Sunday, July 3, 2011

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

In 2007, the first in a trilogy of live-action Transformers movies was released by Paramount Pictures. It proved to be quite popular and quickly became one of my favorite movies. Having enjoyed the first Transformers movie, I was excited when a sequel, Revenge of the Fallen, was announced for release in 2009, Michael Bay returning for directorial duties. Although this was in production during the 2007-2008 Writer's Guild of America Strike, I still had some hope that it would still be amazing despite that. When I saw it both the first time and recently, I ended up having the opposite reaction: utter disappointment.

The plot of the film is all over the place, but I can give you the basic details: After the events of Transformers, the Autobots have joined with the military to form NEST (Non-Biological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty), a group set out to hunt down any remaining Decepticons on Earth. During one encounter in Shanghai, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) is given a warning by the Decepticon Demolishor (Calvin Wimmer) that "The Fallen shall rise again." As NEST tries to figure out this message, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is preparing to go to College. However, he comes into contact with an AllSpark fragment in his jacket, causing him to see Cybertronian symbols in his head. He soon becomes an item of interest for the Decepticons as The Fallen (Tony Todd) prepares to make his return to Earth and harvest the Sun.

As with the last movie, the special effects are spectacular. Industrial Light and Magic still knows how to show the powers of visual effects, especially since the film now includes 360-degree views of the robots transforming to robot mode. It's amazing to just look at how much detail every character model has and how it blends in with the real world containing them.

Sadly, this is almost everything good about the movie. Many of the actors still manage to deliver solid performances, among the best being Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime and Mark Ryan as Jetfire, but there's not much else beyond that. The movie, though about as long as the one before, often feels like it's taking forever to actually end, especially during the battle scene that takes up much of the running time.

There's a plethora of uneccessary moments in this movie, including, but not limited to: A two-minute scene of Sam's mom (Julie White) high after eating pot brownies, dogs briefly engaging in intercourse (twice), Wheelie (Tom Kenny) dry humping Mikaela's (Megan Fox) leg, Jetfire "farting" a parachute, a shot of Simmons' (John Turturro) underwear, and a shot of Devastator's (Frank Welker) scrotum; he has big wrecking balls down there even though none of the Constructicons, a special group of Decepticons that become construction vehicles, that form him even turn into a wrecking ball. Things like this really stretch the PG-13 rating a bit, as well as at least 1 use of the F-word and part of a scene near the beginning: After Sam touches the AllSpark fragment from his jacket, it burns through the floor in his room down to the kitchen, which brings several appliances to life including a blender with a rather suggestively placed cannon, referred to in the special features as "D**kbot the blender guy." Overall, the movie could've been shortened a bit by taking out these moments and probably around half of the final battle.

There's another thing I don't understand that screws with the Transformers mythos a bit. The first movie establishes that the AllSpark is the source of Cybertronian life, yet here it's "hatchlings" that require Energon to stay alive. This can cause one to think of Transformer reproduction a bit too hard, so make of that what you will.

Revenge of the Fallen is a very disappointing Transformers movie. There's too much sexual humor, the final battle feels much too long, and more scenes than the first either didn't need to be there or could've been more condensed. On the upside, the special effects are more stunning than the previous installment, so this movie is a guilty pleasure at best. Even hardcore Transformers fans won't like the film very much, and there's not much incentive to begin with. If you want a good Revenge of the Fallen experience, I would suggest reading the comic or book adaptations, as the book makes a little more sense, the comic is more simplified in story, and they both have better endings. Here's hoping the next installment, Dark of the Moon, turns out better.

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