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Movie Review – Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

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Want to catch up on Transformers before you go see the sequel? Buy Transformers on DVD or purchase the original cartoon as Transformers: The Complete First Season (25th Anniversary Edition) on Amazon.

I went and saw Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen yesterday. It wasn’t bad – all in all I’d give it… maybe… a three-star rating out of five. Maybe. By now, it’s made its money back. The last time I checked it was at 201M USD and climbing. Second biggest blockbuster opening in history – second only to Dark Knight. The movie itself is about what you’d expect if you’ve seen either, A) the first Transformers movie, or B) anything else by director Michael Bay. The story continues with Sam, the slightly goofy, every-teen hero, and his life after the first adventure – where he discovers an alien race, helps save the world, and gets the girl. And since the first movie was also a Michael Bay movie, the aliens are visual-complicated CG robots, saving the world involves a lot of stuff blowing up, and the girl is incredibly hot.

Fast forward to post-high school. Sam decides to leave home and head east. Leaving behind the robots, stuff blowing up, and Mikaela. For what? 40,000 a year in tuition, his dad would say. But really – he wants to distance himself from all the baggage of the past – while not making a break with his girlfriend, who – according to his mother, talking under the influence… well, we’ll say that Sam and Mikaela are on ‘good terms’. Which is odd. And selfish. This sets the tone for Sam in this movie.


But wait – there’s pathos! There is something of a story in between explosions. There is supposed to be (I think) character development for Sam involving sacrifice – I won’t get too spoilery if you’re one of the handful of people who haven’t forked over their money yet. And there’s even a tiny, incremental advancement of the Mikaela and Sam love story. But if you’re looking for a Story, this is not the movie for you. If you want special effects – well, Roll Up! Roll Up! The next show starts in just a few minutes! And don’t forget to stop by the concession stand for your corn and soda!

The good bits are okay. Enough to satisfy the thirteen year old (possibly a potential pyromaniac) boy in all of us. There are very nice CG effects; stuff blowing up right, left and center; and lots of very cool military equipment. The acting really isn’t bad either. John Turturro is always funny when its called for and in this he’s still over the top with the secret agent attitude.

The bad bits are numerous. They fall into two basic categories: the gaffs – everything from geography to continuity errors, to the really, really, unnecessary – hood-rat Chevys, supposedly intelligent robots humping things, John Turturro’s ass… yeah, still shuddering over that one. The gaffs are way too numerous to list here – go to IMDB for a full list (there are quite a few), but my favorites start with placing Petra near the Pyramids (they’re really about 260 miles and two countries apart and yes, I looked it up on Google Earth) and the fact that NEST – the new multi-national (US and UK, that is) can air drop combat teams anywhere in the world without prior permission and about a million miles of red tape.

The overdone has got to be the juvenile humor – enough already – fart jokes? Please. And if I want to watch Chihuahuas humping – wait, no, I don’t want to see any Chihuahua action. And stereotyping – really, hoodrat Autobots? Talking like Vince Vaughn in Be Cool… with gold teeth? Again, Please! And a geriatric Decepticon with a crutch? Why? And then, there’s the fight scenes. The CG is rendered so that you can’t tell who’s who in the close-ups and the violence is definitely gratuitous – they’re robots sure, but we’re supposed to be empathizing with the good robots, which means the robots are people-like, right? So how does that figure with Mikeala cheerfully offering to mutilate one of the minor bad guys to get information or the fact that one of them gets a gel covered “spine” ripped out? A little overkill, maybe.

The definitely underdone falls mainly in the story and dialog areas – one review that I read said that they could have replaced Megan Fox with a cardboard cutout and been just fine. I’d agree – unfortunately, she’s mostly there to look good. There are some good lines from just about everyone, but there just isn’t enough from anyone to really satisfy, beyond the want of one-liners.

All in all the reviews were mixed from the middling:

“With machines that are impressively more lifelike, and characters that are more and more like machines, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” takes the franchise to a vastly superior level of artificial intelligence. As for human intelligence, it’s primarily at the service of an enhanced arsenal of special effects, which helmer Michael Bay deploys like a general launching his very own shock-and-awe campaign on the senses.” (Jordan Mintzer, Variety)

to the extremely negative:

“I just saw the most expensive porn movie in the world, and my brain is still fiercely vomiting in my skull.” (iorxhscimtor, posting 6/23/09 in IMDB.com user comments for ROTF )

(By the way – if you really want some entertainment, go read the user comments on The Onion’s AV Club review).

All in all, if you have the eight bucks burning a hole in your pocket, go and see it. But don’t expect Becket. Otherwise wait until it hits your local Red Box or Netflix and rent it – you really aren’t missing much.

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