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Transformers 2 Blows Up Common Sense and Reason

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Directed by Michael Bay
Written by Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman
Dreamworks/Paramount, 2009

The prevailing sentiment that rang through all the noise and publicity for the Transformers sequel was the careful shielding of critical backlash before the movie finally arrived.  In sum, the stars, producers, and director Michael Bay all came out and said, “It’s a movie about giant robots…what are you expecting, Oscar material here?”

There is a tendency for much of the world to believe that critics walk into a movie like Transformers expecting to see this very thing, and in the absence of Oscar-winning depth, decide to give the movie a terrible review.  This is not how most critics work, in fact, but whenever a big dumb movie like Transformers is beloved, it’s easy to assume a critic is just looking for something else.  “Well, it’s no The Reader I’ll tell you that.”  This kind of belief is insulting, that an intelligent person would expect anything else out of Transformers.

I think most critics would love to see a big, dumb action movie that Michael Bay could produce, if only he could cut out all the other stuff that makes most of his movies such a chore to watch.  I’ll tell you right upfront: I am on board with seeing giant robots beat the crap out of each other with a thin plot and pretty people.  If you don’t believe that a critic can enjoy something that isn’t “Oscar worthy”, then take a look at my review of Crank: High Voltage.  That movie is completely devoid of anything in which any kind of respected committee would award trophies.

My argument about Transformers, and it’s inferior sequel, is that if it’s just about giant robots fighting, then why isn’t it two hours or less?  It really doesn’t take that much to advance this plot, yet the characters find themselves in multiple locales introducing new characters, new artifacts that need to be found, and multiple plot threads that seem mechanically inserted to service and justify whatever happens next, which is often confusing.  Hey, we’re paying to watch giant robots fighting, but there are long stretches where there are no robots fighting, to the point you wonder where in the hell the robots are.

In Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the plot goes something like this: Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is going to college.  His parents (Kevin Dunn and Julie White) are preparing for the Empty Nest, and Sam and his girlfriend Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox) are about to begin the long-distance relationship and the agony over saying, “I love you.”  And, Sam’s trusty Camaro, Bumblebee (voiced by Mark Ryan), is feeling bad that he won’t be able to go to college with Sam.  Meanwhile, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) is getting flack from the government, mainly NSA guy Galloway (John Benjamin Hickey) who wants all the Transformers out of the planet.  Optimus believes there will be more Decepticon shenanigans and the Earth won’t be protected, and needs Sam to be able to convince the government to let them stay.

Sam accidentally touches a fragment of the Decepticon technology from the first film that makes any machine into a mini-Decepticon, and we get the nice little (accidental?) Gremlins homage when that fragment finds its way into the Witwicky kitchen and turns everything into tiny evil robots.  Sam starts seeing symbols, and just in time for his first class he goes crazy trying to make sense of them.  A really hot girl named Alice (Isabel Lucas) is also making this whole long-distance thing difficult, but she acts really weird so we probably shouldn’t trust her anyway.

Making sense of the symbols leads our heroes to New York City, where they find the disgraced Agent Simmons (John Turturro) working in a Brooklyn deli.  Simmons, though, keeps all sorts of classified documents down below the deli, and they find out where the symbols come from…leading them to an aerospace museum where an “old” good Decepticon (complete with cane) helps them…to transport inexplicably to Egypt, where the movie is destined to end.

So what do the Decepticons want?  First, they need to resurrect Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving), who was dumped in the ocean in the first movie.  This requires finding some sort of power artifact that was pulled from his body and then sent to an Area-51 style place where it is supposedly well-guarded.  Megatron wants to resurrect The Fallen (voiced by Tony Todd), a bigger, badder robot who wants to destroy the sun.  This will require getting this artifact called The Matrix, which will serve dual functions, but one of them is to operate some sort of machine that will destroy the sun.

And, somewhere in this mish-mashed tale belongs our soldiers Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and Sergeant Epps (Tyrese Gibson) who are completely pointless as they shoot weapons that have no chance of succeeding at the robots, and are featured so many times you’d swear they’re important, but after the movie you’ll realize that they serve no critical function whatsoever.

See what I mean?  It took me five different paragraphs to discuss even the main parts of the movie, and I still haven’t mentioned everything (for instance, the two African-American sounding twin robots who look like monkeys, have gold teeth, and can’t read, and are voiced by white guy Tom Kenny).  You will be pummeled with artifact-finding missions in this film.  There are three of them, and any one of them could have probably been written to do the other’s work.  It’s pretty difficult to keep them all straight.  So while I’m waiting for robot battles all I get is one weak plot thread after another…so many that it inflates the movie close to three hours.

I have no doubt many people will go to this and love it, and somehow forget how much bad is in the movie.  To me, it’s the equivalent of eating a huge steak that has mostly grissle and fat and maybe one or two bites of actual tender, juicy meat in it.  And people would come up to me and say, “Yeah, but it was a huge steak, wasn’t it?”  Sorry guys, a movie like this can be made much better and there’s no excuse for it.  All the stuff you like from this movie can stay: robot battles and Megan Fox.  All the long explanations and randomness that inflate the movie can go.  Just have a robot called The Fallen who wants to destroy the world, and have a bunch of cool robots try to attack it and try to find its weak spot and call it a day.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is so bad, I think I might consider it to be one of the worst this decade has to offer.  My apologies to Uwe Boll, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer.

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Next: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

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