Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

For the moment, imagine there’s a picture of Megan Fox’s boobs here.

Oh, there they are. Very good.

There is practically no purpose served by writing about Revenge of the Fallen, because it’s already been said. The bombast has been brought, and it has been good, from Roger Ebert’s “horrible experience of unbearable length” to the Awl’s “fall[ing] into a city sized Cuisinart” and io9’s argument of the film’s merit as a breakthrough piece of avant-garde movie making. I have a certain barometer in my office, a man of diplomatically different tastes to my own. Even he was unhappy with the film, thinking that Michael Bay should maybe have dialed it back a bit so that he could have an idea of what was happening. That said, he liked the twins, so we’re all doomed despite the little beams of hope that penetrate the dense canopy of hopelessness that is the modern cinema.

I have since learned to stop asking people what they thought of it because so many responses I have received have been depressing in their likeness: how “awesome” is a word that could ever be applied to this visual and narrative mess is entirely beyond my ken. One of my best friends informed me in a text that it was good, “not as good as [the] first but that often happens”. You can never really know a person …

The fact of the matter is that Revenge of the Fallen is so bad that after a time I started feeling nostalgic for the first movie, which is odd considering that I’ve spent the last two years bitching about it on street corners to whomever will grant me an audience. I don’t know if there’s such a strain as “Super Stockholm Syndrome”, whereby your present captor is so bad that you find yourself longing for the tender embrace of your last, but I think I got myself a case of that.

This movie gets so exponentially worse as it progresses that you long for the minutes when it was absolute shite rather than whatever expletive it evolves into. Sam’s mother ended up becoming a highlight of the movie, and she was really just crude and shrill up to that point. I’ll probably go to my grave not knowing what the point of the French interlude was, or why the audience hung on every word that Sam’s idiot parents spew forth from their gormless gullets.

I got the impression after a while that Megan Fox was the only person on the film actually trying, and her performance actually endeared me to an actress whom I traditionally see as an inexplicable holy grail for heterosexual men. When she started bouncing away from explosions in slow motion, I laughed legitimately for the first time. She brings a sort of warmth to the role of Mikaela (Mikaela … Bay?) that is lacking in the remainder of the movie, no matter how many times we see Shia LaBoeuf shed tears for his precious robot chums.

This was truly a schadenfreude experience for me, seeing it with a friend who thought that the first film was a masterpiece, without exaggeration. He ended up comparing Revenge of the Fallen to the Matrix sequels. My friend Tony declared that Dragonball Evolution was a better film, and we came out of that in a waking dream that we only shook an hour and a half later. I’ve also heard unfavourable comparisons to Speed Racer, which isn’t fair at all. Speed Racer tested credulity, challenging me to acknowledge and accept and at least try to understand its existence. Eventually I came to terms with it as something that should not exist but was awesome purely because it was able to gain a foothold in our dimension. I understand why Revenge of the Fallen was made, and it depresses the Hell out of me.

There’s probably some rider in my contract that says I have to go into more detail about the movie itself. You may have detected that I don’t really give a damn about this execrable excursion into the cinematic form, so it goes without saying that there will be spoilers.

Two years after unceremoniously dumping Megatron in the ocean, Optimus Prime and the Autobots have teamed up with the American government to form NEST, a bunch of marines and cars dedicated to fighting Decepticons. Sadly for NEST, Barack Obama hates the guts of robots, and some guy who looks like Donald Rumsfeld is trying to get them shut down.

Meanwhile Sam Witwicky is going to some sort of Ivy League party college where they don’t allow freshmen to have cars, thus forcing him to leave his girlfriend and his crybaby mute car so that he can go live with conspiracy theorists who just may be more annoying than John Turturro’s character from the first movie.

Up in space, which is where the Decepticons hang out while they’re making their evil plans to … save their children from still birth (I think I’m actually serious about this one), they hatch a plan to … I’m not actually being dense, here, I’m trying to reconstruct the movie in real time and I’m having trouble linking cause and effect. Optimus Prime gets killed really easily, because he’s the “only” one who can kill the Fallen, who is basically a proto-Decepticon replete with beard. Sam then has to go on a quest of self-realisation before he can resurrect Optimus and save humanity.

Frankly, if this movie is the best we can do, the Decepticons deserve to win. The Transformers continue to be impossible to tell apart in their transformed states, and their fights amount to so much noise and banging. Again the mechanical characters in the film get very little in the way of motivation of characterisation and it’s hard to give a damn about anything that happens. The only alternative to the Transformers is the utterly unsympathetic human cast, who reach new lows: from douchey bureaucrat to awful roommate, Michael Bay has got your bases covered.

I was told before I saw this film that I should cut it some slack because “it’s Transformers”. All films, regardless of origin, should meet minimum requirements. Even if you have to reach for the good, even if you have to subvert your expectations and find it somewhere you would never have thought to look, you still need to be able to take something away from your experience.

Several times Revenge of the Fallen tries to grasp for something it’s not. LaBoeuf, in between telling people how sexy and liberated his mother is, has said that this is a deep movie about growing up and going to college and leaving things behind. When Sam’s father tells him that he’s coming along on the explosive adventure, Sam informs him “you’ve got to let me go!”, suggesting that there was a separation anxiety story, and that Sam’s parents actually mean anything to anyone.

I’d say that they don’t, but the rest of the cinema – and the rest of the world – will prove me wrong. Pocket resistances will call this film out for what it is: a manufactured piece of garbage that singlehandedly brought down the American automotive industry. Thank you, Michael Bay, for bringing minstrelsy back to the movies and confirming my total lack of faith in anything whatsoever. Shine on, make more money, and I shall go and see your poisonous films, crying all the while from the shadows.

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