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Thursday, June 25, 2009


I'm going to say that I immensely enjoyed Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen despite a lot of problems possessed by this movie.

I saw it at midnight on Wednesday night (meaning the wee hours of yesterday morning) along with fellow bloggers Phillip Arthur and Matthew Federico. And I am compelled to echo the sentiments that just about every reviewer on the planet is saying about this movie: that it's far too long, it's much too juvenile and there's way too much to expect a viewer to take in.

I anticipate that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is going to become a textbook example of how a movie demands good editing, because there's a ton of material that could have been left on the cutting room floor that would not only not be missed, but would have made for a much tighter and more enthralling film. Some of this stuff was just plain embarrassing to watch: Sam's mom hopped-up on marijuana-laced brownies is but one of them. Other elements should have never progressed beyond the conceptual stage... and I'm thinking mostly of Skids and Mudflap (or as many are calling them, "Car Car Binks"). Seriously: Skids and Mudflap are the very worst thing to happen to the Transformers franchise in the history of anything. A lot of people are wondering aloud if these two Autobidiots are meant to be stereotypically racist. Whether they are or not, Skids and Mudflap should have never been given such an obscene amount of screen time. Regardless of anything else, these two characters offend good taste in ways that Mel Brooks barely did with Blazing Saddles. What the hell were screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (along with Ehren Kruger) thinking?! Hard to believe that these two 'Bots sprang from the same brilliant minds that gave us Star Trek last month.

(I'm not even gonna go anywhere near Devastator's testicles...)

But mostly, I think that much like Spider-Man 3 a few years ago, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen suffers from an excess of plot and character.

Imagine the sequels of the Pirate of the Caribbean series - Dead Man's Chest and At World's End - smooshed together into a single motion picture. That is what Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is: one movie that should have been divided into two. It starts off well enough, with Optimus Prime (again voiced by Peter Cullen) describing the events of the past two years and how the Autobots have formed a covert team with the United States military to hunt down Decepticons that have come to Earth. And right off the bat, director Michael Bay is pouring on crazy helpings of his trademark "Bay-hem" style: lots of dizzying 'splosive action that should have utterly broken Industrial Light and Magic's CGI render farm. The opening fight between the Autobots and the huuuuge Decepticon Demolishor is a sequence of well-orchestrated carnage indicative of how this movie is solidly better than Terminator: Salvation, the most recent blockbuster that I had seen in past weeks. There is quite a bit of thoughtful "building off" of the mythology that the first film began, and I liked that. One thing that I appreciated in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is how this movie finally addresses some questions that have been around since the Transformers first hit the scene a quarter-century ago... like how Transformers are born, hatched, whatever. And I think that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is wildly successful at showing us a world-wide conflict between the Autobots and Decepticons (several people in the audience cheered when they saw that the Autobots were driving through North Carolina on the military's map).

But about an hour into the movie and it's glaringly certain that there's too much mythology being hurled at us to take in for one film. The most obvious aspect of this is the sheer number of Autobots and Decepticons overwhelming each other. The original Autobot characters from the first movie? They are barely in this one. We finally get to see Arcee, but she and other female Autobots are hardly noticeable. Soundwave (voiced by Frank Welker!) has a fairly important presence, but I thought we should have seen him take a more active role among his fellow Decepticons. Concepts from the earliest canon like the Pretenders and the Matrix of Leadership and the Space Bridge and more assault the viewer's mind and if you haven't been indoctrinated in Transformers terminology, I can see how it's gonna be very easy to be lost in it all.

This is a movie that should have been split in two, with a Transformers movie for this summer and one for the next. And I know right where the divide should have been at, but won't talk about it here for fear of spoiling it for those who haven't seen it yet. Let's just say that something of a Transformers "tradition" takes place that would have made for an excellent cliffhanger to be resolved in another installment.

There were too many Transformers in this movie. The effects in this movie are nothing short of jaw-dropping. I just wish that there had been fewer Transformers to spread more of the visuals around. Devastator - the combined form of the Constructicons - is the most complex digital model that Industrial Light and Magic has ever made. Too bad we don't get to see the individual Constructicons in action: they're pretty much just sitting vehicles that merge into one colossal robot... without ever getting to see their individual 'bot forms! The final battle at the pyramids between the Autobots and Decepticons has so many Transformers that hardly anybody will be able to pick out who's who.

So far as the humans go, I thought the carbon-based characters were pretty good, but again: a lot of their scenes should have been cleanly excised away from this film. Sam and his wacky family carry over well from the first movie (apart from Judy Witwicky's reefer-crazed rampage) and if you liked John Turturro's character of Simmons in the first movie, you'll be glad to know that he's back and with a bit more to do in this one.

Overall however... I'll have to say that I liked Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen enough that I'll probably want to see it at least once more in the theaters, even though I definitely recognize that it could have been a better movie had it received more editing and fewer robots. The lesson of this movie could be that "special effects do not a character make". Let's hope that the next Transformers movie will bear that in mind.

And what says me about Steve Jablonsky's score for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen? Loved it! Jablonsky really built upon and explored further the themes that he did for the first movie. I gladly bought his score from iTunes yesterday and have been listening to it ever since.

Anyway, in the end: I'm not going to jump on the "Bash Revenge Bandwagon" that this movie is having to endure across the media. I won't say that it's a "great" movie either like The Shawshank Redemption or even Star Trek. But I will say that warts and all, I sincerely came out of seeing Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen much as I did from seeing Transformers two years ago: thoroughly entertained.

What more could one ask of a summer blockbuster? :-)


Joseph Barnes said...

Its a better movie than critics are giving it. I agree its too long somewhat but I didnt have a problem following the story. It was easier to follow than the last Pirates Of The Carribbean movie. I thought it was great!

AfterShock said...

Glad to hear it isn't as bad as the critics are making it out to be. I have been asking friends about it, and they all say it is a good flick. Can't wait for tomorrow afternoon to get here...gonna be sitting in the theater watching it... :)

daysleeperchuk said...

I was not a child in the Transformer era... so the story and back characters, mean little to me,, so I have to judge the movie against the backdrop of movie buff/reality/comic geek good sense,,Movie gets plenty of style points, great visuals, fight scenes and exactly the pace you would expect,,...however --lots of gaping plot holes on the human side of things....scenes jump from point to point at times without explanation---How Sam and chick run from one side of desert to the other in what is probably 115 degree heat, but are never thirsty---when the robots fight sometimes you can't see who's winning or whats happening...It just looks like mechanized parts swirling around,...one must need "video game vision" to clearly define exactly what just happened...oh wait,, micheal bay is going to slow it down for us so we can discern exactly how bad ass a director he is,,thanks..I know I'm thinking too much, but I never asked questions like this about Iron Man---I think the 1st Transformers was better---however--the female transformer was cool---Sam's brain being hijacked was cool---I was pretty sure they would just take his whole body there at the end and he would just be half man half Transformer....aaaannnnnnddd Cue Third SEQUAL!!++ "Terminator 2015-The end of the world"--(suggested title)--Tie-in!

daysleeperchuk said...

Plus how do robots from another planet have Afro-centric tendencies and speech patterns? did they grow up in "Robot-Brooklyn?"

Todd W said...

The movie really is as bad as critics say, if not worse. In fact, I'm glad I read the reviews ahead of time. I was so bothered by the first movie, which still had a few redeeming qualities, that I was close to turning into the Incredible Hulk afterwards. Despite how much worse this movie is, I walked into it more prepared for it and walked out kind of numb.

I went to the 12:50 showing. I forgot to see when the previews stopped and the movie began, but I remember thinking at exactly 2:24 that the movie already felt too long. I think the movie finally stopped violating me, uh, I mean ended, at around 3:30.

I gave the first movie a C-. I'd give the sequel a D-. I may have to struggle to find specific reasons for not giving it an F. For now, the only reasons I can think of are: (1) I still like the vehicle forms of *most* of the Transformers; (2) In general, it was not as bad as Batman & Robin, Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows, Event Horizon, Highlander 2: The Quickening, or Star Trek V: The Final Frontier; and (3) I like the Witwickys' back yard (I think I spotted some blue hydrangeas in there).

Oh, and I'll stipulate to the argument that if I anticipated it being so bad, I shouldn't have gone to see it... It's rare, but sometimes when you know something is going to be bad, you just have to see for yourself how bad. It was sheer curiosity.

Geoff Gentry (aka xforce11) said...

My review http://ithess518.xanga.com/706326635/transformers-2-review/

Aaron said...

I think the problem was simply this: Michael Bay. Bay directed it, produced it and even wrote part of the script during the infamous writer's strike.

I think that these movies will never reach their potential with Michael Bay at the helm. A new director, my pick is Bryan Singer (X-man, X2). He is good at balencing a lot of characters around the story while making it coherent (the last scene in X2 is still amazing).

The Tranformers need to be balanced, not just thrown in and the humor needs to be cut back and grown up. From the first one Ironhide pulling out a Clint Eastwood line was classic but this one, outside of the Bumblebee and Alice scene, was immature.

Kill the twins in the next one, put more of Sideswipe in (guy was bad ass) and you got yourself a movie.