Thursday, 2 July 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen


Directed by: Michael Bay
Screenplay: Ehren Kruger and Robert Orci & Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Shia LeBeouf, Megan Fox, John Tuturro & loads and loads of robots

The robots in disguise are back for a second go around in Revenge of the Fallen and in true Michael Bay style everything is bigger but not necessarily better. Bay’s first Transformers flick was an ok enough blockbuster if overlong and not always finding the right balance between intense action and comedy hi-jinks. The visuals were certainly impressive and the flick was buoyed by rising star LeBeouf’s infectious energy. Once again the visual’s are as slick as ever (with the robot count ramped up excessively here) LeBeouf is still on fine comedy form (though appears somewhat distance compared to the first flick) and there is plenty of slam bang action but it’s all just more of the same. There are also bad choices with the introduction of some excruciatingly awful new characters (human and robot) and feeble attempts to shoe horn in various other characters from the first flick making Revenge of the Fallen a distinctly hollow (and at times boring) experience, even for a film about giant robots smacking the crap out of one another.

Things start off ok with mucho destruction in Shanghai as the Autobots seek out and take down giant Decepticon, Devastator. Then there is some silly family stuff, a cool bit with lots of little Transformers, loads of fast talking military stuff and then loads of running around where everyone somehow ends up in Egypt so Bay can get down to destroying it. Along the way shit gets blown up, Megatron gets sidelined once again for yet another bad guy robot (the Fallen of the title) Optimus sprouts wisdom and has an ace scrap with some Decepticons in a forest and then there is some incredibly bad attempts at comedy and two very out-dated robots who are also meant to be there for “comedy” relief. Mudflaps and Skids are possibly the most annoying characters (at least CGI wise) since a certain Jar Jar Binks first graced the screen of celluloid. Talking and cracking wise like too jive happy MCs, they are the definition of walking, talking (transforming) cliché’s that provide very little comedy. What’s worse is they steal a good amount of screen time away from Bumblebee, arguably one of the best robot characters. In fact, he and Megatron are disappointingly sidelined so much to make way for a bevy of new characters. Proceedings almost come to a standstill when ancient Decepticon defector Jetfire is introduced to dish out reams and reams of exposition. His scenes may be visually stunning but they stretch the film out way beyond what it needs to be. Likewise, LeBeouf’s Sam Witwicky is given a pointless comedy sidekick in the form of a new college roommate, and despite being energetically played by Ramon Rodriguez, is superfluous to everything going on, takes time away from Sam’s relationships with Michaela (Fox) and Bumblebee, and, oh yeah, isn’t very funny.

There are some cool new characters that do work, such as the cat like Ravage, a new spin on Transformer classic Soundwave, a great sequence with a Decepticon made up of hundreds of tiny little robots and the huge, hulking and visually stunning Constructicon that wrecks havoc in the final third. Even fan favourite Starscream gets a bit more screen time which is cool. These characters bring more of an edge to proceedings and this is where Revenge of the Fallen is so disappointing as it could have been a much darker and meaner sequel. The original teaser trailer brilliantly hinted at this (all sound, images and little dialogue) but the final film rarely represents what this trailer promised. Granted, this is another movie about giant robots kicking seven shades of hell out of one another and on that level, it works most of the time. There are some great set-pieces including the Optimus Prime fight and a scrap Bumblebee has with a nasty looking Decepticon. But everything else is often flat and relies too much on needless mugging and brain numbing exposition.

Certainly, Revenge of the Fallen is great to look at and shows moments of inventiveness and grand scale action. LeBeouf tries his best, as does Optimus, but they can’t save this sequel from being a load of bloated excess.

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