Thursday, July 2, 2009

Transformers: Renege of the Fanatic

Does anyone know where I can get some crow pie, because I apparently need to eat a whole lot of it for defending Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen both on my blog and elsewhere.

I’ll admit that I got caught up in the pre-release hype for TF, and got legitimately upset at some of the reviews. While some of the reviews are incredibly inflammatory towards the perceived audience for this cinematic travesty, the vitriol being spouted by critics are absolutely spot on.

Having had a good night (week) to sleep on the celluloid cudgel that is Michael Bay’s latest robo-opus, I can say with certainty that the movie is bad. Whether it’s the dog-humping, the drug humor, the racist stereotypes, the misogyny or the giant clanging robot balls, Michael Bay has proved that if he doesn’t have an adult with him to keep him in check, his movies can go terribly awry.

To the film’s defence, it does deliver on one thing, which is that giant robots kick the shit out of each other and they do so with gusto. The action scenes are beautifully choreographed, and Bay has taken the camera out of the robot’s tailpipes and put it where the action can actually be seen. Whenever time slows down and we’re treated to Optimus Prime flipping Starscream into the air and kicking him in the face while he’s upside down, it’s a genuine treat. The forest battle stands out as the crown moment of the film, even topping the final battle in a random Egyptian ruin town. Optimus single-handily takes on three Decepticons, and even manages to kill one of them before he’s brutally beaten down. It’s a great scene, and for one brief shining moment in the film, you’re actually rooting for somebody. The Optimus Prime people fell in love with from the cartoon series finally comes out, and he gives his life in a gallant, heroic moment to protect Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf).

But that’s it. For the rest of the film, all the robots are treated as dispensable, whether it’s the faceless legions of Decepticons or the Autobots, who show up, shoot something, and then disappear. Even though the Transformers have more screen time in this film, and there’s some actual Megatron/Starscream bickering this time around, the robots are just as cheap as before, brought in only when there’s something huge that needs to be blown up, or some random exposition is needed.

The main bad-guy of the film, the Fallen, is sort of a letdown as well. He spends most of the movie in a creepy throne, hooked up to millions of embryonic sacs filled with fledgling Decepticons on some random planet. And what exactly is his reason for being a giant wuss? He can only be killed by a Prime, which is a pretty flimsy excuse given that Optimus got beat down by Megatron and company. Once the Fallen shows up on the actual battlefield, he spends about two minutes being terrifying until Optimus gets a jetpack and tears his face off. A good fight, but considering the titular character isn’t all that frightening it sort of leaves the climax feeling a bit empty.

All grumblings about the robots aside, the human cast of Transformers performs admirably given the ham-handedness of the script. John Turturro’s character is less grating this time around, and Shia LaBeouf has some actual funny moments outside of the forced humor that permeates the script. Series newcomer Ramon Rodriguez is the biggest let down, and his form of comic relief is even more awkward than Mudflap and Skids, the aforementioned stereotyped robots.

All in all, I suppose I’m being too harsh on the movie. It’s simply the first Transformers writ large, taking everything that was awesome about the first one and expanding it while simultaneously taking the weaker parts and transforming them into huge glaring flaws. By the time TF3 rolls around, hopefully Spielberg will be back with a firmer guiding hand, because lord knows that I’ve seen enough leg humping and pot jokes to last me a lifetime.

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