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Monday, July 6, 2009

REVIEW - "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" (2009)

I want to begin this review with a perfectly understandable sense of acknowledgment. I know these movies are just supposed to be fun and light entertainment. There are actually very good movies that fit that bill and I wholly enjoy many of them. “Shoot’em Up,” “Versus,” “Live Free or Die Hard", and even Michael Bay’s very own “The Rock” are some great examples. So in an attempt to not sound like a film snob who can’t enjoy raw action blockbusters, let it be known, I understand what the point of “Transformers: The Revenge of the Fallen” is. I really do. Michael Bay himself is clearly not trying to hide what it is. It just doesn’t work.

In this sequel, Sam (Shia LeBeouf) returns to help the Autobots stop the newly revived Megatron and Decepticon warlord, The Fallen. When the Decepticons plan to wipe out Earth’s sun, Sam travels with Bumblebee and crew to find the Matrix of Leadership, save Optimus and run through sixty explosions in slow motion every ten minutes.

The story doesn’t expand much beyond my condescending synopsis. It makes you wonder why the movie was two and a half hours long. I’m still trying to figure that out because I’ve never sat through a movie and been able to list off all the pieces that could have, or should have, been cut. Bay’s self-indulgent insistence on including scenes of dogs humping, Sam’s mother getting high and his roommate freaking out are only a few small examples of footage that should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Even with such adjustments the movie would still be over bloated. Whole characters could have been chopped from the movie without any noticeable difference to the film’s plot. The African-American stereotyped twin robots tie with Jar-Jar Binks as the absolute worst CGI characters to prance on to the silver screen. Whether or not these characters are racist is an argument that gives this movie too much credit. Like much of the comedic elements they’re simply unbearable. I’m convinced Bay’s sense of humor resides in the head of a lobotomized eight-year-old boy.

As if the gratuitously terrible humor wasn’t enough to endure, LeBeouf’s character reaches a new romantic low with Megan Fox’s dolled up visage, dressed appropriate for shots that include her breasts bouncing in slow motion. Written more like a Spanish soap opera than a romantic squabble, the two mumble their lines at high speeds, perhaps trying to end the awkward interaction as soon as possible.

But lets break before I continue—Am I complaining about character development in a movie that has no desire to progress its characters? Indeed. Is pointing out a minor of many flaws involved with this movie an exercise in futility because the audience cares more about robots and explosions? Perhaps, but bear with me. The first movie moved swift and convincingly in transition from humans to transformers. In this film watching Sam and his human team of misfits feels like waiting for Christmas in January.

I’ve made it no secret that I can’t stand the overtly busy designs of these transformers. I’ll leave it at that, but it’s nice to know Bay at least traded his editing taste for some half-decent cinematography. For the first time I’m able to comprehend the action and appendages that are flowing from fist to blow between robots. Pity it’s too little to save any of the flash worth watching. Every explosion, every slow motion shot and every battle is ruined by the fact that there’s just too much of it. Bay has lost any comprehension of dramatic build up, allowing every explosive sequence to run together without any power. It is the singular driving force that drags “Revenge of the Fallen” down until you’re so tired of the action sequences it makes waiting for them even worse: Que the painfully boring scenes with Sam and his pack of idiots! (This is why characters matter.)

Can “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” be entertaining? Oh, sure! I certainly enjoyed the scenes with Optimus Prime flipping out of an airplane and kicking ass. And I should at least mention the forest battle as a highlight. But the problem is you would have to fast forward through a great deal of trite to view anything worth watching. “Revenge of the Fallen” is simply too big for its own good; high on the idea that more is better and delivering it unapologetically. Aspiring to be a fun ride is fine. Aspiring to have no substance at all is dangerous.

½ out of ****

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