Archive for June, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

I actually enjoyed the first Transformers movie quite a bit. I think the sequel may be the worst movie I’ve ever seen. It fails on every conceivable level. People will tell you it’s just a big dumb glorious action movie. Those people are wrong. There are half-hour stretches in which NOTHING HAPPENS, as though the writers were stumped about what to do next, and left to go think of something — but LEFT THE MOVIE RUNNING while they did so. At no point in the making of this film was the question “why?” ever asked, by anyone. Nothing matters, nothing makes sense, and not even the explosions are interesting. Not sexy, not funny, not thrilling. And did I mention three hours long? Please, go watch Armageddon or Die Hard 4 or something. Save your money.

That was the most surprising part — that the movie would fail so completely at even being an entertaining summer action flick. Other, ancillary frustrations:

  • The pervasive neocon ideology. Aside from the military boosterism (expected from Michael Bay), there is literally a scene where the White House spokesman yells at Optimus Prime and over the course of the argument, the terms “planet Earth” and “United States” are thoroughly conflated. Because they’re the same thing, you see.
  • Transformers, the franchise, was designed to sell toys. The TV shows and comics understood this, and made the most of it — they clearly diagrammed who was who, gave all the transformers distinct personalities, and made you fall in love with them, so that you would want to own them. After watching Revenge of the Fallen I can’t even visualize more than three or four of the 30+ featured transformers, let alone name them or describe their personalities. What are kids supposed to do? “Thanks, mom! It’s… Sideswipe? Remember him from that half a frame he was in during that one explosion scene?” You couldn’t follow this with a scorecard.
  • The “twins” are every bit as bad as you’ve heard.
  • One of the “themes” of the film (if there are any, there are like twelve, all stillborn like a litter of malnourished puppies) is that being an Autobot or a Decepticon is not an inborn characteristic (like race) but a choice (like religion). At least two characters, the biggest and the smallest, are shown to switch sides and become “good guys.” This adds a horrific angle to the already-disturbing scene near the beginning, where the US military-Autobot alliance is shown hunting down a fugitive Decepticon (who is never shown doing anything wrong) and killing it in cold blood.
  • I can’t emphasize enough how incoherent the screenplay is. You know how there were twelve Superman scripts floating around Hollywood, all wildly incongruous, before they eventually picked Superman Returns? This is like they took a dozen Transformers 2 screenplays, put them in a Large Screenplay Collider, and fired them at each other at a considerable fraction of lightspeed. Then they picked up the pieces and filmed the result. You can almost make out the remains of Jon Peters’ giant robotic spider. For more on Michael Bay’s ecstatic transcendence of logic, see Rob Bricken at Topless Robot:
  • What follows is the most spectacular part of the movie, as Sam and Mikaela try to run the several miles back to the military camp during a massive Decepticon attack where the military has dropped Optimus Prime’s corpse.
    Why is that awesome? They could drive back in one of the Autobots and be there in a minute or two.
    They don’t do that.
    They walk.

EDIT: And another thing!

I want this guy to pop out at the end of every scene of every movie and explain how we are supposed to feel about what just happened. Just like he does in Transformers: Revenge of the Large Screenplay Collider.


Leigh Walton talks comics and maybe other arts. (RSS)
He also works for the very excellent publisher Top Shelf Productions (which does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions, etc, herein).


Header by me. Contains an interpolation of the final panel from All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Speaking of which.