I had been debating whether or not I should even bother reviewing Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen; the new Transformers film has been almost universally panned by critics, but is doing gangbusters at the box office. Should people even try to critique a film like Transformers 2? It is a film almost entirely bereft of any redeeming qualities whatsoever. With a completely nonsensical plot, Transformers is a loud, racist, misogynist explosion fest; My every sense and sensibility was offended. But others have already stated this, for the most part I share their opinion that Transformers 2 is a genuinely unpleasant experience most of the time. However, as much as I wanted to hate the movie, the ridiculously amazing robot battles (of which there are many) always brought out that 10 year old boy in me.
Like most boys born in the 1980’s, I grew up watching Transformers and playing with the toys. I still have many of my original Transformers proudly displayed on my dork shelf to this day. The toy commercial… I mean cartoon was an indelible part of my childhood; Optimus Prime was a childhood hero to me. The kid in me is really happy to see these characters brought to life on the big screen, and it’s even more awesome to hear Peter Cullen (the original voice of Prime) reprise his role as the iconic big bot.
Michael Bay’s obsession with the United States military really shines in this film. Bay shoots fighter jets and tanks like he shoots the women in the film— like he’s performing a sexual act on them with the camera. Bay makes the film feel downright pornographic at times. I’m pretty sure the guy sitting behind me at the theatre was performing a sexual act on himself during the film; every time Megan Fox was on the screen he would either cat-call, yell her name or say something along the lines of, “Look at those tits!”. Yes, nearly every shot of Megan Fox is either her bending down or running in slow-motion, but keep it in your pants sir! While I agree that Fox is very nice to look at, such lewd behaviour from the audience pretty bad; a tribute to Michael Bay’s filmmaking I suppose.
If there is one good thing I can say about the new Transformers film, it is that it really delivers the goods when it comes to robot-on-robot battles. They fight and they fight often. The fights are always absolutely brutal, the film would easily be rated a hard R if this were human-on-human violence, but since they’re robots it’s okay. Industrial Light & Magic is to be commended for their amazing work, the Autobots and Decepticons have real size and weight to them, the true scale of these massive robots is conveyed very well. My childhood self would have gone into convulsions had I beheld such awesomeness.
The robots are also better characterized this time around. I was never confused as to which bot was which—with the exception of the generic proto-form Decepticons that show up at the film’s finale, mainly to provide ample cannon fodder. Fans of Megatron and Starscream bickering will not be disappointed, as the two have several scenes together.
Shia LaBeouf, I just can’t hate this guy. He’s genuinely entertaining to watch and manages to hold his own against giant alien robots.
Far be it for me to expect any semblance of verisimilitude from a summer blockbuster—or a Michael Bay film dealing with giant alien robots that turn into vehicles for that matter—but some of the leaps Bay expects the viewers to accept are just unbelievable. I have been to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, many people have. What I do know for a fact, is that there is no desert resembling Arizona out behind said museum. I also know that one cannot run in the span of five minutes from the ruins of Petra in Jordan to the Great Pyramids in Egypt. Nor are Ivy League schools populated entirely by aspiring model/actress types, with nary an ugly or even average looking person in sight. I really need to remember that I’m talking about a Michael Bay movie though, and not take it so seriously.
The IMAX version of the film uses the IMAX cameras to great effect in several sequences; notably Optimus Prime’s battle against the Decepticons in the forest. However, during the films finale, Michael Bay’s shoot from the hip style of filmmaking really makes the IMAX feel awkward. The aspect ratio would quickly change from a normal 35mm anamorphic to the 1.44:1 IMAX ratio between shots and then back again. This made it a very disorienting and distracting experience for the audience, having the screen size almost double for a split second and then revert back to normal. <cite>The Dark Knight</cite> did it right; only using IMAX for establishing shots and extended sequences. Michael Bay really needs to learn how to apply IMAX more effectively.
The story is non-existent and logical plot points are thrown to the wayside so the director can include another sexy shot of Megan Fox, a robot or some heavily armed piece of military hardware. Don’t even bother to try and follow the story: robots fight and stuff explodes, that’s all you need to know.
Skids and Mudflap; the twin robots are meant to provide comic relief in the film. What they instead provide is a horrific racial stereotype of African-Americans. Both have exaggerated ears and lips, one has a gold tooth, and when they’re not jive-talking for comedic effect they’re constantly bickering and fighting with one another over inconsequential things. It’s totally inappropriate, and no one seems to want to take responsibility for these blatantly racist depictions. Michael Bay has argued that because the characters are robots, they are exempt from any kind of racial connotations. Judge for yourself if you see the film.
Maybe this is reading too much into the film, but the movie literally ends with the entire might of the United States military; all of their latest weaponry and best soldiers, being used to blow up the Great Pyramids — arguably the best known symbol of the Middle-East. I’m probably giving Michael Bay too much credit, but there are clear allegorical implications to this visual. But hey, the movie had tits, robots and explosions… why should that matter?