Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Review - Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (not much more than meets the eye)

I think I've mentioned before that I'm not a big fan of Shia LaBeouf. He was alright in Holes, but beyond that and his basic stereotypical goof on Disney Channel, I never really saw any depth to him. When he started making his way into the "action/adventure" film genres, I just had to groan.

Still, I gave the first Transformers movie the benefit of the doubt and it was alright...not great, but alright. When the first trailers came out for the 2nd one, I was a little more nervous. It looked as though the LaBeouf factor had gotten worse and his character/acting hadn't gotten much better. Still, I tried to go in with an open mind.

And here's what I found.

Directorial Style

Maybe I was superimposing my own bias on the director, but it really felt like Michael Bay was trying to distract the audience from the plot and the characters. The special effects and cinematography were over the top and left the viewer dizzy and disoriented throughout the film...as though the excessive use of motion, sound and visual explosiveness (not just explosions, but explosive visual motions through scenes) would make up for the fact that not much was really happening.

     One case in point would be the scene where Mikaela comes to tell Sam goodbye...the camera panned around and around and around as the two stared at each other for a good minute. Seriously dizzying.

Sex Appeal

Megan Fox was there as eye candy in the first movie but at least they tried to give her character a little depth. In this film, Mikaela (and a couple of other female characters) were just highly over-sexed. Again, as though the director was trying to distract viewers from the fact that there wasn't anything worthwhile going on.

     If you've seen the trailer, you saw the girl draped across a motorcycle while she chats with Sam on the phone. She was stretched across that bike in tight/short clothes looking like she was posing for some pin-up magazine...when in the scene, she was working at a body shop doing air brushing on the front of the bike. Really? Are we honestly supposed to believe that Sam's girlfriend (I still don't buy her as his girlfriend either) works in a body shop and does upside down airbrushing in skimpy clothes by draping herself across a motorcycle in a 'sexy pose' rather than approaching the job like a human being?

Comic Relief

Ramon Rodriguez showed up as Sam's college roommate Leo. Apparently the director/writer/casting dept decided that Shia couldn't stand on his own as both an action star and comic relief. So they brought in a new character, Leo. Leo actually brought a little depth to the plot with his conspiracy theories and his slapstick comedy worked for what it was. Of the central characters, I think I found his the most believable.

The return of John Turturro's character was alright and his comic relief was appreciated, but too often it was stretched way too thin and he came off as an annoyance more often than not.

Hardcore Robots

As a child of the 80s who grew up with the Transformers toys and cartoons, I think this is the bit that annoyed me the most. This was present a little in the first movie with the Decepticons, but I accepted it there because they were the bad guys. In this second film, almost all of the robots have taken on a harder edge and become jaded and brash.

Many (most?) of the central speaking Transformers swore frequently and talked like they were out of a gangsta rap video.

Even Optimus Prime, the definitive good guy robot had his character raked over the coals with derogatory and antagonistic one-liners and violent and over the top coup de grĂ¢ce against his combatants.

This felt like a betrayal to the spirit of Transformers as well as an attempt to go over the top with shock value rather than present depth of character and plot.


I didn't hate this movie, but I won't go out of my way to see it again. It felt like a mash up of over produced hype without anything to back it up. It leaves me hoping they don't make a 3rd movie...though with the box office numbers the way they are, I suspect they'll keep milking this for all it's worth.

1.5 stars (out of 5)


Kelvin Oliver said...

For some reason I couldn't get into the first Transformers. I tried to watch it when the movie came on TV but never grasped my attention or there were other things going on. But it is good to read movie reviews of it and see what people thought about it.

Tales of Whimsy said...

The first one was SO much better. I couldn't even finish this one.