Sunday, June 28, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (dir. Micheal Bay, 2009)

Lets get one thing straight: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen isn't a film. It isn't even entertainment. It's a two and half hour commercial for General Motors and the US military. It has all the depth of a trailer, and all the plot of a porno. It's a series of loud, predictable fight scenes strung together with sex-ploitative shots of Meagan Fox, knocks on Obama and diplomacy, and arguably racist characterizations (the two "black" transformers - complete with gold teeth - are little more than illiterate, violent, and buffoonish minstrel stock characters). It is, hands down, some of the laziest, most manipulative film-making I've ever seen. It had so many continuity errors that my wife and I caught at least five in a first viewing. Sitting through this abomination was one of the most serious tests of my patience in quite some time.

Revenge resembles a trailer to such a striking degree that at first I didn't even realize that the film had started. It opens with a prehistoric hunting party approaching a spaceship that has just landed in their territory. A Don LaFontaine-esque voiceover explains the images with cliches like "the dawn of man" and "worlds collide" while Transformers emerge from the ship and proceed to destroy all of the humans. We then skip to the present: 11:24PM, Shanghai, China (where it's still light outside somehow). The US Military and several transformers hunt down one of the few remaining Decepticons, causing all kinds of havoc in the city and forcing a massive media cover-up. Afterwords, during the debriefing, a special presidential envoy, suspicious of the transformers, challenges Optimus Prime (the most powerful of the transformers) and threatens to pull the plug on the whole team. Later on in the film, that same envoy will attempt to appease invading Decepticons while referring to it as "diplomacy." Wow, it's exactly what John McCain said Obama would do!

Shia LeBouf reprises his "role" as Sam Witicky, the great grandson of explorer Archibald Witicky who had unwittingly re-activated the frozen Megatron during an exploratory expedition into the Arctic circle. Conveniently, we again find Sam possessing another map that the Decepticons need (seriously, did this film even have writers, or did they just substitute names and locations from the last script and give it a new title?). A chip from the All Spark, the energy source destroyed in the first film, causes Sam to have visions of symbols, which we eventually learn from an aging rogue Decepticon are clues to the location of the "Matrix of Leadership" (no, I'm not making this up). Sam and his girlfriend Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox, who I've been promised is NOT a porn star) are in race against my patience to find the Matrix before the Decepticons can use it to the destroy the Sun.

A pubescent horn-ball and his unfortunate girlfriend sat at the end of our row. In between slurps of his girlfriend's saliva, he would loudly proclaim his approval for the film with insightful one-liners like "Why he talk like that?", "Shit! He ripped his fuckin' ass out!" or my personal favorite, "Damn, you see those robot's balls? HA HA!!!" Normally I would have been annoyed by interruptions like these, but I eventually came to appreciate these quips. I realized that this is exactly the emotional and intellectual level that Transformers caters to. I was, however, slightly disturbed by the large number of adults in the crowd apparently deriving the same mindless pleasure from the film that our socially-engineered homunculus enjoyed. And since a film like this leaves no room for narrative invention, I had plenty of time to ponder the fate of a society that continually rewards our entertainment industry for vomiting such bilious tripe.

Final Thought: If you enjoy explosions, PG-13 sexual situations, and shiny objects, you'll love Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

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