Movie Review – Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen

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- Summary -

Director : Michael Bay
Cast :
Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, John Tuturro, Kevin Dunn, Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream, Bumblebee et al.
Length : 147 Minutes
Synopsis:
Sam and the Autobots must again save mankind from the evil forces of the Decepticons, including the enormous Devastator, and the ancient Fallen, who have returned.

Review : Slam-bang action, diabolical acting and dialogue, as well as some fatal flaws in character development, cannot overcome the most amazing action-oriented film Bay has directed yet. Yes there are problems with it, but on a sheer entertainment level, this film succeeds inordinately. No-brain popcorn chewing, epic CGI film with humans thrown in, Revenge Of The Fallen may just be the best of this year’s blockbuster films. Then again, with all it’s problems, it may just be one of the worst.

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For anybody growing up during the 1980′s, it’s hard to imagine not knowing about the Transformers. Those amazing robotic automatons from the planet Cybertron, who take on the shapes of various human machines, including cars, trucks, and other miscellanea, the imagination was stirred in many a child by the potential of the concept. A Transformer could be anything, anything at all. And to have to warring halves, the friendly Autobots and the evil Decepticons, meant that you could literally “take sides” in the ongoing war between them. The Autobots, traditionally designed as cars and trucks of the modern era, had human allies, in particular Sam, a young boy who assists the giant robots in their quest to rid the universe of the evil of the Decepticons.

In 2007, director Michael Bay took on the challenge of bringing the Transformers concept to the big screen in their first live action film. Using state-of-the-art digital effect to bring Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron and Starscream to dazzling life, Transformers was a bombastic, energetic and utterly amazing adventure/action film for people of all ages, directed in true Michael Bay style. Many fans applauded Bay’s style in the film, while others bemoaned the “kiddie-friendly” storyline and dialogue: dialogue is something Bay has long been chastised for, and almost all his films contain a fair degree of cheesy moments. Transformers had it’s fair share, admittedly, however, the dialogue isn’t why you go see a movie like Transformers, heck, I’d even go so far as to say it’s not for the couple of pretty girls Bay slung at us either: no, it’s for the giant fricking robots beating the snot out of each other.

With the success of Transformers, it was a foregone conclusion that Bay would be signed up to direct the sequel, going into pre-production almost immediately the first film wrapped. And so, we have reached that amazing milestone in cinema, the first sequel. The law of sequels, particularly with anything Hollywood churns out, is that you simply repeat the previous film, making things bigger, louder, progressively upping the ante each time, until you start not making money on it. With a concept such as Transformers, there’s almost no possible way these films couldn’t make back their budget and then some: so Bay pretty much had the run of things to make whatever film he wanted.

Revenge Of The Fallen takes place 2 years after the first film, with the Autobots now working with the US government to seek out and rid Earth of traces of the Decepticons, wherever they hide. The government seems a little edgy about this arrangement, mainly due to the impossible level of destruction that follows these battles around the globe. There is even a question over whether the Autobots presence on Earth is doing more harm than good. The Autobots battle alongside a specially designated team of soldiers (NEST) who are made up of remnants of the team that assisted in the battle of Mission City in film 1. Sam (Shia LaBeouf) is off to college, the long distance relationship he has with Mikaela (Megan Fox) not sitting to well with the girl, who wants more than a simple “I’ll keep in touch” commitment from the young man. When Sam inadvertently comes into contact with a shard of the Cube (from film 1) he begins to hallucinate all kinds of weird Transformers stuff, interrupting his classes and causing havoc around the college. Not only that, but he quickly becomes the target for the unwanted attention of a hot young collegiate girl (Isabel Lucas) who turns out to be in league with the Decepticons to retrieve the information in Sam’s head. The plan of the Decepticons is the recovery of the Matrix, a kind of uber-key that will allow the Fallen (more on him later) to destroy the Earth’s sun and subjugate the planet: if only they can find it. Revenge Of The Fallen becomes increasingly more convoluted the longer it goes, with a large slow dead-spot right in the middle that almost cripples the film fatally. There’s plenty of Transformer history and mythos thrown up by the haphazard scripting that fans will latch onto, however, the casual viewer may find themselves quickly inundated by information overload.

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Decepticon rampage.

Where to begin with Revenge Of The Fallen? Do we begin with the good, the bad, or the plain ugly? Simply put, this is a hell of a film, and it could swing either way being good and bad. If we were to start with the good, the first thing I’d have to mention is the unbelievable special effects, as well as the scope of the film, which is simply epic in size.There are more robots, more explosions and more sci-fi puffery in this film than in the previous, almost exponentially so. The detail and level of care that has gone into the creation of the distinctive Autobots and Decepticons is mind-boggling to say the very least. The scale of the action scenes is almost impossibly large, with buildings and aircraft carriers being demolished like so much such background action. There are a few moments in the film that are simply jaw dropping: the arrival of Devastator, for one. Non-Transformer fans won’t understand, but Devastator was a super-robot made up of several, smaller Decepticons known as the Constructicons. Forklifts, loaders and dump trucks all went into co-joining and transforming into one might robot, and that fan-wish is played out large in Revenge. Devastators arrival is simply staggering, the scale of him is beyond belief, compared to the rest of the Decepticons. The other moment that made my jaw hit the floor was… well, it involves the death of one of our beloved characters, and I can’t tell you which one because that will give the entire story away. Suffice to say, I wasn’t expecting it, nor was I prepared for it.

Michael Bay was born to direct these films (I think I even mentioned that in my review of the original film) and he helms the movie like a man trying to control a raging bull. Just grab on, steer it in the vague direction you want to go, and let the explosions do the rest. Bay does that well, and although he’s unable to overcome the logic and incoherent over-inflated self-importance screenwriters Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Ehren Kruger put into their script, he manages to craft a cinematic thrill ride. The opening scene, set in Shanghai with the NEST team taking on an enormous Decepticon, with destruction raining down upon any wayward pedestrian, is simply jaw dropping, and one heck of a way to begin the movie. But from there, the story and performances of the cast become lost in the jumble of explosions, gun-battles and giant fricking fighting robots. Bay tries to inject a sense of apocalyptic world-ending drama to the film, however, the lacklustre scripting means we either don’t really care, or more likely, don’t understand what the hell is going on. As one of my friends said: the film feels for all the world like a kid in a sandpit, bashing each robot together and making those “kerchow kerchow” noises….

The Fallen, an ancient Transformer whose lineage includes the original Primes (of which Optimus is a descendant) is a cinematic black sheep, the term “fallen” a derivative of the fact that he turned bad, causing all the carnage between the Autobots and the Decepticons eons ago. The Fallen, to whom even Megatron defers (yes, Megatron returns from the abyss he was cast into in the previous film) is, it’s said, one bad mo-fo, and he acts like it for most of the film. The problem is, he’s just not that different from the other Decepticons, trying to take over the world. And the lack of significance of the Fallen is a real albatross around the neck of Megatron: for Megatron is perceived as the be-all and end-all of Decepticons, yet even he bows to the might of the Fallen… and it’s not really worth it in the end, since the Fallen is about as scary as yet any other of the Decepticons.

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Optimus comes to Sam for help.

The film suffers from a crucial lack of coherency. Story and characters arrive and leave at random, with plenty of jagged camera-work and frenetic editing. Bay’s editor must have worked overtime on this film, because there’s almost no way the entire third act can be understood from a logic point of view. And for goodness sake, will somebody tell Mr Bay to give us a wide shot, an establishing shot, that lasts more than two seconds. Too often in this film we have enormous, football field spanning robot fights that we just can’t see, simply because Bay has his camera so close that the robots take up the entire screen. The scale of the events is mitigated by the fact that we’re forever caught up in a flailing and lashing of arms and legs which, when boiled down, is simply metal clashing with metal. It does tend to get a little old by the end of the film, and of all the things this film has working against it, perhaps this is the biggest. The final act, played out in the sands around Egypt’s famous pyramids, is a kinetic, puzzling, gargantuan battle between Decepticons and the remnants of the NEST team, as Sam tries to save the Autobots and Earth from certain annihilation. The problems is, we have people running around on screen, and we don’t know in what context that appear in the film. Sam and Mikaela run helter skelter through explosions, through flames and debris, army dudes fire round after round, Decepticons advance and fall back, advance and fall back: and we dont have a sense of place for it all.

The acting, while often obscured by the musical soundtrack and the thunderous 5.1 effects track, is mind-blowingly wooden. Even the normally dependable Shia LaBeouf can’t generate much out of the material he’s given, and Megan Fox again proves she’s all body and no ability. Is it just me, or has she had her lips pumped significantly since the last film? She looks a little like Angelina Jolie, her enormous pouting lips somewhat of a distraction from her boobs and bum, which are flaunted around the screen by Bay’s almost pornographic camera at times. Isobel Lucas, who hails from soap acting school in Australia, is simply dreadful as the evil Decepticon Pretender, her skin lit orange by spray tan. Her acting simply defies bad, slips into awful and along the way, dry-humps abysmal. Thankfully, much humour is derived from John Tuturro in his thankless role of ex-Agent Simmons (from film 1), who’s skittish portrayal is like the cinematic equivalent of Ecstasy. And somehow, Bay thought that adding in a completely extraneous character like Leo Spitz (Ramon Rodrguez) would improve the film? What the hell Leo does in this film, and why he’s in it, are beyond me. He appears as a roommate of Sams, and gets caught up in the impending disaster by running for his life with our heroes like Jar Jar Binks. There is no rhyme or reason for his appearance in this film, yet Bay’s camera lingers on him and tries to elicit some laughs. It’s cringe-inducing. And, if you want to get right into it, there’s the Twins.

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Bumblebee does what is required. He kicks ass!!

Hold mother of cringe-worthy un-PC awfulness! The Twins, two dreadfully conceived robots that accompany Sam and Mikaela through the film, are Mudflap and Skids, the latter of whom is voiced by SpongeBob Squarepants himself, Tom Kenny. They’re jive talkin’, cursing, “comedy” duo that smacks of all things Jar Jar Binks-bad. Are they funny? No. Are they interesting? No. Why are they in the movie? No doubt, to sell more toys. Bucktoothed and incompetent, rattling off clichéd Negro phrases straight out of the “don’t’ say this in films any more” play-book, these two characters are probably the anathema of all that is good about Michael Bay’s creative power. Far and away the most obnoxious blight on this film, the Twins regale us with an inability to read, an incomprehensible level of blithering idiocy that borders on insane, and about as much character development as a bucket of putrid cheese. If there is one enormous black hole of rancidity in Revenge, the Twins are it.

You might be sitting there thinking that I hated this film, and asking why I might be giving it a 7 out of 10. If I hated it so much, why the high score? Simple fact: this is a film about giant fricking robots, all beating the tar out of each other. Who cares about plot and character development when you’ve got that? The action sequences alone, although eye-wateringly hard to follow at times, are good enough to plunk down your hard-earned to sit through this. There’s bravado and comic-book slickery to it all, a sense of wink-at-the-audience zest that’s hard to categorise. And if you go to see this film with this in mind, then you’ll absolutely love it. It’s hard to quantify why I thoroughly enjoyed watching this film given all I’ve said above, but I truly, truly did. The analytical part of me was cringing at various moments, but the cinematic lover inside me ate it all up and wanted more.

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Destruction rains down on Shanghai….

If you watch this film simply for explosions, staggeringly chaotic battle sequences and, of course, giant robots engaging in all kinds of tete-a-tete action, and forget about logic and story, then you’ll probably have a wow of a time. If you go in expecting high art, or intelligently written dialogue, then you’ll be heartbroken that so much money was spent on making giant robots beating the crap out of each other. Revenge Of The Fallen is a blockbuster in almost every sense: it rings hollow on schmaltz and cheesy moments, and blows you away with the CGI and digital trickery up there on the screen.

Rating:  5 stars Movie Review   Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen

The Sound of Revenge Of The Fallen

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Rodney is the Editor-In-Chief of Fernby Films, and has been appreciating films seriously since 1993. Rodney’s first foray into online reviews was for a now-defunct online Australian DVD store, before starting up fernbyfilms.com when that enterprise fell through, in 2007. Rodney lives in the South Australian city of Adelaide, with his wife and two young children, whom he loves very much.

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