After I listened to my daughters whine about how everyone in school had been talking about the Transformers sequel while we still had to see it, and after they reminded me several times that I did promise, months ago, that we would see it, we finally went last Sunday. If it weren’t for the ear-splitting noise that characterized the film, I would have slept through the first half. I didn’t like the first Transformers film; I like the sequel even less. But if I were to choose between the two, I’d say the first is 10 times better than the sequel.
I’ll pre-empt the shallow-headed ones who will dismiss my dislike as a generation thing. Or even a gender issue. Excuse me but I’ve watched all Harry Potter films, read all Harry Potter books, saw all the X-Men movies and enjoyed them all. And I adore Lara Croft: Tomb Raider! A movie doesn’t have to be so darn mind-blowing deep to be enjoyable. But Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen? Oh, puhleeez.
So, why is it a big hit? Michael Bay’s over-the-top computer-generated visual effects? Megan Fox? For a generation that defines a great movie based on the visual impact, it’s almost understandable why both Transformers films are blockbusters. We are getting so used to computer-generated visuals that leave us breathless that we often forget to pause and wonder what story line weaves the visuals together. Because that’s what was glaringly lacking in the Transformers films, especially the Michael Bay-directed sequel. There simply was no cohesive story line.
Now, I’m no fan of the Transformers TV series but I’ve read enough to know that the backstories, including the origin of the autobots and the decepticons, the planet where they came from, and what brought all of them to Earth are all woven together to provide some substance to a line of toys that, otherwise, would have signified nothing but violence and destruction.
The theme that aliens landed on Earth during prehistoric times is not even new. In film, it’s as old as Stargate, perhaps even older. So, there’s no breakthrough there. Rehashing the theme by giving the aliens a robot appearance is too thin to make it unique. Secondly, vehicles that convert into fighting robots is old news too. I grew up in the Voltes V generation and I’ve had my fill of that. But, at least, there was an attempt by the creators to substantiate the Transformers. A little of that substance was discernible in the 2007 Transformers movie but I saw none of it in the sequel which was nothing but mega-noise, mega-blasts and mega-destruction.
The fact the the film’s pre-production took place at the height of the American Screenwriters Guild’s strike explains a lot. Even a good director can be hampered by the lack of a well-written script. But the really brilliant director will find ways to come up with a passably good story line. The way the Transformers sequel turned out, it’s a dumbing down of the movie-going public, really. But, considering how people are still lining up to see it, how many realize that?
It doesn’t bother director Michael Bay who simply rolled his eyes in reaction to a statement made by Megan Fox that he relied on “special effects rather than acting.” Based on how Fox answers questions during interviews, I have to say that she’s not the smartest girl in her generation but she’s got a point there. As a trivia, there was a scene in the movie when a robot observed that Fox’s character, Mikaela, was “hot but not too bright.” I’m now wondering if that was inserted during post production in response to criticisms hurled by Fox against Bay.
In fact, the depiction of Mikaela says a lot about Michael Bay. Sure, everyone agrees that Megan Fox is beautiful and sexy. But is there a particular reason why she was in very short shorts bending over a motorcycle in her first scene in the film? Is there any good reason too to show her stripping her leather jeans and jacket to show her in a strapless mini dress when she went to say goodbye to Sam (LaBeouf’s character) who was off to college? It does seem to me that Bay really had no intention of going beyond visuals in this film considering how he exploited the imagery of Fox’s anatomy in lieu of developing the character she was portraying.
And the inclusion of that anorexic blonde decepticon played by Isabel Lucas (crap, but when did decepticons develop the ability to take on a human form?) who tried to seduce Sam in college? Sheesh, man, but what does Bay have against women, really, that he had to portray all female characters in the Transformers sequel either as sex objects or downright clueless? Oh, don’t tell me that the characterization of Sam’s mother was a positive commentary on womanhood.
If it weren’t for the funny moments, the film would have been downright intolerable. Thank goodness for the resurrection of John Torturro’s character, Agent Simmons, and thank goodness that Torturro is a real actor and not just a movie star. And thank goodness even more for that scene when US Army Ranger Major William Lennox (played by Josh Duhamel) maneuvered the stuck-up National Security Advisor Galloway (played by John Benjamin Hickey) off the plane. When Lennox slapped Galloway while screaming at him non-stop, it was such an emotional release for me.
So, if you haven’t seen Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen and you’re planning to, please heed my advice: Stay home and save your money. Wait for it on cable. At least on television, you can tone down the audio. You can go to the kitchen and grab a sandwich too when you get to the consecutive and excessive metal clanging scenes and you feel like you need to stretch to stay focused.