06 July 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
starring Shia LeBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro
written by Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
directed by Michael Bay
release date: 24 June 2009
Universal, Rated PG-13, 150 mins.

There's Frakking Worse Things

With each successive viewing, I've fallen in love with Michael Bay's 2007 action/adventure masterpiece (yes, I said masterpiece) Transformers. The fantastic script by Orci and Kurtzman, the wonderful cast, the jaw-dropping complexity of the Autobots and Decepticons designs and rendering, the fast and furious action with massive property damage, and a rockin' score by Steve Jablonsky rounded off this pretty stellar movie. So it's sort of a duh that I was walking into its sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen with an enormous amount of anticipation for it to be, at the very least, as equally great if not better than the first.

The sad part is, it's nowhere near the perfection of the first installment (I'm sure many will disagree with the word "perfection" in reference to Transformers), and is actually not all that great. Though, granted, Revenge of the Fallen was going against its own awesome first installment and the summer's inevitable best flick, Star Trek. Basically, it was going to be a tough battle to win, anyhow, but Fallen tried valiantly.

Two years after the thrilling Los Angeles melee for the All Spark, Sam (LeBeouf) is heading to college, working on maintaining a long distance relationship with his special someone, Mekelia (Fox). But any chance of a normal life flies out the window when Sam connects with a broken fragment of the All Spark, and Cybertonian information is impressed upon him, causing major mental meltdowns in school. Meanwhile, the United States military has joined forces with the Autobots to track down and eliminate remaining Decepticons on Earth, led by the mighty Optimus Prime. A close encounter with the Decepticon kind reveals that the Fallen plans to exact some mighty hefty revenge on Earth. Joined by a resurrected Megatron (Weaving), the Decepticons exploit any option to bring about Earth's Apocalypse, and there's only one Autobot with the ability of stopping basically the end of the world. But it's a bit more complicated than that...like, a lot.

So, since my thoughts are still a jumbled mess two weeks after seeing it, I've decided just to get my ass in gear and write about the movie, one way or another. Thus, I've just put it in this format.

- Fallen is looong. Now, I'm not exactly the guy who complains about the running time of a movie, but with this one I'll make an exception (this is particularly noteworthy as I am one of those firm believers who think Dead Man's Chest has zero pacing issues). And for a revenge tale, it's strange for me to find myself thinking, 'is it over yet? What now?' With a bit of editing in the first 40 minutes and deleting of unnecessary subplots (such as the Pretender, the hot chick at Sam's college that tries to seduce him and ends up being a cyborg), not to mention the massive amount of military and establishing shots, I think Revenge of the Fallen has a nice chance of regaining a good sense of pace. As it stands, thinking about a movie's running time first viewing doesn't exactly inspire one to say, 'hey, this was edited really well!'

- The sense of humor just doesn't cross my brand of comedy. Most notably, the thing that freaked me out the most was the completely unnecessary ass-shot of John Turturro in a thong, a sight far more horrifying than any slasher movie. Secondly, the two Autobot twins that have been getting a lot of heat lately for their "racist" attitude (I disagree with those assertions, but I don't really want to indulge in that conversation), and my annoyance with them more or less stems from the simple fact that, hey, they're freakin' ANNOYING. Never once did I find them funny, and with the small exception of showing Sam the way to find a mystical Autobot object, they add nothing to the story, and that would be another good million or so buckaroos saved. Revenge of the Fallen has a very childish, 9-13 year-old sense of humor that I'm not particularly a fan of, but because I don't want to believe that the uber-talented Roberto Orci or Alex Kurtzman had anything to do with these abominations, I'm chalking it up to Michael Bay making these additions during the Writer's Strike so Kurtzman or Orci couldn't do anything about it...it could happen, no? Oh, and one last thing: the robot humping Megan's leg, as well as the two shots of Sam's two dogs getting it on - that was just plain frakkin' stupid.

- Visual effects-wise, Revenge of the Fallen ups the ante, and is an impressive feat by any margin of the imagination. But I can't help but think that the original Transformers is superior as far as making the Autobots and Decepticons as realistic looking as possible, and seamlessly integrated into the "real" world. And then, I gotta remind myself that with Revenge we're dealing with about 10 Autobots and 10 Decepticons, so there's far more characters in this than the last.

- My favorite thing of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen? The re-casting off Gleen Morshower (TV: 24), who died in the opening minutes of the first Transformers, but has been reincarnated as General Morshower! This guy's a great actor, and I'm extremely pleased that his role was expanded. Here's hoping he get's offered more expansive roles, and will no longer be known only under the guise of 'Agent Pearce.'

- Devastator was AWESOME! Simply, purely, completely AWESOME!

- Whether one likes Revenge of the Fallen or not, whether one was bored out of their mind, numb from all the action, or confused with the story, I find it very hard to disagree that Michael Bay definitely knows how to direct action movies. Within the past five months, I've re-watched Transformers (2007) far too many times, and over and over again Bay's directing style impresses me. Although, as far as I can tell, not as up to par as the previous movie, Bay still has quite an array of interesting and technically jaw-dropping shots. He does more than just make explosions "pretty", Bay drops you into the heat of the action and just doesn't let go. I enjoy how he moves the camera, although admittedly he may be a little on a circular high.

- The score by Steve Jablonsky (Friday the 13th, and many a time Bay collaborator) is stellar, and an awesome listen, but sadly, like the movie, doesn't compare to the original. There's no defining track (based off the CD soundtrack released simultaneously with the Various Artists compilation), although it could be argued "Prime" and 'Einstein's Wrong" contains the main themes that pop up throughout the entire movie. Still a good score, and worth picking up, and might be the best aspect of the entire motion picture. But...Transformers was better.

- What was the point of Robo-Girl at college? I would have much preferred a giant Decepticon coming out of nowhere, smashing Sam's college to bits, Bumblebee saving the day and getting Sam out of danger. It would basically accomplish the exact same thing, and be way cooler than what we're given, and spare us the annoying "faithfulness" subplot between Sam and Mekalia.

Revenge of the Fallen was...disappointing. After repeated viewings, I have no problem calling Transformers (2007) a darn near masterpiece, but this sequel is pretty much anything but. A poor script that has some interesting ideas but fails to explore these ideas intelligently, mind-numbingly awful prepubescent jokes, annoying robotic twins with annoying robotic voices, and more robots, buildings, and pyramids getting destroyed than any other motion picture I can think of...yes - Fallen was a disappointment.

I can't outright hate the movie nor do I find myself in love with it. By the time I've written this review, basically everyone who wants to see it has seen it, already taking in $600 million worldwide (second only to The Dark Knight). It's just unfortunate Revenge of the Fallen didn't live up to the epic and captivating trailer. Love it or hate it, there's action, hot girls, and lots of giganto-normous explosions. It's Michael Bay, and it's Transformers.

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