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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

#427 - Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Michael Bay, 2009

Two years after the events of the first Transformers film, the principal characters are roped into a conflict involving another evil Transformer.

You know what? I have no excuse. As much as I may justifiably malign the films of Michael Bay in this thread, that should indicate that I would be better off notwatching his films, but no, I really had to know if his follow-up to the 2007 live-action Transformers film (which cracked my Worst 100 a few years back) really was as bad as I'd heard.Let's be honest, bad films are more often than not fascinating in ways that good films frequently aren't, even if it is for the wrong reasons. Bay in particular is an especially fascinating figure because his films tend to be complete fiascos yet he still turns them out and profits off them. Even The Rock, which is probably the only film he's ever done that could considered genuinely enjoyable, still had enough of his fingerprints to prevent it from being a truly great piece of '90s action cinema. I know that there's not that much reason to expect high art from a Hollywood film about giant alien robots fighting each other, but Bay and his collaborators somehow found a way to make such a premise incredibly tedious and irritating thanks in no small part to its bloated running time and poor characterisation. In trying to provide a whole new experience beyond the Transformers' origin story, Revenge... could either improve on its predecessor's flaws or exacerbate them considerably. It's not hard to guess which of those two outcomes actually happened.

Revenge... once again relies on the heroic Autobots and villainous Decepticons fighting over an ancient MacGuffin, this time with the introduction of another evil Transformer known simply as "the Fallen" who wishes to find and harness the MacGuffin in order to destroy Earth. Naturally, the film finds an extremely contrived way in which to re-introduce a lot of the same human characters from the first film, most notably the gormless teenager (Shia LaBeouf) who just wants to be able to go off to college and live a normal life with his mechanic girlfriend (Megan Fox) but soon finds himself being targeted by good and evil robots once again. This is where Bay's worst narrative tendencies take over as he wastes so much time on incredibly frustrating comedic sequences, whether it's Rainn Wilson's cameo as a lecherous professor or the protagonist's mother accidentally ingesting pot brownies. There's also an all-too-familiar bit of romantic confusion involving the appearance of a young woman (Isabel Lucas) whose true nature as a Decepticon comes as no surprise given that her acting is so robotic that it makes Kristanna Loken seem like Meryl Streep. The less said about the continued inclusion of LaBeouf's character's parents and the two soldiers (Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson), the better - Gibson's presence in particular seems incredibly forced considering that he only exists to spout snappy one-liners, all of which land with the dullest of thuds. That's without getting into the characters who are clearly intended to be comic relief, whether it's John Turturro's long-suffering ex-government agent or the two goofy robots who definitely earn their reputations for being awfully racist-sounding stereotypes (the fact that at least one of them is voiced by Tom Kenny only serves to make me think of SpongeBob, which is extremely distracting considering what the ).

Even if you were to push all that out of your mind and focus on the part of the film that actually involves Transformers, it's still an absolute travesty. Given the director, there's understandably a lot of wanton destruction and explosions, which I guess is okay enough. However, the extremely complex and barely-distinguishable designs of the Transformers (which obscure the bright colours of the transformed exteriors with massive chunks of extremely detailed but blandly grey-and-silver machinery) combine with their heavily filtered vocals and slim characterisation to make it harder to distinguish between the heroes and villains. This ends up diluting the stakes and excitement that such scenes should offer simply because of how difficult it is to keep track. Even when the film takes time to have characters deliver large clumps of exposition and allow you better looks at the robotic characters, it does little to clarify much of what's going on. I may have given out a couple of 0.5 ratings recently, but in light of having seen Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen I'm starting to remember exactly why, despite my reputation for being a harsh critic, I give out relatively few 0.5 ratings. I use that as the absolute low end of my scale and usually try to make sure that a film thoroughly deserves to be placed there. Revenge... ends up being the kind of film against which I tend to measure whether or not a film truly deserves the lowest of the low. It is a prime example (no pun intended) of Hollywood excess at its absolute worst, to the point that even the big-budget disaster of The Last Airbender seems like a brief and inoffensive alternative in comparison.