July 4, 2009

Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen (07/04/09)

Lettergrade: D

Critics, Transformers fans, and casual film-goers alike all agree that Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen is pretty bad. I don't feel like I need to bend over backward to make that argument. But trying to come up with something insightful - or even witty - to say about the movie is another story. In the first line of his essay, Roger Ebert calls the movie "a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments." How in the world can a bush league player like myself hope to compete with a comment like that?

I'll start by rehashing a number of observations I had about the first movie: Again, I could barely tell a single one of the robots apart (not counting Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and two illiterate black robots who are new to the cast this time). Megan Fox is still one of the worst actresses I've ever seen in a major motion picture, boasting, as others have noted, the appearance of the porn star and the acting talent to match. The cinematography is a little better this time, but is still marred by Michael Bay's signature preference for getting the lens as close to the subject as possible, then shaking the hell out of it as the shot happens. This, combined with the hyperactive editing, creates the feeling that you're watching the whole movie on a small boat in rough waters. What's wrong with actually getting a good look at whatever's happening on screen?

I loved the Transformers cartoon show when I was a kid, and one of the great pleasures of the first movie was that trailer voice-over maestro Peter Cullen was brought in to once again provide the voice of Optimus Prime. He's back this time, and is joined by more members of the old guard as well, most conspicuously voice god Frank Welker as Soundwave, who floats above the earth intercepting communications as a satellite.

I can't think of much else to say that hasn't already been said. The plot is ludicrous, incomprehensible, and barely worth discussing. Logic is not part of this world, nor is continuity: On many occasions, you'll see a robot doing something in one shot, and then in the next shot, that exact same robot will be doing something totally different (or at least, I think it's the same robot). If you could tolerate and enjoy the first movie, you'll probably have the same feelings about this one. The first movie probably pissed me off a little more. Either I've mellowed a little or I was going in with lowered hopes.

The comic relief is puzzling. Julie White and Kevin Dunn return as Shia LaBeouf's parents. White, a really funny actress, is again allowed to just basically do whatever the hell she wants and gnaw the scenery at will, such as during an extended sequence where she consumes pot brownies that she unknowingly purchased at a college campus bake-sale, and loses her shit for minutes on end (because she had never heard of pot during the 60s and 70s, apparently, and the brownies also contained concentrated doses of LSD). This is a movie where everything is so garish, and in-your-face, and utterly unconvincing that events like this didn't even really phase me.

One that did, though, happens with John Turturro, who returns as Agent Simmons. At one point during the film's third act in Egypt, he removes his trousers, revealing a tight thong underneath. "What's that?" one of the characters understandably wonders aloud. Off-camera -- and very quickly, almost so as not to be understood by those who are not paying close, close attention -- Turtorro seems to say, "Oh, I wear these when I want to fuck." I'm not sure how a line like that wound up in a PG-13 summer popcorn movie (or even what it is supposed to mean in the context of the scene), but suffice to say it was the most interesting one of the movie.

I'll leave you with a few links. The first is an hysterical post from Topless Robot, detailing the film's many incongruities. I also like how Rob ably points out that there's no reason for much of the plot to even happen if the All-Spark shard could easily do what it does to Optimus significantly earlier in the flick:

Topless Robot - Rob's Transformers 2 F.A.Q.s

My review of the first Transformers

And finally, a Verizon Fios commercial that came out a year or two back. I know he didn't direct it, but I still consider it the best thing that Michael Bay has ever been involved with:

1 comment:

  1. Well, it's a bad film, no doubt, but I enjoyed it. Much as I enjoyed "King King vs. Godzilla."

    Didn't have any problem telling robots from one another and don't give a crap about any of the things I usually give a crap about in films, little things like continuity and so on.

    Contrary to what many a fan-boy will tell you, it's miles better than the idiotic cartoon, which I have also come to love. I haven't much choice as it is Jack's preferred viewing choice every single day, working his way through the G1 series and then it is on to Unicron Trilogy.

    Also it has given me reason to acquire, maybe the most kickass movie toys ever.

    One way in which it is dead faithful to the old show: a complete disregard for continuity.

    I will say the movie could readily lose 45 minutes of its running time and bet a better movie for it.

    You've gotta love the, oh I'd say roughly 4 minutes where Optimus is kicking ass, and also when Bumblebee strips Ravage off the bone. For me those bits were worth my 12 bucks. The rest of the movie could be Shia LaBoeuf sitting on the toilet reading ESPN: The Magazine as far as I'm concerned.

    Could you make a better movie out of this material? Sure. It's just not likely anyone would be able to on this kind of budget. I know that sounds absurd because it's a huge budget, but the only reason a movie like this gets made for those dollars is that Bay, myriad though his failings are, is an extremely disciplined filmmaker. He religiously brings these huge things things in, on or under time and budget.

    I know that too sounds ludicrous, with these big spectacles, but he just doesn't waste money and uses everything he can lay his hands on -- locals for extras, free military troops who are glad to be in the movie, catching footage of Air Force practice flights to use them in the movie while set-ups are being done elsewhere. He's able to pull these things off because he is really focused, runs an efficient 12-hour day down to the minute and there is almost no down time on his sets -- there's always something to be shot, so let's get it done. I know more than one filmmaker who could benefit from this kind of attitude and I think, whatever you make of his movies there is a lot to be said for this lack of wastefulness.