Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Movie Review: Transformers 2, A.K.A, "Mean robots suck."

Michael Bay’s sequel to 2007’s Transformers is a relentless CGI dripping action fest featuring slapstick alien robots, weak dialogue and an over wrought plot. Penned by Star Trek’s Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman with Ehren Kruger, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen clocks in at 150 minutes; the majority of which is spent on indecipherable robot battles, bad jokes and the destruction of everything from aircraft carriers, to the streets of Shanghai to Al Khazneh at Petra (and a Great Pyramid or two). Too much of everything makes T:ROTF a tedious but technically impressive spectacle, and manages to take the life out of robots and human performers alike.

When last we left Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBoeuf) and Mikaela Hoover*(Megan Fox) they had just saved the world from the evil Decepticons and their plan to destroy the peace loving Autobots by gaining control of the AllSpark – basically the energy source of their existence – to make all the machines on Earth into Decepticons. I vaguely recall an end battle where it was impossible to discern hero from villain as they epically fought with no pixel spared. I’m pretty sure some of them died, but honestly, you’re just going to have to look that shit up. I just got through 150 minutes of Michael Bay’s antics and I’m exhausted.

We meet up with our human hero, Sam (LeBoeuf), as he packs for college – which means he’s off to my office. (Check out this past post for details.) But, before he heads back East, a shard from the AllSpark simply falls out of the sweatshirt he wore when last we saw him. Yes, that means he has not washed or handled said sweatshirt in the past 2 years. Naturally, this shard immediately causes all the appliances in the kitchen (a place known for its dangerous electronics) to turn evil and attack everyone. But Bumblebee (whose voice is still not working for no reason) saves everyone by blowing up most of the house. And equally as logical, Sam then gives the shard to Mikaela for safekeeping while he’s at school. But, don’t worry – she puts it in a safe in her dad’s garage. They don’t call it a safe for nothing, right?

Sam’s college days are brief as he’s dragged into wacky Transformers drama by the realization that he holds a secret, imprinted on his brain (a la Arthur Dent) by the AllSpark shard that may reveal the location of a legendary key (called the Matrix of Leadership…ooooh, mystical) that powers a legendary weapon created by the ancient Cybertronians to destroy suns for their power or something. This new found knowledge does provide some humorous interactions with his Astronomy teacher played by Rainn Wilson when Sam proceeds to prove that Einstein was mistaken by having minor seizures and compulsively scratching ancient alien symbols on the chalk board. During another data induced fit, Sam defiles a Bad Boys (II?) poster which is supposed to make us think that Michael Bay has a sense of irony – but in reality it just makes me wonder why a college student in 2009 would have a Bad Boys poster on their dorm room wall.


And then, there’re the Transformers. Between the sassy (and crude) jive-talking twins, Skids and Mudflap to Jetfire, who is resurrected from some aerospace museum which obviously means he now uses a cane and has an old man beard made of metal (like the rest of him) – it just went from silly to sillier. One Decepticon even has testicles. Really. And I really want to think Optimus Prime is awesome, as I am from The Transformers generation. But everything is so overly animated and detailed, it’s hard to connect with any of the robotic cast, especially since they rarely ever share screen time with the human cast. Hmmm, I wonder why that’s the case? During one extremely epic fight, a few Transformers go at it while Sam is hiding behind a few trees. Sam is so separated from the actual battle; it’s not hard to image the person just off camera tossing the dirt into LeBoeuf's face that is supposed to be kicked up from the mighty robotic parts hitting the ground. Did I mention the Transformers Matrix style nursery? Just in case you were wondering - yes, baby Transformers exist and yes, they are grown in pods of amniotic fluid...duh.

Sam’s parents provide the only real comedy and are a welcome antidote. “Oh, it’s just like Hogwarts!” cries mom when they drop Sam at the Quad. I wonder if that’s the line that Penn objected to or the maybe it was the ease with which mom scored some pot brownies. Kevin Dunn and Julie White bounce chaotically off each other to provide rare moments of actual acting, instead of the standard open mouth gape everyone else is relegated to when interacting with the bots. Major Lennox (the way hotter than LeBeouf, Josh Duhamel) and another popular character from the prequel are back and new friend, Sam’s new college roommate (Ramon Rodriguez) joins them as they run from large alien automatons.

Bays’ women are one type and one type only, whether a Decepticon in disguise, an extra at a frat party or the main character’s girlfriend. These women are thin, well endowed and very moist in the face…all the time. Fox as Mikaela Banes, Sam’s lady love, is once again there with her mind boggling hotness begging the question, “So, why is she with him again?"

Dude next to me: "Sorry, there are giant alien transforming robots in this movie? I hadn't noticed."

Look, I know you’re not expecting T:ROTF to be “good”. That would be crazy. T:ROTF is essentially a “B” movie in spirit and “B” movies often succeed in their badness or ingenuity. But, when the budget is limitless and animators are tireless, the result is a big emotionless CGI orgy with no real character development (human or digital) and a field of battle so crowded it’s hard to care who’s shooting who. And man, those robots have bad aim. I would think that a 30ft robot with multiple rocket launchers and advanced alien weaponry would be a little better at killing a few humans. Mindless globe trotting destruction, a convoluted plot screaming out for a real sci-fi treatment and alien robot karate fights lacking even an inkling of passion all make T:ROTF boring and silly. But, I'm thinking you didn't really need me to tell you that.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Opens today
150 min
Dir.: Michael Bay
Writ: Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman with Ehren Kruger
Rated: PG-13 for violence with no consequences, some mildly offensive bots with potty mouth, and nausea inducing fight scenes the winners of which I could give a crap about.

*OK, yes this is a porn actresses’ name, but like it make a difference what Megan Fox’s character’s last name is.