Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Transformers Revenge of the Fallen PosterDirector: Michael Bay

Release Date: June 19th, 2009 (UK); June 24th, 2009 (US)

Genre: Action; Adventure; Science-fiction

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox

When it comes to giant robots hitting each other, this is more horrific and dim than Pacific Rim. After being punched illegally below the belt last time, we’ve carelessly staggered back for round two where everything is bigger, louder and even more insulting. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, then, hones in on a once universal toy that has moved on from mild swearing to juvenile leg humping. Michael Bay’s second instalment looks neat for a while but once the materialistic disguise wears away we’re left with an outing that makes up for in immaturity what it loses in efficiency.

There is no structure here. No beginning, middle and end. It’s just a mass of special effects that progressively squanders specialness and a bunch of indecipherable machines who relentlessly fritter away parts. At two and a half hours long and over $200 million spent, Revenge of the Fallen simply isn’t good enough.

A few years have passed since the events in Transformers. Sam (Shia LaBeouf) is heading off to college, Mikaela (Megan Fox) is fixing vehicles and the Decepticons are looking for another reason to attack. Fortunately, a piece of the cube from the last film innocuously falls from an old T-shirt in Sam’s closet (imagine that!), setting in motion a series of events involving odd symbolic visions, the Pyramids of Giza, Optimus Prime and stealing the Sun. Or something.

Humans and Autobots now work together as part of a military NEST branch that targets Decepticons. Straight away, we see Autobots project the form of attractive females. A few scenes and countless soaring fireballs later (Bay can only withstand five minutes without including an explosion this time) the focus shifts to Megan Fox suggestively bending over a motorcycle, because that’s how mechanics roll in her neck of the woods. At least we know where we stand. The Transformers trademark has transformed from a children’s plaything to an adrenaline-fuelled macho void, and for absolutely no justifiable reason. Bay even uses college sex as an excuse to unleash his beloved brand of action-packed booms. His woman characters — because, let’s be honest, nobody else would dehumanise the female gender like this — are sold as nothing more than window dressing to pull in adolescents who know no better. Rachael Taylor’s smart scientist is out, services no longer required. Too intelligent obviously. Her substitute is Isabel Lucas, who exists solely to have a thing for Shia LaBeouf. Do the Oscars give out an award for misogyny?

The film is even more of a mess than its predecessor. From start to finish proceedings play out as a constant battle where the only people who care about civilian fatalities less than us are the filmmakers. “Worldwide casualties are in the neighbourhood of 7000,” we hear before the outing hastily returns to what’s important (loud bangs). The conclusion of this continuous war is a human versus robot encounter that is outrageously implausible even within the context of maximum implausibility. Though, it is rather poetic that the main monster here takes the form of an enormous hoover, particularly given Revenge of the Fallen is a total moral-vacuum. A National Security Advisor shows up at one point to explain the details of what happened previously. The moment actually works on two pathetic levels: both as a quick fix for those who avoided the first film and as a driving force for this film’s narrative. Essentially, Bay relies on simplifying that which is already simple because he feels it’s the only way his audience can understand the plot.

The piece even begins to suffer in the only area where it normally impresses. Sure, the visuals are pristinely executed and rather impressive for a while, but the mystique soon dissolves in favour of splurging cinematic yuck. A spread of music videoitis is rife; the camera simply cannot sit still and instead consistently circles characters in tandem with puppet string musical interludes. There’s never a hair out of place as good looking people appear even better looking and the average Joe doesn’t exist. We’re even rewarded with moments of slow motion, bestowing a longer life span upon the explosions. Ben Seresin’s cinematography is so obviously trying to impress that it manifests as desperate. And still, sequences unfurl with ugliness — watch out for the Decepticons landing sloppily on Earth.

Revenge of the Fallen is actually at its best when the Transformers aren’t around, when what’s playing out on screen is an awkward family comedy. Driven by stupid humour, the sequences involving Sam and his parents are the most entertaining. Kevin Dunn and Julie White offer brief junctures of light relief as Mr and Mrs Witwicky. (In truth, these sparsely spread few seconds go down like a glass of ice cold water in the desert). Shia LaBeouf annoys a tad more than in the first film, but it’s unfair to chastise him for the all-encompassing faults strangling a severely lacking script. Megan Fox has even less to do than in the first flick, if that’s possible.

It might not be a total money-making scheme yet — that’s the next one — but Revenge of the Fallen is undoubtedly the grandest black hole in a star-destroying franchise. Nothing’s salvageable from the wreckage. This is cinematic homicide and Michael Bay is guilty as charged.

Transformers Revenge of the Fallen - Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox

Images credit: IMP Awards, Collider

Images copyright (©): Paramount Pictures