By Jack Giroux
Editor’s Note: This review does contain spoilers.
Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen is an underwhelming follow up to a highly entertaining blockbuster. This sequel does contain “explosive action”, but it comes too scarce and is almost incomprehensible. It is incredibly dumb, bloated, and runs far too long for an action film with no brain. This is, without a doubt, one of the biggest disappointments of the summer.
After fighting in a war Sam Witwicky is trying his best to live a normal life while going off to college. After discovering the last remaining piece of the all spark he starts seeing symbols leading to the truth about the Transformers ancient origins. Sam is taken away from his failed attempt at a normal when it becomes known that the fallen Decepticons are soon ready to rage war. They soon attempt on taking him prisoner to bring total destruction upon earth. With the help of Optimus Prime and the other Autobots, Sam must once again fight his way to saving mankind.
The story is beyond messy due to the incoherent script. The film continually strays away from any sort of cohesion and moves from set piece to set piece as slowly as possible. At first, it’s Sam dealing with a part of the all-spark, then it’s Sam almost being taken prisoner, and then it ends with Sam searching for an item called “The Matrix of Leadership”- which of course drew a lot of laughs due to the title. The script introduces sub-plot after sub-plot that add nothing to the story. Speaking of useless subplot, there’s an interesting idea about transformers disguising themselves as humans or replicating human life and it’s wasted. There’s also far too many side characters popping in and out of the film. Most notably Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson who have practically nothing to do here except to yell and blow stuff up. The script (of course) keeps most of the characters at a one-dimensional note.
Most of the acting is what you would expect which means most of the actors just scream and run around a lot. Returning as Sam Witwicky is Shia LaBeouf who still remains likable. Despite playing a standard action hero, LaBeouf is a character that one can cheer for even though his heroics are not very believable. He’s a good leading man that’s genuinely funny and likable. Back again playing his girlfriend is Megan Fox and she delivers the same performance as she did in the first film. She isn’t really given anything to do which leads her to coming off as rather bland, but she still remains as enjoyable eye candy. Fox mostly just has to yell and look frightened which doesn’t make for an engaging character.
Returning to the helm is the explosion expert Michael Bay who delivers everything you would expect him to. The biggest problem with Bay’s direction is his pacing issues. The first hour or so isn’t at total bore, but it also isn’t very entertaining. The first act of the film is slightly more coherent and less repetitive, despite a few comedic tangents. The film divulges into a sluggish pace after an exciting forrest fight sequence. The third act becomes full on action that’s already been seen before, it’s unrelenting and anti-climatic. A movie with such a weak story that revolves around fighting robots does not call for a two and a half hour running time. Long running times are perfectly fine when the story calls for it, but a film with almost no story does not need to be this long. Bay also provides plenty of unintentional laughs due to his hilarious over use of slow motion. The laughable slo-mo shows up most notably during the some drama and the action which makes the film to cross the line of self-parody. These scenes deliver more laughs then the unfunny intentional jokes, for example a robot humping Megan Fox and Sam’s mom eating pot brownies.
On the upside a few of Bay’s action scenes are fun and are shot with a broader sense of geography. Instead of going with constant jump cuts as he did with the first film, Bay conveys a few action scenes with more tracking-shots and wide lenses. This strong point is present earlier on, but then gets lost in the second half of the film. One issue that’s present is that many of the robots are too difficult to tell apart especially during the frantic final battle. It’s incomprehensible action which is the opposite of “fun” action. There’s far too many close ups and far too many jump cuts in the climatic battle.
There are a few impressive action scenes and Shia still makes for a good leading man, but it still doesn’t work even on the level of “dumb fun”. The pacing and story is all over the place to a point where it detracts from the action. On a technical level the film is stunning, but that’s not enough. Its over stuffed with stupidity, half of the action you’re unable to follow, and it simply just doesn’t have the charm that first film had. The first installment, while not a great film by any means, had a more Spielberg tone with that sense of wonderment and discovery. This installment has traded all that in for repetitiveness, highly unfunny jokes, self parody, and dull pacing. This isn’t summer fun.