Jun 2009 23

T2 Master bill.typeWithout a doubt – Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is easily the most anticipated summer movie of 2009. The sequel to “Transformers,” which blew audiences away in 2007 making $319.2 million in the U.S., ROTF has to follow a tough act. But does the movie live up to the hype and anticipation?

The movie starts off during 17,000 BC where robots are battling and destroying humans. How the humans could have survived, seems to be the question, but is not relevant for the story. Enter “The Fallen” – an ancestor of the beloved Autobot Optimus Prime, who we all know and can’t get enough of. The robot army, led by The Fallen, can easily tear through any human alive, and seems to have no problem doing so. But the human race survives, and lives to fight another day.

Flash forward to present day. The hero of our story, Sam Witwicky(played by Shia LaBeouf) is getting ready to leave for college. Even if you haven’t seen the movie yet, and you have only watched the trailers, you will notice a couple of things that are immensely wrong right from the get-go. Number one – Sam is not bringing his first car to college. While many of us left for college with nothing but a beater car, – Sam has an alien robot that can transform into any car that exists in the known universe. And he leaves it at home in his parent’s garage. Number two – he leaves for college without bringing his “Megan Fox,” AKA girlfriend Mikaela. This is a decision that would have resulted in 99.9999999999 percent of the male population (with a remainder of infinity, I might add) going to community college near home. But I digress….

transformers_revenge_of_the_fallen_megan_fox1Problems start when Sam is packing for college, and he decides to grab his “lucky” hoodie that he was wearing during the first movie. Unbeknown to our hero, a piece of the “All-spark” was chipped off before it’s destroying, and must have been logged into his clothing. From here on, all hell breaks loose. Complete, and utter, robotic hell. Sam seems to have been possessed, and is consumed by the buried secrets that were guarded by Autobots for centuries. He knows things that he doesn’t even realize – but the Decepticons do, and they are not afraid to get their hand’s dirty in order to find them out.

If it is action you are looking for – it is action that you will get. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is full of plenty of robot fight scenes. Enough to make the likes of any sci-fi or action fan drool. And if you are a fan of the original cartoon series, it seems that you will be pleased by the way the movie reminds you of the old show. If you liked the first film, you will not be disappointed. But the film as a whole leaves something missing… at least for someone who is looking for a “good film.”

The problem with “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is that it tries to cater to too many audiences. I think that we can all agree that non-stop robot fights and explosions are a must for this movie. In those regards, the movie did not fail. The only problem was following which transformer was which – as most of the time, the camera work and fast-paced action made it VERY hard to tell. But the real issue at hand is that when you were in the middle of some intense action, or even a serious part that is trying to invoke some sort of emotion – it was very hard to take seriously, on account of some of the ridiculous scenes and characters. Imagine watching Romeo and Juliet, and as soon as the main characters are both dead – Jar Jar Binks decides to ride on screen on a unicycle, and juggles an array of flaming swords. It would be very hard to take the film seriously, or to have it make you feel any emotions. That is how I felt during some parts of “ROTF.”


I will get these two main problems with the movie out of the way now, so that we can get past them. Number one – apparently Sam’s mother became a completely different character from the first film. Yes, there where some silly parts in “Transformers” that were funny, and were definitely a great break from the non-stop action that we were exposed to. But in this movie, Sam’s mother takes it over the top. It is like she went from being a Nobel peace prize recipient, into becoming Spiccoli from “FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH.” That is how ridiculous her role was in this movie. In order to try and make the movie funny, Sam’s mother turned into a “bleach blond idiot” that just made no sense. Although it probably is funny at first to most of the audience, it simply makes NO sense what-so-ever. The second biggest problem – or “problems” I should say – are the two new Autobots that are introduced to us during the movie. No – you haven’t heard of them, and no – they haven’t been in anything that we have ever seen before. They were created entirely to try and become the comic relief in the middle of all of the action. But instead of appearing “here and there,” these “twins” are given a ridiculous amount of screen time. And all they do is argue and act absolutely idiotic, as they appear to be characters that make no sense as robots. I can stretch my imagination enough to believe that Transformers like Bumblebee can grow to have a relationship with Sam and Mikaela – but the fact is that robots are not going to have gold teeth and act like something out of a “Loony Tunes” cartoon. I can’t even comprehend how these characters can be justified.

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLENNow that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s move onto the acting. I feel that the actors in this film do a good job for the most part. Shia Lebouf always does a good job, and I never have a problem with anything that he is in. Megan Fox does a good job in having a great body, and reading lines – no problem there. John Turturro’s character, Agent Simmons, was actually very toned down from the original film. Although there was some crazy scenes that he was in, he was enjoyable for the most part. I am just so happy that the whole “Sector 7” thing was over in this movie. Josh Duhamel did a good job, as he did in the first. Somehow Tyrese’s character seemed to have changed in the same way that Sam’s mother did – but it was almost bearable.

Overall, if you liked “Transformers,” then you will like the sequel. “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is an action packed movie that delivers what you expect it to. From beginning to end, there are endless amounts of gigantic robots fighting, and enough explosions to make 4th of July fireworks look like “pop-rocks.” If the run time of 150 minutes is not a problem, then you surely will get your money’s worth. The movie is fun, certainly entertaining, and the story is definitely interesting. I think that if it weren’t as long, and some of the unnecessary scenes were cut out, the movie would be much more solid.

I give “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” a B-

Blake’s Take:

Easily the most hyped movie of the summer, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has a lot of expectations to live up to. The biggest problem is that it fails on almost every turn it makes. The first film was interesting, engaging with some good almost mindless action, fun characters and over the top action scenes. This time all I got was the mindless part, the fun and the characters are missing from much of this story. Which is an extreme disappointment.

As many of you know, this film takes place a bit after the first movie. Sam Witwicky is going away to college leaving his incredibly cool protector and car, Bumblebee, and his almost too hot to believe girlfriend Mikaela back in town. His parents do the normal empty nest fussing and he goes away, although not before he has another run in with the ‘Allspark’. When he gets to school he is suddenly able to fly through astronomy textbooks and prove Einstein wrong. In addition this this he is starting to see alien symbols everywhere which must mean something.

This is the beginning of the plot in a nutshell, the unfortunate thing is it takes too long to get to the point where he realizes he must rejoin with the Autobots to take care of it. Instead we are treated to sweeping camera movements around the two leads, and a maniacal mother who has no qualms about trying the pot brownies on the new college campus her son is going to, and depictions of the most unrealistic frat party every put on film. The bumbling movements of this film are so chaotic you sometimes wonder how they ever got past anyone. With a franchise this big, it is hard to believe that studios wouldn’t want to do everything to protect their investment.

Once you get into the meat of the story and learn about The Fallen and his fight for domination of Earth for an energy source the movie moves along at a better pace. From here on out it is pretty much nonstop action, it just takes no time delve into the characters.

Although I will give the film one big positive, the spectacle is beyond belief. If all you want to see is some huge robots killing each other with no semblance of a good story, then you are in luck. Everything about this film is spectacle, down to the new characaters introduced. No new character introduced is worth it, all of their screen time would have been better spent on developing characters already introduced in the first film. More characters are jammed in to appeal to a broader audience instead of shaping established characters we already care about. It’s really hard to make you feel nothing about a character you already had an emotional investment in during a previous film. Somehow they pull it off. Last film each Autobot was introduced to us one by one, this time there are so many thrown at you that it is at times hard to tell who is good and who is bad (here’s a clue, look for the cars that aren’t GM owned). There is no emotional attachment to any of the Autobots, they are drones who do the bidding of Michael Bay and the CGI wizards at ILM. No characterization is given to any character, all are there for their inevitable fight scene and for their GM logo to shine brightly on the big screen.

There are a number of scenes that will make you roll your eyes in this film. The first film had enough of those moments but seemed to balance it well enough with scenes of cooperation between Sam and the Autobots that it made for a very fun film. Once again the disappointment continues, instead of having scenes that help outweigh the obscene, they instead intrude on what could be very great scenes. The comic relief is jarring, not only is it not funny, but at times it panders to the audience at the wrong moment. The new albeit slightly racist toned twin Autobots are the two most jarring characters in the film. Almost every scene they are in they ruin. Providing comic relief in action films is great, otherwise you are so weighted down that the action gets overwhelming, Here you are treated to comic relief that is so distracting it is appalling. It doesn’t end with the twin Autobots. Sam’s mother who was over the top enough in the first film is so ridiculous in this one that you would hope actress Julie White would be ashamed of her role in this one. Newcomer, Ramon Rodriguez who plays Leo, adds not a single new dynamic to the film which leaves me scratching my head as to why he was in the film in the first place. He is not competition for Sam, nor a great friend, and not much of comedic value, unless of course you think screaming in fear at something stupid is funny.

The biggest flaw with Transformers is that it tries to do too much and never nails one thing definitively. It tries it’s hardest to throw everything at the wall to see what will stick, but in the end it could have used a bit more time to boil. Spectacle is not everything, you need something to enhance it. Imagine the greatest action sequence you have ever seen, now imagine it without a solid story to back it up, does it become worse? Of course it does. It just makes me think of what a fun movie this could have been with the right story. It’s hard to deny the action is fun in this, but once you get back to the story it lulls and becomes so predictable it’s harder to have fun than expected.

What I am saying might come off as overly nitpicky to many people, but I don’t think anything should be given a free pass because it is a movie of the summer blockbuster type. It has been proven many times now that you can have a great summer action flick and have a great story. Sure, the special effects are great, but when I look at this movie that is about all it had. It looks like my opinion might be the minority, but I think people should have higher standards for the films they watch.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen receives a D+.


One more look from Zac:

Michael Bay returns to the robot fighting business and the results are a gorgeous, long winded, and many times pointless adventure that didn’t really learn anything from the first film’s short comings.

Sam Witwicky is about to head off to college. Two years removed from his last adventure with the Autobots and Decepticons galaxy spanning battle for survival. The Autobots are now part of an elite global team called NEST and they travel the Earth looking for the remaining Decepticons hiding on our planet. Meanwhile, Sam and his girlfriend Mikaela are preparing for a long distant relationship as she stays behind to help keep her dad on his feet since leaving prison. As he packs, Sam finds a shard of the All Spark from two years earlier in the sweatshirt he was wearing and when he touches it something happens to him that he can not explain. Meanwhile, Optimus Prime and company take out a pair of Decepticons in hiding and learn of a plot for a “return of the fallen.” Sam is off at college for merely a day, and experiences some weird symbol visions to boot, when Bumblebee, his first car and protector, shows up from home and takes him to see Optimus and they discuss that a war is coming and that Sam and the humans may be at risk. From here, the Decepticons plot begins to unfold and Sam is sent on the run to protect the information in his head that he doesn’t quite understand.

Now, where to begin? First off, the effects are fantastic on par with Terminator for the best of the year but I am not quite sure if the action in this one lives up to the action in that film. The first hour or so of the film is on par with the first Transformers film. It’s fairly quickly paced, there are a few scenes where it is a bit much, and a plot line that is absolutely pointless and useless (the college roommate). There is a great action set piece to open the film and an epic fight in the woods between Optimus and some key Decepticons, but after this fight the film really starts to drag. And the reason it drags is because it is essentially the start of a new movie where we have to learn the origins and background of our new threat in the film. This stuff, while a bit long winded, probably would have worked if it was the opening of a film, but we get like 20-30 minutes of plot, background, and origins that is all there to set up a lackluster adventure tale and the final battle which is the entire third act.

Once the film gets to Egypt everything seems to almost be moving in slow motion as nothing is really happening yet the plot isn’t really moving forward. Bay does a great job at setting up this epic battle and while we certainly get a few quality bits and fights out of it, we spend far too much time following around the human counter parts doing very little to entertain or move things forward. I mean, what worked in the first film? If they had stayed with Sam and the Transformers and got rid of all the government and computer stuff and stripped the military guys to the bare minimum and you have a tight action packed and much shorter film that would have been even more greatly received. Here we have less sub plots but Bay still wastes a bunch of time going to them for no noticeable reason. I applaud him for just about nailing the right amount of the military personal this time, but he throws in this presidential advisor plot that does nothing for us, everything at the Coms base is pointless, and everything with the roommate and Turturro (who is actually bearable and no where near as annoying as he was in the first film) are a complete waste of time and are either redundant exposition or are a series of crude jokes you just wonder what they were thinking.

When it comes to the Transformers, there are just too many of them and the ones they exploit are annoying and you just want them to more or less go away. A new set of twin Autobots are actually a despicable and racist stereotype that are so poorly handled you are just asking yourself how did these two non-humorous and annoying robots get probably the most screen time in the film. In fact, it seems that unless you are a robot that can make dick and fart jokes or curse you don’t get to be on the screen all that much. I mean, did know one listen to anyone after the first film, we wanted more Optimus and Bumblebee not a couple of dumbass comedians when we asked for more robots. In fact, Bumblebee is completely underutilized and could have easily taken the place of these two clowns in the film, especially since they are actually capable of squeezing out some clever and fun humor from the character when they want to.

Also, I know you aren’t supposed to think so hard when watching a big summer movie like this, and I wasn’t I promise, but there were some glaring continuity errors and plot that were either contradictory or weren’t really thought out very well and while not ruining the film, they will cause you to go, “wait a second,” and will be serious fooder for anyone wanting to rip this film to shreds.
Though I will say, I did enjoy the parts I came to see. All of the Transformers, minus the twins and a misconceived elder Decepticon that shows up, are a joy to watch and have some pretty grand fights. When the action is focused on the robots the film is a blast, but unfortunately we don’t get as much as we want; again. There was some good humor between Sam and his parents as well, but the overkill it a bit, and the relationship between our two stars works a lot better in the film with LaBeouf and Fox doing as good enough job as they could with what they are given. And I am pretty much just rambling now so let’s just get to the end.

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In the end, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen works when it is focusing on what it does best, fighting robots, but is oddly paced and feels drug out for nothing of any kind of substance. Things are just happening for little reason sometimes and the plot in the later half of the film is almost an exact rip off (even down to the path and buildings) of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusades search for the cup of Christ. The first third of the film shows promise, even if similarly flawed to the first film, but eventually grows so big and has so little substance that we feel like we are waiting for something interesting to happen; and thankfully it is entertaining when it does. But I don’t know, fans of the first film will have some fun but I find it hard for anyone to merit this as being better then the first and if you weren’t a fan of the first one stay far, far, away; there is nothing for you here.

Revenge of the Fallen is a C-, and I don’t know how well that will hold up.


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