Movie Review: Transformers Revenge of the Fallen UPDATED

When I watched the first Transformers movie, I gave it a pretty good review. Basically, I loved the robot designs and the action, but most of pretty much everything else left much to be desired. So is Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen similar?

Very much so, except jacked up a notch on both the good and the bad. Here's a synopsis, courtesy of IMDB:

Decepticon forces return to Earth on a mission to take Sam Witwicky prisoner, after the young hero learns the truth about the ancient origins of the Transformers. Joining the mission to protect humankind is Optimus Prime, who forms an alliance with international armies for a second epic battle.

Let's start with the positive, shall we? The action and special effects are among the best of the year. The opening action sequence is awesome beyond words, and anytime a robot is on the screen whupping butt, I'm happy. Sideswipe's fighting is probably my favorite as he uses a super-cool "skating" fighting technique (it's cooler than it sounds, trust me).

The robot designs and renders are also incredible. I had my doubts about Devastator and Ravage, but both are visually awesome. Soundwave is also pretty sweet. But the absolute awesome-est of the bunch is probably (spoiler, highlight to read) Optimus at the end of the movie when he combines with Jetfire. That's an action figure I'm really looking forward to.(/spoiler) Basically, the movie is visually stunning whenever a robot's on the screen.

But almost every other aspect about the movie is truly atrocious.

The plot has holes in it of sufficient density to gravitationally collapse upon themselves and form black hole singularities. For example (spoiler): In the beginning of the movie, what is Bumblebee doing wasting his firepower just sitting there in a garage when he could be helping to destroy the Decepticons? Why does Sam not tell the Autobots about his shard even though the other shard was so important as to have a government facility dedicated to it? (/spoiler) The plot is virtually nonsensical. And it's peppered with ineffectual and juvenile comic relief that Bay just tries to pound into your head at every opportunity. The absolute worst was (spoiler) a gag about Devastator's balls. I'm not joking.(/spoiler)

Almost all the characters have annoying personalities. The dialogue is terrible; the acting, worse. And although I like the look of the robots and how they fight, their personalities leave much to be desired. Some of the robots are cool like Optimus, Megs and Starscream. I even like Wheelie; as comic relief, he works pretty well. But all the other speaking robots are annoying at best. Right after Sideswipe takes out a car with super-cool roller-blading action, he lets loose with a horrible one-liner that ruins any that coolness he previously had. Jetfire is an incompetent fool who (spoiler)is nothing more than extra armor for Optimus.(/spoiler) And Skids and Mudflap are robotic incarnations of Jar Jar Binks.

The directing is similarly bad. The scenes flip back and forth, leaving you little time to catch your breath or even appreciate the importance of what's going on. And the camera is constantly moving. Constantly. Bay, for whatever reason, can't seem to calm himself down enough to just do a static camera shot. It's so bad it induces motion sickness.

This movie is both one of the best movies I've seen this year in terms of action and effects, and one of the worst movies in terms of acting, dialogue, directing, and characters. And that's saying something considering I sat through Street Fighter: Legend of Chun Li. I give the movie a generous 2... the visual spectacle saves it from totally bottoming out.

UPDATE 6/28/2009: I've been thinking about why I loathe this movie so much. I'm usually a big fan of bad sci-fi movies. I love kaiju flicks, Bruce Campbell movies, etc... as long as it has aliens, monsters, or zombies, I'm happy. TF2 has some of the coolest aliens around, so why all the hatred?

When a movie maker tackles an effects-driven movie (whether it be about spaceships, kaiju, or, in this case, robots), he should know that what makes that movie cool are the effects. The director should step back and let the effects carry the movie if he's unable to supply a decent plot, interesting supporting characters, or effective cinematography.

As an example, take Godzilla: Final Wars. The movie makers obviously knew what people wanted to see: Godzilla whupping tail. The plot was in shambles and the characters were two dimensional, but that didn't matter. What was important was Godzilla, and the movie makers realized that nothing they could create in terms of plot or characters could compete, so they let the kaiju action take over. Perfectly acceptable. As another example, JJ Abrams was able to create characters that could hold their own against the special effects in the new Star Trek film, so it's justifiable that so much time was devoted to them.

However, Michael Bay is no JJ Abrams. The horrible characters and crappy plot he created for TF2 were atrocious... which is fine, as long as they don't take away from the robot action. But tragically, Bay thought that they merited more screen time than the robots themselves, which they did not. That's why I hated this film, because Bay thought that he was better than the Transformers.

DISCLAIMER: All items reviewed on Dork Dimension were purchased by the reviewer unless otherwise noted. The opinions expressed on Dork Dimension are solely those of the author and are presented for entertainment purposes only.