As Kyoji prepares more Transformable postings, I will add my comments here, in my personal review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I have no idea how Kyoji or any of the other contributors to G.O.N.G. feel about this movie, but I at least enjoyed to outing. It’s not perfect, but it does manage to improve upon the first film. For a sequel nowadays, that in and of itself is a crowning achievement in Hollywood. (Note: I tried to avoid it, but there may be spoilers below. You have been warned.)
For those of you that have been living under a rock since before the 80’s, Transformers is a franchise developed by toy maker Hasbro for the sole purpose of selling (you guessed it) toys. Not just any toys, but toys that (wow) transform between various vehicles, objects, weapons, and animals into (generally) humanoid robots and occasionally into other various vehicles, objects, weapons, and animals or combine with others to make bigger, more complicated (supposedly more powerful) vehicles, objects, weapons, animals, and/or humanoid robots. The story cooked up to make this remotely plausible to kids is an age old war between two sides: Decepticons (evil) and Autobots (good). These two factions are generally lead into battle by Megatron and Optimus Prime respectively (a big handgun with a scope and a semi). If you try to make sense of this, you will find the whole thing ridiculous. Most cartoons and toy lines from the 80’s are. Thing is, in implementation, Transformers has stood the test of time, in fact, better than its older brother G.I. Joe (we deal with that one come August).
Now, back in 2007, Michael Bay astounded every fanboy in the world with a great adaption of the franchise. The film wisely shunned any established series cannon and forged its own based on the bare-bones essentials of the established Transformers universe. Transformers (2007) (re)introduced the mainstream to the feud between the Cybertonians in smart fashion: action, character development, and comedy. Revenge of the Fallen makes the war even more epic: more action, more character development, and more comedy. Unfortunately, these aren’t in equal parts.
If you read my X-Men Origins: Wolverine review, you may have noticed that I used a point system to score it at out of 5 points, similar to a 5-star rating. Yes, it’s totally subjective and unreliable, but every review is that way. So I use the same system to be fair – awarding or taking away points based on the merit of important points/aspects of the film, namely story, acting, FXs, sound, and picture.
This outing is based on the stories involving the Fallen, an ancient Cybertronian analogous to Satan in that he fell grace sort to speak, hence the name The Fallen. In the film, The Fallen is after one thing, the destruction of Earth, no surprise there. The only thing stopping him, the presence of Optimus Prime, a descendant of the Seven Primes that thwarted The Fallen’s plan to destroy Earth way back in the year 17,000 BC. That’s right, Cybertonians have been to Earth before (this is also in main cannon, Beast Wars, while chronologically after Gen.1, ultimately places Optimus Primal and his team of Maximals on Earth before their ancestors, kind of… I digress). So, the set up does this: 2 years have passed since the incident in LA in the first film; the Autobots have joined with the US military to hunt down rouge Decepticons, leaving a hunk of the Allspark in the care of humans; Sam and Mikaela are still together, though Sam is leaving for College – leaving his girl and poor Bumblebee behind; and Megatron is still dead on the ocean floor. Score 0.5. Logical progression is good.
After the set up, things get rolling. Fast. We’re introduced to new Autobots Sideswipe, Skids and Mudflap (twins), and the Arcee Triplets (yes, three of her), and are reintroduced to originals Ratchet and Ironhide in an intense Decepticon hunt, witnessed in the trailers in spectacular fashion. From this point on, the film is moving at a brisk clip, introducing us to all the major players as we need them while dropping the appropriate Decepticon intros: Soundwave (voiced his original man, Frank Welker), Rampage, Starscream (again), and the Constucticons. There are others on both sides eventually, and, for the most part, they can be identified easily now – even during the high octane, slow-mo action set pieces. Score 1.5.
Shia does his thing to decent effect, thankfully not nearly as annoying as he was last time. Megan Fox isn’t the best when it comes to acting, but she doesn’t need to be. Bay is shameless when it come to action and women, and even more so when filming women in action – there were too many shots that left me wondering if Fox even knows what a sports bra is, not that I complain about this, but I imagine she may have, well, fell out a few times running away from all those fireworks. Sam’s parents stole every scene they were in, simply comic genius in a film like this one. And speaking to comedy, Skids and Madflap will be your favorite transformers by the time you leave the theater, I can almost guarantee that. Score 1.0.
The score is missing some the epic flare that made the first film magic. In fact, the theme is underused. I like Linkin Park and their new song “New Divide,” but it didn’t have to be in every action set. Score -0.5. The visual quality of the film is impressive. I didn’t see this movie on IMAX, though I want to. I don’t think matters one way or another here. The robots in disguise all look very, very real most of the time. The transitions from CG to practical cars is jsut as seamless as they were in the first film. As I stated earlier, The designs have been tweaked a bit to make identifying individual bots easier during the acrobatic, even barbaric fight sequences. You will find yourself quickly calling transformers by name as you come across and return to them. Score 0.5.
As for those fights, Optimus gets in ring more often this time out; this is good because Ratchet and Ironhide really got more meaningful screen time in the last film. Sideswipe has a cool moment early in the movie, but he and the Arcee girls get shafted in the finale. Bumblebee, however, is even more badass now and he does next to nothing all movie, how that’s possible I don’t know, but that’s the way it is. Megatron vs. Optimus II is a neat little handicap match that will surely leave the auditorium silent at its end, and the finale, while obvious by the time you get to it, still delivers. Sadly, it delivers a little too much of the same. You’ll know I mean when it’s over. Score 0.5.
Finally, the film is simply enjoyable all-round. It’s a Michael Bay movie, so anyone familiar with any Michael Bay film will know what to expect. There lots of loud, spectacular practical explosions, and over-the-top action sequences. This what he does, and he does it well. No one directs action the way Bay directs action. Sure, 2 hours of Bay-ness is pushing it, but Transformers never really overstayed its welcome. In fact, it dips and drags a bit in middle of the second hour. I found this slightly annoying, but up to that point, the film was moving rather quickly and there is actully quite a bit going on in the last act. I never once felt bored or unentertained, so while the pacing dipped a little uncomfortably for me, I can’t say I would have liked the film to end sooner than it did. Perhaps that may have been beneficial, but, whatever… Score 0.5.
Final score – 4.0/5.0
This film is an improvement over the 2007 outing, but it is simply more of the same. A lot more of the same, but not equally so on each front. There are more bots, more action, and more laughs, but not too much more in the way of epic scoring and individual character development. The door is left open for more movies, but how those stories will potentially unfold is uncertain. Some of the plot development here may make some stories a little difficult to adapt (Unicron in particular, maybe), but the first film was wholly original based on foundations – I think once Bay has his vacation, his team can pull another gem from the rough.
As a final note, I’m note a Transformers fanboy. I watched the Gen.1 series a bit on SciFi (when it was SciFi) and loved Beast Wars/Beast Machines (that’s right, I enjoyed techno-organic b.s. – shoot me if you dare), but I can’t say I’m a diehard fan at all. Therefore, my review is very much from the persective of the casual fan. Take this as you will.