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SECOND LOOK: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

The purpose of a film sequel is to surpass their predecessors with more exciting stories and new characters, or to expand on an established story and add new things to it. Many sequels have accomplished this like The Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather II, and Toy Story 2, but many have failed. Amongst them is Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, a dreadful three-hour film that fails as a summer blockbuster, a sci-fi movie, an action movie, a family movie, and as a Transformers movie. An alleged “victim” of the 2007-08 American screenwriters strike, it took three writers to come up with the awful script and story, and everything that was wrong with the first film are tripled here. But can something be salvaged from this mess of a film. Let’s take a second look.

Joining Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci is Ehren Kruger who has written three of these Transformers movies, and despite writing one of my favourite films The Ring, his storytelling is all over the place here.  The script is garbage, the story is a confusing, stupid mass of sludge that takes way too long to get moving, most characters are extremely irritating, the comedy is often inappropriate, the action is drawn-out and boring, and the usual traits of director Michael Bay are all there on screen like a horrible zit.

The Transformers are once again the guests stars in their own movie and take a back seat to the human cast. I know it is expensive to animate the characters, but how hard is it to make them the focus of their own story? The Transformers are their own characters, able to speak, emote, and have personalities, relationships, conflicts, etc.. But the film can’t even get them right. Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) is slowly turning into a violent barbarian, ripping apart other Transformers while screaming at them to die.

And where, where, o’where in the world did they come with the idea of the Twins!? These two racist stereotypes should not exist in a film in this day-and-age. Skids and Mudflap are jive-talking, deformed, buck-toothed, stupid “ghetto gangster” characters who serve as the main source of comedy in this dog-turd of a movie. Our group of heroes beyond Bumblebee are all a bunch of insufferable twits, and the Twins lead the way with their constant bickering and comments that make me want to rip my ear drums out. Jar Jar Binks is a more likeable character.

And I haven’t even gotten to the story yet. It feels like the writers just picked out random elements of the Transformers universe and placed them in a crude order while dealing with the required tropes: the irritating pointless love story and all the other nonsense no one wants to see in a Transformers movie.

So, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is off to college two years after the events of the first film, but this strains his relationship with his girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) and his Autobot guardian Bumblebee (who has lost his voice again despite fixing it at the end of the first film). Sam finds a shard of the destroyed Allspark in his wardrobe, but it zaps his mind with Cybertronian imagery, causing him to start flipping out in class and writing alien code everywhere he goes.

Meanwhile, the Autobots have formed an alliance with Earth’s militaries called N.E.S.T. to hunt down and massacre Decepticon refugees on the planet. They trash Shanghai, so the Autobots are chewed out by a Walter Peck-esque government douchebag who likes waving documents in people’s faces and mouthing off about how awesome America is. A second piece of the Allspark is kept locked up in a military base, but fan-favourite character Soundwave (Frank Welker) eavesdrops on Angry Suit’s rants and sends his minion Ravage to break into the base to steal the shard. Ravage then meets the Constructicons who dive into the ocean and resurrect Megatron (Hugo Weaving).

Megatron is revealed to not be the leader of the Decepticons, but is in fact a minion to a character called the Fallen (Tony Todd), essentially the Judas Iscariot of the Transformers mythos who hates humanity and wants to kill them using a machine that can absorb the sun. To do this, the Fallen and old buckethead need Sam’s brain, which has absorbed the Allspark’s knowledge and can act as a satnav to find the Matrix of Leadership, the Transformers’ Holy Grail that is repurposed as the key to the Sun Harvester. Yeah, there is a lot going on.

Sam and his friends are targeted by the Decepticons, but Optimus Prime takes on Megatron and Starscream and ends up dying for his troubles… again. Sam, Mikaela, Sam’s irritating roommate Leo (Ramon Rodriguez), Bumblebee, and those stupid Twins turn to John Turturro’s character Agent Simmons for help, revealing a dumb plot twist that Transformers have been on Earth for centuries, having helped build the Pyramids. We also meet Jetfire (Mark Ryan), an elderly Decepticon-turned-Autobot who is one of the few likeable characters in the film, who helps them find the Matrix so they can resurrect Optimus and stop the Fallen from ending the world.

It doesn’t usually take so long to explain the story, but frankly there is so much going on in the film, half of which is unnecessary and meanders forever. The romantic subplot between Sam and Mikaela consists of them being unable to say “I love you” to each other. Sam’s parents are just dreadful, particularly when his mother eats marijuana-filled cookies and starts acting like a lunatic. Who thought it would be a good idea to put a drug joke in a family film?

I feel really bad for Shia LaBeouf in this movie. He injured his hand at one point in the film’s shooting and considered the whole film a mess. But why does his character suddenly act like he is Peter Parker, wanting a normal life and leaving Bumblebee at home? Come on, you’ve got a robot sidekick who can transform into a car, and you don’t want to show him off at college?

And then you have Megan Fox once again here for fan service and nothing more. There is meant to be a touching scene between Sam and Bumblebee, but it cuts away to show Mikaela undressing to put on what looks like a wedding dress. How bizarre. Sam’s roommate Leo screams and shouts his way through the movie, offering nothing to the story aside from pointing out that the battle in Los Angeles from the first film was somehow covered up. How did the government pull that off? It is also implied the destructive battle in Shanghai is also covered up too. How do you cover up a giant Decepticon rolling down the motorway?

There is also another character named Alice who looks pretty and comes on to Sam, but turns out to be a shapeshifter Decpeticon assassin who can do disturbing things with her chameleon-like tongue. If they can create Transformers who can appear as humans, then why aren’t all the Transformers like that?

The Fallen himself is under-used in this movie despite being the main villain and being in the title. He doesn’t really do anything. Tony Todd does a decent performance, the character has a cool design and superpowers, but when he ends up fighting Optimus Prime, he loses in two minutes, having his face torn off and his spark crushed.

Megatron gets a more dignified role in the film, showing his relationship with Starscream and how he can transform into Batman’s Tumbler for some reason. We get some new Autobots like Arcee and Sideswipe, but their role in the film is so trivial they could’ve been filled with other characters. And the new Wheelie is even more obnoxious then the old Wheelie, is voiced by Spongebob Squarepants, and enjoys humping Megan Fox’s leg, something which no one asked to see in a movie.

And then there is Devastator. In the name Vector Sigma, what did they do to Devasator? Devastator is a giant Transformer created when the seven Constructicons combine together and is meant to be a giant robot of death and destruction. But here, he is a big pile of CGI garbage that can suck things up like a hoover. Oh, and he has two wrecking balls swinging back and forth between his legs. Good grief.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a mess of a movie. Even Michael Bay admitted it was awful, solely blaming the writers’ strike for the mishaps that followed, but I am skeptical. I believe they tried to put too much into this movie, and needed three writers to beat a sense of a story out of the results. Thankfully, the third film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, is a better movie, though, that doesn’t mean it is a good film.

Do you like or hate Revenge of the Fallen? Why did you think it went so wrong? Leave a comment below or on our Twitter feed.

About the author

Mark Russell