You can dress up a Transformer, but it’ll still be a hunk of metal.
Such is the outcome of the latest installment in the Transformers saga, Revenge of the Fallen, produced and directed by Michael Bay (Transformers, Pearl Harbor).
As the title would lead you to believe, the second installment of the Transformers saga is, predictably, a battle for revenge. Shia LaBeouf reprises his role as Sam Witwicky as he tries to find the balance in his family life, his school life, his love life and his Autobot life. Sam must join with the Autobots he left in his past to stop the Decepticons from destroying the planet.
When Sam himself proves to hold the key to total Decepticon domination, only girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox), former Sector 7 agent Seymour Simmons (John Turturro) and newcomer Leo Spitz (Ramon Rodriguez) can help him save the world.
Rather than making Transformers 2 the traditional, run-of-the-mill blockbuster sequel, however, the movie is highly disappointing with too many random and overplayed storylines.
Coming to a Transformers-grade film, the audience expects to see fiery explosions, incredible battles, and lots and lots of robotics. But instead of viewing a movie full of thematic glory, Revenge of the Fallen fails in its dedication to intense action and high-quality special effects. The movie is more akin to a bunch of clichés slapped together and thrown on the screen.
Starting off the mess is the journey of taking the first Witwicky to college. Somehow, writers Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman seem to make this one of the most painful scenes in the whole movie. Even before we see any Autobots, Dad and mom are wreaking havoc on Sam’s old room, Sam’s baby photos, Sam’s long-distance relationship—every aspect of his life that the movie isn’t supposed to chronicle.
Bay should have drawn the line way before the teary-eyes Mom (Judy White) dropps her son off at college (Princeton, no less) with his baby booties wrapped around her neck. That is definitely not cool, especially when her son should supposedly be downplaying his role as the discoverer of a robotic race.
As per tradition in the action film genre, the second cliché came through in full throttle: babes looking to score more than just a ride in Sam’s Camaro.
Mikaela, widely seen as an over-exploited sex magnet, opens the scene fixing cars in her dad’s shop wearing the most scandalous version of coveralls every seen. The Daisy-Dukes are second only to Mikaela running in heels to escape a Decepticon. Both scenes are totally believable, combined with the astonishing fact that she’s even dating geeky Sam in the first place.
Nearly an hour into the not-so-brief diversion to Autobot University, we finally reach the promised action. And despite the unnecessary wait, the over-the-top, larger-than-life battle scenes won’t disappoint the hardcore action film fan.
The viewer’s level of adrenaline takes a spike every time the futuristic cars intricately unfold into the towering clan of Transformers led by Autobot Optimus Prime, voiced by Peter Cullen. Bumblebee, Sam’s rockin’ yellow Camaro, also makes a delightful reprise appearance.
New members to both the Decepticon and the Autobot side keep things fresh and interesting, even if you can’t tell who’s who among the mass of twisted metal.
One thing unanswerably sticks out, however: In a futuristic world where robots and humans fight side by side, their antiquated battle methods seem incredible, almost preposterous. Gunfire and fist fighting are unimpressive fighting techniques compared to the advanced special effects normally expected in Transformers.
Of course, the viewer does have to disregard several key national security glitches—scenes that include a bunch of Marines conning a National Security Advisor off a plane, a massive Decepticon ripping the top of a pyramid and a cleverly-disguised Decepticon-turned-Autobot living in the Smithsonian push the Patriot Act too far out the window.
Most of the annoying details make Revenge of the Fallen a barely-worth-it film, the bulk of which shouldn’t have made it past the cutting room floor. Even though the robo-action is excellent and up to Transformer’s par, the movie’s shortcomings still backfire in transforming the blockbuster into anything but a fail.