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Thursday
Jun252009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

I've gone on record a number of times saying that I believe the original Transformers movie is one of the most overrated films of the last decade. While the critics have properly defined its quality, with it hovering at a mediocre 57% on Rotten Tomatoes (and even that might be a tad high), fans have praised it as a masterpiece of action filmmaking, the quintessential summer blockbuster full of special effects, action and beautiful women. Unfortunately, it takes more than that to make a good movie. While not particularly bad, Transformers was nothing more than a vacuous, overly long and excessively loud piece of cinematic fluff, a film of no consequence that's destined to be forgotten in the wake of other action flicks more deserving of merit. But its sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, isn't just a huge step backwards. It's a huge step backwards into a large chasm. With a convoluted story, poor acting, idiotic dialogue and racist overtones, Revenge of the Fallen fails to live up to even the most modest of standards.

I could attempt to concoct some type of plot synopsis at this point, as per usual with many of my reviews, but to do so would be in vain, because I didn't have a damn clue what was going on most of the time. Within the overarching story, which follows some nonsense about a pyramid capable of destroying the sun and earth, there are at least five or six side stories. One follows the Decepticons as they attempt to resurrect Megatron, who has since been dumped in the ocean following his defeat in the first movie. Another explores the newly formed alliance between the Autobots and the military. Another tries to expand Sam's (Shia LaBeouf) and Mikaela's (Megan Fox) relationship. And another follows Sam as he has hallucinations and starts to see mysterious ancient symbols in his head. There are more, believe it or not, but to keep typing would prove no good because there's no way to tie them all together. There was simply too much going on. The film lacked a narrative focus and at two and a half hours, it was an incoherent mess.

Despite its confusing story, the movie still dumbs down plot points. At one point, the camera shows a satellite and says through text, "U.S. Military Satellite." Oh really? Is that what that is? The fact that it was in space, had an American flag on it and had military chatter bouncing off it just wasn't enough, huh? I'm not sure I could have wrapped my feeble little mind around that one. The movie explained things that needed no explaining and ignored things that were too convoluted to understand.

But hey, who cares? Even fans of the first film admit that to appreciate it, you have to look past its asinine story and enjoy the action. So the plot is inconsequential, right? Wrong. To care about the action, I have to care about the story and this clearly didn't have one. While the original wasn't quite as jumbled, it nonetheless played into this same weakness, but the action was spectacular and it kept me mildly entertained, despite the ever increasing brain cells getting slaughtered at its expense. But this time, the action is considerably less exciting because there's a "been there, done that" feeling to it. Just like its predecessor, the action scenes, specifically the final battle, goes on for far too long, at an estimated 45 minutes. The action can be impressive (and it's the only thing in this movie that is), but when there's this much of an abundance, it loses its impact. The action needs to have context to create meaning, but with no downtime, none is formed.

Like many Michael Bay films, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has good production values and looks great in regards to its action scenes and special effects, but the whole of the film is incredibly shallow, offering nothing more than brainless action accompanied by tedious plotlines and poor acting. It quickly becomes an endurance test. How long can you last without wanting to leave the theater in disgust?

Not all of that disgust comes from the obnoxiously loud action, however. You also have the juvenile humor, including one scene that depicts a miniature Decepticon humping Mikaela's leg, immediately followed by another essentially farting out a parachute, all culminating in a late scene showing a Decepticon with two giant wrecking ball testicles. It was moments like these that solidified its place not just at the bottom of the barrel, but burning through that barrel, so deep that you wouldn't hear a rock hit bottom if thrown to test its distance.

Still, its worst transgression comes in the form of Skids and Mudflap, two Autobots helping Sam throughout his journey. As with many of the robots, these two have personality traits that connect them to certain human qualities and can be defined in certain roles. These two took up the "black" role and it's as shockingly racist as you might expect it to be. Even their design plays into the stereotypes many have of African Americans, including gold teeth and large ears protruding from their heads. Once you make them the stupid, illiterate ones and give them lines such as, "Read? We don't really do much reading" and "That's old school, yo," you've crossed the line. I use the word "offensive" in many reviews, but I use it in different contexts. It doesn't always necessarily mean I was personally upset at what had happened, but it certainly does in this case. Skids and Mudflap embody many offensive stereotypes and it was disheartening to see this come through in what should be considered a fun popcorn flick.

Even still, sometimes even the most wretched of material can be made tolerable by good performances, but nobody seemed to care in this disaster of a film. Shia LaBeouf was decent enough, but he's proven himself as a great actor in films like Disturbia and Eagle Eye (say what you want about that movie; he still gave an excellent performance), so it's disappointing to see him essentially phoning it in here. As for Megan Fox, she can barely act with other people. Watching her attempt to interact with something that wasn't really there was pathetic. She was just terrible. Just as well, the two have little chemistry together. In the first flick, Sam was the dorky loser pining over the beautiful girl way out of his league and it worked. In this, he's a buff, super stud and the dramatic change in character didn't authenticate well in the transition from movie to movie.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has so many negatives, it would be nearly impossible to condense them into a readable manner and my longevity in this review is already reaching too long of a length. But when you're dealing with a movie as bad as this, it's essential to point out all of the major problems and if those are all major problems, just think of how many minor ones there are. It boasts an awful script, which includes some eye rolling lines from the robots, who spouted out action clichés as if they were playing a monotonous video game where the protagonist only has three or four recorded lines of dialogue, the forced exposition to get the film moving along was blatantly obvious, the comedy relief mother character was entirely unfunny and the film is poorly structured, with random interjections of unrelated side material during scenes. It's many faults border on outrageous.

I wasn't a huge fan of the first film, but that easily could have been rectified with a little editing, shortening some of the overly long action scenes and cutting out unnecessary filler, but the sequel is beyond redemption. Once one of the characters reaches what is essentially robot heaven, you realize that nothing was going to save this travesty. This is a horrifically bad movie and it won't live up to any expectations set for it, especially considering the insanely high bar the first film's avid fans have inexplicably set for it. You could spend 10 dollars and go waste two and a half hours of your life on this mindless drivel or you could take that money and put it to something useful, like those dinosaurs that grow when you put them in water. It's cheaper, it takes about the same amount of time and it's much more intellectually stimulating.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen receives 0.5/5

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