TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
Posted: Mon, Jun 29 2009 - 22:20 PM
I have a confession to make -- a dirty little secret, if you will: I like Michael Bay movies. Notice I did not say “films” ... I said movies. Don't get me wrong, I love me some films of the art house variety, too, but I (unlike other stuffy critics) know when to leave my brain at the door, release my inner adolescent and enjoy a cinematic thrill ride. And Bay has been honing his thrill ride formula for a good little while now. Bad Boys, The Rock, Armageddon (love that one), Pearl Harbor -- the man's got his recipe down pat. One gets the feeling that Bay overdosed on 1970's Spielberg films (especially Jaws and Close Encounters), 1980's Tony Scott movies (I'll bet he LOVED Top Gun), and everything directed by James Cameron (their common motto: THINK BIG). Watching a Bay movie is a little like climbing into a brand new sports car with a super model, turning up the radio as loud as it will go and driving as fast as you can through the most dangerous area you can find. After a couple of hours you are probably ready to pull over and get out, but while the ride lasts, you feel like a kid again. Thrills, spills, romance, laughs, action, scale, and bombast. It's easy to see why producer Spielberg hand picked Bay for 2007's Transformers.
I'll admit I never really got the appeal of this cartoon/toy series in the 80s -- I was a little too old by then -- and when I heard that Steven Spielberg was producing a live action version two years ago, I thought he was crazy. I was half right ... he's crazy like a fox! That 2007 film grossed over $700 million worldwide. A sequel was inevitable.
While I am a bit late posting this review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, it has already grossed over $200 million domestic in only five days, despite garnering some of the worst reviews I have ever read. Given those opposing (but not unusual) facts, as I headed to my local IMAX theater this afternoon, my expectations were a wash. I liked (but didn't love) the first Transformers movie -- and I assumed this would be more of the same. My mistake: this movie is MORE of the same.
The plot: irrelevant. I couldn't explain it if I tried ... but here goes: Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is headed to college. Struggling with his clueless (but still hilarious) parents, and whether or not to take his Autobot Camaro to school (huh?), he also is having trouble expressing his feelings to his girlfriend, Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox, looking ever more like a young Angelina Jolie). Things go awry, however, when Sam finds a shard of the AllSpark he used to destroy Megatron in the first movie. As he is downloaded with a mind-numbing amount of alien information, Sam begins to exhibit strange behavior at the worst possible times. This starts in motion a chain of events that will see a new war between the Autobots and the Decepticons -- one that will stretch from the far reaches of space, to the ocean depths, to the Smithsonian, to the Egyptian pyramids (used here to staggeringly epic effect). The plot is actually far more complicated than this, but to try and explain more would be like trying to give a detailed report on the painted backdrop of your favorite roller coaster: it's a little beside the point.
MEGAN FOX AND SHIA LaBEOUF
Reliable review in a nutshell: If you liked the first movie, you'll like this one, too. If you hated the first movie ... there's no talking to you and why are you even reading this review?
Some critics (and erstwhile prudes) have lambasted this movie for things I just didn't get. Sexual content? Yes, the camera does ogle a couple of its female stars, but certainly no more than you would see on television after 8:00 (‘course, that's not saying a lot these days). Remember Megan Fox's bared midriff from the first movie, when she was looking under the hood of Sam's car? Think that, squared. Bay has always featured beautiful (clothed) women in his movies, lit in a golden glow of fantasy. If this offends you, you should probably know better than to go to a Michael Bay movie anyway ... you may also want to steer clear of the magazine rack at your local supermarket. This movie's PG-13 rating is right on.
There have also been complaints of racial stereotypes by a couple of the Autobots, Mudflap and Skids, whose “ebonics-speak” has been (unfairly) compared to minstrel shows, Amos and Andy, and Jar Jar Binks. I didn't get these comparisons at all. While they are obviously caricatures meant for comic relief, there is nothing hateful here. If anything, they are goodheartedly poking fun at gangbangers, not an entire race of black people. To confuse the two is to imply that all black people act, speak and think like gold-sporting, krunk-wearing, rap-listening gangbangers (no offense to them), and such an implication is far more racist than anything in this movie.
Does the movie wear out its welcome? At 2 1/2 hours, there is definitely some trimming that could have been done -- especially in the final reel -- but what is on screen is so overwhelmingly eye-popping (ginormous robots fighting atop the Egyptian pyramids), this complaint is merely like saying the roller coaster was too long.
As for the rest of the critics, whose remarks have gleefully spewed hate on Bay and this movie, I will say this: one does not go to a theater to see a movie called Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen expecting to be intellectually enlightened, subtly moved, or emotionally ... transformed. One does go expecting a mindless epic thrill ride, an old-fashoned monster movie with state-of-the-art effects, and on that level, Bay succeeds in spades. What this movie lacks in logic and coherence, it more than makes up for with spectacle and FUN. What more do you want from a summer blockbuster?
PS -- If you have the option of seeing this on an IMAX screen, do not hesitate to put down a few extra bucks. Well worth the upgrade.
Category: Movie Reviews