Thursday, June 25, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Movie Review)

Turkey Day came early in Hollywood, with the unwelcome arrival of the sequel to Transformers.

See my review in Las Vegas City Life, or read an expanded version of the review, below.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Ramon Rodriguez. Directed by Michael Bay.

Give props to Michael Bay: The noisy, way overlong sequel to his 2007 blockbuster counts as the best summer movie featuring machines more capable of expressing emotion than their co-stars, purportedly made of flesh and blood.

The film, sheer spectacle disguised as an actual movie, also distinguishes itself as the season's action flick boasting the least suspense regarding the fate of its robotic human and machine leads. It's the hot-season popcorn fare with, simultaneously, the most talky and most pointless script.

As sci-fi, it's not in the least philosophically provocative, ala some of the classics of the genre: Are earthlings in danger of facing a future marked by the ascendancy of machines? Who cares? Not Bay, and not his trio of screenwriters, two of whom were on board for the first movie.

The filmmaker, who cut his teeth on rock 'n' roll video clips and a Playboy "video centerfold," expertly prepares the cinematic equivalent of comfort food, made to order for teenboys and their enablers.

The action is super-fast and relentless, the special-effects are awesome, and the young stars, Megan Fox in denim cut-offs, and Shia LaBeouf, panting and looking mighty worried, are suitably foxy and puppy-dog eager, respectively. Shit blows up, repeatedly. Comic relief attempts to arrive by way of fast, unfunny one-liners. On the other hand, it's mostly hot metal-on-metal action, with few humans and little dialogue required.

The original Transformers, while hardly a classic, was at least fresh and funny, and acted as if it weren't taking itself too seriously. Sadly, that's not the case with the overblown and annoying sequel.

There's a plot, sort of, one that borrows from aliens-were-here-first mythology (you know, "Chariots of the Gods") and takes the story from desert settings, circa 17,000 B.C., to outer-space encounters to underseas chases and battles.

Young Sam, leaving home for Princeton, is dealing with the prospects of a longtime relationship with girlfriend Mikaela, who works in an auto body shop when, apparently, she's not working on her sleek body. Then there are Sam's parents -- Mom (Julie White) is weeping over her empty nest, while Dad (Kevin Dunn) is more than happy to move on to the childless chapter of his life.

Sam soon enough learns about and accepts his role as a key player in the ginormous battle between evil Transformers the Decepticons -- sprouting up everywhere as heavy metal versions of the fuzzy monsters in Gremlins -- and the Autobots, now allied with the U.S. military and willing to protect earth.

Fighting ensues, for 150 minutes! Cool cars, including Sam's trusty bright-yellow Camaro, named Bumblebee and given to whimpering and crying when sad, run wild.
Locales include Shanghai, Paris, Times Square and the Pyramids in Egypt. Rainn Wilson (Dwight from "The Office") makes a cameo as a leering astronomy professor, who tells his class he's happy to be helping "eager, nubile young minds on the cusp of adulthood." Even the great John Turturro shows up, as a deli owner with special knowledge about the Decepticon menace. And all the coeds in Sam's dorm, including one with a dangerous secret, appear to be slumming supermodels, pouting and sex-crazed. Isn't that enough?

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