Review: Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen
This is a long and rambling rant against the atrocity that was Revenge Of The Fallen. If you have any semblance of a life or haven’t seen the film yet and actually want to, I suggest you stop reading because I intended on spoiling the flip out of the shitter.
Listen, the first Transformers movie I enjoyed. It was silly throwaway fluff. Yes, it was too long, you couldn’t see what the hell was going on half the time, and there were far too many annoying superfluous characters. What it did do was nail the BIG ROBOTS FIGHTING, have the odd affecting scene, and have a genuine get out of your seat, punch the air, geekgasm moment when heroic Autobot Bumblebee transformed and squared off against the evil Decepticon police car, Barricade.
Look, I’ve been burnt before by the Hollywood Hype Machine. The worst burn being Spider-Man 3. My overly excessive expectations ran away with themselves (quite rightly after the brilliance of Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2) and when the film turned out to be a big pile of “Meh”, it hurt. My expectations for Revenge Of The Fallen were no where near that height. I was, at best, cautiously optimistic. The teaser and the trailer reinforced that optimism with their flash bang wallop, though, they contained little in the way of plot details (the reason which, in hindsight, is blindingly obvious). Upon seeing the film, many, if not all my fears, were realised, and discussing it with my friend, BunchOfSteve (many of his ideas which I appropriate here), helped distill my thoughts.
After a pre-title sequence which is probably one of the biggest missed opportunities in movie merchandise history (turns out the robots have been to Earth before in human pre-history! Dinobots, anyone? No? No.), the film opens with an action scene that was a very big part of the trailers. Giant Decepticon bulldozer, Demolisher, is tearing up Shanghai. The Autobots and the army guys from the first film are sent to stop him. After much destruction and explosions, Autobot leader, Optimus Prime, takes the out the bulldozer and is the left with the ominous warning “The Fallen will rise again”.
Okay, that sounds like a pretty cool opening five minutes, huh? This scene, which made up a lot of the more exciting bits of the trailer, was just the first in the film, the shit they’re gonna show later will be HUGE… Except, that it isn’t. The camera swings about all over the place making hard to make out what the heck is going on, and within that chaos they choose to introduce five or six new, but similar looking, robots into the mix. They fight, some get blown up, and I swear most of those who survive the battle you never see again. And the one robot who is distinctive, who does stand out, Demolisher, is spunked away, killed off in minutes!
It starts as it means to go on. This is the entire film. 140 minutes of whirling lights and thunderous sound. The barest thread of plot ties the scenes together. It goes something like this – The Fallen, the big bad, has a grudge against Earth because back in the day he, as one of the seven “Primes” (the original Transformers), came here to harvest our sun. The Primes harvested suns for Energon, the energy that powered the Allspark (the McGuffin from the first film that gave the Transformers life) but an unfortunate side-effect of this harvesting is the destruction of the sun. To that end, the Primes never harvested a sun where one of the orbiting planets had life. The Fallen didn’t like this and wanted to harvest the sun anyway and battled the Primes to do so. The Primes were victorious and banished The Fallen (and that’s how he got the name) to one of the moons of Saturn. He would only be released when the last of the Primes were destroyed. The Fallen swore revenge on Earth so the surviving Primes took The Matrix of Leadership (the key to the sun harvester) and sealed themselves around in kinda metal cave/tomb type thing. As you do.
That’s the set-up. Most of the film revolves around hero of the first film, Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf). He is zapped by a shard of the Allspark (which was all but destroyed in the first film when Sam used it kill Decepticon leader, Megatron) and starts seeing Cybertronian (Transformers home world) symbols that lead the way to The Matrix Of Leadership and the sun harvester. The Decepticons hunt for Sam to get this information and start the sun harvester, while the Autobots try to protect Sam and stop the Decepticons.
And that’s pretty much it. Now I intend going into greater depth about things that annoyed me. First, the humour, or there lack of. Dogs rutting on the couch not funny enough for ya? Here, have them going at it again on the lawn not even a minute later! Hey, I know, Sam’s Mom eats some “magic cookies”! That’s high-lair-ee-us, no? No. What about a robot dry-humping the leg of Megan Fox? Old age robots farting parachutes? A giant robot with wrecking balls for testicles? Really? REALLY?! Sigh. I know this film is aimed at kids but even they have a more sophisticated taste than this.
Next, the twins. Now, I’m not easily shocked, but when I saw this duo I was astounded. These robots have big barrel chests, ape-like bodies, and monkey faces. They talk “ghetto”, continually fight each other, and one even has a gold tooth. At one point, and I quote, they say “We don’t read so good”. Honestly, they make Jar Jar Binks look like head of the Commission for Racial Equality.
I don’t want to sound precious with my blockbusters, honestly, there are times when I enjoy nothing more than reveling in the gloriously dumb (this is a film with BIG FLIPPING ROBOTS, after all). That said, there are limits. When a film begins to ignore it’s own crazed logic, that’s when I want out. Case in point – Jetfire, an old and decrepit robot who can barely walk without the aid of a stick, suddenly has the ability to transport not only himself but four people and three robots clear to the other side of the world in an instant! Buh?! It’s gosh-darned lazy-ass writing that makes no sense whatsoever. Also, did I mention that the sun harvester is buried underneath one of the Pyramids at Giza? Yuh-huh! Oh, and that robots can be in two places at once? You see, there’s a giant Decepticon named Devastator who’s made up of smaller robots called the Constructicons. Devastator is ordered to pull down a pyramid and reveal the sun harvester, yet when he’s doing that, the Constructicons are seen battling the Autobots and Army guys in the desert! Fnuh!
And how about this for head-hurtingly extreme dumbness – Quite early in the film, an Army guy looks up at Optimus Prime and says something like “If God made us in his image, you gotta wonder who the hell made these guys!”. A pretty cool line you may think. Hey, maybe Bay is gonna have a sly dig at organised religion in his overblown toy and car commercial! No. Nothing of the sort. What we get is near the end of the film when Sam is killed and ends up in Robot Heaven. Robot Heaven. Sam, the human, dies and goes to ROBOT HEAVEN.WHAT. THE. FUCK. Moving on…
Megatron. In the first film Megatron was bad-ass. I mean proper full-on, don’t even think about fucking with me, bad-ass. When he showed his face, Autobots scarpered. Even Optimus Prime, the most powerful Autobot, didn’t think he could defeat Megatron and had his shiny metal behind well and truly kicked. It took Sam forcing the Allspark (the mystical, magical life-force of the Transformers) deep into Megatron’s chest to finish him off. So, what do they do in the sequel? They bring Megatron back to life and fly off to a moon orbiting Saturn (What?) where he bows down before, and apparently becomes the sidekick/apprentice/bitch to The Fallen (WHAT?!).
Finally, Optimus Prime. Now, I may be being overly sentimental here but there’s an entire generation of manly-types who adored and craved Prime in their youth. For many Optimus was their first “must-have” toy and he topped the christmas wishlists of many a young sprog the world over. If you happened to be one of the lucky sprogs who got him then hours would be spent driving around the bedroom carpet and having him transform and battle the evil Decepticons (or, if you were particularly imaginative like me, battling your Star Wars, Action Force, He-Man, and Thundercats figures). So, there is a lot of affection for this lump of plastic and all we twenty/thirty somethings ask is that he’s treated with respect. Which brings me to what really should be the emotional and action centrepiece of the movie -
Sam, in the clutches of Megatron and about to have his brain removed to find the whereabouts of the The Matrix of Leadership, is rescued by Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. Prime and Sam race off and become separated from Bumblebee and end up in some woods. Cornered by three Decepticons, Megatron, Starscream, and Grindor (I had to look that up because I don’t think his name’s mentioned in the film), Optimus tells Sam to hide while he fends off the terrible trio. A big battle ensues and Prime holds his own. He takes out Grindor, manages to cut off Starscream’s arm, and just when it look like he’s getting the upper hand he’s stabbed, quite literally, in the back by Megatron. With his last words he tells Sam to run. Sam does is picked up and rushed away by the late-arriving Autobots.
Don’t get me wrong, this scene is pretty watchable in comparison to the rest of the film, yet, in a film that’s 140 minutes long, it is far too brief and lacks that “epic” quality. If it were up to me (and Gosh be willing, some day it will be), I would have had the Transformers, dwarfed by Giant Sequoia, having a more cat-and-mouse battle among the trees, with Prime using the woodland to hide and to take out his foes in a guerrilla/Rambo-esque stylee. But, hey, what do I know?
I’m also not pissed off that they killed off Optimus. As I’ll explain in a little bit, I’ve been through that before. No, what pissed me off is the way they treated Prime after his death.Way back in Transformers: The Movie, the movie version of the cartoon series made 1986, Hasbro (makers of the Transformers toys) cynically insisted that many characters were killed off in the film to make way for a new line of toys. Optimus Prime was one of those characters. Mortally wounded battling Megatron (“One shall stand, one shall fall”), Prime hands The Matrix Of Leadership to Ultra Magnus to be used to “light our darkest hour”. What the writers realised back then is that Optimus meant something, and without him the Autobots are lost. They get split into two groups, and only in their darkest hour when facing a giant planet-eating robot called Unicron, do they come together under a young Transformer, Hot Rod, who uses the Matrix to become the new Prime, Rodimus.
In Revenge Of The Fallen, what do they do? The very first scene they cut to after Prime’s death is not the Autobots mourning their loss, it’s a bunch of military vehicles driving about a base somewhere. When they do eventually cut to the Autobots, are they confused and lost without their leader? No. They don’t even seem to give a shit! Sam also doesn’t seem that concerned because he’s convinced The Matrix will bring Optimus back to life. So, he gets the Army to cart Prime’s body around in the back of a plane and even drop it out into the desert so he’s able to get The Matrix to him after his encounter with the Primes in ROBOT HEAVEN. Of course, Sam is right and The Matrix does bring Optimus back to life, therefore rendering his death COMPLETELY FUCKING POINTLESS.
I lay the blame for this mess squarely on the shoulders of Michael Bay. He was given free licence after the success of the first film to do whatever the hell he wanted, and boy did he go to to town. I can see him sitting with screenwriters going “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” and them trying desperately to tie these ideas together in a working plot. “Wouldn’t it be cool if we saw cavemen fighting robots?”, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we saw robots flying to Saturn?”, Wouldn’t it be cool if we saw ROBOT HEAVEN?”…
This film is a whole new level of retarded. It eschews any logic to be almost avant-garde, art house cinema. But it’s not. It’s a MICHAEL FUCKING BAY picture and it’s brain-achingly, mind-fryingly dumb.