26 June 2009

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen

Michael Bay directs the second installment of the Transformers series. The Decepticons are back to revive their leader and their designs on the entire planet. Of course, Optimus Prime will do everything he can to save Sam Witwicky and the rest of the human race.

URBAN: I almost left after the first 45 minutes. After that, there is a rebound, but it still contains at least 2 big blunders.

This film contains essentially the same overall framework as the first Transformers film.

1. It begins with a flashback to a prior earth visit by the Decepticons
2. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) acts nervous around girls
3. Robots Enter
4. Robots and military destroy several large set pieces
5. Optimus Prime gives a motivational voice over

The main differences are that this one is much longer and that the focus changes from the human characters to the transformers/technology.

To be completely honest, I almost left the theater after the first 45 minutes. It is seriously that bad. Maybe it's the Terminator 3 style girlfriend, maybe its the tired "I'm nervous around girls" bit that LaBeouf does, but my money is that the biggest problem with this movie is Michael Bay's ridiculous need to appease the younger crowd as evidenced by his taste in humor. This film has some funny lines that complement the action quite well. For the most part, John Turturro handles the funny role quite well, but Bay has unfortunately also seen it fit to include to wisecracking robots who are clearly racist stereotypes. It is not their accents that are necessarily negative, (a la Jar Jar Binks) but rather the gold teeth and illiteracy.

These are only the major issues that occur within the first 45 minutes (out of 150). There are two issues which occur near the end of the film that were simply laughable. The first is the Heaven's gate vision which occurs as Sam (LaBeouf) lies dead in the sand. Sam's vision is of the robot ancestors. They tell him how to use the Matrix of Leadership (MOS). Yes, the secret to saving our planet is the Matrix of Leadership (I know it is from the comic book, but it is the dorkiest name ever). This is the second laughable issue that this film raises at the end of the film, where it should be reaching its peak.

To be fair, there were some parts of the film that were worthy of recognition. The film did a good job of presenting its mythology. The mention of this mythology is one of the only things that holds the weak plot together, and is probably the only thing would draw me to another sequel in this series. This film also did a much better job that the first entry in portraying the robot vs. robot violence. In the first film it was often quite difficult to identify the robots as they battled (the quick cuts didn't help). This shortcoming is corrected by depicting all of the Autobots in bright colors and all of the Decepticons in gray. The only time that I had trouble differentiating between the two groups of robots was during the battle between the US military as they attempted to defend the village against the Decepticons.

The first film worked because it was able to portray interesting characters and make the viewer care about their story. In this film, it seems that director Bay has attempted to switch this strategy around. Here, the human characters; Sam, girlfriend, roomate, family and the military characters are not featured as prominently as the robots and military technology (well, maybe the girlfriend was). What I mean by this is to say that the most compelling parts of this film all had to do with the robot characters. The fight scene where Optimus Prime defends Sam against 3 Decepticons and eventually sacrifices himself is the only part that draws any true emotion. Likewise, the United States military, which seemed woefully underpowered against the Decepticons in the first film, has upgraded their firepower in order to provide a reliable option.

In closing, this film, like the first looks good on the screen. It has great effects with fights between robots and dips into an interesting mythology. Even with several things going for it, the film just fails miserably on several key points,,,,, points that really aren't necessary for this film to succeed. In reality, I believe that the best use of this film is to explain the need for our full-fledged support of General Motors.

Think about it...

The world is being threatened (the recession) by a small parasitic group looking for energy (greedy Wall-Street executives). If we lend our support to the Autobots (General Motors) through the NEST agreement (Bailout) they will continue to protect us (from losing our automobile manufacturing jobs) and give us the Camaro (Consumer Society).

On a serious note, this film does seem to have a very clear and positive message on behalf of interventionist politics. It is too bad that this feature was not explored more prominently.

URBAN: Not Recommended

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