Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

As ludicrous as it may sound, the flaming tire is the key here. It comes at some point in the middle of the extended climax, maybe before the point at which one of these cardboard cutouts called characters magically resurrects another one with the Power of Her Love but certainly after the part where we see what is, undeniably, a robot's scrotum. Why a robot needs a scrotum is par for the course when trying to figure out the physiology of the Autobots and Decepticons, the eternally warring species of alien at the center of the Transformers franchise. Why they need a feature on their body that usually produces the bodily chemical used in human procreation (let alone the respiratory process that leads to the phenomenon known as speech, which occurs somewhere in the lungs) is perhaps more ludicrous than the flaming tire, but stick with me here.

The whole essence of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is captured by that blasted flaming tire. It's a banal image, especially when superimposed upon the visual effects carnage in the background, but it's almost as if returning director Michael Bay and his crew are settling for the most banal of flashiness here. The tire itself is boring; the tire in flames is still boring, but at least it's on fire. That's the kind of mindset we're dealing with here. It was true in this film's predecessor and carries over to this first sequel that Bay and his team don't really care about the endless war between the Autobots and Decepticons, but the sensation that they also don't care about generating a sense of awe is heightened here. There is not a moment of excitment in that extended climax, which overuses slow-motion photography and basically amounts to sound and fury. We know from literature what that generally signifies.

So it is true that Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), the grandson of one of the first humans to discover an alien robot, is back, and he's going insane, thanks to a sliver of the Allspark (or Cube, depending on who randomly refers to the MacGuffin when they could just call it a MacGuffin) that stayed attached to one of his shirts. The return of Megatron (voice of Hugo Weaving), one of the leading Decepticons and the primary antagonist of the previous movie, coincides with the death of Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen), who might have been the only chance for the forces of good to defeat the Fallen (voice of Tony Todd), the very first Decepticon and essentially the Lucifer of its kind. Along for the ride with Sam are girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) and new college roommate Leo (Ramon Rodriguez), who tags along for no reason and proceeds to become a nuisance, though not as much of one as Skids (voice of Tom Kenny) and Mudflap (voice of Reno Wilson), two Autobots that are unmistakably black stereotypes that can't read and talk in the predictable lingo.

That's also the kind of mindset with which we are dealing, which means we also get an extended sequence at the college of Sam's mom Judy (Julie White) eating a pot-laced brownie and subsequently running amok while dad Ron (Kevin White) looks on helplessly. John Turturro returns as Simmons, the former Sector Seven agent, to assist Sam's investigation of the symbols that are infecting his brain and to spout redundant exposition, the actor looking increasingly as if he's questioning all of his life choices. The plot is a formless glob of nonsense that goes in circles, no care is given to make sense of any said nonsense, and the action sequences are visually and aurally assaultive of good taste. A couple of new characters in the form of helpful Decepticon defectors Wheelie (also voiced by Kenny) and Jetfire (voice of Mark Ryan), add bursts of amusement. It doesn't come close to saving Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, a lousy sequel to a lousy movie.

Film Information

Shia LaBeouf (Sam), Megan Fox (Mikaela), Ramon Rodriguez (Leo), John Turturro (Simmons), Josh Duhamel (Lennox), Kevin Dunn (Ron), Julie White (Judy), Isabel Lucas (Alice). Featuring the voices of Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Hugo Weaving (Megatron).

Directed by Michael Bay and written by Ehren Krueger, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman.

Rated PG-13 (intense sci-fi action violence, language, crude/sexual material, brief drug material).

149 minutes.

Released on June 24, 2009.

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