Only a few sizable blockbusters have managed to break through the box office ice this summer. ‘Star Trek’, ‘Up,’ ‘The Hangover’ and even ‘Wolverine’ have managed to earn their keep amidst several flops: ‘Terminator Salvation,’ ‘Land of the Lost,’ ‘Year One,’ ‘The Taking of Pelham 123.’ Does Michael Bay’s latest margarita of explosions, babes and robots spice things up on the silver screen? In terms of dollars: yes. In terms of entertainment value: not like I’d hoped.
Sam (Shia LaBeouf) is off to college for five minutes when war explodes between autobots and decepticons once again. While Sam may not want anything to do with the fight, the ‘Fallen’ (just know they’re bad bots) have other plans for him and need to scan his brain for some important information that will lead them to a temple in Egypt that is key to the autobots’ destruction. Sound crazy? I haven’t even gotten into the teleporting yet. But maybe I’ll just stop there while the plot makes little sense as opposed to absolutely zero sense if I were to go on any further.
This latest Bay quest to blow up the world certainly shows off its budget. The special effects are revved up high as these morphing bots battle each other in several eye-hurtling wrangles of metal-on-metal thrashing. There’s lots of yelling and screaming amidst the computer generated imagery — and let’s be honest — this is ‘Transformers’ we’re talking about, so all the critical backlash can go dismissed when it comes to cursing Michael Bay for his brainless eye-popping antics. This series was never about strong storytelling from the first teaser trailer we discovered with the 2007 picture. Instead, Bay has created a canvas for fireballs and tearing up the laws of physics. Sounds like ‘Armageddon,’ ‘Bad Boys 2’, ‘The Island,’ and even ‘Pearl Harbor.’ Span that destruction over 2 1/2 hours, and you have the idea for both ‘Transformers’ films as well.
The problem with ‘Revenge of the Fallen’ is that the script obviously has little ambition. This thing fell together as if plot devices and dialogue rained from the sky intoa gutter-system and out a studio drainpipe. I really have no idea why these Decepticon bots want Sam Witwicky’s knowledge of hidden systems from millions of years ago buried beneath the Egyptian pyramids that have the power to suck up the sun. I guess it will destroy Earth, but it never comes together, and never really makes any sense. All the previous characters are back too, but anyone can tell it’s only out the sheer coincidence of the confused storyline to throw these characters together again. All this confusion, punctuated with bouts of humor from some rather irritating supporting characters, human and robotic (I’m looking at you ‘Twin Bots’), sends ‘Revenge of the Fallen’ into rushed studio oblivion where fan anticipation and big booms cover all. Let me veer on a tangent for a minute:
The young man really holds this odd opus together. When the self-absorbed director and multiple screenwriters throw lemons at the kid, he makes lemonade with it. He consistently carries us through this mess and the laughable romance with Megan Fox’s character. His delivery never misses a beat when it comes to the humor and focus at the center of this soulless endeavor. Regardless of his stance as a debatable box-office star, he holds this $200 million production together.
At the end of the day, Transformers 2 will wear the crown of box office champ of 2009, no doubt. It’s expensive, visually great, louder than a wood-chipper, and has a storyline that gets it about halfway and then falls apart into a huge, confusing onslaught of action in the last forty-five minutes or so. The first film (which I would’ve award 4 stars of 5 for its huge scale, likable find in LaBeouf, consistent humor, and simpler dopey premise) got it right. This second installment is poorly conceived and confusing, and a lot of the humor falls flat. As much as I want to recommend the action, even the ‘explosion! explosion!’ finale isn’t engaging. No Peter Travers, it’s not the worst movie of the decade. I can think of far worse to sit through. Let’s all stop hating Michael Bay – we know what we’re getting with the man. Transformers 2 is a minor failure, but give the next installment a little more time to bake and a little less ingredients, and I’ll be first in line.
Last 5 posts by Matt V
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