How do you tell how venerable a feature film series is?
After the initial buzz, appreciation and of course, cash runs out from the first big blockbuster in a series of films, you can always find out how lucky a director and producer got the first time around by seeing how their sequel measures up.
Over the past decade, Sam Raimi, Bryan Singer and Christopher Nolan have proved with such films as “Spider-Man 2,” “X-Men 2” and “The Dark Knight” that their series are worthwhile and even better because of the sequels, proving their talent and making them incredulous amounts of money in the process.
Steven Spielberg supposedly belongs to this clique as well, having a slew of successful and profitable sequels under his belt such as “Back to the Future II,” “Jurassic Park 2” and “Gremlins 2.”
That however doesn’t stop “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” from being a complete disaster of a film that should be avoided at all costs by anyone looking for an action flick with any real substance.
Absent is the fun and unpredictable story from the first movie, to only be replaced with a monotonous script, annoying characters and a Michael Bay special effects disaster that leaves the viewer more confused than entertained, producing a logjam of wrong turns and decisions that end up costing the series its respectability.
While Spielberg’s resident wunderkind Shia LaBeouf [Eagle Eye, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull] is solid once again as Sam Witwicky, his co-star Megan Fox’s [How to Lose Friends & Alienate People] performance as Mikaela Barnes can only be described as horrid. In the two years since the original film, Fox has been in magazines galore showing off her seductive form and talking about much the opposite sex adores her, but has done little real acting.
LaBeouf has seen his fare share of tabloid drama recently as well, but has at least been becoming a better performer all the while. After this film, it’s fair to say that while they still have great on-screen chemistry as two of the best looking young stars in Hollywood, LaBeouf is the far superior actor.
Throughout the film, you’ll continually ask yourself why Fox’s voice has changed so much in just two years. Going from seductive to overbearingly annoying, Fox’s performance mirrors that of Carmen Luvana in the mainstream pornographic film, “Pirates,” minus the sex scenes of course. It’s almost as if she went to the Jennifer Tilly school of voice acting. Sure, she looks great in the leather outfits she wears in the film, but aside from that, she’s just eye candy.
Just like LaBeouf, the supporting cast, consisting of veteran actors the likes of Josh Duhamel, John Turturro and Kevin Dunn are also solid, but the poor script, which is corny and uninspired, when compared to the action-packed story arc of the first film, absolutely ruins the experience for mature viewers.
That poor script also affects the lines of the Autobots and Decepticons and hurts the film immensely. Despite the fact that Optimus Prime is still by far the coolest character in the film and Bumble Bee is still a great source of comedy relief, the majority of the other robots lack the same type of personality and are downright annoying. This element perhaps hurts the film the most.
The creme-de la creme of the film, the special effects, are weak as well. At times, it’s hard to tell exactly what is happening, as the shots are so quick and tight that it looks like a car crash, rather than two gigantic robots brawling it out.
In spite of all of this, the film is still a paradise for action fans. It’s epic in scale and has plenty of laughs to balance out all the action, which somewhat forgives the brainless use of special effects at times. In the end, it’s a film about huge robots with Megan Fox. If you’re going to a theater with friends to have a good time, what more could you ask for?
However, those looking for more substance and better execution in their movies should look somewhere else.
Again, if you can watch a feature film and avoid critiquing the details and elements of it throughout, you should be able to enjoy “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” If not, expect to find yourself in need of an asthma pump and dentist afterwards- this film is sure to induce a hearty helping of huffing, puffing and teeth-sucking.
To be blunt and colloquial, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen sucked. The first one sucked and once it was announced that a sequel was in the works, even the most casual observer capable of critical critique could have surmised that it, too, would suck.
In fact, the fatuous film managed to exceed expectations… in that it actually sucked more than one would have expected. Its suckitude reached a Twilight-ian level, which in itself is an accomplishment.
Nevertheless, Transformers has been huge at the box office and will likely be the summer’s biggest hit. Know why? Because most moviegoers aren’t that critical. Many of them, sadly, aren’t that intelligent. Expensive explosions, predictable and mawkish moments of tension, and a Hollywood darling-of-the-month running through the desert in a tank top are, often to always, enough to entertain.
The chorus – well, the mondegreen version – of a gospel hymn comes to mind: “Bringing in the sheep, bringing in the sheep…”
It’s hard to imagine Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg, both accomplished and brilliant filmmakers, went through the entire production process without ever thinking to themselves (maybe even saying it quietly), “Wow, this flick is stupid.” But it’s one of those movies that was created to appeal to a wide audience and, really, you can’t blame them for that. ‘Tis, after all, the movie business; the business of making movies for the purpose of procuring pesos. The film has and will continue to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars, and the DVD and merchandise sales will add icing to that cake. Its purpose was served.
Who is to blame for cookie cutter summer action movies raping the market? You, the watchers. Ye wide audience.
Transformers is chock full of all the hackneyed crap ya’ll love. Robots: Oh, America loves robots. Right up there with talking animals. If either ran for president, it’s a certainty it would get votes. Robots fighting: It worked for the Terminator series (as well as Power Rangers) and it’s a can’t-miss concept. Clichéd love story serving as the backdrop during mass chaos and ignored tragedy: Simply irresistible. Aliens attempting to destroy our planet: “And I only have to pay $10 to see it?” Lots of stuff getting blown up: A lot of film studios and actors have made a lot of money milking that teet. And throw in popular, fresh-faced stars deemed “hawt!” by the public in Megan Fox and Shia LaBeouf and we’ve got the clincher. The fishing hook is thrown and so the masses are baited. Reel in the men with the violence and robots; reel in the women with the love story; reel in the hormonal teenagers with the sexy.
It’s a tried and true formula. Never mind that the plot is silly, the acting is bad, the special effects are overdone (and not even that good) and the storyline is less than predictable. Those elements always bring ‘em in.
Here’s a spoiler: The good guys win this time.
Did you watch it? You liked it, right? I knew you would. DreamWorks knew you would, too. Hook, line and sinker.
What many critics have missed the mark on this film is that they do not understand the plot. Yes, there is a strong narrative told in the beginning by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen, voice of Optimus Prime in the original Transformers animated series). It seems that they have been here before and the ancient Primes saved mankind in its early stages by making the supreme sacrifice. Sam embracing his destiny to assist the Autobots in saving the world is also an integral part of the story. It is here where the movie shows its compassion and heart. The moments between Sam and the transformers reveals what Spielberg and Bay are attempting to show their audience – that humanity cannot exist in a vacuum.
Yes, the touches of metaphysical ideology exist, but that doesn’t slow down the kick-butt action. The voiceover in the beginning of the movie is a backdrop for a hunt and a battle that only increases throughout the film. There are also several one-on-one fight scenes between Autobots and Decepticons that will have you cheering at the screen. Aside from the fast-paced action, there are great comedic moments. As Sam’s parents Judy (Julie White, Grace Under Fire, Michael Clayton) add a levity to film that could easily have fell into a testosterone nightmare. Their banter and quick wit does not seem scripted. Instead, they behave as a comfortable married couple who have innate sensibility of just how far they can go with each other. The moments between them and Sam are also some of the most poignant of the film.
There are several threads that can be picked up for the next installment of this amazing story. Watch for the evolution of the transformer. Several times throughout the film there are mentions and subtle revelations of transformers gaining the ability to morph into something more than a car. Also, the liaison to the president could possibly be involved in a conspiracy to have the Decepticons take over the world. It’s a plausible explanation given the fact that he was completely asinine in the film and gave up pertinent information that enabled the Decepticons to put their plans into motion. The number of sleeper cells, or places where the Decepticons are hiding and the history of the transformers are all springboards for the next movie.
One important note – the twin Autobots are not stereotypes. Anyone paying attention to the storyline of the film and who have seen the cartoon will know that these are the way they always behaved. In the hyper-sensitive world of political correctness we read what is not there and call it racism.
See the film, enjoy the ride and find your own meaning.
– Donna-Lyn Washington