Sad Hill Media

Film & Lesser Arts with Will Ross, Devan Scott, & Daniel Jeffery.

By Will Ross & Devan Scott

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has director Michael Bay’s biggest budget yet, and at this point it's safe to say that he’s operating with complete creative autonomy. As such, highly sexualized and shallow women, annoying sidekicks, racially offensive content, and big, stupid, incomprehensible, meaningless action scenes are all here in spades. It’s a film with everything that makes Michael Bay distinct, cranked up. And, yes, it’s his worst movie yet.

Before we talk about the movie, we have to say, we swear to god that we are not making this up.

Within the first five minutes we get some of the most forced opening exposition we’ve ever seen to substitute for story. Among other things, we’re told that the good robots (Autobots) are hidden on Earth and have formed a “Secret strike team called NEST” composed of Autobots and “a secret but brave squad of soldiers,” who, of course, happen to be British and American. NEST never makes a reappearance after scene one. After a high speed chase and fight scene for the film’s first five minutes, a defeated and dying evil robot (Decepticon) warns that “This is not your planet to rule. The Fallen shall rise again”. A group of on-foot soldiers walk up (how they kept pace with two robots moving at hundreds of miles per hour, we don't know) and one says, “That doesn’t sound good.” Immediately following this we are reintroduced to the series protagonist, Sam Witwicky (Shia Labeouf). Sam has his own pet alien robot disguised as a car, and a piece of a highly advanced techno-cube that started an international crisis, yet receives no government protection. While packing for college, his house is accidentally set ablaze by his pet robot during an attack by a Decepticon. After his house is attacked by an alien killing machine, Sam sadly tells his pet robot that he’s not being taken to college because Sam “Just wants to be normal,” at which point, yes, he leaves for college with zero protection, despite being repeatedly attacked by killer robots from space.

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All of that occurs within the first fifteen minutes. Over the remainder of the film, between the extremely frequent robot fights (which, despite technically impressive special effects, essentially look like indistinguishable piles of scrap metal heaving against each other), it is revealed that the Decepticons and Autobots have actually been on earth for tens of thousands of years, and have left markings in their robot language on ancient ruins around the globe.

We are not making this up.

These markings are clues to find the 'Matrix of leadership', the key to a device called the Sun Harvester. The Decepticons want to use it to suck the power out of the Earth’s sun for some reason, but Sam and company want to use it to revive a dead character. Shia Labeouf plays Sam with the same mix of heroic/romantic melodrama and panicky stuttering as the last film. He is accompanied by his girlfriend, Mikaela Banes, played with sheer romantic melodrama by the always-wooden and distressingly incompetent Megan Fox, and his roommate Leo Spitz, played with sheer panicky stuttering by Ramón Rodríguez. Also joining them are twin Autobots who serve no purpose to the plot except as offensive racial stereotypes for the audience to laugh at. To say this band of heroes lacks diversity is an understatement.

In the film's most drawn-out action sequence, A Decepticon disguised as a beautiful college girl attempts to seduce and murder Sam (which leads to a very wacky sitcom contrivance when – oops! – Mikaela walks in just as Sam is being forcefully kissed). The robot assassin soon reveals its true form, and chases Sam, Mikaela, and Leo through the University. During this chase, the trio hide in a library while Sam and Mikaela squabble about their relationship (while, of course, under fire from killer alien robots), then flee the university while the robot assassin causing all the explosions calmly walks after them. While driving their car away, a helicopter Decepticon picks them up and drops them into a warehouse, leading to an attempted alien dissection of Sam. In the middle of this, a plot device (also known as Optimus Prime) rescues them, and within thirty seconds of escaping the warehouse, which is in a major city, there is a giant robot fight in a forest with no hint of urbanized land in sight. Ridiculous location displacement aside, this is one of the most contrived sequences in any modern action film, and it contributes to making the film's plot and character motivation almost impossible to follow.

If you’ve seen any of Michael Bay's films, you know that the man has a fetish for military aircraft and naval vessels. So, the film is packed with scenes that frequently cut to airplanes, helicopters, and aircraft carriers, often with minimal relevance to the plot. In one scene, an attack on Earth by the Decepticons leads to a shot in which missiles from the sky slam into an aircraft carrier, sinking it and destroying the planes on board in a sequence Michael Bay must have been dying to revisit ever since he directed Pearl Harbor. The climactic battle is thirty minutes long, takes place in an Egyptian desert, and includes the line “Oh God, this is it. The pyramid’s built right over the machine. They turn that machine on, no more sun. Not on my watch!” Considering that the entire film is crammed full of robot battles with no consideration given to pacing beyond vapid comic relief/dramatic dialogue, the audience is so exhausted that including a half hour climax is like screaming at an insomniac. The turning point in the climax, of course, features airplanes carpet bombing a desert, which leads to a brief scene in robot heaven, where alien robot Gods/Angels revive a major character (No, not the same major character the heroes want to revive with the Sun Harvester). After the climax in the Egyptian desert, the film cuts to two characters standing on an aircraft carrier watching a sunset. The end.

We are not making this up.

About the best we can say about Michael Bay is that he is an auteur in the truest sense. His style is unmistakable; he combines all-American jingoism with cheap melodrama and excessive action sequences. He treats plot and characters as mere vehicles to get the film to its next big action sequence. Michael Bay’s films represent all that is wrong with contemporary Hollywood; the incredibly bloated production budgets, the carelessness with which incredible special effects are used, the complete disregard for characterization, the assumption that the audience members have attention spans of no more than five seconds, and, of course, the lack of any attempts to try something new or interesting.

And, judging by how much money Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has made so far, none of this matters. Audiences will still flock to it, missing out on other, far superior films to watch the latest Michael Bay movie about things blowing up.

So, who's up for some Tarkovsky?

(Score of Zero)

In one scene, John Turturro looks up at a giant robot, and between its legs there are two wrecking balls hanging next to each other. We are not making this up.


Laurel said...

Ummmm...yay summer movies??? What's incredibly disappointing is that this is kicking "Up"'s butt in box office take.....yaaaay....summer...frickin'

John McClelland said...

I find it astonishing that a director as pitiful as Michael Bay is able to make a movie as awful as this and still produce all this revenue. It is a sad state on the decline of quality in Hollywood. Very well written review.

The Fresh Vince said...


i know where you live.

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