This movie sucks—end of the review.
Okay, there is a lot more to it than that, but that’s the summary of what you’re about to read. Anyhow…
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is an action, science-fiction film directed by Micheal Bay and is based on the Transformers toy line. As the sequel to 2007’s Transformers, the story takes place two years after the previous film and follows Sam Witwicky, who is caught in the war between the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime and the Decepticons, led by Megatron. Sam begins having strange visions of symbols and is being hunted by the Deceptions under the orders of an ancient Cybertornian named The Fallen, who seeks to get revenge on Earth by finding and activating a machine that would provide the Decepticons with an Energon source, destroying the Sun and all life on Earth in the process.
Those who know me for a long while should get the idea that I have a contentious relationship with Micheal Bay’s interpretation of the Transformers. I kinda like movies 1 and 3, hate 4 and 5, and 2; well, you saw how I started this review, right? On the whole, while I can get behind on some of the ideas presented and admire its technical merits, the series as a whole has been muddled by poor storytelling and characters with a questionable focus on dumb human antics over the actual Transformers. Revenge of the Fallen just happens to perfectly sums up all of my feelings on these films in one foul package.
Now I’ll admit straight around that I had no idea how to structure this review. While there are a few things I do enjoy about Revenge of the Fallen, there is so much irritating noise to sit through to the point where I don’t even know where to start. So basically, all of my criticisms will be labeled in bullet format because that’s the only way I can make my rumblings look coherent. So here it goes.
This film has a lot of jokes in it. That’s expected from a summer blockbuster. I usually have no problem with this either, except in the good blockbusters, there is no sense of wit, charm, or thought put into any of humor. It’s a trope of Bay films at this point because they really try anything, and I mean anything, to get a laugh out of the audience. You got sexual humor, piss humor, body humor, characters screaming at each other in the top fashion. There’s a scene where Sam is in mortal danger, and the film suddenly cuts away to a shot of two dogs humping each other. Why? I don’t know; it’s not relevant to the scene at all. The humor, on the whole, is that of the lowest common denominator.
And what’s worse is that it creates a huge tonal inconsistency when you realize that this is the same film is where Optimus Prime gets killed off, our main leads are being hunted down by governments of several nations, and the world is going to be destroyed. Now I’m not saying that there should be no humor whatsoever. Good comedy lends well to making the characters more endearing to follow and gives the film some nice levity in all of that drama. The problem is that the comedy in this film does the exact opposite, which leads nicely to my next point.
This goes for both the human and transformers as a whole, but their characterizations are really shallow for the most part. The actual cast (Voice actors included) aren’t doing a bad job per se, but they are given little material to work with to make the characters interesting or endearing. There are a few exceptions of which I get to when mentioning positives, but the general trend is that they are either really boring or really annoying. And the ones that fall in the latter are in this film for a good majority of the run-time, so good luck trying to sit through watching them.
Of particular mention has to be the twin robots Mudflaps and Skids. Having to look at behind-the-scenes information, I will say that the actual concept behind these two on paper actually sounds fine and dandy. Being two robots new to the planet earth, they try taking notes from behaviors and customs of humans to fit in. Specifically, they were meant to instead jab at the subculture of white males who emulate hip-hop mannerism to an offensive degree. I don’t hate this idea, and some clever humor could be brought from it. However, the big issue with how this is portrayed in the film is that it’s never stated that they act this way because of that, leaving the audience to conclude that they are simply meant to caricatures of urban African-Americans. Naturally, these characters were panned for being racial stereotypes. Though, to be honest, I could have possibly lived with that if these two weren’t so annoying to watch onscreen. They are the source for some of the film’s worst comedy and just make things so unpleasant to sit through.
It’s kind of baffling that the twins have quite a bit of screen time, but any other Autobot not named Optimus or Bumblebee gets left by the wayside. For a film titled off the Transformers, we surely know little about them as characters. How they bounce off each other. Why they do what they do. Their joys, fear, sadness. Internal conflicts. You know, the things that make a character interesting. This is a major issue for the series because it makes them feel like background props that just shoot at other background props in the form of deceptions, which are equally bland on the whole. I understand having humans involved in the narrative as the central conflict because it takes center stage on their planet, but what’s the point of watching a transformer movie if they feel like such an afterthought? Doesn’t help either that the humans are really irritating, and 75% of their scenes are filled with dreadful excuses for comedy(Notice a theme yet?).
For a movie that is panned for so many things, it’s amazing on I see little people talking about the main villain. You know, the one that the film is titled off of? And there is a good reason for that too. As far as a summer blockbuster, he might honestly be the most forgettable big baddie I have ever seen. Superhero movies might have weak baddies depending on which one you’re talking about, but at least they were involved in the narrative. The Fallen himself is in the movie for only 6-7 out of 150 minutes of the film and then is killed off when it looks like he’s going to do anything cool. While watching the film, I actually thought Megatron was the main villain several times despite knowing otherwise because he actually does things. He’s the one who chases after Sam the most. He’s the one to kill Optimus. He’s the one most seen leading the Deceptions. Why couldn’t have that been The Fallen? The movie is only supposed to be about his revenge, after all.
And it really hurts, too, because this character could have been really fascinating to watch or at least enjoyable if handled right. His design is unique, and Tony Todd’s performance lends the right amount of wisdom and menace that should be expected from this character. He shares a connection to Optimus (Both being Primes) that could have made for a compelling dynamic. But none of that ever happens. So what do we get in exchange?
Well, the one we get in the movie has barely anything resembling a motivation or characterization, a bizarre grab bag of unexplained powers, an awful, anticlimactic mess of a fight to his name, and nothing shown in the way of actual transformation, it’s a waste of what should have been a cool baddie. Even Bay himself admitted that this character could have turn out a lot better. Which leads to my question, why didn’t you try to make him better in the first place?
This goes back to what I was saying about the characters, but what do you think people want to watch in a Transformers movie? The Autobots and the military working together to fight the deceptions all over the globe? Or watch a young adult’s college and romantic troubles? Sorry to say the plotline that gets the most attention from the movie isn’t related to the robots. In retrospect, I failed to see how removing the college would harm the movie’s quality as a whole. The characters in it are poorly developed and barely do anything to push the story forward (Seriously, why was Leo in the movie again?). Their conflict falls short because it’s barely explored beyond the bare minimum and is stuffed with, once again, terrible humor. At least anything related to the robots has some sort of narrative potential; the film just doesn’t do anything for it outside of making it a vehicle of robot mayhem.
I will say that the action was a lot better than I had remembered. Sure some of the shots and angles could be pull back a bit to make the action more visually cohesive, but it’s not too badly directed, and there are some pretty cool bits. The forest fight, in particular, is the highlight of the movie. It’s really well-paced, the cinematography is clear and concise, and it’s made for a great moment for Optimus before he gets killed off. However, what causes the action to lose its impact that I don’t care about anything that comes before and after those set-pieces, meaning I don’t have much to care for what happens to the characters that end up in the middle of them. It actually reminds me of the recent Godzilla: King of the Monsters by quite a bit. Sure the spectacle has some entertainment value but does it really matter when I don’t care or even get annoyed by the reason that spectacle even happens in the first place(Though to be fair, KotM is far better than this film. They just happen to share the same major issue in my opinion).
Okay, so this movie is terrible, and you shouldn’t watch it even if you are a fan of the property, but I won’t say that this movie is without its upsides. As previously mentioned at the start of this review, the production values are rather solid. The CGI might sure a bit of age in certain places, but for most parts, the robots look and move as good as you would want them to. Steve Jablonsky’s soundtrack has some noticeable Hans Zimmer inspirations, but it does enough of its own thing well enough to stand out. It does fit the film scenes pretty nicely, and for all of my issues with Bay as a director, I won’t say he doesn’t know how to get the most out of his soundtracks.
There are scenes in this movie that make me think on much stronger this movie could have been if it focused on them. The back-stories of the Primes (And, by extension, the Fallen), the relationship between the Autobots and the humans working to fight the deceptions, Megatron’s and Starscream back and forth with each, The Seekers, Jetfire turn from deception to Autobot. Hints that something greater might have come from all of this if it was handled with care, but it’s just not.
This movie sucks. End of review.