20 June 2009

Movie Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen


Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
2009, 147mins, PG-13
Director: Michael Bay
Writer (s): Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Ehren Kruger
Cast includes: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Ramon Rodriguez, Josh Duhamel
Release Date: 24th June 2009

I enjoyed 2007’s “Transformers” and it’s combination of wonderfully staged action and cheeky performances, a film almost good enough to make you forgive the patchy CV of director Michael Bay. Along with his unusually thoughtful 2005 effort “The Island” I felt that “Transformers” represented a growth in Bay as provider of ace multiplex entertainment and enjoyable action fodder but it seems such a presumption was ill thought out and to optimistic. Following up his 2007 robot smash with the highly disappointing and monumentally turgid “Revenge of the Fallen” was always going to undo much of the goodwill brewed and reset everybody’s opinions of Bay back to square one. Having enjoyed the previous effort so heartily I found “Revenge of the Fallen” a particularly sour summer note and one that I hope won’t be replicated again before the season closes out.

The plot is overstretched and far from compelling, starting in an acceptably level headed and cohesive fashion before going on to wallow in a confused and thinly sketched story drawn out to a punishing two and a half hours. Bay has always been guilty of letting his movies run a little long but this really takes the biscuit, the screenplay on hand here hardly worth a running of 90 minutes never mind the semi-epic duration handed out to it. We pick up shortly after the events of 2007, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) now heading for college and hoping to leave robots and warring alien races in the past. Instead he wants to create a normal student life and maintain a long distance relationship with the gorgeous Mikeala (Megan Fox). However things don’t go to plan when he is informed by Autobot leader Optimus Prime that the Decepticons are back and their leader Megatron returned. To make matters worse Megatron is now working for an even more malevolent evil a great and restless entity known as The Fallen. The Fallen wants revenge on those who thwarted his attempts at world domination eons ago and needs only one thing to succeed. The Allspark that had once been thought destroyed has implanted its vast array of knowledge in Sam’s head and thus all The Fallen needs is the boy in order to take ultimate power and gain bloody vengeance.

There is a plethora of action on show in “Revenge of the Fallen” but little of it ever resonates or provides excitement, it may look glossy and hi-tech but as an experience it amounts to limp recounts of set-pieces seen before. One can’t question Bay’s ability to blow things up are wield top grade CGI with expert proficiency but the action just lacks the energy and sheer carnage that made the first slick such a surprisingly satisfying piece of blockbuster pie. In many ways this is an even more visually lavish experience than its predecessor but it’s a positively hollow and empty sort of gloss, with nothing of substance or worth wrapped beneath the polished sheen. The various moments of blockbuster destruction often feel like slightly larger scale attempts at remaking moments from part one, often to the response of a sigh and a yawn. Not every single tent pole moment is useless, some admittedly drawing wide eyes and minor adrenaline rushes, but overall the quota of successes to failures isn’t encouraging.

The performances are an unenthused bunch, Shia LaBeouf now positively in danger of being labelled passé after only two years of making it big. In 2007 I found his comic timing impeccable and a solid emotional core at the heart of his character but here it’s all thick skulled improv and acting of the most wooden variety. His chemistry with Megan Fox is also less believable this time around, Fox herself grabbing gasps with her physical beauty but leaving us wanting in terms of quality emoting. I did enjoy John Tuturro’s reappearance bringing with it a consistency in terms of entertainment value but much of his good work is undone by the likes of Ramon Rodriguez and a pair of squabbling autobots, bringing the comedy down several sizable pegs. Rodriguez in particular playing Sam’s new roommate is a supreme nuisance displaying little in the way of ability or talent.

The film is left gaping with plot holes and contrivances of the laziest nature whilst the scribes also insist on ripping off a handful of other more influential science fiction efforts. Aside from grabbing mercilessly from its 2007 brother “Revenge of the Fallen” also picks and places ideas from the like of “Species” and “The Matrix”. Defenders of this spectacularly lazy film will no doubt holler that such aspects are clear homage’s but this critic buys no such gubbins, “Revenge of the Fallen” having to crib from better productions in order to try and cover up it’s own heinous faults.

The conclusion is brash and shot on a predictably massive scale but by the time it rolls about the audience has long stopped caring and this tired toy commercial worn out its welcome. I honestly preferred the shaky cam climax of “Transformers” to this loud but Ritalin induced counter part, at least it had a megawatt of energy and the ability to really thrill. The finale here is inert and totally forgettable, topped off by the fact the new big bad villain isn’t actually all that imposing. The comic relief is this time aimed even more squarely at the kiddies only a few of the one liners likely to solicit much of a chuckle from the over 12’s.

The musical score remains rousing and a few of the action beats manage to kick up some notice but “Revenge of the Fallen” is a tired and unusually flat sequel, to comatose and wrapped up in it’s own ridiculous plot contortions to offer any pleasure for the audience. Michael Bay should once again find himself a critical whipping boy and whilst “Revenge” promises a sequel I’m now beginning to dread such suggestions. Last time I was egging on more Autobot vs. Decepticon action but this banal excursion has soured my appetite for further Transformers efforts. “Revenge of the Fallen” has precious little to recommend it and if you only see one robot movie this summer I expect you can still catch “Terminator Salvation” somewhere. Regardless of your feelings towards that movie it’s an infinitely more satisfying way to quench your blockbuster thirst than this sordid mess.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


Matt A said...

Hi Dan, nice review , I can see your points even if for me Transformers: Revenge was a much more fun cinematic experience than the dreary Terminator Salvation...

Nice site too - let me know if you want to swap links? I edit Darkmatters film blog over at: www.darkmatt.blogspot.com


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