Thursday, June 25, 2009

Review - Transformers Revenge of the Fallen

Two years have transpired since the events of the first film, and with Sam Witwicky just days away from heading off to college, he finds a sliver of the allspark that defeated Megatron. After touching the sliver, Sam is immediately implanted with visions and images of the origins to the ancient Transformers race. Decepticon forces, who have been hiding and watching, are instantly made aware of the ancient secrets that have been unlocked in young Sam's mind and take action to capture and take the secrets from him. Optimus Prime and the rest of the Autobots join forces with international armies to help protect Sam and the ancient secrets of the Transformers from the evil Decepitcons.

"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" delivers more Transformers, tons of quality battles, massive explosions and some fun laughs but, unfortunately does not measure up in overall quality to the original film directed by Michael Bay. The sequel has a major flaws in storytelling, pacing and character development, but still did greatly entertain for the 150 minute running time. Michael Bay definitely went bigger this time around, and although the explosions and action sequences were great, it seems that he overlooked some details greatly affecting the outcome of the overall film's quality. That said, I still enjoyed the hell out of the summer blockbuster and would watch it again and again.

Let's get the negative out of the way first. After the first film released, fans cried that there were not enough Transformers in the first film, well Michael Bay answered and the result is bitter-sweet. While Bay definitely amped up the amount of Transformers in "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," a lot of the new characters were great in design but failed miserably in character or performance. A couple of prime examples would be Devastator and the Autobot twins, Skids and Mudflap. Devastator was amazing in design, but when he finally makes his massive appearance, the end result is unimpressive. For something as grandiose as Devastator, he was a huge disappointment. Furthermore, the unnecessary shot of his testicles, was an even bigger let down. As for the twins, Skids and Mudflap, they could have been very funny and the idea of two twins who interact together was inventive, but the route Michael Bay took instead was terrible. I was shocked how blatantly stereotypical their characters were. I hated how foul-mouthed they were and was very unimpressed when my children came out of the movie quoting their vulgarities i.e "Pussy" and "Bitch-Ass." Unexpectedly, the film did seem a bit more adult than the last film, with a lot more sexual innuendo's that were absent in the first film. In particular, the minibot named Wheelie, who at one point begins to hump Mikaela's (Megan Fox) leg. Just another of many unnecessary shots or cheap jokes that are laced throughout "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." One of the biggest most laugh out loud aspect to the film, was the female Decepticon. She took me completely out of the movie, and when her tongue begins to transform, I could not help but chuckle at the stupidity of the idea.

The acting in "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" had some great performances and some others that were terribly grating and annoying. Shia LaBeouf really does his best to carry the film. His moments interacting with Bumble Bee and Optimus Prime are outstanding and make us remember why we loved the original so much. Sam Witwicky's parents, played by Kevin Dunn and Julie White provide a lot of comic relief throughout the film, however I could have done without the Mom tripping on pot brownie's (another unnecessary moment). Jon Tuturo returns as Agent Simmons and he really has some of the best dialogue throughout the film providing some of the more funnier moments. On the downside, Megan Fox was absolutely annoying in the sequel. Her character in the original was good, but here all she is left to do is make her lips look as puffy as possible, were very revealing clothing and wonder why Sam hasn't told her he loves her. Really Michael Bay, that is the best we could have done in character development for the role of Mikaela? All that Megan Fox did in "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is remind me why she is better served on the cover of Maxium magazine than starring in feature films.

Most of the supporting cast was a bit disappointing with only cheap one-liners of dialogue to deliver, except for Ramon Rodriguez playing (a role obviously written for Jonah Hill) Sam's college roommate Leo Spitz and Josh Duhamel returning as Major Lennox. Rodriquez handled all of his dialogue very well and had some moments that had the entire theater laughing hysterically. Duhamel showed the ability to take on the cheesy one-liners plagued throughout the script and deliver them in a way that made them bearable, unlike Tyrese Gibson as Master Sergeant Epps. I hated Gibson in the first film and I hated him here again in the sequel. His dialogue was terrible, as was his performance and this time his character felt unnecessary in an already character heavy film. My last complaint of the acting cast was Isabel Lucas, or should I say Megan Fox number two. Lucas's character, when on screen, took me out of the sequel entirely. She was painfully predictable and nothing more than eye candy for the male audience. Her character development along with a few other plot devices bogged down "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" easily making pacing problems for the lengthy film.

As for the pacing of the film, there is one moment near the end of the film where Tuturo's character says to the Transformer Jetfire, "Concise, facts, let's get to the point," and it really felt as though Michael Bay should have heeded his own script advise. "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" just had too much going on and it took too long to get there. That is not to say that getting there wasn't fun, because I definitely enjoyed the movie, but there were so many times that something would pull my focus from the movie whether it was crappy one-liner's, sexual innuendo's, borderline racism or over directing. Michael Bay has his inflated style of directing and here in the Transformers sequel he just went overboard with it. In particular, Bay's over-use of the 360 degree camera work. There are numerous shots in the film where the camera circles the actors like 4 or 5 times and the effect becomes tedious ultimately leaving you dizzy. Another aspect to the cinematography that drove me nuts, is Bay's overuse of the Sun. Half of the film has the Sun shinning behind the actors, this is a devise Bay has used in all of his films and it has always seemed just a bit too much.

Michael Bay knows his action sequences and I loved all of the epic battles that take place in "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." Each and every fight is well paced, beautifully shot and masterfully exciting. The explosions, CGI and thrills are top-notch and have you smiling ear to ear as the battles unfold. Speaking of the CGI, Bay and the Dreamworks animators proved to make some flawless designs including Soundwave, Acree and Sideswipe. I also got a huge kick out of the Insectabots as they infiltrated a highly guarded facility. If you are a fan of the Decepitcons, you will get a nice dose of them here in the sequel, however many of the new Decepitcons that are used in the battle sequences are sadly never highlighted or given any speaking roles.

Overall, despite some very obvious flaws I had with "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," it still was a highly entertaining summer blockbuster. I loved the Transformers as a kid and it is awesome to see them once again on screen and in action. No doubt, I wished the film had been a bit more concise and lost some of the crappy dialogue and cheap jokes, but the final result was still well worth it. The film leaves a nice opening for more Transformers films to come and despite a somewhat disappointing sequel, I can't wait for another film. Furthermore, with Michael Bay not meeting expectations here with "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" he only sets himself up to make a better film, one that redeems any ill will aimed at this film (at least, let's hope so).