Monday, June 29, 2009

Movie Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen *
Directed By: Michael Bay.
Written By: Ehren Kruger & Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman.
Starring: Shia LaBeouf (Sam Witwicky), Megan Fox (Mikaela Banes), Josh Duhamel (Major Lennox), Tyrese Gibson (USAF Master Sergeant Epps), John Turturro (Agent Simmons), Ramon Rodriguez (Leo Spitz), Kevin Dunn (Ron Witwicky), Julie White (Judy Witwicky), Isabel Lucas (Alice), John Benjamin Hickey (Galloway), Michael Papajohn (Cal), Glenn Morshower (General Morshower), Rainn Wilson (Professor Colan).

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the biggest, loudest, dumbest movie that Michael Bay has ever made. And when you consider then even his good movie (and I think the original Transformers is one of his best) are big, loud and dumb, that is saying something. Everything that Bay and company got right in the first movie, they get wrong here. The plot is borderline incomprehensible, the dialogue inane even by action movie standards, and the performances are either shrill and annoying, or else so bland that you forget the actors are even there. Yes, Michael Bay still knows how to blow crap up real good, but after two and half hours of this crap, I doubt anyone will care.

The plot of the movie involves an ancient Tranformer known only as the Fallen. He has been waiting millennia to come back to earth to destroy it. He counts as his most loyal subject Megatron, who is still being guarded at the bottom of the ocean following the last movie. The Fallen needs information that was only available on that cube that was destroyed at the end of the last movie. But Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) unknowing still has a piece of that cube, and when he touches it, his mind is flooded with all of its secrets. He starts seeing strange symbols everywhere, and this is annoying since he has just started university, and is trying to maintain a long distance relationship with Mikaela (Megan Fox). This, of course, starts at around the world odyssey is search of answers, which leads to one fight after another between giant robots.

Don’t get me wrong – I do not really expect logic in a movie like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The films basic premise after all is about two warring races of giant alien robots. You have to kind of give yourself over to a movie like this, and roll with the punches, because trying to get the movie to make logical sense is an impossibility. But the problem with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in terms of its plot is that it is so overstuffed with plot points and characters, and yet moves so rapidly from one to another, that the movie never makes sense even on its chosen level. This is a movie that introduces major plot points in one scene, only to completely disregard them a scene later. Even worse, the movie is so busy getting from one big action sequence to the next that all the characters get lost in the shuffle. In the first film, you liked Sam and Mikaela, not to mention his parents, but here they are hollow and empty. Sam and Mikaela spend most of the movie arguing over a supposed infidelity, and it gets old quickly. LaBeof, who can be a charming actor, here is annoying. Fox is not very good either, but then again the screenplay requires nothing from here except to run in slow motion for most of her scenes – which, it must be said, she does rather well. Kevin Dunn, as Sam’s father, gets a couple of one liners and that’s it. And poor Julie White, who may have had the most memorable character in the original as Sam’s mother, is so shrill and disagreeable here, you almost hope a Deceptacon will kill her. John Turturro at least seems to know that his character is in a stupid movie, so he has some fun with his role. The less said about the other major character Ramon Rodriguez as Sam’s new roommate, the better.

Hell, even the robots in this film are not interesting. In the first film, you grew genuinely attached to Bumblebee and Optimus Prime, and Megatron was a menacing villain. Here, they are thoroughly uninteresting, and worse yet interchangeable. I often could not tell what robot was who, and didn’t really care either. The most annoying additions to the robots this time are twins, who talk like two guys straight out of the hood – or at least what screenwriters think they talk like. After killing off Jazz, who let’s face facts was a pretty racist character in the original film, it’s like the screenwriters decided to come up with two characters even more offensive.

But even with all of those flaws, I still have not mentioned the films biggest one. It’s boring. One reviewer said the film was like watching paint dry while getting hit in the head with a frying pan, and that’s a pretty good description. The film is big and loud, and the camera never slows down for a moment the entire film. They fill the screen with so many special effects and explosions, and action and gunfire and fights, but the film never engages us. It’s the same damn thing in scene after scene after scene. Michael Bay has made some bad films before – some utterly terrible films truth be told – but he has never made one that was this boring before. I never thought I’d say this but – Michael Bay can do better than this.

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