Terrible 2’s Reviews: Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen
*Some people may say that most films lose their way by a third sequel, but that isn’t always the case. For every “Wrath of Khan” or “Toy Story 2,” there’s a dozen ‘number 2’ films that were made, that could not uphold the energy and enthusiasm of the first film. This review section, aims to talk about these “Terrible 2’s”*
One of the strangest things I heard before the release of Transformers in 2007, was that many in Hollywood were actually wondering if the concept being put on film would attract audiences. Would the world be in on a film where robots crash-land from outer space on Earth, and then take on the forms of cars and airplanes?
To me and many others, we were already in (even if Michael Bay was in the director’s chair), and by the end of 2007, the film had become one of the year’s biggest films. And so, Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures quickly put a sequel into development. However, the schedule for release on this film was already started before the summer of 2007 was over, with the sequel due in theaters in just 2 years (word is, Michael Bay likes to move fast on things!).
The production was complicated by the writer’s strike, which prompted the addition of writer Ehren Kreuger to the staff of Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman (who had penned the first film’s screenplay).
Needless to say, the production was pretty much a sprint to the finish. There were over 3 times as many Transformers in the sequel, and as the film neared the finish line, Industrial Light & Magic was working down to the last minute to get their shots finalized.
Of course, Revenge of the Fallen became one of the numerous sequels in this day and age that eclipses its predecessor in size and grosses, but was one of those ‘hideously beautiful’ creatures of Hollywood. I call it that, because so many found fault with it, and yet in Hollywood’s eyes, it was beautiful because of its big business, pulling in more money than the 2007 film.
I’ve had about five years to think about Revenge of the Fallen, and even though I haven’t sat down and watched it over and over, there’s so much in the few viewings I’ve seen, that helps me whittle down my problems with it.
Too much juvenile humor – It felt that with the 2007 film, Michael Bay was kept on a tight leash by executive producer Steven Spielberg (at times, the film had more heart than many of Bay’s other films). But with the sequel, it seemed that Michael was let off the leash to bring forth more of his own ideas. And in many respects, he still behaves like a teenage boy in a lot of places.
You know those kids in middle school who craved attention by mouthing off to the teachers, or just outright made fun of other kids who just weren’t as cool as them? That’s pretty much what Bay does in this sequel. In a sense, this is almost like his return to the sensibilities of Armageddon and Bad Boys. Think of your middle school experiences, combine them into a movie, and that’s pretty much what was done with Revenge of the Fallen (seriously, Bay? We needed TWO shots of the dogs humping?)
Megatron’s master plan – In the first film, it was perceived that Megatron left Cybertron to pursue the lost Allspark cube. The Allspark’s ability to bring life to technology was what Megatron craved: a way to potentially rebuild Cybertron, and power a new army for him to crush the Autobots. Eventually, he found the cube was on Earth, but ended up getting himself frozen many centuries before he was uncovered. His motivations seemed fairly straight-forward…but it turns out, they weren’t.
As we soon find out in this film, Megatron was actually operating on orders from his Master, The Fallen. However, the Fallen still wanted to carry out the plan that he attempted many centuries before, and needed Megatron to kill Optimus Prime, and find The Matrix of Leadership, which acted as a key to the energy-machine hidden in an Egyptian pyramid, and drain energy from the sun.
I’m not making that up. That’s the extra chapter(s) as to what Megatron had in store in this film. And if you think that side-plot was convoluted…then what Megatron cooked up with Sentinel Prime in the next film is even crazier, if you try to find logic across all three films.
Skids and Mudflap – By now we’ve all heard plenty regarding theses two being stereotypes, but the big problem is they are tasked to stay with our main human characters through a majority of the film, but rarely do they ever provide anything constructive to the situation. They just largely bumble their way through the film. Even in one scene where they somewhat ‘help,’ it’s mainly because they start arguing and rough-housing around.
And in truth, that’s all they do: just spout alot of big talk, and knock each other around. It would have made more sense for Bay to just have included Bumblebee to be with Sam and Mikaela for the entire film. At least Bumblebee still took his role as Sam’s guardian seriously.
Too many stories going on at the same time – this is one of those films where you almost need a scorecard to figure out what is going on and where. It attempts to delve into the lore of the Transformers with The Primes and the Fallen (one of the original Primes who defected), as well as the resurrection of Megatron, the death of Optimus Prime, and the new Macguffin of the film universe: The Matrix of Leadership. Though unlike its cartoon counterpart, the Matrix is meant to function as a key to start an energon machine hidden in one of the pyramids in Egypt, but may also serve as a way to revive Optimus Prime.
And there’s something about Sam Witwicky going off to college and maybe, growing up, and how he can’t tell his girlfriend Mikaela that he loves her. Making-of footage of the writers show them admitting that this was their lynchpin to connect Sam to the Transformers, as much like Peter Parker in Spider-Man 2, Sam attempts to leave the excitement behind and try and lead a normal life…but finds that that isn’t so easy. This storytelling soon gets caught up in the tidal wave of the film, to the point that by the end, one can hardly comprehend that Sam has matured at all from his adventure.
Where the heck are we!? – Seriously, don’t give Michael Bay a GPS system. He’ll just throw it away and go, “I don’t need this stupid thing, but that place looks really great to film in!”
So much of the film just breaks the laws of time and space. In the span of what must be just a few hours, Mikaela manages to fly from California to ‘somewhere on the East Coast,’ and arrive just in time to catch Sam in bed with the Decepticon Pretender, Alice.
In another sequence, the Decepticon named Jetfire pounds down some doors within the Smithsonian Institution…and suddenly finds himself in an airplane graveyard in Arizona!
And don’t get me started on footage in the Middle East. Bay seems to have come to the conclusion that desert-is-desert, and just mashes together at least 4 different areas around Egypt. If you’re really into geographically figuring out where much of the film takes place, stop while you’re ahead, or you’ll be cursing Michael Bay for jumbling up all of the Middle East’s locations into the handy-dandy Egytaghanistan.
Too many Transformers – This sounds like a weird statement, but to me, Revenge of the Fallen suffered the same problems as films like Iron Man 2, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The sequel attempts to make things bigger and better than the first film, and because of that, much of the effects crew was taxed with doubling or tripling the amount of computer-generated output. This often leads to some scenes just being pushed through as ‘good enough,’ with some not taking their time quite as well as the first film.
As well, we see all styles of Transformers: pretenders, combiners, animals, insecticons, and even microbots. The way all these different types are crammed into the film, it was almost like Bay was afraid that the sequel would be the last Transformers film ever. They even manage to cram in a quick cameo by Scorponok, who was last seen in the first film…though they do not provide any information as to where Barricade in the first film went to.
This also creates a problem, that with so many Transformers running around, there’s no time to really develop any of the new characters. Many of them are just set dressing for much of the story. Even Skids and Mudflap, who we spend as much time with as Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, do little more than chatterbox on and on without giving us a pair of likable characters to relate to.
Humans are so annoying! – Bay seems to love just throwing in stereotypes or annoying characters, and in this film, it feels the number of annoying humans has doubled! Sam’s college roommate Leo becomes little more than a fast-talking idiot. A little person playing a border guard lets our ‘heroes’ pass because they are from America – it’s as ridiculous as the way he portrays characters in many of his other films.
Bay even provides us with a government liason named Galloway, who is there as the atypical, ‘we don’t need giant robots when other giant robots are destroying our Military hardware and killing people – that’s what our Military Forces are for!’ Personally, I guess I just am an ignorant child of the Reagan-era, who doesn’t see how not wanting giant robots that want to help humans is a bad thing.
Sam’s parents return as well, with his Mom given a role that is three times as whiny as her first film’s role. Seriously, very little of anything intelligent seems to come out of her mouth.
As well, Seymour Simmons returns, just as mouthy and annoying as ever, though at least he makes up for it by actually having information. In a weird way, he’s like those old film noir suspects: they are strangely quirky, yet somehow provide the main character with much-needed information.
Probably of all the human characters, it seems the only ones that are the most interesting are Lennox and Epps. Maybe it’s because these guys largely seem to be taking themselves more seriously than the other humans. As well, Epps’ interactions with Optimus Prime in one scene definitely helped make him seem more humane towards the Autobots than most.
The film is a little too long – I still remember the first time I saw the final battle in this film. After awhile with all sorts of little skirmishes here and there, a little voice in my head started pleading, “please, end soon!”
That becomes the problem with so many scenes: Bay has numerous scenes cut together with a huge amount of padding that just isn’t needed. There’s so much going on that soon the battle just becomes a rather convoluted mess. Even the use of the giant combiner Devastator seemed little more than fan-service, as his transformation sequence was about the most memorable part of his screen-time. As well, Sam’s parents are even thrown into the mix, which slows the film down for about 8 minutes.
When the turned Decepticon Jetfire is awoken from stasis, Bay spends more time on him bantering and bumbling around like an old man, before finally narrowing us in on the fact that Jetfire has prime information that we can use to better understand the plot.
The film clocks in at 2 hours and 20 minutes. Watching it in preparation for this post, I kept looking at certain scenes, imagining cutting out bits here and there, in order for the film to just get to the point in so many scenes. I believe that one could probably cut out around 45 minutes of unneeded scenes, and the film would play better.
Even with its multi-billion dollar haul, Michael Bay, Shia LeBeouf, and several others came forward to admit that Revenge of the Fallen was a rushed film that could have benefited from more time.
the 2011 release of Transformers: Dark of the Moon served as some form of apology, as its story became a little easier to follow, and Bay managed to pull back from his drunken escapades that were seen in the previous film. As well, he even managed to kill off the annoying comic relief character that Ken Jeong was playing…and kept him dead! So, maybe he is learning…but in baby steps.
Now, 3 years after Dark of the Moon, a fourth film is about to be released, which appears to be acting as a mid-ground change-up for much of the series. Optimus Prime and Bumblebee appear to be the last of the 2007 film’s Autobots, but a number of new ones are entering the fray, as well as man-made Transformers, and even a new cadre of human fleshlings, this time with actor Mark Wahlberg befriending Optimus.
It’s definitely a given that Transformers: Age of Extinction will have a big opening weekend, but we’ll see if audiences will take to the new direction Bay has steered the film in.