Billy Soistmann

Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

In Action, Dreamworks, Michael Bay, Paramount, Remakes & Sequels, Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Transformers on June 24, 2009 at 4:14 AM

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a sheer mess. I really want to like it, but it’s impossible – the movie has a horrible plot and is way too long. The only reason there even is a plot is to set up a lot of cool robot fighting.

This time around, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) finds a piece of the All Spark in a hoodie from the first movie (Why he hasn’t touched that sweatshirt in two years is never explained.) which causes him to have visions of ancient symbols. Megatron (Hugo Weaving) comes back and our hero is joined by his girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) and Leo (Ramon Rodriguez), who is introduced as an alien/robot conspiracy theorist, but only uses his knowledge once. (In order to get Agent Simmons (John Turturro), who knows more than him.) Sam and the gang finally end up in Egypt looking for the Matrix of Leadership. (Which turns out to be incredibly easy-to-find item, considering it’s been hidden for about 20,000 years.) Of course, an enourmous battle ensues. Besides the logical dilemmas such as the seemingly endless supply of robots who were mysteriously missing in the first movie (I guess it was their day off.), the fundamental problem is that the story leaves absolutely no room for any character development or underlying themes. Sure there’s enough story to fuel copious amounts of cool robot fighting, but there is no meaning or question explored by this film (at least the first hinted at humanity’s capacity for good). This is especially atrocious considering the two lead robots – Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and the Fallen (Tony Todd).

The first is Optimus Prime, an extremely wise, very old alien robot who has been through a lot. Basically, he’s the Autobots’ philosopher and everything he says sounds world-shattering thanks to Peter Cullen’s fantastic voice work. Why not use this asset to explore more of human nature? The second, the Fallen of the film’s title, has been described as “the Lucifer of the Transformers universe.” No he isn’t – at least not in the movie. The film begins in 17000 BC as the Fallen is working on a huge machine on Earth. Now, I’d figure that a trip back almost 20,000 years would be pretty important. Not in this film. The only purpose that scene serves is to set up the title card and to establish that there is a huge machine underground in Egypt. Essentially, the movie skips right over the Fallen’s “fall”. The pivotal turning point that establishes this titular character’s motivation for 20 milleniums is glazed over.

Throughout the film, there is a feeling of manufactured epic-ness. Of course, the movie spans continents and cost around $200 million, but every potential emotionally-charged scene is overdone almost to the point of losing any real effect. For example, Sam cries out “OPTIMUS!” in a moment clearly overblown to make the scene seem important (and to beef up the trailer). The audience is smart enough to choose for themselves what characters they care about, Optimus Prime included, without the movie spoon-feeding them.

Now for Sam and Mikaela’s relationship. During the hiatus between films, the couple have been dating, but have a difficult choice coming up. With Sam going off to college, Mikaela decides to stay with her ex-con father working on automobiles. Maybe these kinds of things are just not my cup of tea, but I cringed every time they had a serious conversation with each other. I just don’t buy their relationship at all.

At two-and-a-half hours, “Transformers 2” is not a short movie but I’m not against a long movie. A feature film should be as long as it needs to be, but this movie doesn’t need that much time – in this form, anyway. If any meaningful subjects were explored or the characters were developed on any real level, then I could excuse such a runtime.

So, without a decent story, is there anything left? Basically, there’s a whole lot of alien robots fighting and it looks amazing. The special effects are the movie’s high point and the folks at ILM have really given us a spectacular showcase of amazing visuals. The transformers are an incredible sight when they fight and even more so when they actually transform. Another strong point is the humor. There are many funny moments that create a fun atmosphere for all the action. We see much more of Sam’s parents, who are hysterical but start to lose their edge by the conclusion. Still, special effects and some laughs alone cannot carry an entire movie.

How about the direction? Surprisingly, director Michael Bay isn’t too bad this time around. Setting aside numerous gratuitous slow motion shots and a dismal climax, the action is frenetic yet discernible.

From an acting point of view, Shia is not his best. This could be due to the poor script, but he is not up to par with his performances in Disturbia or even Holes. Other than him, Peter Cullen is (once again) perfect as Optimus, Megan Fox replaces her looks for any superb acting (actually, her performance gets better as the movie goes on), and John Turturro does well as an exiled secret agent.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is full of missed opportunities and mindless fighting. Surprised? I didn’t think so. In any case, you should enjoy the spectacle, at least until you realize how much better the film could be.

My Rating: 4.3/10

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  1. Wow that’s a pity, I’ll have to reconsider going to see it. I hate a movie with no guts to it. This thing sounds like the classic, “but wait our universe has another cool facet” sequel. I mean couldn’t they do something new and cool and interesting.

    I think the big problem with movies like transformers is that the first one had the advantage of introducing the characters to each other, problem is once that’s done all that’s left is to fight for the survival of earth. You have to make an effort to put in further character development. I vote someone becomes a paraplegic.

  2. Well I went to see it, I was thinking not too, but a whole bunch of people ended up going so I thought why not. Well it is certainly a triumph of CG but as a movie it was a little ridiculous, the explosions and the fighting robots seemed to be pretty much constant.

  3. It’s amazing how little pace or building action there is – the entire movie is fighting. The movie had potential, but there just wasn’t enough thought put into any interesting story.

    I think Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian suffers the same problem in that there is no surprise left. The first movie introduced the whole “we come to life at night” thing, but the sequel had nowhere to go from there.

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