Newest Review: ... about marijuana, gratuitous shots of Megan Fox, and lots of square-jawed army types swearing at each other. If the DVD cover meets your ... more
Transformers Sequel Should Have Stayed Fallen
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (DVD)
Member Name: Hishyeness
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (DVD)
Date: 16/03/10, updated on 16/03/10 (190 review reads)
Advantages: Great SFX. Visually stunning.
Disadvantages: Noisy, tiresome, derivative, no plot, and no character development.
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE?
I grew up with Transformers toys. The tag line "More Than Meets The Eye" is indelibly linked to my childhood thanks to the Hasbro marketing machine that had me hankering after a fully transformable Optimus Prime around my twelfth birthday. As such, when the opportunity arose to revisit my childhood with the first Transformers movie, I relaxed under a warm blanket of nostalgia, turning a blind eye to its obvious deficiencies.
It wasn't the best of films, but it was visually arresting, chock full of humour and, putting aside the obvious money to be made in spin-off's and character tie-in's, a worthy cinematic exercise. However, as is often the case in the world of Hollywood, the lure of the almighty greenback beckoned, they could not leave well enough alone and, as a result, an ill-conceived sequel was born - "Transformers: The Revenge of the Fallen".
Calling the developments in this film a "plot" would be exceedingly generous. In a nutshell (trust me, it's all you need) it is two years after the events of the first film, and our hero, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), is about to decamp to a high-brow east coast university, leaving his unfeasibly attractive girlfriend, Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox) to run a garage with her ex-con father. Across the world in Shanghai, a special military unit called NEST, a combination of human troops and good guy robots (called Autobots) led by their leader Optimus Prime, set about tracking down and destroying remnants of the bad guy robots (Decepticons) from the first movie. During this encounter in China, the Autobots are warned that "the Fallen will rise again...".
After some scene setting and narrated flashbacks, the film quickly descends into a stereotypical battle of good versus evil as both factions scramble to uncover an ancient artefact on which the fate of Earth rests. There are several sub-plots to the main "story" and some faintly ridiculous background that does not survive even casual scrutiny, as the film rushes around from one set piece battle to the next in a whirlwind of flying bolts, wheels and shrapnel.
Shia LaBeouf reprises his role as slightly geeky, put upon Sam Witwicky and proceeds to spend most of the film with a gormless "I can't believe how lucky I am" look on his face. Lucky to have a shiny yellow Chevy Camaro that transforms into a butt-kicking guardian Autobot called Bumblebee, lucky enough to have a drop-dead gorgeous girlfriend who for some reason only known to her, is in love with him, and lucky enough to earn an outrageous packet as an actor doing much of nothing, least of all acting.
Mikaela Barnes, as his girlfriend, is totally unconvincing. These two have no chemistry and nothing at all in common. The only thing that makes their relationship even remotely plausible is the "ordinary good guy gets stunning girlfriend who adores him for his personality" schlock that exists only in the movies and the fertile minds of socially inadequate teenagers. Megan Fox does her utmost to live up to her more than appropriate surname, but it's no surprise (to me at least) that she is quickly exposed as the latest and arguably most successful graduate of the "look pretty, learn to act later" school of drama.
There are a fair few human supporting characters, but only two worthy of any serious mention. The talented John Turturro does his best to raise the level of the film above the ridiculous, and despite a cracking turn reprising his role as a spook called Seymour Simmons (now disgraced and sacked and going by the cyber-moniker of "Robo-Warrior") he gets just as lost as the rest of the human cast in the sheer scale and white noise of this noisy film.
Some much-needed comic relief is provided by actress Julie White as Sam's mother Jane, who finds herself in some unlikely situations (a scene where she accidentally drugs herself early on in the film is priceless) and is given some great one-liners which she delivers brilliantly. The rest of the human cast are just there to make up the numbers, with Sam's new college roommate, Leo Spitz, an entrepreneur who also runs an alien conspiracy website, being a particularly notable waste of celluloid.
At the end of the day, this is a movie about alien robots, and it's rather telling that director Michael Bay seems far more adept at bringing his mechanical creations to life and imbuing them with some semblance of character than he manages with his human cast and crew. However, that's a pretty back-handed compliment given that even these robotic characterisations rarely rise above caricature and have more in common with their cartoon roots than the director may care to admit.
That said, There are one or two rare gems lost in this blizzard of white noise. For instance, British actor Mark Ryan manages to breathe life and personality into a world weary robot called Jetfire, an ageing Decepticon usually disguised as an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane that has defected to the Autobots. However, on the flip side, a pair of small robots called Mudflap and Skid, with their "street" moves and "street" language, are far too close to the stereotypical buffoonery of Jar Jar Binks from the Star Was prequels for comfort.
So far, you have every right to conclude that Revenge of the Fallen, on the face of it, seems to be an overlong 150 minutes of utter, irredeemable guff. However, despite the fact that it misses some crucial cinematic elements - basic things like an understandable plot, decent characterisation, and at least some idea of what it is doing and where it is headed - is it still worth a look?
Although the acting and story - such as they are - seem like obvious and necessary exercises in getting the action from one place to another as we segue from one gigantic battle to the next - boy oh boy what great big set pieces they are! The chaos and wanton destruction are reminiscent of those halcyon days, before the advent of draconian health and safety regulations, when young lads in a playground with their toy soldiers, hurled pebbles and dirt at each other's positions with an excitement, dedication and youthful abandon only small boys in shorts can manage.
This film feels like it was filmed by a big kid with a big budget and a big toy company only too happy to let him create a two hour plus advert for their global merchandise machine. As such, it won't come as too much of a surprise that Hasbro had a much greater role in making the sequel and approving the robot designs than in the original film.
This is one heck of a noisy movie. I watched it on a Blu-Ray projector set up with surround sound and although it was visually stunning - a veritable feast for the eyes - I was left with the beginnings of a headache by the time it finished. The special effects are admirable and wholly realistic, but there is simply too much going on in some of the main sequences for the human mind to keep up. In keeping with this theme - aesthetics at the expense of any substance - the camera takes every possible opportunity to linger on the delectable Ms Fox - not that any red-blooded male would protest too much, but after a while, the scenes she appears in seem more like a calendar photo shoot than a proper movie.
Revenge of the Fallen is lazy sequel-making at its worst and does not have an original bone in its body. Almost every frame seems highly derivative. You spend most of its tiresome running time wondering where you had seen a particular scene before. The icing on the cake for me was the location of the all important artefact, an ancient site that will be more than familiar to fans of the Indiana Jones movies. The film is actually executive produced by Steven Spielberg, so perhaps they wanted to save some of the estimated budget - a staggering $200 million - on scouting locations.
After the relative success of its predecessor, a sequel was inevitable, but the lack of any real effort to make a decent film was not. Sadly, the original Hasbro tag-line for the Transformers toys "More Than Meets The Eye" could not be further from the truth with "Revenge of the Fallen" - what you see is exactly what you get. It's BBFC rating of 12 gives some clue as to its suitable target audience, which probably starts there and ends at 15.
Unsurprisingly, the film garnered seven (7) Razzie nominations - the industry's "anti-Oscars" for the worst films produced in Hollywood in any given year, winning the dubious honours of "Worst Director", "Worst Movie" and "Worst Screenplay". On the flipside, it was nominated for an Oscar for "Best Achievement in Sound".
However, the film does have one redeeming feature that deserves a mention. Given that it tests cinematic boundaries with its soundtrack and action sequences, I would suggest that Revenge of the Fallen would be a perfect DVD or Blu-Ray with which to test a potential new home cinema system. At around £9 on DVD and £17 on Blu-Ray, you even get a free movie with it - if you can be bothered to watch it.
© Hishyeness 2010
>> FILM ONLY REVIEW <<
Summary: Thinly disguised cash cow and lazy sequel that thoroughly deserved its Razzies.