Paramount // 2009 // 149 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // October 26th, 2009
Revenge is coming.
Children of the '80s, take note: your childhood is in the hands of Michael Bay and he's making it go boom.
At the conclusion of Transformers, Optimus Prime and his crew of Autobots (robots that can turn into automobiles) defeated the villainous Decepticons, but that doesn't mean that the threat posed by the Decepticons has been eliminated entirely. Working closely with the US government, the Autobots continue to hunt down and destroy Decepticons hiding out around the world. However, the Autobots find themselves facing a much bigger problem when college freshman Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf, Disturbia) finds a sliver of the all-powerful All-Spark cube. Suddenly, Sam's brain is imprinted with all kinds of crazy crap and he finds himself being pursued by a host of villainous transformers. Even worse, there's a super-evil figure known as The Fallen who has risen from the dead. Then lots of things blow up, Shia LaBeouf frets, Megan Fox runs around in skimpy outfits and lots of machines punch each other.*
*It's a lot more convoluted than that, but do you really want me to spend ten paragraphs explaining it to you?
An Open Letter to the Cast and Crew of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Dear Michael Bay & associates,
I have just finished watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on DVD, the motion picture that all of you played a role in creating. I must admit, while I was not a fan of the first Transformers film, I was particularly struck by the sheer lack of quality this time around. If you'll permit me, I'll take a few minutes to address some of you directly.
Dear writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Ehren Kruger: What on earth were you guys thinking when you created this story? What should have been a fairly simple tale (good robots fight bad robots) turns into a needlessly complicated headache that goes out of its way to be incomprehensible, confusing, and completely lacking in believability. While it may sound ridiculous to criticize the lack of believability in a film called Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, keep in mind that I am not taking issue with the fact that this is a film about cars that turn into robots. I can accept the basic premise of the Transformers world, but sadly you have failed to infuse that world with any reasonable rules. In the first film, you gave us a conveniently preposterous McGuffin called the "All-Spark." In this film, you give us numerous McGuffins, from the magical Matrix thing to the magical sun-killing machine to the magical All-Spark sliver. Basically, you've created a bunch of ridiculous devices that can pretty much do anything you want them to do at any time. It's a very lazy way to create both conflict and conflict resolution. Orci and Kurtzman, you two wrote the wonderful Star Trek film that came out during the very same summer as this mess. Either you guys just didn't put any thought at all into this one, or that Kruger guy somehow managed to cancel out any good ideas you brought to the table.
Dear Shia LaBeouf: Dude, you have a reasonably natural charisma. Unlike some of the haters out there, I actually think you're okay. However, your performance in this film is not particularly good. Listen, speaking really fast and throwing in some occasional sarcasm does not go very far towards making your character seem exceptionally smart or hip.
Dear Megan Fox: I totally get that you're kind of The Girl that every guy wants to date (read: something much naughtier than date) right now, and I can understand that you are desperate to protect that image while you're still under the age of 25. But seriously, there are some of us who would admire you a whole lot more if you were less preoccupied with making sure that you look magazine-ready in absolutely every single frame and more preoccupied with supplying credible human reactions to the ridiculous situations in this film. Your super-hot-grease-monkey character is difficult enough to buy as it is; your poor acting only makes the situation worse.
Dear special effects team: I'm told that you did some good work in this movie. Honestly, I couldn't tell, because the camera work and editing are so incredibly hyperactive and incomprehensibly organized that I often had absolutely no clue of what was taking place onscreen. When the action scenes take place (and there are quite a lot of them), what we get is an audiovisual slice of mindless chaos, with a combination of explosions, banging sounds, metallic swooshes, pounding music and obnoxious one-liners joining forces to create the big-budget version of static. Watching the colorful light show on Windows Media Player for 150 minutes would be a far more satisfying and coherent experience than what we are given in the film.
Dear comic relief characters: Seriously, you guys were absolutely awful in this film. Kevin Dunn and Julie White, you two are perhaps the least convincing parents ever to appear in a film. Your performances this time make your appearances in the first film seem like scenes from a Bergman movie. That scene at the university when Shia's mom eats pot brownies and goes crazy...yeah, that was pretty cringe-inducing. Even less impressive are the two idiotic, gold-toothed, illiterate Latino Autobots. Very obnoxious characters that are offensive in dozens of different ways, both artistically and otherwise. John Turturro, you are an absolute madman. You were spectacularly terrible in this movie. Once again, you managed to distill the preposterous noise and absurdity of the film into your energy-drink-fueled performance. The humor in this film just doesn't work. Ever. When a film resorts to scenes of humping dogs (not to mention humping Decepticons) for a laugh on multiple occasions, you know it is desperate.
Dear Tyrese Gibson and Josh Dunhamel: You two continued your quest to create the most forgettable supporting characters in action movie history. I would comment on how well you achieved your mission, but I honestly can't remember anything about your performances other than that you were indeed in the movie for a pretty large chunk of time.
Dear composer Steve Jablonsky: Lame, lame, lame, dude. You should be ashamed of yourself. Having a 100-piece orchestra and a collection of synthesizers play the same handful of rumbling notes in unison does not qualify as competent writing. Please stop doing such horrible things to my ears.
Dear Decepticons: You know what? You Decepticons are pretty boring bad guys. You growl and yell and yammer about taking over the world and destroying all humans, but other than that, there just isn't much to you. Megatron and The Fallen are barely distinguishable from one another. One is voiced by Hugo Weaving and the other by Tony Todd, but it's more or less the exact same character in two vaguely different bodies.
Dear Michael Bay: You and I have had an on-and-off relationship for a long time. More off than on, honestly. I've disliked a lot of your movies, but I have to say, you pretty much lived up to everything bad that anyone has ever said about you here. You have crafted the ultimate slice of big-budget idiocy, a mindless toy commercial featuring shamelessly objectified female characters, irritating product placement and seemingly no artistic integrity whatsoever. Still, people will pay to see it, because you are combining one of their childhood fetishes with good-looking movie stars and that ever-reliable moneymaking business model, "blowing &$@# up." I'm not sure that I have ever seen a film that felt so little like a film and so much like a studio-manufactured product. Some fifty years ago it was said that American directors treated their audiences like children. That statement has never felt truer than it does after seeing your film. The end credits declare that the movie is, "Based on the Hasbro Action Figures." Naturally. Watching the battle scenes in this movie is basically like watching a $200 million version of a five-year-old pulling out all of his transformer toys. The kid smashes them together until pieces start to break off, makes a lot of exploding sound effects, spits all over the place, occasionally loses his train of thought, continues to do this for hours, and eventually gets bored with the whole thing and lets the good guy kill the bad guy. That's basically what happens in this movie. The only problem is that this film is much too lecherous, crass and violent for five-year-olds, but too mindless for anyone above that age. What a waste of time.
The film may be complete rubbish, but it's hard to fault this top-notch DVD presentation. The film looks about as strong as it's possible for a standard-def disc to look, though honestly I expected nothing less from a brand-new, high-profile release like this one. The imagery is sharp and detailed, the darker scenes benefit from considerable depth, and the action sequences manage to achieve as much visual clarity as Bay's hyperactive cameras will allow. While I'm not a fan of the oversaturated colors used throughout the film, that's entirely the fault of the film itself, not the transfer. The audio is very strong, though I do have a significant quibble with it. Yes, the action scenes rock like nobody's business, shaking and rattling the room with immersive ferocity. However, I did feel the dialogue scenes are just too quiet in contrast to the action scenes, and I was forced to adjust the volume on several occasions. Otherwise, it's a near-perfect track.
The supplemental package is superb. The first disc contains an audio commentary with Michael Bay, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. This is a moderately interesting listen, but personally I would just skip that track and jump into the goodies on disc 2 (which cover much of the same info in a more compelling manner). The biggest and best supplement is a 135-minute documentary entitled "The Human Factor: Exacting Revenge of the Fallen," which thoroughly covers every aspect of production. I found this doc considerably more involving than the film itself, both because it manages to be intriguing no matter what subject is being discussed, but also because it becomes unintentionally funny at times. The first few minutes are particularly hysterical, as cast and crew members attempt to come up with hyperbole grand enough to describe the film (My favorites: Megan Fox claiming that it gives her a real sense of what having testosterone feels like and a producer claiming that it makes the first film, "look like a margarine commercial"). Anyway, it's a great watch filled with good interviews and thorough behind-the-scenes footage (you even get to witness the actual moment in which Michael Bay comes up with the "brilliant" idea of putting big wrecking balls on one of the transformers).
Moving along to the smaller items on Disc 2, we get a 13-minute piece called "A Day With Bay: Tokyo," which follows the director as he deals with one of the hectic final days of shooting. "25 Years of Transformers" (10 minutes) is a nice yet brief piece detailing the history of the characters in various forms of media, while "Nest: Transformer Data-Hub" offers lots of text pieces and photo galleries for each major character. "Deconstructing Visual Bay-Hem" (23 minutes) is a collection of brief featurettes detailing different aspects of creating the special effects, while three deleted/alternate scenes (running 6 minutes total) are exceptionally disposable. Finally, you get a Linkin Park video (featuring the song "New Divide") and a theatrical trailer. Overall, an immensely impressive batch of stuff for a film undeserving of such in-depth attention.
This is a nonsensical, headache-inducing...
Guilty, but this film's $400 million box office haul makes my verdict about
as pointless as robot testicles.
Review content copyright © 2009 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 149 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Music Video