It’s day two of my Transformers week here on The Film Dump and my what a treat I have to review today. Transformers Revenge Of The Fallen is the worst thing to happen to humanity since the Bubonic Plague. OK that might be an exaggeration of some kind I intend to explain why it’s at least as bad as the Black Death. I’ll try to keep this short, but as master Yoda says, “do or do not, there is no try” and in the case of this film I don’t think I can “do” a short review. 3000 words likely coming up.
There’s a few aspects of the first film that niggled me that I decided to not go too far into yesterday. The terribly out of place humour, the design of the Transformers, the amount of swearing in a film about childrens toys, that sort of thing. The reason is because back when I first watched the first live action Transformers film those things didn’t bother me so much. I knew they stunk a little but I kind of forgave them because there was Optimus Friggin’ Prime on a cinema screen! After watching Revenge Of The Fallen a bizarre side effect occurred. All those aspects that were just mild irritants int he original now became massively gaping chasms of shite. It’s a similar effect The Matrix sequels had on the first film. they were so pointless they made the first film feel a little less special. Revenge Of The Fallen’s faults are mostly the same things I let fly in the original. The volume at which those faults are amplified in this sequel are such that it makes the first film that much worse.
When I came out of a midnight opening night screening of RotF I came out knowing something was wrong but I kind of enjoyed it. An hour or so later I remembered that bit with Devestator’s balls.. and then Wheelie humping Megan Fox’s leg. The next day it was just how annoying Skidz and Mudflap, The Twins, were. Then gradually as each day passed all the badness of the film kept coming up. Sam’s mother eating a pot brownie, The weird random characters that were borderline racist or at best insulting, the way every new Transformers barring Jetfire was given minimal screen time with little consequence to the plot and oh man the way it just drags on and on and on. It’s was like getting ‘Nam flashbacks or something. Each time it got more painful and made me hate the experience that little bit more.
This film is like watching a family member make a fool of themselves at a family event and, whilst never actually being entertaining, they just keep on going all night. The film is only 6 minutes longer than the first and yet somehow it feels like hours. I don’t think I have ever checked my watch more in the cinema than with this. And I often check a couple of times just to see how the films structure is timing up. Speaking of which this films first act actually zips along at a decent pace despite having multiple pointless scenes. At least it’s not 55 minutes before we get to the point of the film.
So what is the plot? Damned if I know. Well Ok I do, but it’s kinda convoluted. The film opens in 17,000BC… Yes that’s right… Turns out Transformers had been to Earth back then and enslaved them. Stuff happened that isn’t explained until later but basically it involved a Decepticon called The Fallen who planned to burn out the sun to harness it to create Energon. He was one of the original Primes and all the other Primes took exception to this seeing as it would kill the life on the planet and sent him packing. The Fallen planned to use a key called The Matrix (Not of leadership and why they just didn’t call it the key to Vector Sigma I don’t know) so the Primes entombed it in a cliff face using their own bodies as the walls for the tomb. By the way, most of that’s not explained for about 90 minutes. Back to the start of the film. The Autobots are helping a military team called NEST hunt down the remaining Decepticons. Some random government antagonist isn’t happy about this accusing the Autobots of being the reason the Decepticons are still on Earth. Apparently the shard of the All Spark Cube they have and the location of Megatron’s body, both discussed in that scene, aren’t reasons.
Meanwhile Sam’s off to college. Mikaela is upset that Sam hasn’t told her he loves here, which is literally their whole story arc. Sam says Bumblebee can’t come with him because cars aren’t allowed on campus. Lame excuse but whatever. Sam’s picked up a small piece of the All Spark Cube he had in his jacket for two years that he never found out about. Apparently this jacket never got put in the wash because he’d know about it then. This piece of the cube puts messages in his head and he starts going all stuttering crazy while at college. Obviously the eventual plan is to stop The Fallen getting the piece of the cube and blowing up the Sun. For some reason he couldn’t come up with a new plan in 17,000 years. From then on stuff happens, things blow up and there’s a load of talking and shouting for no reason other than to make sure not a second goes by without some sort of noise.
So, those issues I have. They are more prevalent in this film than in the first and they will nag at you. Every single new Transformer is either a faceless thing that does stuff or some form of cretinous annoyance. The Twins are the largest offenders. They spend most of the film talking in some sort of street slang that is apparently racist but as far as I can tell it’s just the sound of 2 idiots trying to be “hip” or “fly” or whatever it is the kids talk like these days. I don’t know, I’m not cool. They have gold capped teeth, hold guns sideways and shout at each other about getting all up in each others grill. Whatever that means. The scene where Mudflap survives getting eaten by Devestator might be the single saddest scene ever committed to film. I was really ready to cheer once I saw him getting sucked into those gears, yet somehow he survives. Jerk. Another offender is Wheelie who whilst I like that he’s a small RC car, he is also basically a overly talkative horny dog. He spends all the time prat falling about the
place, talking in an overly aggressive manner and humping Megan Fox’s leg… as mentioned earlier. I honestly cannot believe that was in the film. I guess he talks the way he does because he’s small or something but it’s still annoying.
The only new Transformer that’s kind of enjoyable is Jetfire. He’s an ancient Transformers who’s been hiding on Earth since the days of The Fallen. He’s an old, rickety mess of a robot who even walks around with a walking stick. Talks in a British old geezer accent and, whilst he never shuts up, he manages to not become too annoying. He kind of reminds me of one of Jim Henson’s puppets from films like Labyrinth. Also he transforms into a Blackbird jet which is pretty awesome. He teleports a bunch of the characters to Egypt later in the film apparently making a space bridge. Bit of a random piece of Transformers lore to chuck in there. Why he couldn’t just say teleport I don’t know. It’s especially weird seeing as this process neither involves space or any kind of bridge.
Now the design of the Transformers was something I didn’t mention in the last review. This was because despite being an old school Transformers fan I always knew there would have to be some sort of radical change to their design to get them to be believable in a live action film. You’d either have to break all the metal up into small pieces or come up with an extra piece of exposition to explain why their metal can bend. Seeing as science and explaining things aren’t Micheal Bay’s strong points I think he went down the right route. That said, their metal armor is so broken up and all over the shop that what you end up getting is what looks like a man wearing pieces of scrap as clothes. At times they manage to keep things fairly clear, the increased use of slow motion during the action sequences was likely to help with this. The trouble comes when the Transformers are doing anything quickly or passing in and out of shot in the space of a few frames. This sort of thing happens too often. Either the Transformers are rolling around all over the place looking like indistinct piles of metal being thrown about or theirs so much stuff flying around the screen you can’t tell who’s doing what to whom. Also because a lot of the action keeps the camera low to focus on those pesky human characters all you see of the action is part of a Transformers leg passing through the shot while stuff is blowing up around them.
That’s not to say the action is entirely a whitewash. There’s a fight sequence in a forest that manages to stay largely clear visually and is actually a pretty cool fight. There’s no single moment that’s quite as awesome as the scene in the original where Starscream took down the F22 Raptors but what there is in the forest fight is pretty satisfyingly violent.
Most of the action scenes in this film do just kind of happen. There’s at least 3 scenes where rather than build to any sort of action Transformers just burst through a wall and start blowing stuff up. Honestly Sam would be dead if it wasn’t for his powers to channel Deus Ex Machina at will. There’s no explanation of how the Autobots manage to find him just in time but it makes you wonder. Sam has to go on the run because the Decepticons put out a message to the world saying they want him. No-one tries to hand him over when he’s wandering around and then you start to question why all of a sudden no Transformers can find him.
The science in this is all screwy. There seems to be no logic to what the limits of the Transformers are. Every few scenes some new variety of Decepticon seems to turn up, most of which transform into nothing or appear to be based on insects or panthers. One is even a college girl. Yup. For some reason they have Decepticons that can transform into flesh. Odd skill for a mechanical race to have. There’s another one that’s made up of thousands of little nano sized ball robots spewed from Ravage’s mouth that become a wafer thin robot that steals the All Spark Shard and somehow conceals it withing his wafer thin frame.
Then there’s Devestator. Fans were waiting to see this one. He’s the original combiner Transformer and in this he’s.. well he’s made up of a bunch of faceless construction vehicles and they combine to form some sort of dragon monkey thing that sucks up stuff and has a pair of gleaming balls between his legs. What the hell. I like that he looks like he would indeed devestate. I just don’t get the design. It’s as ugly as you could ever imagine. Just a mass of metal and junk.
One aspect of the film that is better than the first is the time given to the Transformers themselves. There’s actually a couple of scenes where they get to say words that mean stuff. Obviously Micheal Bay was feeling extra generous that he allowed them to contribute to something other than the explosions in this film. The Transformers themselves are apparently a secret now. Despite blowing up a small fictional city in the last film witnessed by thousands. Despite being a secret somehow Optimus is allowed to go chat to Sam in a graveyard where I would guess a bunch of people wold be visiting graves. What with those places usually being public and all that. Maybe he was using that invisibility trick they used so much in the first film. They also blow up a load of Shanghai at the start, and whilst they did evacuate the area they also crashed right through a occupied freeway. So how secret are these Transformers now?
So much of this film just defies logic and common sense it’s remarkable. By the end of it you’re questioning if you just saw a complete film because so much of what happened is so ineffectual and nonsensical. The finale is a mass of sand being kicked up by masses of nameless Decepticons while what Autobots are there are just int he background while Sam and Mikaela take forever getting to the military guys they’re headed for. I have no idea why Bumblebee couldn’t pick them up and drive them there. I suppose because he couldn’t find them. But he had no trouble finding them earlier when it was convenient. SO they run, Sam’s parents are dumped off by some Decepticon so the dad can let Sam go.. Didn’t realise that bit at the start was meant to be a character arc for him. Oh and then Sam dies and goes to robot heaven. Seriously, that happens. He is then brought back to life because of fate or some bullshit like that and he revives Optimus Prime just in time to unsatisfactorily save the day by combining with Jetfire.
Whilst the Transformers get a little more to do in this film they are still just the background figures for Sam’s story. Whatever that may be. He’s just this kid who was there in the first film to act as the audience’s door into the world. In this film he’s just this guy we follow while stuff happens that we don’t care about. There is a little more of the relationship between Megatron and Starscream but it pretty much boils down to Megatron slapping Starscream about a bit. There’s also a scene early on where Optimus executes a captured Decepticon. Didn’t realise execution outside of battle was the Autobot way.
Since this film was released a lot of the blame on it’s poor critical reception was laid at the feet of the Writers and their infamous strike. Shia LaBeouf has even gone as far as to say they were shooting without a script. Because $100million plus budget films are ad libbed Mike Leigh style all the time. There may have been a writers strike but there wasn’t an editors strike and so much of the crap in this film could have easily been cut. All the poor humour, all the nonsensical scenes of people saying things that lead nowhere, anything that was slowing down the plot. About 20 minutes could have been cut from this and I could have ended the review by saying that it at least moves along at a snappy pace and there’s little of the dumb crap that almost dragged the first film down. They didn’t though so I can’t. Transformers Revenge Of The Fallen is a poor excuse for a film that rarely manages to get anything right. this film could have been at least a spectacle but because of all the sewage we as an audience must wade through we’re left not caring one bit about the millions of dollars of money that were poured onto the screen. Thank god I’m reviewing the Animated film tomorrow because if I wasn’t I would not be going into Dark Of The Moon with any sort of good mood.