Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Film review by: Witney Seibold
Michael Bay, not known for his cogent filmmaking or stirring storytelling, manages to make the loudest and most incomprehensible film of his career with “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” I pointedly and studiously avoided seeing Bay’s 2007 “Transformers” film, so perhaps a lot of the details of this one were previously explained, but I doubt going back and reviewing it would make this one any clearer. “Revenge of the Fallen” plays like a series of climaxes from other action movies that we don’t get to see. Each scene plays like the culmination of some unseen and massively complicated story, but none of the scenes seem to have any connection between them. For long stretches, the film feels like an abstract action movie exercise; an attempt to do away with first and second acts of a story, and attempt to maintain a third act chase scene for 150 minutes. The result is a downright assault on the senses. Two and a half hours of bland, noisy movement that looks kind of like an action film, but could just as easily be a surrealist experimental film about cars.
The Transformers themselves are an alien race of robots who can hide amongst humans by transforming into machines. We have robots that can turns into planes and trucks, just like in the original 1980s cartoons show (itself based on a line of toys), but we also have smaller robots who can disguise as remote control trucks, blenders, toasters. There’s also a scene where it is revealed that the Transformers can disguise themselves as humans as well, but little is done with this idea. There’s a robot orbiting the Earth who poops out cat-shaped robots into the planet’s surface. The cat robots don’t transform, but can cough up even smaller robots that can… oh, never mind.
The Transformers seem to be divided into two warring camps called Autobots and Decepticons, although, for the life of me, I couldn’t, at any given moment, tell you which robot was which. Each robot was designed to resemble a walking pile of machinery, and they all look alike. Watching two Transformers have a fistfight is like watching a swirling mass of car parts in a blender.
There’s an evil robot on the Moon called The Fallen who wants to kill the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime (voiced by cartoon veteran Peter Cullen, the same actor from the ‘80s cartoon show), and take over the world. It’s not really clear how or why he’s going to accomplish this. There’s something about how only Optimus Prime can stop him, so he needs a certain kind of robot to kill him/it… Oh,. Never mind. I should also mention that the Transformers also have the ability to change the thing they can transform into. So we have a world of robots with unclear goals and alignments who can disguise themselves as anything they want. A world without rules. This makes for chaos.
There are humans in this film as well. Shia LeBeouf plays a character named Sam who is going off to college, and has a teary goodbye to his way-too-hot girlfriend played by magazine icon Megan Fox. His car is a transformer. He has, in his possession, a magical shard of metal that can turn any machine into a Transformer, but also resurrect dead Transformers. It’s starting to sound like an eight-year-old wrote this film.
While at college Sam begins having hallucinations of an ancient alien script, and he rants a lot. A wicked hot lady (Isabel Lucas) tries seducing him, and it’s revealed that she’s a robot in disguise who wants to kill him. Sam manages to flee campus with Megan Fox, a filler character named Leo (Ramon Rodriguez), and a pair of ignorant, illiterate, jive-talking Transformers that are indeed as racist as you’ve heard.
A word about the women at Sam’s college. Every single one of them, with exception, looks like a cover model for Maxim magazine, and acts like an uppity temptress. America Olivo from “Bitch Slap” is even in there someplace. They are all scantily-clad, hot-to-trot slut archetypes that are demeaning to women and to humanity in general. I think, looking at these Eszterhausian models of femininity, I can pinpoint the exact audience for “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen:” Particularly stupid and horny 14-year-old boys who like ‘splosions more than those sissy emotions. 14-year-old who are pre-sexualized, inured to violence, and spend 6 hours a day playing military-based video games. 14-year-olds who subsist on hot pockets, use the word “gay” to describe something distasteful, and who make fun of the kids in their class who disagree with them. Bullies, in short. This is a film for stupid bullies.
Anyway, what else happens? Optimus Prime gets killed, but since he’s the only one who can stop the bad guys from doing their thing, Sam must find an ancient machine that can resurrect him. He already has a shard that can do that, but he doesn’t know he has it. He sneaks into the Washington DC Air and Space Museum, and they find one of the planes there has been a Transformer all this time. That’s a conceit I actually kinda like. The resurrected old Transformer teleports all our characters to Egypt, John Turturro shows up, and then there’s a scavenger hunt of some kind, and then there’s a fight scene that takes longer than the Hundred-Years war.
Then Sam dies and, I kid you not, goes to Transformer heaven, where the ghosts of old robots give him some clues.
I give up. Never mind. I don’t care. Thinking about it makes my brain whither. The good guys win. That’s all you need to know. And if there’s ever a “Transformers 3,” it’ll be our own damn faults for wanting to watch this one.
I understand that nostalgia is a powerful thing, but the producers of films like “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” seem to be cynically exploiting those of us who grew up on the original “Transformers” cartoon show and toys. Too many people want to see films like this out of mere curiosity. I declare that mere curiosity in a film like this is not a good enough reason to give it money. If you must see it, steal it if you can. Then don’t talk about it, thwarting any free publicity it might get. Don’t have discussions about how the Transformers canon was disrupted by this new entry; earnest discussions about Transformers canon only eschew the fact that Michael Bay has made a rotten film that made too much money.
Don’t let Michael Bay do this to us again.