This isn’t one of those negative reviews where the critic bemoans how
stupid the big summer blockbuster is (although Transformers: Revenge of
the Fallen is stupid beyond belief. Screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex
Kurtzman claim that Michael Bay locked them in a hotel room for a month
to write this movie; they obviously spent 29 and a half days watching
pay per view porn and ordering room service); those kinds of pans are
from sticks in the mud who either don’t get blockbuster films or who
are fighting a battle we lost back in 1985. No, this is one of those
negative reviews that looks at a two and a half hour movie about giant
robots fighting each other and asks just one question:
How can this movie be so fucking boring?
It’s astonishing. Coming off of the very successful (and highly
entertaining) Transformers, Michael Bay had the opportunity to make a
movie that delivered chaos and destruction to his heart’s delight.
Instead he reveals a fetish for comic relief characters (there are
SEVEN OR EIGHT comic relief characters in this film, many of whom spend
most of the running time hanging out together) and a profound inability
to create any sense of pacing. Sitting through Revenge of the Fallen is
a tedious experience, a slog through absolutely meaningless bullshit to
get to action scenes that are so sloppy that they seem to have been
improv’ed on the spot. If the action scenes in the first film struck
you as hard to follow you’ll likely have no idea what’s going on in the
action scenes in this film. ILM has created photo-real giant robots
that are fantastically detailed with thousands of moving parts and then
failed to come up with any way to let the audience tell them apart.
There are scenes in the final battle where I had literally – without
hyperbole – no idea if the one robot hitting the other robot was a good
guy or bad guy, let alone which character was which. The action scenes
become semi-impressionistic melanges of metalic parts and explosions.
Fights take place in featureless landscapes to hide the fact that not
even the director has a single clue who is doing what in relation to
It seems so simple: deliver more and bigger robot action. But Bay keeps
coming back to the human characters, not a single one of which are
interesting or otherwise diverting. The film sidelines the Autobots
(who are now working closely with the US military) for nearly the
entire running time, and instead we’re forced to hang out with a team
of unfunny, irritating misfits. When John Turturro’s returning Sector
Seven agent is your most nuanced character you know you’ve really shit
And the action, when it’s decipherable, offers nothing new. There’s not
a moment in this movie that threatens to even come close to the set
pieces in the first, forget about topping them. In fact the lengthy
final battle (which is like a fractal element of the entire film, as it
is stuffed with filler and irritating comedy) appears to completely
recycle the location of the Scorponok scene in the first movie. There’s
a fight in a forest that could have offered up some exciting
possibilities, but besides the obvious pummeling with trees, the scene
is forgettable. Walking into a movie like Transformers you must have
your expectations lowered, but the one place that you hope to be
impressed is with spectacle. Michael Bay fails at this, the most basic
part of his job as a junk food director.
I never want to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen again, but if I
did, I would like to bring a stopwatch. I would want to time the
interminable filler scenes to see if they are as long as they feel.
Does the scene where Shia’s mom accidentally eats pot brownies and
freaks out (which in no way, shape or form advances the story OR the
characters. It’s the actual definition of filler) really go on for as
long as it seems? Does the movie really take an almost hour long break
from any action to have the characters sneak into the Smithsonian and
get an exposition dump from a robot before wandering in the desert for
a while? The middle of the movie, about an hour where the film simply
treads water, is the cinematic equivalent of the event horizon of a
black hole, where time just slows down and a second lasts an eternity.
Critiquing the actors in this film is almost a waste of time. Shia
LaBeouf is given nothing that even approximates a character; at the
junket Orci and Kurtzman gave some lip service to this being his
character’s Refusal of the Call story (any time a writer references the
Monomyth, tell them to fuck off), but that’s not present in the movie.
There’s nothing in the movie; the character of Sam Witwicky simply
moves from location to location and from scene to scene as… well, I
was going to say as the story dictates, but Revenge of the Fallen has
almost no story at all. It’s simply a series of events that are
interconnected but never really add up to anything. I know that saying
an action movie ‘has no story’ is pretty cliche by now, but I think
Revenge of the Fallen is almost literally plotless; there are a couple
of vague ideas about plot – the Fallen wants revenge and Sam has info
in his brain that he wants – but that’s just about it. It’s like a
movie based on a TV Guide description.
Everybody else ranges from servicable to horrifyingly bad. Ramon
Rodriguez, who plays Shia’s new (comic relief) roommate (who could be
erased from the film without altering one single tiny piece of the
story. At all. The character embodies uselessness), should never again
be allowed to act. Or at least he should never be allowed to start
acting, since the hideous mugging he does in this film shares no DNA
with what we know as acting. Megan Fox remains attractive but as long
as Michael Bay is her director we’ll never know if she’s capable of
anything else. And everyone else: most embarrass themselves and their
families, but they have paychecks to comfort them. Tyrese Gibson and
Josh Duhamel have such small roles in this film that they come across
as master thespians in their few moments of screentime.
I hated this movie. Despised it. During the screening I turned to Aint
It Cool News’ Mr. Beaks and said ‘This is grueling.’ He checked his
watch and less than an hour had gone by – and we hadn’t even gotten to
the real filler yet (there is enough filler in this movie to provide
the entire runtime of another film. There’s about 90 minutes of
absolute nothing smack dab in the center of Revenge of the Fallen). And
we hadn’t even gotten to the point where it became obvious that no one
involved in the film cared enough to craft even the most rudimentary of
stories or to be concerned about even the most simple of continuity: at
one point the characters walk out of the back door of the Smithsonian
Air and Space Museum in Washington DC and end up blatantly in Arizona
at the Sorona Desert Airplane Graveyard. It’s a breathtaking moment of
not giving a shit, one that gives you an idea of how little thought and
care went into the construction of the film.
What bums me out is that there’s not even much to laugh at in this movie. There’s a scene at the end where Shia dies and goes to robot heaven (and I am not making this up), but that’s too little too late. If the rest of the movie had featured that kind of inane absurdity I might have been able to take the ride, but the rest of the movie is just dull.
The thing about Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is that it’s an
objectively bad film. The comedy doesn’t work (and there’s oh so
fucking much of it), the characters are so flat you can’t see them from
the side, the plot has so many holes you begin to think surrealism was
the point, the actors are bored, the action scenes are incoherent, the
finale is a staggering anti-climax, the villain makes cyphers seem
fully rounded, the pacing perfectly replicates the concept of ‘death
march’… there’s nothing that works in this film. The fact that the
illusion of movement is created onscreen may be Michael Bay’s greatest
and only triumph in this movie. Terry Schiavo would have been bored by
this bloated, ponderous piece of shit.
Note: I saw the film in IMAX. Only a few minutes of the film are shot in true IMAX, and those minutes are not complete sequences. Random shots will appear in IMAX, meaning that the aspect ratio for one shot will change. Take into account how quick your average Michael Bay shot is and you’ll understand how bizarre this decision was. Another sign that nobody making the movie gave a shit.