Over my many years of watching blockbuster movies, I feel I’ve developed quite the bullshit detector when it comes to hype. Taking trailers, on-set reports and the previous track record of the parties involved on board; I can usually tell in advance how good or bad a movie will be and therefore put my expectations in check. And yknow what, I’ve gotten pretty good at it too.
That’s what I thought, and then Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen came along…
Sneaking under my “shit-film radar” like a ninja-ghost in the dead of night, TF:ROTF disappointed me HARD by being the very thing it was proudly boasting out loud all along: A Michael Bay film.
Now I don’t have as much of a grudge about Mr. Bayhem’s various works as some people, some of his early stuff is actually straight-up fantastic (Bad Boys, The Rock) and the first Transformers was a legitimate delight, and that’s the Michael Bay I hoped was turning up.
Instead we got Pearl Harbour Michael Bay….
After the bombastic events of the original movie, twitchy teen neurotic Sam Witwicky is going to college which is causing tension between his stupidly hot girlfriend and Bumblebee, the shapeshifting Autobot warrior living in his garage. However there are far more worrying things on the horizon as the scattered Decepticon forces attempt to steal the various remains of the Allspark cube in order to resurrect their tyrannical leader Megatron who himself has been taking orders from a higher power. Can even the mighty Optimus Prime stand against the revelation that Transformers and humans have a longer history than anyone could’ve guessed.
Frankly, the above plot is just a bunch of overly cluttered shite in order for Bay to hang his trademark chaos on. There is no reason for merely one film to have at least 3 maguffins to search for, endless comedy sidekicks, and no less than 3 characters resurrected from the dead. Plus Bay is unwilling or simply unable to let the film sit still for even 5 minutes without flinging a random, obnoxious set piece at you like a monkey with it’s own poop. Instead of much needed character development we get a small army of kitchen bots destroying a house for no reason, instead of clear, concise exposition we get a rambling, decrepit robot jet who farts parachutes. It steadily gnaws away at your patience to the point that when something as important as the death of a major character happens it’s undermined by a scene where a tiny Decepticon humps Megan Fox’s leg. It’s desperate, cheap and as frequently irritating as a 12 year old laughing too loudly at a fart joke; the very audience Bay seems to be aiming for.
And yet in amongst the dubious racial stereotypes and shots of a huge Decepticon with massive wrecking ball genitals (you didn’t think I wasn’t going to mention THAT do you?), Bay and the overworked bods at ILM produce such jaw-dropping imagery that somehow you’re left with the feeling that somehow you’ve got you’re money’s worth.
The Transformer designs are incredible, ranging from pyramid punching titans to teeny, tiny bugs and coming in literally all shapes and sizes. An industrial sized digger becomes a whirling, angry-eyed gyroscope that rampages through Shanghai, another becomes a bouncing pogo stick with whips for hands, yet another is so razor thin it can’t be seen from the front. The innovative creature design is insane, as is the pounding, exhausting action as Prime squares off against three attackers in a scrap that levels a woodland clearing or the taxing, extended, Egyptian firefight that closes the movie.
While the carnage is as mental as ever, the characters suddenly seem to be less likeable than in the first movie. Shia LaBeouf’s Sam has gone from a fun goofy lead to being somewhat of a prick and all the other side characters seem to be caught up in a mad dash to see who can be the most annoying with the screen time they’ve been given.
So while this Transformers sequel ups the ante in terms of collateral damage, it does it at the expense of the original’s charm.
Autobots, roll over…