June 24, 2009

Who Knew Robots Had Such Diverse Accents...


Why do I do this to myself? Why do I stay up until the wee hours of the morning to review a movie everyone is going to see anyway, I ask myself? And I answer myself, because I like to, every now and then, fool myself into thinking that this is a legitimate blog, that people actually read what I write, that what I write is actually noticed by the film industry, and where my opinion actually counts for something. So, I go to the theatre at 9:30 for a 12:00 movie, because, you know, I want good seats. I sit through the repeating adds and movie trivia until I can recite them with my eyes closed. Maybe I'll go sit in on another movie to pass the time. Then, I contend with a slew of trailers no one really cares about. Then I get to the actual movie I intend to watch, and, what do you know, it probably wasn't worth it. Then I come home, at 3:00 in the morning mind you, and write this thing, which people probably won't read, and it will probably be lost in the vast nethers of internet subspace, where no one will speak of it again. Man, I am masochistic. Ok, where was I. Oh, right, Transformers...

So, yeah. It's a sequel, like we don't have enough of those already. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the second installment in the wildly popular Transformers franchise. It is bigger, louder, brighter, and more ridiculous then it's big brother, and I mean that in a, good, not great, sort of way. It has the all the stuff that made the first one surprisingly good, but it has too much. Director Michael Bay has once again proved to us that he does not know when to say when. Typical!
So, plot wise, it's all summed up in the title. It's been two years since the righteous Autobots and their leader, Optimus Prime, handed the evil Decepticons their metallic asses in the fiery conclusion to Transformers. Since then, they've been working with the American Military to weed out any remaining evil doers. When one particularly destructive mission in Shanghai yields some pretty worrisome information, Prime and his Autobots prepare to face a whole slew of enemies, both familiar and new, as the Decepticons gear up for their, you guessed it, revenge. And that's only half of the story here. The rest centers on the teenage dweeb with the super hot girlfriend from the last movie, Sam Witwicky, as he goes off to college, hoping to leave his troubles with the aliens behind him. But, as luck would have it, some of his actions in the last movie have left valuable information burned into his brain. So, now the robotic harbingers of death are out to oust this info from him. So, Sam has to go on the run from them, whilst dealing with relationship issues, parental issues, and generally stupidity on the part of everyone else involved. Confusing, ain't it? It's a sequel plot in every way, which means, more, more, and more. It's fairly compelling, but it's clear that everything that happens is just filler so we can get to the massive confrontation between good and evil in the last act. I call shenanigans. 
Acting wise, Revenge is just as strong as the first one. Then again, that's faint praise. The best actor on screen here is still Shia LaBeouf as Sam. He's really good at the fast talking, socially awkward, teenager who just happens be the key to Earth's salvation. And he would own the movie, if not for one thing. See, usually, when you go to college you get a roommate. And, as it happens, Sam's roommate is essentially, Sam himself, albeit with a little Latino and a lot more cowardice thrown in to spice things up. This new guy, Leo, played by Ramon Rodriguez, is exactly like Sam. He talks fast. He's socially awkward. And, he is... well, he's not the key to Earth's salvation, but he helps out along the way. He's fine, I guess, but he is more or less copying LaBeouf, and it's easy to tell who is the more comfortable one. Meghan Fox is back as well, playing the sex object  Mikaela, Sam's super hot girlfriend. I don't think she did a good job the previous movie, and that statement holds true here. She is only there so teenage boys who have no social life can ogle her as she leans her perfectly tanned body, all bedazzled in jean shorts and tight tank tops, over a motorcycle while the sweat from the sun slowly slides down here voluptuous thighs and the wind... sorry, don't know where I was going with that. Other returners include Kevin Dunn and Julie White, who are still a hoot as Sam's parents, Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson as the two most masculine soldiers on the planet, and John Turturro as former government agent Simmons, who now works in a deli. Most of the performances are the exact same thing we saw in the previous one. It's a little disappointing. I'm not gonna talk about the voice work of the robots. It's voice work for a robot. If it didn't sound forced, I would shocked. 
I have never made my disdain for Michael Bay a secret in these reviews, but I can not help but applaud him for what he did with Transformers. All his other movies previously had been either too loud and stupid (The Rock), didn't stick with a good idea for long enough (The Island), took too many liberties with source material (Pearl Harbor) or were just plain awful (Armageddon, Bad Boys II). But, the single flaw that killed them all was that they took themselves way to seriously. Bay was seriously trying to make a moving drama out of a ridiculous premise that involved a Texas sized asteroid on a collision course with Earth? No wonder he failed. What made Transformers so refreshing is that it knew how stupid it was being. It knew how ridiculous it was, and, as such, didn't take itself seriously at all. So with that out of the way, we could actually enjoy the movie. Revenge takes a step back from this, albeit a small one. There's more drama in this one, and as such, more scenes where you'll be rolling your eyes instead of marveling at the ridiculous special effects. But, it's not terrible. It's hard for a movie about robots who turn into cars to take itself too seriously. 
Now, about those special effects. Holy Jesus, they are good. Not only are the special effects off the charts, the fight scenes are better put together and more exciting to watch. Unfortunately, Bay makes a critical error and puts the best action scene only an hour deep in the movie. This is another deviation from the formula of the previous movie. The original at least kept the awesomeness of the action to a minimum so that the final battle was easily the best of the show. Here, no such luck. The best fight involves Prime and three Decepticons as they duke it out in a forest. It's well choreographed, well shot, and shows off the best of the special effects wizardry at Bay's disposal. Also, it shows Prime for the badass he should be. If you recall, in the first movie, he seemed kind of helpless. That scene in the forest is so well done, that every action piece after that one (And there are a lot!!) is just kind of boring, especially the climatic battle. Sure the amount of pyrotechnics and slow motion shots has been upped for the finale, but, when stripped to its bones, it's a just a bunch of robots shooting at each other. Yawn. Be that as it may, this is easily the loudest, best looking, and visually exciting movie to come out this year, with the possible exception of Star Trek.
It's become a habit of mine. I catch a midnight premier of what I deem to be the biggest movie of the year. If you follow my reviews, you'll remember that I pulled the same stunt last year for The Dark Knight. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen will easily make the most money of any movie this year, and not surprisingly. It's loud; it's stupid, but, when it comes down to it, it's fun. Really fun! Sometimes, that's all that's needed. If you go in expecting some great masterpiece, get your head examined! It's a movie about anamorphic robots for Christ's sake. Just enjoy what you can get! Revenge is far from the best movie of the summer. It's actually pretty bad. But, it sure is a good time. B-

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