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Review: Transformers

Mechanical failure; expect no change from this Transformers
By PETER KEOUGH  |  June 24, 2009
1.0 1.0 Stars


VIDEO: The trailer for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen | Directed by Michael Bay | Written by Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman | with Megan Fox, Shia LaBeouf, Isabel Lucas, Josh Duhamel, Hugo Weaving, John Turturro, Rainn Wilson, and Ramon Rodriguez | Paramount | 150 minutes
Revenge of the Fallen has already achieved at least one Hollywood first: it's the only major movie I know of to be released without press notes. Tetro came with a bound volume of production information the size of a paperback novel. Even Land of the Lost had a good 70 pages. There, perhaps, lies Michael Bay's secret: those who read do not know, and those who know do not read.

As if to illustrate Bay's contempt for literacy, an early sequence here has a robotic co-ed with a 12-foot mechanical tongue chasing Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) through the library of a major university and destroying it in the process. Sam — as viewers of the first installment will recall — has already saved the world once from the evil Decepticons, with the help of their mechanical antitheses, the noble Autobots. Isn't that enough? Why can't he just go to college and get laid like any other teenage lunkhead?

But duty and his demanding girlfriend, Mikaela (Megan Fox, whose butt is shot almost as lovingly as the Harley she's draped over in her first scene), come first. The Decepticons have returned; Astronomy 101 will have to wait. So, can he save the world again? And along the way, can he cut the cord with his cartoonish parents, embrace his destiny, and finally say to Mikaela the dreaded "L" word?

That's a lot to hope for. So let's get back to the special effects, chases, and explosions. In this regard, Revenge improves on the original, at least for a while. In the original, the action was a blur of tight shots, rapid editing devoid of logic. Now Bay sits back and indulges in a long shot or two, holding it for more than a split-second, so we can see what's going on. It's just like watching the toys on which the movie is based, but on a gigantic scale, and as if played with by a monstrous child without joy or any imagination. Said toys are big heaps of mobile, pasted-together crap — kind of like the movie itself, whose æsthetic is to toss in all the shit that sticks for two and a half hours.

Despite the hysterical pointlessness of it all, I can't resist the attempt to impose some meaning. Is it possible to transform machines into racist stereotypes? Sam's cowardly and lecherous Hispanic roommate, Leo (Ramon Rodriguez), is one thing, but what about the minstrel-show "twins" Skids and Mudflap, a/k/a Amos 'n' Andy? Also, some weenie from the president's office wants to out the top-secret alliance between the human commandos (all Americans, except for one guy with a British accent) and the Autobots so we can have transparency and diplomacy. Disaster follows — turns out Cheney was right.

But it's not just me who craves some coherence and point. Sam has touched a fragment of the "Allspark" from the first movie, the "vessel" that contains the lore of the Primes (not to mention the deal with the Matrix of Leadership and the Lance of something or other), and it fills his mind with hieroglyphics and other arcana and drives him to fulfill his destiny. It's the revenge of the signifier. "There is a reason the symbols and voices led me here," he says at a particularly bleak moment, for him and me both. He's right. It's what's called the bottom line: a record-breaking box office and Transformers 3 scheduled for July 2011.

Related: Review: Friday the 13th (2009), Toys are us, Bruce Willis lets loose, More more >
  Topics: Reviews , Celebrity News, Entertainment, Michael Bay,  More more >
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