Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Whether you think it's a good thing or not, know this: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a faithful extension and escalation of director Michael Bay's first film in the franchise. In fact, it's practically the same movie—but supersized. Everything is turned up to eleven—the good and the bad.
What I was happy to see: More robots (46 over 14 from the first), more impressive technological wizardry, and more fun action set pieces. What I was not happy to see: More convenient story leaps, more shamefully inappropriate elements, more completely incoherent action, and more frustratingly lowest-common denominator "comic" relief.
If you liked the first, you'll probably like this. I can't say I like either Transformers film, but there's a difference between them. In Transformers, I was angry, dismayed, and frustrated. For this sequel, I might just be used to Bay's treatment by now, but I mostly just laughed with genuine amusement and shook my head in total bemusement. It's a big mess.
As the sequel begins, we learn that the Autobots have joined forces with an elite squadron of the U.S. military to form NEST, a covert group working cooperatively to fight the Decepticons. Meanwhile, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is preparing to leave for college. As he does, he discovers something that once again makes him a key player in the Autobot vs. Decepticon war—a war that an old enemy called The Fallen is now joining.
In the first hour, I was surprised to find a mostly sensible and reasonably compelling storyline. But the longer it goes, the further it dives into unexplainable lunacy. And it goes for a long time (2½ hours). Sometimes, it's confusing to tell what's going on—it's frequently hard to tell which bots are which. And even if you do know what's happening, it doesn't all add up. The film thrives on quick and easy script shortcuts and magical gobbledygook to push along the plot. For instance, if you had a secret and powerful intergalactic power source wanted by giant evil robots, would you give it to Optimus Prime to protect or to Megan Fox? Well, if you chose to give it to Prime, it would be safe—but your movie would also be over. And don't even get me started on how they get to Egypt or how the massive Devastator is destroyed.
From Bay's resume (Bad Boys, The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, The Island), it is clear that this former music video director likes his movies big, bold, loud, sexy, and full of that all-American rock 'n' roll zest. He also aims at a very wide audience—namely, everyone. Instead of starting with a story to tell—or a more specific target audience—it seems that Bay and his Transformers writers fall into the trap of thinking, "Well, what do people like?" and slapping it all together into one movie. This means a few things.
First, and most troubling, it means that a franchise born out of a children's toy line and cartoon now features elements that have no business in entertainment aimed at children or young teens—hyper-sexualized women, over-the-top violence, crude comedy, etc. The appeal of Revenge of the Fallen is obvious: super cool robots fighting for human existence. Fine. Why then—other than to pull in larger audiences—do you need multiple comedic shots of dogs humping? And how is Hasbro okay with this?