Back in 2007, Michael Bay accomplished what seemed to be a miracle in the film community: he took a nearly dead property that was built off of a line of action figures, and made it into a highly successful–and one can even say decent–film for both old and new fans. Sadly, with Revenge of the Fallen, Bay and his team try to top themselves with a grandiose successor, and come up pretty short.
The plot follows Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), two years after the events of Transformers. Sam’s now off to college where he and blah blah blah…does any of this matter? Let’s face it, you’re going to see this movie for one reason, and one reason only: to see gigantic robots beat the crap out of each other. I’m happy to say, you get what you come for, but that’s about it. This movie is pretty much identical to it’s predecessor, now with 30% more character development, mass murder, and zany humor. Oh, don’t forget a brand new track by Linkin Park, which sounds exactly like the last track by Linkin Park.
There are some pretty embarrassing moments for a film of this caliber. One of which is the use of racism in the form of CGI robots. The racism isn’t very blatant, as it is overused stereotypes that are meant to be funny, but come out laughable, and not in a good way. Two characters, Mudflap and Skids, stand out above the rest. They are designated as the “urban” Autobots, donning two gold front teeth and illiteracy. There is also a Mexican ice cream truck at the beginning of the film that sets the bar pretty low. And those who say that Jazz in the original cartoon set a precedent for characters like Mudflap and Skids should know that Scatman Crothers, who originally voiced the character, transcends race.
A major downfall for the film, which seems to be a complaint across the board, is the massive 150 minutes of the film’s length. There is definitely a period where the audience, as a whole, glances at their collective watch. Without knowing the true story, I wouldn’t doubt that the film had a much darker first cut and the studio decided to amp it up with things like jive-talking sidekicks and robot balls (yes, there are robot testicles in the film). There’s definitely a dark film in those 2+ hours, and it would be interesting to see that cut someday.
Bay didn’t go all wrong. There is one element of the film that needs to be commended, and that’s the insane use of violence. This doesn’t even include the millions of bystanders that are killed throughout the film (which matter as much as a Stormtrooper death in this film), but rather the robot-on-robot gore that takes place. We’re talking dismemberment, decapitation, faces being ripped apart, the works. All of which gets skirted into a PG-13 rating for “Sci-Fi Action Violence”, whatever that means. If these were humans, the sheer amount of gore would make Troma Video turn this film down. Having Stephen Spielberg as an Executive Producer really must be like having a bulletproof vest to the MPAA’s warehouse full of guns.
Story-wise, the film is a bit convoluted, between things like transforming she-bots, to ancient prophecies, to an omnipotent villain who seems to have powers to do….whatever he wants, the film does an amazing job of setting the audience up for a round of applause, which my audience did about a dozen times. As previously stated, there is plenty more character development in this film, which is great for fans of the robots, and not-so-great for people who aren’t fans of LaBeouf.
There isn’t much to say about the acting here, seeing as how the humans were secondary to the film. Shia does a fine job of crying and looking scared, Megan does a better job though. The addition of Ramon Rodriguez as the wacky sidekick felt a bit unnecessary, but it makes sense now that Shia is Indiana Jones-quality, he doesn’t need to be taking prat falls anymore. The effects seemed to have gotten better in two years, which is a bonus for a movie about alien robots. The robots all seem to gel with the rest of the cast (though the voice over audio was a bit out of left field). The major problem with the effects looked to be that too much time was spent on making the ‘bots look real, and the rest of the film’s needed CGI felt rushed. Other than that, that computer-generated Megan Fox looked great.
Overall, was the film any good? Not from a technical standpoint, but it is pretty to watch, provided your eyes can focus in enough on figuring out which robot is which. Will the film make money? Most definitely. Fans of the original alone will make this movie #1 of the year at the box office, and the negative reviews (this one included) will doubtfully have an impact on that. I do recommend seeing the film, because it’s important to support genre films like these, but I do hope Team Bay steps up their game in the inevitable third film.
Final Verdict: C