“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is the film I dreaded back in 2007. Before the first “Transformers” hit theatres, I had negative expectations. A big-budget blockbuster from Michael Bay based on the non-existent premise of cheap toys fighting each other didn’t seem like the most exciting time at the movies but I was happily proven wrong by the first film. There were characters, jokes, and the movie wisely paced out the action so that when it did throw to a set piece, you were ready to really enjoy the spectacle.
And then the “fans” started bitching. “Where were the robots?” they cried. “Why wasn’t “Favorite Transformer X” not in the movie?” “Who comes to a “Transformers” movie to see the people?*” As writer Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw so eloquently put it, “Fans are clingy, complaining dipshits who will never, ever be grateful for any concession you make. The moment you shut out their shrill, tremulous voices, the happier you’ll be for it.” But Bay has not only embraced their empty-headed pleas, he has also indulged his worst impulses while encumbered by a PG-13 rating that allows him to go right up to the line of good taste and then pee over it.
Since it takes “Revenge” over an hour to move the plot forward (mere shred of silliness that it is), I’ll just say that instead of story, almost the entire film is Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), his girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox), and his annoying dipshit of a college roommate (Ramon Rodriguez) running from Decepticons and then the Decepticons fight with the Autobots. The film is interspersed with juvenile humor like Sam’s mom eating pot brownies and Sam attending a college that only admits female porn stars.**
But of all the “humor”, the most non-spectacle element that would garner the most controversy (I say “would” because I imagine there are those people who are patting themselves on the back for shutting off their brains) are “The Twins”. Autobots Skids and Mudflap are two of the most racist caricatures to come along in mainstream cinema in quite some time and nothing can really prepare you for how they embrace the stereotype of young, under-educated, superficial African-American males. I almost wanted to call the NAACP in the middle of the movie to let them know. And I’m not a PC-guy. But when you see characters that are more racist than the crows from “Dumbo”, a film that came out before desegregation, then you have to take note. Oh, and just to make it even better, their voice actor is a white guy. You’re welcome, Race Relations.
Yet if my audience is any indication, folks will eat this shit up. Most of the first film’s humor relied on Shia LaBeouf’s tremendous charm and comic timing. That’s now been replaced with the hilarity of “comic relief” characters like The Twins and the irritating roommate along with dogs humping each other and a Decepticon humping Megan Fox’s leg. If you are twelve years old, you are going to love this movie.
The film’s best humor tends to be unintentional and comes from moments of jaw-dropping stupidity although I have to say that I’m disappointed it wasn’t as mind-bendingly dumb as I’d been led to believe. I’m not expecting the world’s most tightly-crafted yarn with a “Transformers” movie, but when your characters walk into the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and exit out the back into Arizona, the mind boggles***.
In the end, “Transformers” is about spectacle, right? Who cares if the characters are weak and the actors have nothing to do and the geography is glaringly inconsistent and the robots have no personalities? Let’s see robots punching each other! I hate to break this to everyone, but that gets old fast. It gets old even faster when you don’t care about the robots doing the punching. It’s just pixels smashing against pixels with a very loud sound mix and just because it clearly cost a lot of money, that’s not enough reason for me to care. Without a worthwhile story or characters, it’s just the world’s most expensive videogame that no one can play.
As much invective as I’m hurling towards the film, I don’t hate “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”. If anything, as a fan of the first film, I’m deeply disappointed by the sequel. What I enjoyed was removed and replaced with weak humor and meaningless spectacle. Near the end, when the film cuts to a close-up of a Decepticon’s testicles as two giant wrecking balls, a shot that should offend and sum up every critique of Michael Bay and his filmmaking, I was too exhausted to care.
Rating —– C minus
*Answer: Folks who want to see a real movie and not just nostalgia porn for the emotionally-stunted audience of a crappy TV Saturday morning TV show designed to sell action figures made in China for two cents an hour.
**Yes, I know the film notes that the dumb hacker roommates made it so that the hot freshman are all in Sam’s dorm. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about all the other scenes. I dare you to find one female on that campus who doesn’t look like she could appear on BangBros.
***And no, they didn’t go through a “space bridge”. They go through a space bridge later when they go from the Arizona behind the Museum to Egypt. You know they go through a space bridge because they get flung about three hundred feet in the air and then land on the ground because people can do that. The film ignores geography again when they’re driving through the desert with clearly nothing around for miles and in the next shot they’re in the middle of a village driving along a paved road.