Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is a horror movie for epileptics, a 2.5-hour exhibition of a hurricane in a hardware store, a relentlessly loud first movement in a symphony of destruction. It is a summer blockbuster on steroids: you’d like to laud the accomplishment, but it feels like cheating. In other words, “Fallen” appears to be the greatest spectacle of visual effects and stunts ever made, but simultaneously the most overproduced screaming pile of junk Hollywood has served us in this computer-generated era.

You have to give Michael Bay credit, the man sticks to his directorial convictions: explosions, chases and more explosions. Despite getting reamed for years for his overkill style, he seems to feel like it’s not worth making a sequel unless you’re committed to visually dwarfing the first one. What his approach, and the approach of this entire film should have been, was not to overload this thing and instead hit the audience hardest where it counts most. “Fallen” is more than overly ambitious: the script is a barreling mack truck and the audience like roadkill stuck in its grill.

“Fallen” enlightens us that humans and transformers actually have a history on Earth, the only plausible way to harvest a story after a straight-forward, sensible and enjoyable first film. Two years later, the U.S. Military and the Autobots have joined forces to eliminate the surviving Decepticons that threaten Earth. After the opening scene ravishing China, however, it’s not that simple. Our human hero, Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf), has discovered that a shard from the first film’s All Spark, an energy source giving life to Transformers, has been with him all this time, and now it’s suddenly transferred crucial information to him that contains the whereabouts of another energy source somewhere on Earth that could give the Decepticons their revenge. As with the first film, that’s not all. Dozens of characters and subplots (Sam going to college, the Obama administration trying to shut down the operation between the Army and the Autobots and of course the sexiest woman alive, Megan Fox, trying to get her boyfriend to say three small words.

As for new Transformers, it seems as if Hasbro, creators of the hit action figures for decades now, put a mandatory quota on needing x number of new products appearing on screen for toy-mongering children to beg their parents for. “Fallen” is loaded with new bots, including the famous Devastator, a five-transformers-joined-into-one monstrosity that resembles a living junkyard and is even equipped with “testicles.”

Yes, that’s part of “Fallen”‘s obnoxious and horrific sense of humor. It was pretty even hit- or-miss in the first movie, but this film is even more insulting to its audiences comedic intelligence. Take “the twins” for example: idiotic gold-toothed stereotypes in the form of those compact Chevys (GM, how fitting) throwing insults at each other. They are second to only Jar Jar Binks. The writers also seem to think adding Sam’s new college roommate is a good idea — when John Turturro (also pointlessly back) stuns him to sleep to shut him up, it’s almost as if they knew what an annoyance he was. It’s hard to believe that at least Orci and Kurtzman, who delivered an awesome “Star Trek” script last month, were behind such frivolous dialogue. I can’t fault them for the absurdity of the plot and lack of themes — they were paid a lot and their hands were tied — but the forced humor? Terrible.

Still, as easy as “Fallen” is to rip on, it gets a few stars out of respect for the man hours it must’ve taken to turn this film over in less than two years and make it as much of a visual masterpiece as it is. Though Bay could have made it less frenetic with not as many camera circle-arounds, you can tell every sequence had to have been planned so far ahead and done perfectly on every take. Let’s hope the next one, Bay or no Bay, condenses quantity into quality and gives this franchise back its storytelling dignity. At the least, let Hollywood learn, in the peak of the CG era, that less is more.

2.5/5 Stars

Directed by: Michael Bay
Written by: Ehren Kruger, Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, John Turturro

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