"Fate rarely calls upon us at a moment of our choosing."Optimus Prime
Don't worry. I'll tell you when the spoilers start. But this is a movie about giant shape-shifting alien robots - so if you care about the plot, you are clearly missing the point.
First off, I will say that I'm not a serious Transformers fanboy but my partner-in-geekery, Shaki, is one. Days before the movie's slated release date, he had started recruiting fellow movie-goers to go with him to the Big Open. When he found out that there is going to be a sneak preview here in Malacca on Tuesday (also known as yesterday), a day before the premiere, he sprayed his geek jizz all over everyone, went to the theatre on Sunday and bought our tickets.
And what did he think of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen?
"BEST MOVIE IN THE HISTORY OF CINEMA!" he gushed in caps.
Sure, a lot of purist fanboys hated the first movie (and will probably hate this sequel too) for a myriad of idiotic reasons, but they are a fringe, rabid minority. Shaki is a positive sort of fanboy - a manchild who grew up worshipping Optimus Prime and wanted nothing more than to see his Hero slagging Decepticons in frenetic, loud Michael-Bay-o-vision. He was okay with Optimus being a different (albeit bigger) kind of truck. He didn't give a shit that Megatron didn't transform into a tiny pistol.
While I'm not as big a fan of the franchise as Shaki, I did grew up with the cartoon, so I did hold some amount of expectation close to my chest; which was why I didn't really like the first movie. I thought that there was too little bot-on-bot combat (while every critic in the business screamed "TOO MUCH"). And since I'm a fan of Starscream and Megatron - in that order of preference - I disliked how Megatron's over-synthesized Hugo Weaving growl wasn't more distinctive, and how little screentime Starscream received.
The scene that made the 1st movie for me was when an Autobot shouted "It's Starscream!" in fear when Starscream entered the battle. It sent chills down my spine. I lamented that they did not showcase his treacherous nature more.
Before I go into this review proper, let me just declare first that Bay nixed most of my complaints of the first movie in Revenge of the Fallen, and that this is one of my favourite movie of the year, almost on the same level as Watchmen and Star Trek. According to Rotten Tomatoes, critics (including my favourite reviewer, Roger Ebert) hated it. It has a Rotten score and is looking to fall some more. What I'm trying to say here is: They are all retarded.
Spoilers starts now, but trust me, they won't ruin your watching experience. Still, go watch the movie before reading this - just in case I'm wrong. Don't say I didn't warn you.
7 Things I Love About This Movie.
- The thing I love most about this film is that they made Optimus Prime a total Bad Ass. The hair on the back of neck stood up in the forest fight scene when he faces off 3 Decepticons - including Megatron AND Starscream - with an orange, glowing machete attached to either arms, growling BAD ASS lines like "I'll take all you on!" and "You are WEAK! A waste of metal!" in the melee. I can't recall the lines verbatim but you get the idea. That scene totally redeemed Optimus in my eyes after his humiliating defeat at the hands of Megatron in the first movie.
I very rarely consider good guys (especially noble, heroic, idealistic ones) to be cool, but Optimus is that rare exception. What made it even better was that Optimus did it to protect a weak, defenseless human kid! God, can you say HERO?! It's the ultimate wish-fulfilment for the fanboy child in all of us, to have Optimus putting his life down to save us. That's what made the conclusion of that scene so powerful - that's what made it so heart-wrenching when he was stabbed in the back and through his chest by Megatron. Shaki covered his mouth in horror at that scene. For a moment there I thought he was going to cry.
- There is probably 10 times as much heavy metal fight scenes in Revenge of the Fallen compared to the previous film. I liked how it opened in media res, in the middle of a mission where the Autobots engaged the Decepticons in Shang Hai. Sideswipe (a roller-blading silver Chevrolet Corvette Stingray) slashing Sideways (a confusingly similar silver Audi R8) into two halves, and Optimus Prime tackling the many-times bigger, massive UNICYCLE Demolisher (as seen in the trailer), were some notable Scenes of Utter Cool. I won't be surprised to learn that they have brought in a kung fu choreographer to improve the robo-fights.
Even Bumblebee received his crowning moment of Awesome Bad Ass in a later desert town duke-out. I didn't think that it was possible to feel pain for giant robots.
- There's a lot more Starscream and Megatron interaction in T2:ROTF and for the first time, we get to see Starscream's character-defining Decepticon-leader-wannabe treacherous side on the big screen. His voice still left much more to be desired, but that's just a minor nitpick on my part. And there's a scene in which Megatron punches Starscream in the face!
It's a cheap thrill, yes, but Michael Bay really knows how to push my buttons. Also, I prefer Starscream's robot mode in the live-adaptation movies to the original animated version.
- Soundwave. With an earth-orbiting satellite alternate mode! Voiced by Frank Welker, the original voice actor of the character! This is made of so much win.
Soundwave in satellite-mode. Sorry, I can only find this image of the toy-version of this movie's incarnation of the character.
Bay and the writers have wanted to include him in the first movie, first as the helicopter Decepticon (which eventually became Blackout, and then as the psycho spying boombox (which became Frenzy). They decided that if they could not do him right, they wouldn't put him in the movie at all - and boy am I glad that they finally did. In the original animated series, Soundwave's alternate form was a microcassette recorder... so it's pretty hard to take the purist fanboys seriously when they kept complaining about how Bay changed some of the robot's disguise modes. Considering that he is the Decepticon's communications and intelligence officer, making him a satellite (which hacks real satellites, playing a key-role in locating Megatron's corpse and a shard of the Allspark) was a stroke of pure genius. Plus, he looks really good, as you can see in the picture above.
- It's a big, dumb popcorn blockbuster and Michael Bay knew it - and embraced it lovingly. At one point, he even had one character heckling Jetfire, an aging, decrepit former Decepticon who defected to the Autobots' side, to provide exposition and backstory. The heckler's exact request? "Beginning! Middle! End! Condense! Details! Plot!". Brilliant. It's called lampshade hanging; a writer's trick of dealing with implausible plot developments or a particularly egregious use of a trope - in this case, the use of expositional info-dumping - by calling attention to it. It's the equivalent of a writer going "I know this is dumb, haha" and hoping that you'll laugh along. The humour in T2:ROTF is puerile and overflows like a backed up toilet can, and I'm pretty sure that Megan Fox's script contains nothing but directions saying "act slutty" and "ooze sexiness". Then there's Sam's near-death experience and his visit to Autobot Heaven. Also, everything explodes. This movie glorifies its own dumbness, and revels in it.
- The special-fucking-effects, but that's a given. It is, after all, a live-action movie about giant Transforming™ robots but damn, it never gets old seeing them doing it over and over again. Thank you Industrial Light and Magic!
- Megan Fox's foxy tits,
... and ass,
6 Things I Hate About This Movie.
- Megan Fox's foxy tits and ass, again.
Alright, I don't hate her lady bits. What I hate is how blatantly some of the sexy scenes were staged and presented. Halfway through the 3rd act, I wanted to scream at the screen, "Alright, alright, I get it! They bounce a lot when she runs. Stop showing it in slo mo, dammit!!!" Anyhow, I'm probably one of the few heterosexual males on this planet that can't pick Megan Fox out of a crowd of similarly hot women. I mean, there's only so many ways a woman can be physically attractive. When women approach a certain degree of sexy, they tend to start looking generic to me. I call that the Generic Babe Threshold. On the other hand, it might be because I usually stop looking at a woman's face when she passes that that threshold...
- The forest scene in which Optimus Prime took on Megatron, Starscream and Grindor was TOO AWESOME. I'm only complaining about this because it set the bar for the rest of the movie, and the rest of the movie simply could not surpass or even match it. When I saw it, I thought, "Fuck, that's so crazy kickass! I bet the (inevitable) final showdown will be even MORE KICKASS!" and spent the rest of the movie's runtime anticipating a mind-blowing climax which did not come. Sure, he took on both Megatron and The Fallen, Megatron's evil mentor, but Optimus dispatched them so quickly and effortlessly that I feel cheated somehow. Maybe there's an upper limit for awesome in this universe (and that forest fight scene have totally maxed it).
- None of the Decepticons got a cool scene comparable to Optimus'. I think that that's one of the reason why the bad bots did not really stand out in this movie. Megatron got depowered so much by the plot that he couldn't beat down Optimus even once - and this while being assisted by his cronies in the first brawl, and by his master in the final fight! There's an adage that says "Your movie is only as interesting as your villain" or something to that effect. This is why The Dark Knight was so good and Spiderman 3 was so bad. The evil mastermind behind the conflict in Revenge of the Fallen is the titular Fallen. While I dig his Egyptian motif-headdress-thingy, he is fatally bland, boring and generic in everything he does. Villains need to be distinctive.
While I'm on the subject, I thought that Megatron's voice in the original animated series was pretty distinctive. Now that they have Frank Welker (who also did Megatron back then, aside from Soundwave) in the voice cast, I don't see why they have to continue using Hugo Weaving's over-digitized voice for Megatron. It's not like we can even recognise Agent Smith under all that alteration.
- Almost every character, aside from Sam Witwicky LaBeouf and Mikaela Fox, is a comic relief character. Sam's dad. Sam's mom. Bumblebee, occasionally. Sam's Hispanic roommate (I hate him). Sam's innuendo spouting Astronomy professor. That little Decepticon which Mikaela domesticated. Jetfire doing old people jokes. The G-man played by Turturro in the previous movie. The annoying G-man in this current movie. The Autobot twins, Mudflap and Skids... it's an overdose of lame jokes and funny though irrelevant dialogues. While I laughed a lot watching T2:ROTF, I couldn't help feeling irritated at the same time - especially by this pair of tiresome twits, I mean, twins,
They are obvious ethnic stereotypes of street-talking black people, and stereotypes are rarely funny to me because they have been used way too often (hence the term stereotype). I actually whooped in joy when one of them got eaten by Devastator. Unfortunately, the bugger survived. How could a little Transformer the size of a Kancil car survive Devastator's massive, grinding gob I'll never know.
And that robot scrotum joke made by Turturro's character should never have seen daylight. That retarded leg-humping sight gag came in a close second.
- The screenwriters sucked at their job. The things the characters say, when they are not making wisecracks, are painful and forced. Optimus' lines outside his bad ass gameface are full of cheese. And there are way too many deus ex machinas moving the story along. The worst of these is the sudden appearance of a "classified" secret weapon on board of the aircraft carrier which blasted Devastator of the pyramid, apparently killing him. Also, why didn't they use this super secret weapon on The Fallen when he's standing where Devastator stood and was activating a machine which will destroy the sun? Why would the Matrix of Leadership have the power to resurrect Optimus Prime? Why only a "Prime" can kill The Fallen? I can totally see why the majority of the mainstream critics hated it with such unreserved fervour. And this is why, Shaki, The Dark Knight is still better than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Now, I'm not saying that this movie was ruined by its nonsensical, overly-convoluted plot. I'm merely suggesting that there's no reason why the writing should be so bad. It's already an amazingly good action movie in its own right - so won't a better storyline and script make it even more stupendous? I just hate to see so much wasted potential.
- The saying "I love you" first romantic plot tumour between Sam and Mikaela should be excised in its entirety from this movie. If I have my way, the relationship between Sam and Mikaela shouldn't even be mentioned at all. There's zero chemistry between them and the only acting talent Megan Fox has is in her bra. I'm sure that if they fire Fox from the cast, they'll have enough money to pay for better screenwriters.
Why are they even spending so much time developing this two unlikeable characters, instead of focusing the time on giving the rest of the Transformers some semblance of identity and personality traits (so we can at least identify some of them in the flurry of battle), I do not know.
Casual moviegoers will love this film, undoubtedly. Critics will hate it, and legitimately so - but that's only because their inner child have shriveled up and died inside. This is a big, loud, stupid summer flick. It's not a work of art. Its story carries no important themes or messages. It will never be deemed culturally significant or win any awards. It's just something you stare at for 2½ hours going "HOLY SHIT!" and "OH MY GAWDDD!!!" every other minute, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I'm definitely watching it again in the theatre. You'll probably feel the same way too.
P.S. I don't know why I even bother giving scores in my reviews. Every time I dedicate a whole post to a movie, it's either because it was a 10 or a zero.
Defender of big, dumb movies,
k0k s3n w4i