Friday, July 3, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

I saw Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in the theater and, well... the critics kind of have a point. I want to make it clear that I loved the first movie that came out in 2007. I loved it perhaps more than it deserved. But while I enjoyed the sequel--I wasn't angry that I'd wasted my $7 on it--I really couldn't recommend it to anyone. And I don't need to see it again.

Here are some notable aspects of the Transformers sequel.

Bigger robots
In the first movie, Optimus Prime and Megatron were the big guys. This movie had a few really, really big Transformers (which were strangely always on the Decepticon side). But they seemed to have traded size for brains, as none of these big transformers had any character or apparent thought. They acted solely as plot devices and eye candy.

More explosions
Really, more of all special effects. I have to say that I continue to be impressed by these effects sequences. I love watching the transformers grappling with one another. I get especially excited in chase scenes, when they're driving down the road then transform and leap at an opponent, then in midair transform back into the vehicle and continue their pursuit. Good stuff. And lots of explosions are fun to watch too.

Sophisticated humor
The main thing that I rolled my eyes at in the first movie was the "lubricant" jokes. Bumblebee emptying some lubricant from his robo-crotch onto Agent Simmons, and the chihuahua "leaking lubricant" on an Autobot's foot. Ugh. Oh well, I'm sure the kids (and the immature) thought it was great. Well, in this sequel, they officially graduated from pee jokes to hump jokes. The dogs were humping each other, Mikaela's pet Decepticon humped her leg... Yes, it was all about the humping. Great. What will be the joke in the next movie?

Basically, it was just not as funny as the first
I could see it trying really hard to have cute, funny lines like the first movie had, but all of the quips in the sequel just fell flat. No lines stuck in my head as clever or hilarious. Part of the movie's problem was the very fact that this was a sequel. Much of the humor in the first movie was in how all the characters--Sam, Mikaela, Sam's parents, the soldiers--reacted to their first encounters with the transformers. They tried to recapture some of that by bringing in Sam's college roommate, but he was much more an annoying burden than a humorous asset. Also, another important part of the first movie's humor was Sam's awkwardness. Now that he has the girl and he's been through a firefight, Sam is significantly more mature, he's not nearly so awkward, and he's just not as inherently funny. Really, no one was as funny as they were in the first movie.

Not about the characters
At least in the first movie, the soldiers got a little time to establish personality. Captain Lennox has a wife and baby. Everyone gives Fig a hard time for speaking Spanish. Soldier bonding time. In the sequel, the soldiers were total non-characters. There was also very little development between Sam and Mikaela. In spite of the fact that the main subplot between them was Sam's reluctance to say the L word which--spoiler alert!--he finally does say at the end, it didn't feel like their relationship had changed at all. Saying a single word does not in itself count as character development.

Skin jobs
Really? Skin jobs? In Transformers? I do not recall any Transformers-Barbie toy line (though let's face it, if they had made them, I probably would have bought them). Transformers transform into technological thingies. Not people. So even though you could totally see it coming--that this person was actually a Decepticon--it still seemed completely out of nowhere. It was like it was out of a different movie. The skin jobs belonged in last month's Terminator. They do no belong in Transformers.

Girl Autobots
The 2007 Transformers movie had only a handful of robots, and all of them were decidedly masculine. In the sequel, they introduced a few pink and purple Autobots with curvy chassis and feminine voice simulators. And I use the word "introduced" very loosely--I was never sure if there were two or three of them, since the two scenes in which they made an appearance went by really fast, and I think they had only one short line between them (punctuated with the speaker getting incapacitated). These female Autobots transformed into matching motorcycles, and were thus on the petite side of the battle transformers. They were relatively wimpy, and their characters were completely insignificant. If this was an attempt to be PC... Fail.

The Twins
I had read in some commentary before seeing the movie that there were some characters that people were calling the new Jar Jar Binks. Watching the movie, it became clear that they were referring to the twins, Skids and Mudflap, the blatant walking--I mean driving--ads for Chevy's Trax and Beat models ("Ooh, upgrade time!" "Check out the new models" as the camera slowly pans around the two cars displayed in the center of the room). The twins had big ears, bad teeth, couldn't read, and constantly bickered in street slang. They were clearly intended as comic relief, particularly because the writers seemed to have tapped out the Sam-Bumblebee humor in the first movie. But, as with Jar Jar Binks, one finds oneself sitting in the audience trying to figure out if they're amusing or offensive. At the very least, I did not find them funny.

Really, really long
It's not just that it's long (after all, my favorite movies are the LotR movies)--it's that it feels long. I don't know how long the desert battle sequence at the end really is, but it certainly felt like it was at least an hour. A never-ending stream of explosions, battling robots, and running and dodging humans. That is the essense of Transformers 2. And the movie proves that there can be too much of a good thing.

OK, so I've been pretty harsh, especially since I said that I enjoyed the movie. A movie doesn't have to be good to be entertaining. And this movie was entertaining enough for me to find it enjoyable.

Driving home from the movie, we got whomped with a huge thunderstorm. Driving rain, bright-as-daylight flashes of lightning, and crashing thunder. It was raining hard enough that it was probably unsafe to drive (my wipers were working fine, allowing me to see right through the windshield into a solid wall of rain), but we had to rush home to unplug our computers (the lightning was really right above us). It was an odd experience driving home in that weather because my brain was still set on battle mode from the Transformers movie. The rain was pelting bullets, the lightning and thunder bombs exploding, and it was up to me and my car to dodge our way through the battle. Good times.


Sebastian said...

Yeah... I think I'll wait for a DVD rip of this one. I'd heard it felt very long -- and it IS 150 minutes I think, which is huge for an action film!

Not like the olden days of Men in Black's 93 minutes! Or Men in Black 2 that was only 87!

Did anyone ride the female transformer bikes...? *giggle*

Eleni said...

Yeah, I guess the MIB movies were pretty short. The sequel still wasn't as good as the first.

No, no one rode the female transformers. Sorry to burst your bubble. There was a short bit where they had holographic female riders.