Cast of Characters:
Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeoff) – An annoying human who was somewhat endearing in the first movie and now just irritates when he’s on screen. He doesn’t do much aside from run around, scream and get blown up. Doesn’t have the ability to tell his girlfriend he loves her. Also doesn’t have the ability to make the movie good.
Mikaela (Megan Fox) – Sam’s insanely hot girlfriend. Her purpose in the movie is… is… actually, I’m not really sure. I know it’s something. Oh, wait. It’s standing around looking hot, and also possibly as a Mary Stu for Michael Bay, which is disturbing on many levels.
Sam’s Parents (Kevin Dunn, Julie White) – Exist only to embarrass their son and get some cheap laughs from the audience. Somehow even more stupid and annoying than they were in the first movie, and that’s saying something.
Leo (Ramon Rodriguez) – Sam’s idiotic roommate. He runs a conspiracy theory website talking about how the alien robots are real, man, and live among us! The truth is out there, dude! Mostly he just serves to annoy.
Seymour Simmons (John Tuturro) – The Sector Seven jerk from the first movie who is now here to show his butt off to the world. Also one of about sixteen comic relief characters in the film.
The National Security Advisor (John Benjamin Hickey) – Turns up to make some actually intelligent and interesting comments, but since he’s just a government flunky, he has no business in the movie! After all, the government sucks! Well, except for the military.
Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) – Leader of the Autobots. He stands around and makes grand statements and noble-sounding quotes while reminding the viewer how much better the really crappy animated series was compared to this steaming pile.
Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving, though not so you’d notice) – Leader of the Decepticons. Well, sort of. His leader appears to be the Fallen, so I’m not sure what Megatron is anymore. Killed in the last movie, but he’s not quite dead.
The Fallen (voiced by Tony Todd) – Megatron’s boss. Yeah, it’s news to me that he had one. Galvatron had one, you know? In the animated film? Gosh, what a good movie that was compared to this one. I hate Michael Bay so much.
Bumblebee (voiced by your iPod’s playlist) – At the end of the last movie he gained the ability to talk. Naturally following the patterns of sequels such as Rocky II and Ghostbusters II, he has regressed and can’t talk anymore.
Skids and Mudflap (Reno Wilson and Tom Kenny) – Dese be a couple hard workin’ Autobots, yes, dey is! Dey’s gonna work mighty hard for you, massa! You don’t need to worry none about them bein’ uppity, and you ain’t gonna need to whup ‘em none, cause dey keeps to dey place!
The critics rave about Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen!
…Michael Bay’s latest bid to bludgeon audiences into dulled submission, is the reductio ad absurdum of a summer blockbuster. It is loud (boom!), long (two and a half hours!), incoherent (poorly explained intergalactic warfare!), leering (Megan Fox in short shorts!), racist (jive-talkin’ robot twins!), and rife with product tie-ins (Chevy! Hasbro!)… John Yoo would not be able to draft a memo excusing the torment this movie inflicts on its audience… – Dana Stevens, Slate.com
The film is padded by an hour of completely unnecessary, worthless, offensive and repugnant sequences that do nothing but tread water. – Harry Knowles, Ain’t It Cool News
Often bypassing any logic or reason let alone character or depth, this utter mess of an action opus is only sporadically entertaining thanks to all the visual flair that $200 million worth of computer-generated fighting robots can buy, but holds no real value beyond that. – Garth Franklin, Darkhorizons.com
Bay stages battle sequences the way a three-year old plays with Lego’s. He dumps everything out at once in one loud crash, and just starts snapping pieces together and tossing them into each other… And much like a child at play, things get loud, there’s a lot of screaming, and shit gets destroyed. – Capone, Ain’t It Cool News
It’s tempting to dismiss Michael Bay’s long, loud and ludicrous sequel to 2007’s Transformers with one word — hunkajunk. On every level this movie is as bankrupt as GM. But there is more to be said about a movie this gargantuan ($200 million spent on robot hardbodies) and galactically stupid. Transformers: The Revenge of The Fallen is beyond bad, it carves out its own category of godawfulness. And, please, you don’t have to remind me that the original was a colossal hit ($700 million worldwide) and the sequel will probably do just as well. I know it’s popular. So is junk food, and they both poison your insides and rot your brain. – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Though there are more special effects and new ways for machines to turn into ‘bots, the story seems as if it’s about to end at least three times.
If only. – Claudia Puig, USA Today
If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination. – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times
This is the second version of this recap. You can find the original on my website here. This new version contains most of what’s in the old, along with a bit of the new and lotsa purty pickchurs to look at! Enjoy!
It just doesn’t seem like summer anymore until Michael Bay gets the chance to visit upon us his latest cinematic abortion, and in the case of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the newest bit of diaper gravy to spew forth from his directorial anus, he does so in a way that truly sets a new standard for craptacular films.
Now I liked, or at least tolerated, the first movie. I didn’t think it was great cinema by any means, but it was reasonably entertaining and succeeded despite Michael Bay’s involvement. At the time I figured Spielberg had managed to reign in Bay’s habitual excesses and actually found myself looking forward to the sequel.
How naive I was…
The film opens in the year 17,000 BC. We know this because of a nice caption that tells us this. Quite nice of them to so accurate. Imagine if it had been, say, 17,014 BC! The confusion that might cause! It’s rather like the film 10,000 B.C., . The confusion it caused! True, mostly it was people confused about how the movie got made in the first place, but still.
In the distant past, we see standard Stone Age tribesman (looking like a bunch of Australian Aborigines), hunting a tiger (a tiger? In Africa?). Also, there’s a white guy with them.
Anyhow, the hunters stumble across a large Decepticon outpost on Earth. They get stepped on and the movie goes into modern times with a nice scene showing modern Shanghai’s nighttime skyline illuminated by bright sunlight. I know it’s Shanghai because of the caption, and I know it’s night that same caption informs me that it it’s 2214 hours. Jolly good. It’s possible that it’s meant to be 2214 GMT, but a: it doesn’t say that, and b: several other scenes show this happening in the late afternoon, the evening and in the dark. I chalk it up to Michael Bay’s Second Rule of Filmmaking: Continuity is for losers (the First Rule? “Never shoot an air vehicle on the ground when you can instead film it airborne, against the sun and through an orange filter”).
Optimus Prime gives us a little voiceover wherein he explains that the Autobots have teamed up with a multi-national human taskforce called Network Elements: Supporters and Transformers, or NAMBLA. They basically travel the globe hunting down Decepticons while keeping their presence a secret, in this case through a toxic spill cover story. This cover story is required, because apparently even after seeing Los Angeles – er… Mission City – get leveled, likely with lots of video footage both amateur and professional, everyone has “forgotten” the Transformers exist.
Let me divert here for a moment. There’s a common theme in a lot of science fiction television and film that you can have some major, Earth-shattering event (like “Mission City” being trashed in the first movie , London being menaced countless times in Doctor Who , Cardiff being menaced in Torchwood, and supernatural nonsense in Buffy The Vampire Slayer), that happens, gets witnessed, gets filmed/video taped, and then everyone conveniently forgets about it and/or there’s a government cover-up.
This is particularly egregious in the TV series War of the Worlds, an otherwise forgettable show that takes place a few decades after the events shown in the 1953 film of the same name. In that film, we see millions killed, cities devastated and nuclear bombs set off. Yet by the time the TV series rolls around, there’s been a cover-up and everyone has “forgotten” it happened.
This sort of nonsense is the laziest form of writing there is. It’s implausible, insulting to the audience and just plain stupid. It’s like saying that ten years from now all the video footage of the 9/11 attacks and all the news coverage will just disappear and that people are likely to, as a large majority, sit around saying, “September 11, 2001? No, nothing happened that day. Why do you ask?”
Writers like to do this because it means they don’t have to work too hard to try and figure out what the consequences would really be to the events they set up initially. If giant robots had beat the crap out of each other in downtown Los Angeles, that would have massive repercussions worldwide, especially once we found they were aliens. But the writers don’t want to deal with that, so they just say “cover-up!” and that’s all there is to it.
Back to the story, where we see the Autobots and the humans deploying onto the scene in Shanghai. The Autobots drive there (except Optimus, who drops out of a plane), and the humans drive there, too, in various hummers and on motorbikes and some of them even deploy from the back of a semi for some reason (get used to the words, “for some reason”. You’ll see them a lot).
The two groups start to close in on the (two) Decepticons, who appear to be just sitting around minding their own business. The attack begins and, as you’d expect, most of the humans get quickly killed. I’m not even sure why the humans are there, and why they aren’t carrying high-quality ammo. They’re using rifles which they know don’t work. What, were all the tanks busy or something? We do see some helicopters in the fight. They of course hover at a distance and fire HE rounds and missiles at the enemy. Actually, they don’t. What they do instead is get really, really close, fire their weapons, and then get shot down. Because apparently missiles are melee weapons.
It’s stupid to send these humans into the fight. The way a friend of mine put it is that it’s like sending ants to fight an elephant, and why bother when you have several elephants of your own just standing around waiting to do something?
Anyhow, the Autobots go cashing after the Decepticons. We see some big, exciting battles, which are reasonably well executed, I suppose. There’s one Decepticon who runs around on a huge wheel, and his design is cool. Otherwise, it’s a lot of meh, and the big wheel Decepticon is pretty much owning everyone until Optimus drops out of his plane and joins in the battle. Why he wasn’t involved in the first place is left up to you to guess.
The big wheel bot is eventually brought down, though it takes quite a bit of effort and results in millions of dollars of damage to Shanghai and likely dozens of civilian deaths. Mind you, the presence of the Autobots is a secret!
At the end of the battle, Optimus is standing over the defeated Decepticon, who taunts him a little, mentions something about the return of the Fallen, and then Prime shoots him in the face. Executes him. Murders him. Now, I ask you, does this sound like what Optimus Prime would actually do? No, because Prime is presented as a noble sort of figure, and not the sort who goes in for the cold-blooded killing of a prisoner. A warrior, yes. A murderer, no.
Before dying, though, the Decpticon mutters something about how the Fallen is about to return. One of the NEST people say that doesn’t sound good, and I entirely agree. The fact that they felt he need to make up something new, like the Fallen, instead of using something established, like Unicron, doesn’t sound good at all!
Leaving this happy scene, we move on to Sam, as he gets ready to head to Princeton for college. He has some moments with his insufferable parents (you know, the idiots who in the last movie thought a robot falling down was an earthquake). They serve the same purpose here as they did in the first movie, which is overly exaggerated comic relief. They’re two of the roughly sixteen comic relief characters in the film. No, that’s not an exaggeration. Spoony (and I still can’t decide if I think he’s hot or not), actually counted in a review where he also called Bay a “shit-flinging monkeychild”.
Sam’s parents mostly spend this first scene with his mom running around crying hysterically about her little boy leaving for school, including breaking down emotionally when she finds his baby shoes and insisting he come home for every holiday, including the small ones (do any mothers actually act like this?), and his father making crass sexual remarks about his wife in front of their son. Charming.
We’re also introduced to Sam’s two dogs. His two male dogs. Obviously male dogs. I mention this because we get not one, but two, scenes of them having sex. Thanks for that, Michael Bay. You’ve wrecked sex forever.
Sam calls his girlfriend, Mikaela (isn’t that a female form of the name Michael? Trying to tell us something, Mr Bay?). She is shown on screen for the first time in a shot you’ve no doubt seen in the trailer, sitting on a motorbike in pose that might make most Playboy Playmates feel embarrassed.
They talk briefly about the possibility of her coming with him to college. She says she can’t because, among other things, she has to look after her dad, who was recently released from prison. Now I might be mistaken, but wasn’t he supposed to have had a pardon? Wouldn’t that have resulted in him getting out of prison two years ago? If so, why does Mikaela still need to look after him? Anyhow, he’s working at a bike shop. He seems to be doing ok. Most felons should be doing so well two years out of prison.
While yammering on the phone to Mikaela, Sam is fiddling with the outfit he wore in the first movie and a shard from the Allspark cube falls out. Because Sam’s mother apparently never does laundry. Sam touches the shard, it zaps his brain and falls through the floor, burning its way down into the kitchen where it turns all the appliances into robots that promptly attack everyone.
This brings up a flaw from the first movie that is carried over into this one, which is: why does the Allspark apparently only make Decepticons? Every time it creates some sort of robot entity, the first thing that bot does is attack everyone. Ah, well. If there’s one thing I learned quickly from this movie, it’s not to ever ask “Why?” cause the movie won’t explain it.
Anyhow, a small battle starts up inside the house, which catches on fire. Bumblebee comes out from the garage and tries to fight off the little bots, and eventually does so. He then hides as the fire department and police show up and, interestingly, none of the neighbors notice any of this. All sorts of comments are made about security (cause of the robots being Sooper Sekrit!) and there’s more annoying interplay between Sam’s parents and then Mikaela shows up and shows what her real purpose is to the movie, which is (aside from showing body parts), to engage in “witty” banter with Sam and get annoyed when he won’t say “I love you” to her (and does the camera spin 360 degrees while they are talking to each other? Why yes, it does! Ladies and gentlemen, we have Michael Bay’s Third Rule of Filmmaking: never just film people when instead you can spin cameras around them).
I mention “I love you” thing only because that discussion, the whole “I love you thing” is the entirety of the central emotional core to this movie. No, seriously. That’s the entire scope of their relationship conflict point. Now admittedly, I’ve been single most of my life, and don’t expect this to change anytime soon, but when I have been in a relationship, I haven’t had any problem with saying, “I love you,” to whomever I was involved with. It’s just not that big of a deal. Well, unless you’re in a major Hollywood blockbuster where the lazy writers have to come up with some sort of emotional conflict.
After brushing off his ridiculously hot girlfriend, Sam goes to chat with Bumblebee, and tells him that at Princeton, freshmen aren’t allowed to have cars (I doubt this, but it’s possible, I suppose). Bumblebee responds with… music and clips from movies. He does this because, like in the first movie, he can’t talk. Now that was fixed at the end of the first film, but clearly someone said, “Hey, the kids like him talking in music! So let’s keep doing that! Yeah!”
Also this is the moment when Sam basically tells Bumblebee to butt out, and that he can look after himself. Yes, that makes plenty of sense given that he was nearly killed a few moments ago.
Now we catch up with the military guys, who are busy doing their thing in their little hanger and getting ready for a debriefing with what I believe is supposed to be someone from the Joint Chiefs.
This set of scenes also introduce us to two cringeworthy characters named Mudflap and Skids. You may have heard about the controversy surrounding them. If you haven’t allow me to enlighten you by saying that if you think Jar Jar Binks is the height of funny, if you can’t get enough of minstrel shows, and if you enjoyed Amos and Andy, you’ll love the comic stylings of Mudflap and Skids, two characters who prove that racist humor is alive and well and living in America!
God, these two are awful. They are the worst characters I’ve seen on screen in ages. Now I’ll defend Jar Jar Binks for the most part. He wasn’t well-executed, but I got what Lucas was going for with the character (ie: the awkward adolescent who isn’t comfortable in their own body), but these guys? Painful! They talk in Ebonics (robonics?), they always fight each other, one has a gold tooth (?!), and they can’t read. There is nothing good about these characters at all. They serve no useful purpose to the plot and Spielberg ought to be ashamed to have his name attached to a film where these guys appear.
Now how did two characters like these get created? Let us turn to the words of Mr Bay himself:
Bay said the twins’ parts “were kind of written but not really written, so the voice actors is when we started to really kind of come up with their characters.”
You understand what that means, right? The characters weren’t really written. They made up a rough sketch, had the voice actors come in, and built the characters around their performance. Memo to Mr Bay: This is not how movies should be made. The usual flow of action is to write up the characters and then cast them. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but this is not one of them.
More troubling, though, is this quote:
“I purely did it for kids,” the director said. “Young kids love these robots, because it makes it more accessible to them.”
So according to Michael Bay, the kids of America are fundamentally racist and will be best entertained by two jive-talkin’ robots presented as caricatures of black people. Well done, Michael, well done. I believe this officially undoes everything good that’s come of race relations since the election of Barack Obama. I am impressed.
Also it’s worth noting that this implies that Bay wanted to have this movie be accessible to kids under 13. The movie is rated PG-13 and was likely made with an eye to that rating. Again, well done, Mr Bay!
Back to the “story”. One of the Marines from the first movie (didn’t bother to learn his name then, don’t care to now. He’s the white one. The one who had cannibalistic fantasies about eating his daughter’s cheeks), is having a video conference with a four-star general discussing recent operations. They go out of their way during this conference to avoid showing Optimus on screen, even when he’s talking to the general. This is because of security. I mean, four-star generals certainly can’t be trusted to keep secrets, now can they?
The National Security Advisor turns up and wanders in. Apparently there’s no problem with him seeing Optimus. Anyhow, he starts bitching at the military guy, and then begins arguing with Optimus Prime, complaining about how the Autobots wouldn’t share any of their weapon technology. Optimus gets all smug and says that basically it’s because humans are too violent. Now I could be wrong, but I seem to remember a bunch of robots, “Autobots”, I think they were called, shuffling off to Shanghai to hunt down and kill some Decepticons who were just minding their own business. I also seem to recall one of these “Autobots”, I forget who, violently executing a prisoner.
Eventually the National Security Advisor tells Optimus that this isn’t humanity’s war and that he blames the Autobots for bringing the Decepticons to Earth and then causing more trouble by inviting everyone else to come and play. This might actually be an area that could lead into interesting discussion if, say, Christopher Nolan had been at the helm, but not in a Michael Bay film, where plot cannot be allowed to get in the way of the action!
In the end the National Security Advisor flat-out asks Optimus if the Autobots will leave if the US government asks them to. Optimus says yes, and I can’t help but think of the large queue of governments behind them that would be happy to have the Autobots come live in their countries. That plus the fact that the Decepticons would be quite gleeful at this turn of events and would promptly take over.
In the meantime, we have Sam and company arriving at Princeton. Sam meets his annoying roommate, Leo, who runs a conspiracy website all about how the government is covering up these giant robots running around (memo to Leo: why not just contact KTLA, who surely would’ve had miles of video tape from the original battle in Los- er… Mission City, and ask to borrow some of their footage?). It’s a big, huge cover up, but he’s able to find out about it due the Rule of Incompetent Omnipotence*. Leo also mentions, in a rather telegraphed plot-point, that another website often scoops him.
We get more of Sam’s parents running around engaging in Komedy!, including Sam’s mom eating a pot brownie without knowing it, which is something of a surprise given that there’s a marijuana leaf prominently displayed on the bag she’s holding and she’s old enough to have lived through the Sixties and Seventies. You know, I’ve never smoked weed in my life, but even I know what a pot leaf looks like. I also know, despite not ever having smoked weed, that it doesn’t make people run around like they’ve just done a line of coke, unlike what happens to Sam’s mom in this movie, but then, this is the kind of movie where humor comes from people being morons.
It was at this point I realized something about this film. I’m about ten years too old to enjoy it and about three hundred times too smart. But I soldiered on!
Now we come to one of the few cool parts of the movie as Soundwave, a Decepticon that is a satellite in orbit (and is voiced here by Frank Welker, who really should’ve been given the role of Megatron), drops Ravage down to Earth. Ravage goes to a US military base and ejects some ball bearings into a vent shaft. These merge and form… DEVASTATOR! Well, no, but they do make a fascinating looking two-dimensional robot (giving it more dimension than the screenplay). This, along with a couple other scenes, show some real flickers of imagination, that prove that there could actually be something of substance to this movie if only people had actually put forth the effort. But no, why bother?
Anyhow, the 2-D robot wanders around a bit until he gets hold of an Allspark shard that the military had. Keep that in your mind. The military had an Allspark shard. The Decepticons steal it in this scene (which includes the 2-D robot jumping through someone and cutting him in half. Ick!), and then spend much of the rest of the movie perusing Sam to get… an Allspark shard.
Now maybe there’s a good, solid reason for why they’re doing this. Possibly they just want to have a complete set. They do eventually stop chasing him to get that and instead chase after him for something else, but their motivations throughout the film are about as clear as… oh, let’s say… rice. Brown rice. Yes, that’s not very clear is it? The analogy doesn’t make a lot of sense, but neither does the movie, so there you go.
Meantime, back in California, we see Mikaela closing up shop. We also see her getting ready for a little video-conference scene with Sam, reminding me of a much better scene in the highly-superior British TV series Skins. Speaking of things I’d rather be watching… Oh, my Skins boys (except Cook)! Where are you when I need you?
Sam isn’t there for the video chat because he’s allowed himself to be dragged to a college party, where he’s starting to hallucinate and draw strange characters in cake frosting while some hot babe (is there any other kind in a Michael Bay film?), is busy checking him out. She then starts hitting on him and riding his crotch, making me very slightly jealous.
Mikaela is shown still waiting for her man to turn up as Bumblebee shows up at the college. Yes, he’d apparently gone clear across country to be with Sam. Aw, isn’t that sweet? Sam and the slutty girl get into the car, but it’s clear that Bumblebee doesn’t like her and eventually sprays what I believe is anti-freeze into her face. Jealousy? Perhaps. Or perhaps Michael Bay just wanted to show a woman getting fluid sprayed into her face.
We go from there to a scene where Prime finds Sam and talks with him a bit about destiny and duty and all the usual boilerplate nonsense. They’re meeting in broad daylight in a nicely secluded public graveyard. Gee, good thing no one ever visits those, right?
Out in the ocean we see a cargo ship carrying some construction vehicles. The vehicles, apparently desperate to avoid being in a Michael Bay movie, jump overboard and sink down. It is not surprise when they transform, thus introducing the Constructicons to the film.
Upon arriving at the bottom of the sea, they find Megatron and rebuild him. Now more than a bit pissed at the universe, he rises up, knocks aside a submarine and heads out into space, by which I mean he leaps out of the water and then he’s at Saturn.
On one of Saturn’s moons, Megatron meets up with Starscream and bitches at him. Interestingly, as the two talk you can see their breath. Cause, you know, it’s cold in space. Also airless. Also, Decepticons exhale when they talk. I do believe my brain just caught fire.
Megatron beats on Starscream for a few seconds and the knocks him to an egg sac out of which drops a baby robot (?!). Then he goes off to bow and scrape in front of the Fallen, who looks like he’s wearing an Egyptian headdress. It’s actually not a bad look, really.
The Fallen, voiced rather effectively by Tony Todd, tells Megatron that he needs to find the location of the Matrix. No, not that Matrix, or even that Matrix, but the Matrix of Leadership. Makes sense to me! Megatron heads out.
Next up we have Sam in astronomy class going slowly bonkers as he puts up with the introduction of Professor Schrute, who dresses like a Time Lord and has a libido that would make Hugh Heffner go “Damn!” He’s rather creepy and disturbing, so of course all the women in his class (all of whom are drop-pants gorgeous, because those are apparently the only women who go to this school), seem infatuated with him. I believe we have a Gary Stu for this movie. The whole scene is really rather nauseating and makes me want to have a shower.
Anyhow, during class, Sam starts hallucinating, reads his entire astronomy text book in only a few seconds, runs up the chalkboard screaming about Einstein’s equation of E=MC2 being wrong.
Another short digression here. For some reason every time filmmakers or TV writers or the like want to show someone being super smart, they have them ranting on about how Einstein was wrong and how E=MC2 is just not true. This always annoys me. It’s one of the most proven theories in science. It’s like someone saying the Earth doesn’t really rotate around the Sun or that evolution is wrong, and no one would ever think that!
His mind bubbling and fizzing away, Sam run out of his class and we go back to California to see Mikaela wandering around the garage while a small RC truck tails her. Turns out the truck is Wheelie, who is even more annoying here than he was on the original animated series, and believe me, that’s no small accomplishment.
Wheelie tools around the garage and finds out that Sam’s Allspark shard, which for reasons that baffle me he gave to Mikaela to hold onto, is in a small safe. While doing this he seems to be lusting after her. Yes, apparently Megan Fox is so hot that even alien robots want to fuck her. Alrighty, then!
She captures this annoying little creature and tortures it for information and then crates it, then tells Sam (she’s been talking with him on the phone the entire time this was going on), that she’ll be catching a flight to Princeton.
For his part, Sam is continuing his breakdown. We currently see him back in his room, twitching like a tweaker and… and…
I almost cannot bring myself to type this. Michael Bay has truly exceeded himself here, for young Sam starts scribbling alien characters on a framed poster for Bad Boys II, a movie generally regarded as one of the worst made in the last ten years and a low-point in Bay’s career.
Now from any other director, I might think this is a nice bit of irony. If Spielberg had, say, a shot of a poster for 1941 in a movie, that might be kind of fun, and him having a joke with the audience. But he’d just do it as a quick throw-away thing. He wouldn’t do what Bay does, which is to center it in the screen and keep it there for several seconds, showing the main character interacting with it. I seriously doubt Bay is self-aware enough to do irony; I think he’s just being an idiot here.
The next sequence brings us another odd little WTF?! kind of moment. As Sam is going slowly- well, rapidly- mad, the slutty woman from earlier turns up. Now she has him in his room, in private and is, again, crawling all over him. Then she sprouts a tail, some spikes and proceeds to toss him around and it turns out she’s what’s known as a Pretender.
Pretenders, for those unfamiliar with Transformers lore, were a group of transformers that human and/or animal shells. They didn’t turn into vehicles; they just disguised themselves in these shells. It was a weak idea and one that was never popular with the fans.
In this case, the woman, named Alice, is a Pretender whose only real job appears to be driving a wedge between Sam and Mikaela and then chasing after them in an exciting, Terminator 3 kind of way, thus reminding me of another movie I hated, but would rather watch than this.
I’m also baffled as to her presence. Basically her being in Sam’s school means that the Decepticons went to the trouble of creating her, giving her an alternate, very slutty, human form, and then enrolling her in Sam’s school, making sure she was nearby and could seduce then kill him. Just in case she needed to. Now that’s some forward planning!
Anyhow, Mikaela and Leo both turn up at Sam’s room just in time to see him about to be probed by this alien robot. A fight ensues and our heroes get away, running off onto a nice little chase through campus not unlike one in a better Shia LeBeouff film. Naturally this is the time Mikaela and Sam argue about their relationship. You know, like you do when you’re being chased by something that wants to kill you.
Also, when chasing Sam, Mikaela and Leo, Alice of course moves at walking speed, cause as we all know, the super-powered bad guy/gal is never allowed to run. She’s eventually she defeated when Mikaela crashes her into a lamppost, thus losing the film it’s only real chance to have a good old fashioned woman-on-woman fight. Given Bay’s track record so far, I’m surprised he managed to avoid it.
As our friends are sitting there chatting, a large electromagnet drops down and picks up the car with them inside. Sam and the gang (now available on LP and 8 Track, Sam and the Gang’s Greatest Hits!). The car is delivered to Megatron who promptly beats up Sam a little and says, “It’s good to feel your flesh.”
Yeah, I’m not saying a word.
Megatron gives Sam over to a docbot who naturally has a German accent. Herr Scalpel is drops some creature into Sam’s brain which then projects images of what the Allspark has stamped onto his medulla oblongata (or hippocampus or pons or whatever other part of the brain I can’t remember from my one semester of psych), and things look grim for our heroes! But then the Autobots arrive to save the day. This leads into a great big fight which leads into…
Well, amazingly enough, it leads into another really well-done scene! Rather like the 2-D robot, this is one of the scenes that shows what this movie could’ve been if it had tried. It’s a nicely done, creative, well-visualized, fight scene in a forest, where Prime fights Megatron, Starscream and some other Decepticon. It’s everything exciting that the rest of this movie is not. It also contains one of the other few emotional scenes as Prime gets killed off. Those of us, like me, who are Transformers fans, know this must be temporary since neither Ultra Magnus nor Hot Rod are around, but it’s still nicely done.
Now we go to a scene where Megatron and Starscream are hanging out on the top of the MetLife building in New York City. It is time to get humanity’s attention, they decide. “No mercy” declares Megatron as they launch off on a rampage where they go to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge and… er… knock over an American flag. Ok, that’s… impressive? I suppose? I mean, I would’ve knocked down the bridge and held the city hostage, but what do I know?
We see some footage of military stuff getting blowed up real good and Sam’s parents on holiday in Paris where they get captured by the Decepticons. Remember this happening, because it explains why they turn up later in the movie, though it doesn’t justify them doing so.
In a panic, the military minds meet up at the Pentagon which, according to the caption, is in Washington, DC. This is no doubt a great surprise to the residents of Virginia, but amazingly it’s not even the worst geographical error in the film.
Then the Fallen goes out live to the world, explaining that, yeah, hey, your governments have been lying to you. We’re here, we’re queer (well, Starscream is anyhow), and we’re going to destroy you all unless you turn over Sam, bwa-ha-ha-ha, etc.
Sam and the Gang, now wanted fugitives, try to decide what to do. This includes Sam having to destroy Leo’s cell phone, because Leo is so stupid he apparently doesn’t realize those things can be used to track movements. I don’t even run a stupid conspiracy theory website (I debunk them), and I even I know that! God, these people are stupid.
For those who are curious, we are now at the halfway point in the movie! Oh… joy.
After much conversation and Komedy! from the racist Autobots, Leo says they should go to talk to the man who runs the website that competes with his. There’s brief discussion, and then they head out to New York City. To be fair, since they are on the run, Sam disguises himself with a baseball cap and a hoodie. Yes, that’ll help.
When they get to New York, they go to a deli and behind the counter is, argh, John Tuturorororo, who played the leader of Section Seven in the first movie. His character was annoying then, and is annoying here, though amazingly slightly less so, since he alone of the cast seems to understand that he’s in a very, very stupid movie and plays accordingly.
Through the ensuing conversation its revealed that in archaeological sites all around the world are these same strange letters that Sam keeps seeing. They’re in Mexico, Egypt and lots of other places the movie doesn’t bother to mention (since archaeology happens only in Egypt and Mexico). Somehow, in the roughly 150 years that professional archaeology has been going on, no one bothered to take notice of this, which I find somewhat odd, since that’s the sort of thing that would make archaeologists wet their knickers.
Anyhow, Sam and the Gang break into the Smithsonian (after Michael Bay turns me straight by showing us a shot of Tuturro’s bare ass), where Wheelie (a really, really obnoxious Decepticon who turns into an RC truck. He was also in the animated series, and was annoying there, but even more so here), tells them they can find one of the really old Transformers, and we get a hint of some possibilities. We see pictures of things like WWII bomber planes and an old-time car, which, along with a toy I picked up (transformers from robot to WWI biplane), gives me hope that we might see something really cool.
Instead we get Jetfire.
Jetfire, the toy, was originally a Veritech fighter from the anime Robotech. Hasbro liked the design and so turned it into a Transformer, who had a backstory where he’d been a Decepticon, and friends with Starscream, before setting aside his evil ways and becoming an Autobot. He was one of the few multi-dimensional characters on the TV series (called Jetstorm on there), and when I heard he was in this movie, I got pretty interested!
Then I saw the character.
First, his vehicle form is an SR-71 Blackbird. It seems an odd choice, but doesn’t really matter, since one he turns into robot mode, he stays that way. Second, though, and most irritating, is that he’s played as an old man robot, complete with a “get off my lawn!” attitude, a cane and at least one incontinence joke. Yes, this is how Jetfire should appear.
He stomps around sounding pissed off and then blows open the doors to the hanger. He stomps outside and we’re suddenly a: in the daytime and b: in an airplane graveyard in Arizona. Yes, apparently when you walk out the Smithsonian’s backdoor you travel through time and through space! Well, technically you actually do but generally it shouldn’t be this extreme!
There’s some banter between our heroes and Jetfire who goes on about these damn robots today, no respect for their elders, etc. Then he tells them they are part of his mission on Earth. Of course they are. So he grabs everyone and transports nearer to their goal by teleporting them.
Wait, teleporting? Only one character in Transformers lore could teleport, and that was Skywarp. Why bother having him teleport anyone? He can turn into a frakking plane! Shouldn’t everyone just pile in and fly? The SR-71 was incredibly fast. They’d be in Egypt within a couple hours and it would make a lot more sense to the character and the story! Argh! *brain pops slightly*
Anyhow, he teleports Sam and the Gang to the middle of an empty desert wasteland which Leo, apparently tipped off by all the hookers, bright lights, fountains, money and cars that are failing to appear on screen, guesses is Las Vegas. It was at this point in my notes that I wrote the plot is officially missing, presumed dead.
Our heroes are still trying to remain hidden from the authorities, so Sector Seven Guy (hereafter called SSG), calls the military guy and speaks in clever code to tell him where they are headed, so they can have reinforcements. He speaks in this slightly clever code, and then at the end gives latitude and longitude coordinates.
*sigh* I think I just lost three IQ points from that.
The characters are currently in Egypt, which we know by all the camels and shots of the Pyramids. The police are chasing them for no reason that I can assume. Maybe it’s due to a lack of chest hair and 80’s music pumping forth from the cars.
Our characters lose the cops and are now free in Egypt, but they need to go to Jordan. So they hop into Bumblebee and, along with Skids and Mudflap, drive to the land-based border crossing between Jordan and Egypt. Yes, apparently Google Earth is wrong, as is every map in the known world. It turns out Egypt and Jordan share a land border which is, I am sure, news to Israel.
The team crosses the border through the cunning tactic of saying “we’re from New York”. The border guard commander (played by Deep Roy, known to the world from such works of art as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang), apparently thinks that’s good enough, so he lets them cross into Jordan, where they set up camp for the night at the Pyramids.
Like I said, the Pentagon in DC is the least of the geographical fuck-ups in this movie.
Now to be completely fair, no where does it say that this is a border checkpoint, but it sure looks like one and the guards on one side are wearing different uniforms from the guards on the other side. Plus if it’s not a border checkpoint, there’s no point in it being in the movie. Arguably there wasn’t any point it in being in the film anyhow, but that’s another issue.
Our heroes make camp for the night at the Pyramids (in Jordan), making me really wish Jaws would pop up and take a bite out of someone. Then Sam spots Orion’s belt and deduces that under the belt is where the Matrix is located. The stars, I cannot help but notice, are much larger and spaced much farther apart then they are in real life, but what the hell. This is a world where the Egyptian pyramids are located in Jordan, so why not fuck with the stars, too?
Meanwhile in the skies we have shots of various bots, like Starscream, scrambling to get to our gang as the NEST team decides to do the same. They push the National Security Advisor (you know, the job Condalezza Rice once had), out of the plane and head off. Yes, that make perfect sense. Toss the NSA out of an aircraft for no particular reason, putting him into a situation where he could get captured by god knows who and give up intelligence that would put our entire country at great danger. Then again, what’s the lives of three-hundred million Americans up against getting petty revenge against someone you don’t like?
Now we have shots of one of the great archaeological sites in the world; Petra. It is an incredibly beautiful site and served great purpose in Spielberg’s film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Here, it’s only job is to be the burial chamber some tomb that was hidden thousands and thousands of years go, which is quite impressive, given that the site is only about 2100 years old.
Petra is, in fact, located in Jordan, and the Pyramids aren’t. Looking at the scenes again, I wonder if maybe someone just wasn’t paying attention in the editing booth. If the scene of everyone crossing the border was shown in the morning, before they got to Petra, it would’ve made sense and shown that they were in Egypt during the night and Jordan in the morning. But like I said before, continuity is for losers.
The tomb itself, where the Matrix is located, is stuck behind a wall that appears to be about an inch thick. I have to believe that at some point some archaeologist would’ve done radar or sonar searches that would’ve shown this, but apparently not. Anyhow, the Matrix crumbles into dust as soon as Sam touches it.
We’ve about forty minutes left to the film. I mention this because there’s a lot that occurs in the next forty minutes, but only about five minutes of actual content. Seriously, when watching it with my friend Rob, he said, “Nothing’s happened for the last twenty minutes”. He’s absolutely right. It’s lots of shots of people moving around and vehicles pulling into position and shots being fired and nothing really vital happening. I’ll do my best to describe it here.
The US military arrives in what I will now call Jor-gypt. They bring all sorts of tanks and planes and hovercraft and make a sea landing near the Pyramids, which is also near the Sphinx and the Valley of the Kings and within walking distance of Petra. Also, there’s no mention of them asking the Jor-gyptian government’s permission. I believe the word for today is “invasion”.
Now comes a fight. The penultimate fight in the movie. I don’t really have a lot to say about it. It’s pretty big and, as mentioned, happens over a long period of time. Much of it takes place in a small village where the US military sets up camp (not bothering to ask the locals for permission, and placing civilians in danger by doing so). There’s also a few scenes in a construction area (with people wandering through with goats), near the Pyramids (though at this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie showed the Space Needle being near the Pyramids), which leads to the introduction of Devastator.
Devastator, for those who do not know, is what’s called a Combiner. He’s a set of Transformers called Constructicons who, in addition to being robots in their own right, can merge into one larger robot, in this case called Devastator. In the original version of the character, he was just a really big-ass robot, but in this movie he turns into something really, really big that looks like a gorilla and has a large suction device that pulls in people, vehicles and in one shining moment, either Skids or Mudflap (I can’t tell the difference). Sadly, he survives and, at least at one point, looks as though he destroys Devastator.
As the big desert fight continues, we get treated to about three seconds of screen time by fan-favorite, Arcee, the first-ever female Autobot. Now we can go all around about the impossibility to gendered robots, but who cares? She was a cool, interesting, and to some people, sexy character and that’s what matters.
Lots of people, myself included, had been really looking forward to her appearing in this film, hoping that she might do something interesting and cool. So what does she do, actually?
She gets most of one line and then gets blown up.
That’s it. It’s an even more pointless death than the one Jazz had in the first film (you might remember him as the other horribly stereotypical black character, and the only Autobot to die). What a fucking waste of an opportunity.
So Sam gets knocked ass-over-teakettle at one point and winds up apparently dying and going to Silicon Heaven (it must exist. Why, if it didn’t, where would all the calculators go?). While dead he sees three Primes talking to him, and one of them is voiced by Michael York. Oh, Michael. Are the jobs really this few and far between? You disappoint me, sir, you disappoint me. Anyhow, they tell Sam, “Well done! Here’s the Matrix, just stab it into Optimus and all will be well with the world.”
Sam comes back to life, says “I love you,” to Mikaela, who says the same to him, thus tying that up, and then stabs Prime, bringing him back to life for a bit. But then Prime is newly injured and it’s up to the mortally wounded Jetfire (he got about ten seconds of fight time and then was taken down by freakin’ Scorponok!), to allow some of his parts to be used to Optimus more optimal. Now fully functional, Prime goes off to fight Devastator, the Fallen, Megatron and coherent movie making in an FX extravaganza that left me feeling completely detached and uninterested.
In the end, Devastator is defeated by a rail gun being shot at him while he is busy demolishing one of the Pyramids (he’d already removed most of the top by this point), and, ugh, I can’t help but notice (cause the movie forces you to notice), that Devastator has two large wrecking balls dangling between his legs. Yes, I’m sure the crew who rendered that had a grand old time (and, actually, there’s a rumor that rendering Devastator caused one of ILM’s computers to overheat and melt).
Then Prime fights the Fallen, and in the process destroys quite a bit more ruins, thus continuing this jolly rape of Egyptian culture. Finally at the end he destroys the Fallen, Megatron gets away, Devastator is destroyed, thousands of people worldwide are dead and I… just… don’t… fucking… care.
There’s so many things wrong with this movie and so many points at which it could’ve been turned around. For starters, when the next film is written, people writing it need to remember the franchise is called Transformers, not Humans. We don’t need to see the humans running around doing stuff for most of the screen time. We can see that in any movie. Giant transforming robots, however, are somewhat rarer.
I never thought it would be possible to describe a movie as being “aggressively dull”, but that’s exactly what Michael Bay has accomplished with this film. He has made a movie that left me completely bored and uninterested in what was happening on the screen. The parts where I sat up and paid attention consisted of about five minutes of screen time, but otherwise I was starting to feel like Jeddidiah Leland watching opera.
There’s still good material that can be had here for a third movie. It’d be nice to see the Dinobots and to introduce characters like Ultra Magnus, Springer, Hot Rod and Galvatron (ideally with Leonard Nimoy doing the voice), and let’s perhaps move the story into space. Bring on Shockwave, Skywarp and Thundercracker. Move the story to Cybertron. Bring out Unicron. Any of these things could help make the next movie better.
But ultimately what will need to happen for the next film to be better is for the powers that be to tell Michael Bay to take a hike. He’s already made some noise about thinking that two years is not enough time for him to do the next movie, so with any luck they’ll toss him and hire someone who knows what they’re doing. While at it, they can keep the original writers of the first movie and Star Trek and ditch Ehren Kruger, who Harry Knowles blames for most of the problems with this film.
I want the next movie to blow me away and not leave me disgusted and annoyed. Until that happens, I’ll just have to stick with my toys.
* The Rule of Incompetent Omnipotence: the government is all-powerful, all-knowing and sinister. The run the whole world and kill anyone, cover-up anything and do what they please. But there’s nothing they can do that some weird geek can’t unearth on a website with about two seconds of effort.