Bay still hasn't caught on to the reality of a storyline. I can't believe I went to see this newest Transformers rubbish - it was so loud and long I started walking toward the ticket counter afterwards to request a refund.