Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen [Spoilerbots: Transform and roll out!]

It must've been John Rogers' lack of involvement. It kept slipping my mind that this movie was being made; when the trailers came out, I wasn't overly stirred by them; and then the reviews from critics starting coming far and wide that this movie was...um...not good, to put it politely. (21% at Rotten Tomatoes — currently among the bottom ten ratings for films currently showing.)

So I wasn't particularly planning on seeing it anytime soon. Maybe some weekend matinee in a few weeks' time. But then, last night, my nephew called me. "Hey," he said, "We're all going to see Transformers in an hour. Wanna come with?" It was family, and I was at the Barnes & Noble across the street from the theater when he called, so I figured...why not? I called Jen, we met up and grabbed a quick dinner, and then headed to the movies.

My bottom line (which you've already seen if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter) is, while Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is not as worthless as Ebert says, the previous one and the animated movie were both FAR better.

First the good:
• No matter what you give them to work with, John Turturro and Shia LaBeouf will always deliver watchable performances.
• I liked that Frank Welker got a solid part in this movie. His voice is showing his age more than Peter Cullen's is (which is why he didn't get the gig as Megatron's voice), but he can still do a good Soundwave.
• I found it easier (for the most part) to visually distinguish the different robots in this movie.
• If you like explosions, you will not be disappointed.
• I'll never object to a Rainn Wilson cameo (which I didn't know about, and so was pleasantly surprised by).

The eyeroll-worthy:
• I didn't know Maxim magazine had started their own college, but that appears to be what Sam wound up at. Let's call it LadMag U.
• "The twins" (and no, I'm not talking about Megan Fox's tendency to wear low-cut tops). You may've heard about these two Autobots: Mudflaps and Skids, a couple of ghetto-fabulous robots throwing around street slang, sporting a gold tooth, proving functionally illiterate, and generally providing "comic relief." Some call them racist caricatures; I just call them unnecessary.
• Speaking of the comic relief: fart jokes, leg-(and other things)-humping dog/robot jokes, "ew! parent sex!" jokes, old people/robot jokes, "testicular torture" (term ™ Dann Gire) jokes, drug use jokes... I didn't really feel a lot of that was appropriate for my younger nieces and nephews who were with us...but then, the movie is rated PG-13, so I really can't blame anyone but my sisters for that one.

And now, the bad:
• Flimsy characterization: Sam and Mikaela were more or less functional as hapless everymen ("everymans"?) reacting to situations bigger than them. Everyone else, human and robot, was pretty much a cartoonish caricature. It's like lolcat captions — "Good robot is good;" "Bad robot is bad;" "Goofy man is goofy"...these were not so much characters as they were one-note character tics given life. And, of course, none of the characters showed any actual growth. No hero's quest in this story, no sir.

• "Because I said so" plot: The Fallen can only be beaten by a Prime...why? Archaeologists never discovered these HUGE ADVANCED MACHINES beneath millennia-old structures...why? Sam (I keep wanting to call him Sparkplug) knew his plan would work...why? The shard Sam found — and thank god they never put those clothes through the washing machine in the intervening two years, huh? — was activated then...why? The plot is almost entirely driven by scenes/events that have to happen because the story needs them to happen, not because it actually makes sense for them to happen.

• In the first film, the U.S. military were shown as superbly competent, professional soldiers who responded to a situation readily and effectively. In this film, the U.S. military (or at least the secret branch of it assigned to work with the Autobots) is depicted as a gung-ho boys' club with little regard for those who don't agree with them and even less interest in protocol or chain of command — all this while jaunting around the world, conducting large and destructive military operations on foreign soil (and China and Egypt, no less...I can't see any reason they would object to that...).

• A literal deus ex machina resolution — if one of the major storylines is resolved by Sam going to Robot Heaven and being handed the means of success by robot ghosts/gods, the storyline was not properly thought out to begin with.

• One of the things I loved about the first movie was the way the robots moved: not like big clunky machines, but like sleek, athletic animals that could adapt their bodies at the smallest level to respond to the environment they were in — they climbed and swung like monkeys; slinked and slid like cats. (Except when there was humor to be found in them not doing so, of course, but generally.) In this movie, though, I didn't get that, except for in a few scenes.

• It bothered me how subservient the Autobots were throughout the movie. Not just "willing to accede to the wishes of the people whose planet we're on" subservient, but "treated and behaving like a tamed pet" subservient.

• The Fallen's plan/"revenge." First off, I'm not exactly clear who The Fallen was getting revenge on. The Primes who stopped him were long gone; the humans had nothing to do with his defeat or exile; he didn't seem to particularly care about the Autobots, except insofar as they were in his way... I know there was a scene where Megatron and The Fallen discussed this, but that discussion didn't really stay with me, and looking back at the plot I can't really piece it together from context clues.
But okay. Okay. So The Fallen wanted to follow through on his millennia-old plan to transform the sun into energon so he could build his army of Decepticons and...take over the galaxy or something (it's never really clear what he intends to use his army for). But destroying the sun would kind of mess things up for the solar system — y'know, the group of planets that The Fallen and his army-to-be are on.
(And, come to that, why didn't The Fallen just set up on Mars or Venus all those thousands of years ago? Wouldn't have had to deal with the pesky native life that way... Ah, but there's another "because I said so" moments: if he had gone to another planet, we wouldn't have had a story. Ergo, he came to ours.)
• Oh, by the way...apparently, the Witwickys are poor, and Sam is the first of them to go to college. Revelation of which had me turning to Jen and whispering, "Then how the hell do they afford that house?!?" Seriously: I live in an area rife with McMansions, and most my neighbors would be jealous of the house Sam's family has in these two movies.

Whew! I do go on, don't I?

To sum up: This is not a good movie. This is not a smart movie. And it sure as heck isn't a short movie. It has very few redeeming features, a laughable plot and a more than occasionally intellectually insulting story, two-dimensional characters, and an apparently complete disregard for the way anything actually works in anything resembling reality.

But if you go in knowing all that, and expecting the movie to be a laughable hack job...and if you go to a showing with a large audience, most of whom are adolescent boys (or their adult man-child equivalents of either gender)...then you'll probably have an okay time.

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I'm going in about an hour while the ticket price is still $4.75. I'm looking forward to it. I loved the first. As long as this one keeps me entertained and not looking at my watch, then I'll be ok.
I saw the 11:30 a.m. showing today. I came back and read your thoughts on the film Alan. I agree with most of your comments.

I thought Mudflap and Skids weren't as annoying as I was expecting. They were dumb characters but didn't bother me so much. I was sitting next to some younger kids who laughed everytime those two were on the screen. So they have their fans.

The special effects were great. There were some great fight scenes between the robots. In that aspect it was better than the first film, but that's really the only way it was better. The battle between Optimus and the Fallen was weak, though. Then again the Fallen is an a-hole so it was nice to see him get annihilated effeciently.

I liked Soundwave, the Decipticon satelite. Very creepy and cool. Not as creepy as the Doctor. That little thing needed to be squashed. I liked Starscream's voice. I don't remember him talking in the first one. Very fitting voice for sniveling coward of a robot.

I agree that Shia Lebouf and John Tuturro gave standout performances.

This is watchable and will probably entertain you if you liked the first film. I was entertained. But it is lacking in story and characterization as Alan has already stated. The first film probably wasn't a great movie but it made me feel like a kid when I saw it for the first time. This one didn't have the same effect, sadly. I recommend seeing it only if you like Transformers to begin with. If you didn't care for the 1st film, you will not like this one. This is one to see on the big screen though. See it after it has been in the theater for a few weeks to avoid the crowd and go when the tickets are cheaper. This isn't worth $10.
My wife and I just came back from seeing it. Man, this was an awful-awful-awful movie.
We actually walked out* and didn't come back to see the last 1/4 of the movie. (We left shortly after Scorpionok attacked Jetfire in the desert).
Anyway, Skids and Mudflap were horrid. I can't believe someone didn't rework them. Since they're entirely digital and voice-actors, they could have EASILY been altered. They really were very offensive.
The plot? Well, things did happen in this movie in a sequence, so I suppose that could be called a plot, but it was generally incomprehensible.
The special effects were great, but the rest of the movie just couldn't keep me entertained. I will say I really liked Shia LeBeouf in this, but his presence wasn't enough to keep me there either.

* The truth is that our babysitter called us with a problem, and we so hated the movie we just decided to leave and go pick The Little One up .
It's no secret that I'm a Transformers fan from way back. We're talking the first series of toys from Generation 1...and I didn't enjoy the movie very much. I saw it with my clone and he enjoyed it immensely. He was never the Transformers fan that I am, though.

Among the bad things not already listed by Jason & Alan:

--I had a terrible time understanding what most of the Transformers were saying. I might have found Skids & Mudflap more offensive if I could actually understand what the smeg they were saying. It wasn't just them, though. Optimus was the only Transformer who I could understand all the time.

--I wouldn't expect all the extra Autobots & Decepticons in the big final battle to be identified by name but any robot that played a role bigger than "Decepticon flunky #3" should have been identified. For the most part, the only Transformers to be well identified by dialogue were the ones from the first movie! The exceptions were Arcee (whose triple-body thing is a bit of a head-scratcher), the twins (although I could only tell one from the other because their names were printed on them), Soundwave, and Jetfire. I don't think I heard Wheelie identified by dialogue, nor Ravage, nor Sideswipe. Wheelie's name is printed on his alt mode and I'd have to hurt myself if I couldn't identify Ravage but the only reason I know that the silver car was Sideswipe is because I read it online. The two Decepticons in China or the one that was able to look human at college? No freaking idea who they were. OK, yes. It was a huge cast of robots but throw us a blasted clue already!

--From a film-making standpoint, enough with the spinning shots already! I'm talking about shots where the characters are standing still and the camera circles around and around and around them. Barf!

--I had this quibble with the first film, too. I really think that the allegiance logos (the orange/red Autobot face and the purple Decepticon face) should have been much more prominent, especially in robot mode.

--John Turturro may have done a good job with what he was given but I can't tell because the character is so darn annoying that I count him as a minus for both of the films.

A few of the good things not mentioned:

--Something for the fans #1: The whole bit with same having the Allspark in his head? Right from the Marvel comics. The comic version--Buster Witwicky--had the Creation Matrix implanted in his head by Optimus Prime (in order to hide it from the Decepticons). It gave Buster an understanding of all things mechanical and telekinetic abilities.

--Something for the fans #2: The death & resurrection of Optimus Prime. You'd be hard-pressed, I think, to find a version of Generation 1 that doesn't have Optimus die & come back at some point.

--Something for the fans #3: Decepticon traitor Jetfire. What does Revenge of the Fallen have in common with the Marvel comics, the old cartoon, and even the game in my cellular phone? Jetfire starts as a Decepticon and becomes an Autobot.

--Something for the fans #4: Devastor. They did freaking Devestator. I can't say that I love how he looks in combined mode--especially those really stupid balls--but the moving on all fours due to his enormous mass does make sense. Also to love is that the vehicles that made up Devastator are very close to the six vehicles that combined for the original toy.

--Something for the fans (sorta) #5: The holographic humans "riding" the Arcee motorcycles. We saw a bit of that in the first movie, too, with Blackout having a holographic pilot. In the Marvel comics, the Autobots were equipped with human-looking mannequins so as to not arouse suspicion when going down the road.

--Something for the fans #6: The space bridge. In the comics & cartoon, the space bridge was a method of teleporting from Earth to Cybertron and vice versa. Heck, in the comics it was a literal bridge--an alt mode forced on a Transformer scientist called Spanner. The space bridge used by Jetfire in this movie was internal and far more short range. It reminded me, actually, of the ability of a Decepticon F-15 called Skywarp.

--My clone and I, pigs that we both are, agreed that we wouldn't have objected to more screen time of Megan Fox running in slow motion. If your mind is in the gutter like ours are then it is a terrific bit.

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