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Revenge of the Fallen

Since no matter how you slice it, we're talking about a movie about giant robots fighting each other, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen can only offer so much in the way of plot twists and turns. It could randomly have a cool-looking Decepticon suddenly fight for the Autobots, and vice versa, all in an effort to keep your attention. It's kind of the same thing that happens when my five year old son plays with his Transformers, only that cost a significantly less amount of money.

With that in mind, I'm going to feel free to intersperse this review with recreations of famous Transformer battles that have happened in my living room in the last six months.

First, to give the movie its due, the visual effects are fantastic. Seamlessly blended in with the live-action actors, the Transformers themselves exist as believable characters on the screen. Slap them up in an IMAX sequence, and the effects are really engrossing and impressive. When Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) fights for his very life against three or four or five Decepticons in the woods, it's the giant robot fight you may have waited your whole life to see.

Unfortunately, Director Michael Bay doesn't do a whole lot to give the robots personality, so it might be three, it might be five, it might be -

Living Room Fight: "Ho ho ho. I am bad. I must kill you." "AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!" (Grotesque sounds of plastic on plastic) "GAH GAH GAH GAH GAH!"

It seems that most of the time, Bay is content with a "cool, it's giant robots" attitude. The script by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Ehren Kruger takes us back to the dawn of man, when those giant robots first made contact. The titular Fallen (Tony Todd) crushes a few cavemen before something mysterious happens to defeat him. For most of the film, a severely weakened Fallen grumbles about betrayal by the Primes, strengthened only by the need for him to suddenly be strong and vital again for a big battle.

In the present, the Autobots have formed an alliance with the military squad from the first movie, a decent enough excuse to bring back Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson, charismatic actors who manage to stand out amidst all the metal on metal action. Together, they track down Decepticon incursions, aided by a new bunch of toys/Autobots that barely register as characters but look very shiny and cool.

Again, the problem there is that while the screen fills with action and explosions, there's not a single thing to actually hang onto as an audience until Optimus shows up. And I can't believe that I wrote that or even experienced the sensation of "yay! Optimus!" because at least that was a robot I recognized.

Living Room Fight: "I am Optimus Prime. I am good. I must kill you." "AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH" POW POW POW.

The carnage gets offset by comic relief featuring Shia LeBeouf returning as Sam Witwicky, a nebbish with a destiny. Oh, and of course an inhumanly hot girlfriend played by the Megan Fox 3000. CG and in-camera effects blend seamlessly as Fox first appears straddling a motorcycle, airbrushing a devil girl on the shiny curve of a gas tank, an Escher-esque vision blurring to the airbrushed shiny curve of her own flanks. It's still a little weird that the robots are more realistic than Fox.

Sam still carries the Macguffin for this adventure, a shard of the Allspark. Except that the Government also has a shard of the Allspark in their possession, so that can't be what's driving the plot, can it? Somewhere along the line it shifts to a hunt for Energon, then some other diabolical secret weapon and if the script can't be bothered keeping it straight, why should we?

At least one permutation could probably have been cut, as this thing lasts over two and a half hours. If you've seen ten incredible robot fights, you've seen eleven.

Living Room Fight: "DIE DIE DIE!" BOOM BOOM PABOOM - KKKKSSSSHHHHHHH!! (sounds of plastic clanking against plastic) VRROOOOOOOMMMMMMMM! "Daddy, can you transform Bumblebee?"

At one point, Bay offers up an intriguing idea, that the Transformers can disguise themselves as humans, with Isabel Lucas playing an Hottobot out to get what Sam knows. Though the sequence smacks of Terminator 3, it at least means the Decepticons have strategies other than beat the crap out of everything.

In fact, they seem pretty much smarter than everyone else in the movie. We wouldn't stand a chance against them. While Optimus Prime blathers on about destiny, they're busy taking over satellites and listening for things like exposition that explains exactly where the Allspark Shard is exactly when they need to get it.

Somewhere amidst the metal carnage lies a shred of a moral message, too, which sort of addresses a problem I had with the first movie. Why do all the Earth appliances brought to life have a default setting of evil? It may be that they have to choose to become Autobots instead of Decepticons, even though originally, they were all good until the Fallen and - ow. Ow. Owwwww.

Living Room Fight: "EEEEE!" "RRRRRRRRRR!" "KKKSSHHHKSSSHHHHKSSSHSHHH" "We do NOT scream!" "sorry, mom…"

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen does have a plot, and despite the constant cutting away to action just as something approaching real emotion might happen, it's clear that all the actors involved are doing solid work. None of this should really be surprising; it is a movie based on a toy line directed by a guy known chiefly for his facility with making things blow up not just good, but pretty.

So things blow up good here. It's full of sound and fury. And though many people hate to hear it, Shia once again makes a decent enough action hero, even with a broken hand. (Give credit to the craftsmanship of the creative team that they cobbled together an explanation for it that works almost as well as a Wampa attack.)

Like the first one, this is probably critic proof. But my main issue with it isn't its stupidity; it's that this loooong commercial for cool toys really isn't appropriate for kids. Characters swear at each other, even the Autobots. Though we already knew Fox was as fetishized and objectified as the Camaro, it's taken to an even higher level here, especially once the Desexticon enters the scene. Parents won't feel particularly comfortable and that's too bad.

At least we'll always have the battles in the living room.


Derek McCaw

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