Lite Review: It’s about robots who tear parts off of each other and battle to the death. If you are into that sort of thing, then this movie is perfectly acceptable. If you prefer a reasonable plot, likeable characters, and a story that actually goes somewhere; then why the hell are you going to a movie that advertises that it’s based off of Hasbro toys? It’s a decent enough movie to watch once.
Before I get to the real bulk of this review, I must direct you to Brian Lynch’s “How to Survive Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”. It’s far more informative than I could hope to be as far as movie survivalism is concerned. Also, read Roger Ebert’s review of the film for something totally scathing. He’s not alone. As I write this, Rotten Tomatoes currently gives the film a 21% freshness rating.
I absolutely loathed the previous Transformers film. The only good thing about the film, in my view, was that Starscream got to wreck a squadron of fighter jets and look cool while doing it. The first spoiler I must release about the film is that Starscream is noticeably less badass, as are most characters who are not Optimus Prime. What this film lacks in Starscream badassery, it makes up for in strides with robotic violence.
I have now seen a Transformer stabbed directly through the chest, another get its face ripped off after a very violent and un-Prime line, a robot burst out of another’s face, and a host of inhuman characters get shot straight through. There were a few times throughout the movie when the only comment I had was, “That’s fucked up.” This movie made no pretense about the fact that they were performing acts of violence that would have gotten an R rating had it been performed by humans – or creatures for whom we were given a chance to care.
The characterizations for the titular robots in disguise were either lacking or racist, with nothing in between points. Optimus Prime’s character is that he’s a leader and he fights hard, Ironhide likes to pull out guns, Starscream is suddenly a coward, Megatron is violent and subserviant, the Fallen is old and revenge-driven, Sideswipe is a badass (which wasn’t unpleasant to find), Arcee is a girl (or is girls), Wheelie’s a pussy, Soundwave is there, and the twins are niggers. Sorry for dropping the N-bomb, but that’s what it was. They had big eyes, big lips, gold teeth, had particularly bad speech patterns and made heavy use of slang, and they admitted to not knowing how to read. The reading part is what really came to upset me. The producers of the film are racist, and I’m sure they felt they could get away with it because they figured “those people” wouldn’t get it. With all of the unsavory racial stereotyping and noise filling the screens in Hollywood these days, it’s not unlikely that many would gloss over those twins whose names were likely Boy! and Buckwheat.
In watching this film, it’s easy to see just how far from creative the Hollywood machine is. What the movie presents to us is a race of aliens from space who somehow match nicely with Earth cultures and stereotypes. Did the twins have to be stupid negroes? Was there any purpose in all of them using Earth slang? Why was the old Seeker known as Jetfire a Brit? I guess this is what we call humor. Giant robots riffing on our stereotypes and blatant racism is family fun. That is certainly good to know.
On another note, why the hell was Jetfire made to be so useless? He had everything going for him – he was a jet and could teleport (despite not being Skywarp). Instead of being the scientific tactician and badass that longtime fans would recognize, he was an old curmudgeon with a British accent and a lack of loyalty to his former cause. He makes a heroic sacrifice in the end, though, but it’s negated by the fact that he wasn’t given enough screen time for the audience to care what about him. Also, I realize this film wasn’t made for fans of other Transformers stories or toys that actually look good, so I’m attempting to write this review from the lens of someone who actually likes good, fun movies. I learned from the first movie that the actual fan in me was not the target audience.
There was also a human element to the film that was totally useless. I don’t need to know about Shia the Beef’s long distance romance while my robots are getting eviscerated. I don’t care that his mother ate a pot brownie while visiting and tackled a guy. (Note: People who are high don’t tend to tackle others. The thought would probably scare the shit out of them.) It was a cool idea to see soldiers fighting side-by-side with the Autobots in the beginning of the film, but it lacked any sort of logic. It’s like they didn’t watch the first movie. We know that bullets don’t hurt Decepticons, so why send the humans out first with guns? Why send the humans out first against killer robots when you could more reasonably match them up against your own killer robots? That was beyond unreasonable. It was stupid. But at least it was a moment for Sideswipe to shine.
Fortunately, it’s not always true that a movie is only as strong as its leads. Megan Fox can’t act. Her purpose in the film was to induce masturbatory fantasies in
Michael Bay the audience. This was made clear by her first appearance on the screen, hunched over a bike. If you never before considered the motorcycle a phallic symbol, then maybe this makes it easier to think about things you want Fox to ride. Then there’s Shia the Beef, whose claim to acting fame is repeating the same word in succession. I don’t recall a “No no no!”, but there were other repeat words – don’t worry. He’s best scene in the film involved him screaming like a girl for comic effect. Good job. And his character, Sam, apparently had “The Touch”. Yes, I have a problem with that. Then again, I was also thinking that Sam might have had an intersect in his head.
I was thinking after that maybe Sam could become a Powermaster, just so long as the obvious joke about Fox’s character would be made. Yes, combine her with Arcee and make her a Headmaster. Sam would then say, “She sure is.” Laughs would ensue. By the way, this is still family fun.
Other issues I had that aren’t worth a full commitment to writing out: Optimus Prime’s death and resurrection is a worthless Transformers trope, no explanation for female bots, many unnamed and uncharacterized bots, Soundwave jizzed on our planet and no one noticed (seriously, we have a Transformer stuck to a satellite and no one even bothered to consider the possibility of intelligence’s being compromised), Devastator was present just for the wow factor of a gestault, not enough Sideswipe, not enough Starscream, not enough jet fighting, Megatron served a previously unmentioned master, no one thinks less of the Transformers for having a history of blowing up stars for power, the revelation of who is fighting on which side of the war was revealed to be a choice but still not used to provide character depth (it just let Wheelie jump sides so he could hump Megan Fox’s leg in peace), and the shaky cam was just goddamn annoying.
Despite all that, I am shocked to say that I liked this movie better than its predecessor. It was fun. I would say that I like it a little less than I enjoyed 2009 Film, which means I similarly see it as a film seeing at least once but not owning on DVD. The movie has a lot of crazy action and just has a certain energy permeating through it. Just don’t expect anything deep or to walk out of the theatre with comments on the plot. It’s ironic, but there certainly isn’t more to this movie than meets the eye. However, what meets the eye is pretty thrilling.
Bechdel Rule: FAIL! There are only two actual female characters in the movie, aside from two robot women. Mikeala and Mrs. Witwicky share screen time but never talk. One might think that Mama doesn’t approve of her little boy’s choice in woman. I mean, why wouldn’t she care for a hot, stupid girl with no good prospects for the future?
Yeah, I’m still bitter.