29 June 2009
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Review
Another summer, and another blockbuster season is upon us. So, I ask you - who better to open it than the king of the summer blockbuster? The creator of Bayhem? The man himself? Well, unfotunately, it seems that this is to be ranked among Bay's lesser outings. It seems that instead of Bayhem, he allowed himself to go Baywire.
To explain - the first Transformers movie was required to be good. Required to be coherent, make sense, to ensure a profit so that sequels can be greenlit. This one has no such foibles, instead Bay is issued with a bigger budget, and quite a significant dollop of creative liberty. Some of the stuff that is eventually thrown in...well, it more than emulates Bay's previous dynamic of 'everything but the kitchen sink'. We get the Fallen, we get female motorbike Autobots, we get Constructicons, and only one of them is given a half-decent explanation. We also get a hefty dose of a certain pretty young thing named Megan Fox - in slow motion, from multiple angles. So essentially, Bay seems to have been temporarily posessed by a 13-year-old Transformers fan, and got to it.
Don't get me wrong - what's here is thoroughly entertaining. But so was the first one, and this one did require to at least be as good as its predecessor, if not better than. But the problem is that there's just an enormous amount of stuff that's very cynically designed to cater for the 15-year-old pocket-mining demographic. From the extreme close-ups of Miss Fox's backside (glorious though it may be) to the wise-cracking hillbilly Autobot twins, and a tiny, treacherous Decepticon that has for whatever reason developed the tendency to hump legs like a randy pomeranian. The final straw is giant set of Constructicon wrecking balls (read: testicles), just to add that little bit of stupidity to what should've been something of a spectacle.
And what spectacle. The Transformers themselves have had a huge upgrade - their faces now looking expressive and Bay is bold enough to give some of them closeups. They've recieved tweaks elsewhere, too - the special effects team have truly outdone themselves: exponentially increasing the already intricately detailed models. Again, Bay makes a change from the previous movie, keeping the camera as static and wide as possible during the various robot brawls that happen, ditching the previous' shaky, hand-held feel for a more traditionally cinematic one. This change may seem minor, but it vastly increases the scale of the battles, giving them more depth and weight. This, coupled with the incredible sound design means that you feel each clash of metal, and wince as each explosion pulses through you. Spectacle is definitely the word.
The non-CGI performances are adequate as well. Shia LaBeouf is still as relatable as ever - although this time he's saddled with an over-blown 'chosen one' story that seems a bit too below him to prevent him from phoning it in. Fox's job is merely to pout, and Josh Duhamel's is to act tough in the face of over-whelming odds. Both pull them off - though whether 'admirable' can be applied gets by only on benefit of doubt. John Tuturro makes a welcome return, and when he's not entertaining the notion of Transformer bollocks, he's perhaps the second best thing in the film.
The plot is utter hogwash - as is to be expected from a Transformers movie. But this one seems to have gone a bit over the top with the bullshit. From the aforementioned Chosen One story to the quasi-Jesus-like resurrection of a Transformer, it's all-over-the-place and completely discardable. Which is a shame, considering the first had a clear direction, with a MacGuffin and everything. It was tight and straight despite its silliness - Revenge of the Fallen is not.
Script-writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Ehren Kruger do, however, manage to construct a decent script around the flimsy plot, so you'll never find it confusing per se. Their dialogue is solid, too - and when they're not forced to grapple with the plot's more juvenile elements, a lot of their quips do hit the mark. It's just such a shame that they couldn't've had a better plot to work with, as well as not being able to do with out the temporary insanity of Bay.
At the end of the day, it seems like Michael Bay has tried for a little too much scope in his first sequel of the Transformers franchise. Second in length only to Pearl Harbour in Bay's filmography, it seems to suffer for it. A tighter, more ordered story would've been welcome, but it's easy to forget the ridiculous plot when the big bad robots are beating the crap out of each other.