release date: june 24th, 2009
imdb user rating: 5.9/10
metacritic score: 35/100
rotten tomatoes: 20% fresh
we will be taking a hiatus next month from the flops of summer for our second annual die hard-ish month, tentatively titled die harder-ish. as you can see above, transformers: revenge of the fallen is quite the opposite of the commercial flops we’ve been doing. in fact, it’s the highest grossing entry in the transformers movies, it’s also the second highest grossing movie of 2009, behind james cameron’s avatar.
like the phantom menace, attack of the clones, and norbit, transformers 2: the transforming also has the distinguished achievement of being nominated for both oscars and razzies. it also won two teen choice awards.
as with most michael bay (director of playboy video centerfold: kerri kendall, and music videos for vanilla ice’s i love you, meat loaf’s i’d do anything for love but i won’t do that, divinyls’ i touch myself) movies except maybe the rock and bad boys ii (though for opposite reasons), you won’t remember much about the movie shortly after it’s over. it’s an asset in this case since as per tradition of hollywood sequels, transformers 2: egypt drift more or less repeats elements from the first movie, except this time it’s bigger, and there’s more of it, whatever “it” is. by the way, between this and sex and the city 2, maybe they should stop making part 2s to movies with caucasian leads visiting the middle east. (interestingly, like the yin to the transformers yang, both series are box office hit, critically reviled, and runs about 150 mintues per movie.)
three paragraphs in and notice how i still haven’t mention the plot. it’s usually the most boring part of writing a review, but it’s more of a challenge this time considering the movie at hand. it also doesn’t help that i watched the movie almost 48 hours ago and i can barely recall anything about it. i guess i would be willing to watch it again just for the sake of writing about it if i am getting paid for this. this is one of those cases where i feel like i am doing the filmmakers a favor by summarizing the plot in one succinct paragraph. if they don’t bother doing it for the movie, why should i?
despite all that, i guess i’ll put the movie on again in the background, on mute, as i write this.
the film begins with a montage about how robots have been protecting human since the dawn of time. curious since the disaster porn of the first movie probably killed more human than they protected. it’s 2001 for the adhd set.
next we’re in shanghai under attack of a giant wheel. this is all supposed to be hush hush, on the qt. there is supposed to be a cover story, a toxic spill, put out by the chinese government so they can evacuate the area as the u.s. military (somehow the same ones from the first movie) fighting off the decepticons with the autobots doing most of the works. it didn’t work out as planned since there is a emmerich/devlin disaster porn scene where a robot goes through a building and we see an old chinese man eating in front of it.
this sequence also introduces us to the twin robots, mudflap and skids. there’s also an ice cream truck transformers with “suck my popsicles” written on its side. are you having a laugh? it’s also interesting that these advanced autorobots require parachutes when they jump out of a plane to land safely.
it’s an i.o.a.s. (inconsequential opening action sequence) one would expect from a transformers movie. nothing too surprising if you’ve seen the first transformers movie or any michael bay movies. what’s weird is that optimus prime has lines that will smith would have said (and probably have said) in the bad boys movies. he has one liners like “damn i’m good,” “punk ass decepticon,” and exchanges such as:
“the fallen shall rise again.”
-point blank gun shot-
it’s also kind of cute in a squeeze-them-in-the-cheeks way that they are still doing the slowmo camera-rotating matrix-y action sequences.
things get worse from there, and we are still less than half an hour into the movie, when the human characters are introduced. shia the beef is heading to college and his parents are having a hard time letting him go. the family dogs are humping each other in scenes that are supposed to be funny. scenes that would have been rejected in a 90s upn/wb network sitcom. mr. the beef’s character is such a man that he can’t say the l word to his girlfriend megan fox, a non-issue issue so outdated that one would not expect to see in a major motion picture since home improvement was a top rated show. there are more hijinks once the beef family gets to the college campus and the beef’s mom eats pot brownie. are you having a laugh?
the hacker character played by anthony anderson in the first movie is replaced by the beef’s roommate played by roman rodriguez from tv’s the wire and the taking of pelham 1 2 3 remake. the australian chick from the first movie is replaced by a nameless girl (imdb claims her name is alice) who of course hits on mr. beef. as per romcom convention, megan fox walks in and sees the beef and “alice” together so the movie can have a misunderstanding. and just in case you don’t hate the movie enough, the dorm room has a mountain dew vending machine and a bad boys ii poster.
and we are still nowhere near the halfway point. the u.s. office’s rainn wilson has a cameo in the movie as an astronomy college professor who’s only a tad bit different from dwight schrute. there’s even a frat party scene that seems more like a hollywood version of a frat party than an actual frat party.
there is also a chase sequence through the college library which reminds me of indiana jones iv, not a movie i want to be reminded of. in vern’s review of seagal movies, he mentioned books and art are destroyed during action scenes as some kind of subtext. it’s telling that in this movie, plenty of books are destroyed in this sequence while in indy 4, none of the books are destroyed and indy himself even answered a student’s question. this is bay saying, you know what, fuck books.
believe it or not, all of this is actually the better half of the movie. there’s nothing here that seem out of place after the first movie. when i’m watching a movie by myself, smoke breaks are good indication of how good the movie is. it’s an ominous sign that when i wanted a smoke break and pause the movie, it’s only half over.
the bad robot this time is named the fallen, voiced by candyman himself tony todd. he sits a lot and barks orders at other smaller robots on their alien planet. no words on whether it’s the same alien planet the ninja turtles are from. this home planet also has hive-like pods where, i guess the robots are bred. it’s kind of like when keanu plugged in for the first time in the matrix. not how i imagine robots are made.
the fallen looks like some sort of predator/alien reject in the movie but according to google image search, he looked pretty badass in the picture books. i do like the old robot who now sits in a museum. how old is he? he’s so old he has metallic beard and seems to walk with a metal cane. of course, he also gets a fart joke. he farts out a parachute.
unfortunately he also signals the beginning of a long dead zone of the movie. he somehow magically transports all the characters to egypt. the film spends way too much time and details on the macguffin, as if people are flocking to the transformers movies for the story.
it must be at this point they realized they need expositions so there are endless scenes of the human characters walking and running around the desert. the film also fails at the most basic storytelling techniques. not only are there voice over narrations in the opening, there are also many many scenes where characters and robots alike talking to themselves, speaking out loud what they are doing, what they are trying to do, and why, for the benefit of the audience. they might as well break the fourth wall and look directly into the camera a la zack morris.
since this is the point where nothing happens, it gives me time to free associate all the other movies that things from this movie remind me of. and you definitely want to watch a real movie as a chaser after sitting through this one. so in addition to bad boys ii and indy 4, there are:
…the national treasure movies…
…the two robot factions have a big fight in the woods as if they are vampires and werewolves, though shia the beef makes a pretty good bella…
…those little robots are like gremlins aren’t they?…hey what happened to joe dante?…small soldiers, also produced by spielberg, was pretty good too…why can’t they give him a quarter of transformers’ budget to make a movie? i bet it’ll be shorter and more fun than this…
…shia the beef was in eagle eye…that wasn’t too horrible…it kind of has a story…
…i wonder what was going through john turturro’s head when he’s standing next to one of the seven wonders of human civilization and did he know that they are going to cgi robot testicles above his head in post?…he must also be thinking all those times on a movie set with woody allen, scorsese, the coen brothers, and spike lee…he was good in that movie rounders…
…i should be playing poker instead of watching this…do i have any oreos?…i should get some oreos just to piss off the conservatives and religious right…
after my wings of desire-esque daydream it seems like the prolonged action climax finally arrives. it seems like a can’t miss thing for bay. it’s what he’s good at. the set up here is not unlike the countless ambush scenes we’ve seen before in the rock or con air. except in those movies, similar sequences are usually in the middle of the movie, not the climax. another difference is that the heroes are usually trapped somewhere. here they seem to have endless space to run around in and as a result there is no tension.
the cameras are more stable and the film is not cut as fast this time around, but the end result is just as incomprehensible as the first movie: most of the time it’s impossible to tell which robot is which and who’s doing what to who, and this is before the robots start transplanting parts from other similarly looking robots into robots. you are the blind man in this robot orgy. and i haven’t even mentioned the beef briefly dies and goes to the prime family reunion in robot heaven.
i do like that devastator though. it seems appropriate that the most memorable robot in the movie specializes in sucking. probably a coincidence.
the most interesting thing about the movie is the reception it received. quite a lot of people seem to give the first movie a pass but hate this one. i guess i may be one of those people since i neither like nor hate the first one. some well-publicized complaints has to do with the robot testicles, which are only on screen for a few seconds; some complains about the movie being too long, even though it’s only six minutes longer than the first one. there are mumblings about the politics of the movie and relating it to obama and the iraq war, but i think they are giving the movie too much credit. even though they use real footage of obama in the movie, it feels more like someone glanced at a few news headlines and decided to put them in the movie to make it look relevant.
the biggest controversy has to do with the twin robot mudflap and skids voiced by reno wilson (theo huxtable’s friend) and tom kenny (spongebob). the two fight each other, jive talk, and admit to illiteracy. they are indeed stereotypes and caricatures but i can’t say for certain they are born out of racism. there weren’t as much noise about that jive-talking robot in the first movie. yes, it’s a mistake for them to split that into two, and give them more screen time. but considering the level of humor, or “humor” in the movie, someone sincerely think that people will find them funny. it’s a sad state we are in that they are only a tad bit worse than say, chris tucker in the rush hour movies or the two bad boys movies.
when confronted about it, bay took the jar jar binks defense, saying that it’s for the kids and that they find them funny. i don’t know any kids so i don’t know if it’s true. and if it is, then all kids are racist. better yet, if you have kids, don’t let them watch any michael bay movies or any movies with jar jar binks.
and since we’re going down this road, a bigger problem for me is the 13-year-old fanboy pandering bullshit. there are less gratuitous softcore porn shots of megan fox than the first movie. instead, we get pov shots of the bad little robot of megan fox. said robot also later humps her leg, and she doesn’t seem to mind. while turturro was on the receiving end of robot piss in the first movie, this time bumblebee gives a golden shower to a girl who lusts after the beef. i don’t think there will be many more golden shower scenes in a pg-13 movie. she and the beef also has the most physical intimate scene in a transformers movie, yes, even closer to sex than with his girlfriend. but of course, this new girl turns out to be a bad robot, so we are spare of a sex scene. it is the same reason we have strip clubs, maxim magazine, the axe bodyspray maketing campaigns, and girls gone wild for horny nerds and douchebags: it’s better to view and perhaps touch the opposite sex from a distance, but vaginas are scary.
this is getting way too long and i’m veering off the track again (just like the movie!). no one should ever bother to ponder the racial, political, social, and sexual ramifications of a michael bay or transformers movie. the rating below means that it’s not as blandly boring as wild wild west, and nowhere near the batshit insane hilarity of bad boys ii, battlefield earth, or the room. it’s a step in the right direction that it isn’t shot and cut to shit like the island or the first transformers movie. it’s an hour too long but thankfully it’s shorter than pearl harbor. and unlike that movie, it’s not based on an actual, historical national tragedy, so we don’t have to feel bad when he fucks up. the major problem here is that he decided to be ambitious with a robots destroying earth movie.
it’s not quite the horrible experience ebert claims, thanks to extremely low expectations, the unbearable length part is right on the money. it also helps that i spent either $0.99 or $1.99 on it instead of the price of a theatre ticket. i would like to thank blockbuster for closing all the nearby stores.
megan fox gets the funniest line in the movie, when she asks the beef “if not me, who’s gonna be your girlfriend?” we find out the answer in part 3.
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