Everything about Michael Bay's blockbuster sequel Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen perpetuates the term "bigger is better"; more action, bigger set-pieces, larger robots, more explosive explosions. But is that really a good thing? For Transformers and summer blockbuster action fans, for sure it is. And I suspect those audiences will be more than enough to secure it as an undeniable hit. But beyond action and spectacle, this sequel fails to eradicate most of the problems which plagued the first movie.
Taking place two years after the first movie, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen sees the Decepticons (the baddies, to the laymen) returning to Earth to get Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) after he learns the secrets of their history and who holds the key to the continuation of their kind. But on call to protect Sam and the rest of the human race is Optimus Prime and the rest of the Autobots (remember, they're the good guys) who, since last time, have formed an alliance with the army.
You'd think that when moving on from a movie like Transformers which is plagued with irritating problems, that they'd concentrated on fixing them for the sequel. Unfortunately that's not entirely the case with Revenge of the Fallen. There's a definite improvement in some areas, not least of which is the ability to actually see what's going on, but things like unnecessary, unsuitable-for-the-kids humour and an overly indulgent runtime of almost two hours and forty minutes drag, to name just a couple, drag this bombastic sequel way down.
The first movie had to act as an introduction to this world of the Transformers, and so a little build up in terms of human-related story was expected. But they, for some peculiar reason, have to decided to have another overly long introduction-like segment at the beginning of this movie, involving, for example, Sam moving to college that we just don't care about. There's still, obviously, giant robot related stuff going on at the same time, but for at least the first half hour they're treated more as the backdrop as the all-important leaving for college storyline plays out.
However, once Revenge of the Fallen gets into the thick of its action, it's an impressive sight to behold, at least for those who like that kind of thing. Those who are not action cinema fans will be yawning through this one, but for those who call John McClane one of their heroes or whose jaw drops at the sight of expensive special effects, this will entertain in spades. Even if the pace of the movie is a distracting stop-and-start structure, much of the action is vastly improved this time around with, as I said, the audience being able to actually see what's going on. In the first movie, Bay felt the need to zoom in almost all the time when the giant robots were fighting, making it virtually indiscernible which robots was fighting which and just who were the good and the bad guys. Bay has a lot of very clever, awe-inspiring shots which swoop over the action, giving us a clearer view, for the most part, of what's going on this time around. A lot of the action sequences are impressive, a few are incredible, a couple are downright awe-inspiring, with the latter being a forest fight and the inevitable bigger-than-the-rest end battle.
Making up those action scenes is, of course, the Transformers in all their CGI glory. If nothing else, this is, like the first movie, the very best pure technical visual effects have been. That may sound like a bold statement to make, but not when you think about the fact that it's only been about ten years since special effects got to the point that it is today. I can't even imagine the amount of time, effort and skill it took just to make those robots look even quasi-realistic. I guess that's what a $200 million budget buys you these days.
One of the biggest and most annoying problems of the first Transformers movie was the amount of unnecessary humour that was thrown in for no good reason. And sadly that's carried on over to the sequel, but not only that, it has been increased in leaps and bounds. Most of this "humour" appears in the human interaction scenes, where eye-rolling slapstick and fairly racy jokes are abound. With regards to the latter, with a screening that had a considerable amount of kids with their parents, let's just say it wasn't the most comfortable experiences at times.
The humour doesn't just stop at the humans. No, no, they feel the need to run a vein of it all the way through the movie, from the humans to the robots themselves. One little robot sent to retrieve information from Megan Fox's (who's in the movie for no other reason that her looks) garage joins another couple of "twin" robots as this film's Jar-Jar Binks' (for the 17 of you out there who don't know who that is, he basically ruined the first Star Wars prequel). This is a movie about robot on robot violence, and this attempt to appeal to the kids with the humour (which ironically is far from kid-friendly) and token silly robots is just downright infuriating.
Another problem I felt with Revenge of the Fallen was one that was also evident in the previous movie was that you'd need to be a fan and have knowledge of the original cartoon/toy incarnations to really "get" a lot of it. Not that you're lost if you don't, but I suspect a lot of the scenes here will only truly be appreciated (in the sense of cheering and hairs standing up on the back of necks) if you're a fan from a couple of decades ago when the toys and cartoon were first out. The story itself didn't keep my interest for it's horrendously long runtime, with only the action and special effects that kept me going till the end. Oh, and when we get to the climax, it strangely fizzles out, almost as if it's saying, "Wait for the next one."
In lieu of the action and the special effects, pretty much everything else falls by the way side, not least the acting. You can't really say the acting is bad – when it comes down to it, it's probably serviceable enough – because there's so much metal flying around that it's hard to really notice it. It's a good thing that the audiences out there who will flock to see this monstrous sequel most likely won't care about anything other than that.
When it comes down to it, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen definitely has a plethora of issues, problems, and irritations that will be apparent to anyone who can look past the robot on robot carnage. A "good movie," it's probably not, but for a summer blockbuster experience it'll certainly do. If it weren't for the unbelievable special effects and the extremely cool robot action, the movie would be a flat-out failure. Fortunately those two things are there in abundance, and make for an enjoyable time at the movies if you just enjoy instead of discern. Michael Bay has undoubtedly outdone himself with Transformers 2 in terms of scale, spectacle, and blowing stuff up – and coming from the guy who brought us Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and the first Transformers, that's really saying something.