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Matthew Razak avatar 6:42 AM on 06.24.2009
Monday Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen



'Transformers' is less than meets the eye

I believe that Michael Bay forgot a very simple fact when he made Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: the cool thing about giant, transforming robots fighting each other is GIANT, TRANSFORMING ROBOTS FIGHTING EACH OTHER! It is not comic relief, it is not romance and it most certainly not life lessons that even a Saturday morning cartoon would consider cliche.

Let's start with the good, because if I don't do that my bad review is going to taint what makes this movie worthwhile to see in theaters. The action is awesome. There are sequences in here that truly prove that Bay is the master of blowing stuff up. One fight between Optimus Prime and three Decepticons is truly one of the best action sequences I have ever seen. Yes, when the giant, transforming robots are fighting each other the film works wonders -- to bad the rest of the movie is there to ruin it.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen's plot, which involves the return of almost every character from the previous film in unlikely and incredibly annoying ways, has so many plot holes it makes Star Trek look like an air tight story with nary a time travel issue at all. I could write an entire review on the things that don't make sense in this film, but space will not provide, suffice to say that the entire issue of the movie could have been solved in the first ten minutes.

Moving away from plot holes Optimus Prime could drive through, for the past two years the heroic Autobots from the first film have joined the US military in order hunt down the remaining Decepticons. A few new Autobots have arrived and a few new Decepticons too. Eventually the Decepticons, who run their evil operation like they aren't giant robots, find out where a remaining piece of the All Spark, the cube that gives Transformers life, is and bring Megatron back to life who immediately flies into space and meets up with his master, the Fallen, who wants to destroy earth and must kill Optimus Prime first to do it. The plot spirals out of control from there, running in six different directions in a vain attempt to cram in every character imaginable and then some. There are literally six major characters in the film who are simply there for comic relief. Six!

However, it isn't the interesting characters (the giant, transforming robots) that get the screen time, it's the humans, and not the good ones. For some reason the screenwriters thought that focusing on Sam Witwicky's (Shia LaBeouf) extended family and friends would be far more interesting than the giant, transforming robots everyone came to see. It's even more perplexing because the Autobots and Decepticons are actual interesting characters who unfortunately get shoved into the role of background props so we can stare and LeBeouf and Meagan Fox, who returns as Sam's girlfriend, attempt to pretend they have any chemistry at all. It doesn't help that Bay hits every emotional moment with the subtle touch of ten sacks of bricks as opposed to his normal five sacks of bricks.

So the plot is insipid and the film focuses on the wrong characters, but the Transformers must still be cool, right? Nope. The Autobots that get focused on in the film are almost entirely there for comic relief, and the ones that could be interesting are simply shoved into a corner, like we'd be too dumb to want to see actual character development from them. To make matters worse two of the new Autobots, Mudflap and Skids, are incredibly offensive racial stereotypes. Buck toothed, and flappy eared the two of them run around constantly talking "jive," and bringing back painful memories of Jar Jar Binks. If you're going to shove a plethora of Transformers into a film why not focus on the interesting ones and not the two most uninteresting and idiotic?

That seems to be the theme of the entire film though; take what's working well and grind it into the ground until it disappears for good. The first film was a summer action movie masterpiece, this one can't even make giant, transforming robots stay interesting for its entire running time. Shame on everyone involved for squandering such greatness.



SPOILER:

Even Optimus Prime's death is disappointing, especially when you consider how well it was handled in a cartoon for children decades before this.

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