transformers-2-optimus-prime

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the cinematic equivalent of a highly explosive Hefty bag filled with dog shit. It may come in handy if you find yourself fighting in the inevitable war against a canine army, but as a movie it’s a complete and utter mess. Does that make sense? Tough, neither do the review grades currently on display here at FSR… an A from Robert Fure and a B- from Landon Palmer? (Fure I understand, guns and explosions are his aphrodisiacs, but Palmer?) Once Neil’s review goes up the A+++ he’s bound to write in spooge all over Michael Bay’s chiseled abs will move FSR’s collective average grade even higher. This travesty cannot be allowed to continue, and while this won’t be the first time I’ve stood alone as the sole voice of dissent here at FSR, it’s definitely the most recent.

Transformers 2 is a terrible movie.

I’ll elaborate a bit, but this won’t be a traditional review as there are already more than enough of those peppering this site and the web in general. Instead I just want to give my abbreviated thoughts on the movie before moving into an argument against it and it’s defenders. And… action! Transformers 2 is incredibly stupid and expects the viewers to be equally retarded (which luckily for Mr. Bay and Paramount, many of them seem happy to oblige). Not a single line of dialogue rings true or authentic. It’s overlong and while multiple climaxes are great during sex (look it up) it doesn’t work in the movie’s favor. The plot isn’t difficult to follow but makes zero sense anyway. Human bodies seem to be even more resilient and injury-proof than the mechanical foes that are tossing them around. At no point is anyone in even the slightest bit of believable and/or dramatic danger because only unnamed characters and people die. And can anyone explain the logic behind using Sam’s parents as bait (but not really)? And why wouldn’t the Allspark bring back Optimus Prime like it does every other seemingly dead and/or inanimate piece of machinery? And why did the US military dump Megatron at the bottom of the ocean instead of just dismantling the son of a bitch? Dead robots (?) have an afterlife from where they can resurrect humans to follow their destiny? And who in the hell would stand up Megan Fox for a webcam date?

And then there are the robots themselves… How exactly has their presence been relegated to conspiracy websites? Giant fucking robots were walking, running, and driving around laying waste to everything around them and no one knows? Fure mentions the robots leaking fluids in his review, but add to that the visible breath they exert when talking in the cold… WTF? They may not be peeing this time around, but what’s the rationale behind a robot that dry humps Fox’s leg? (I know why I would do it, just not why a robot would.) Or the gold-toothed, jive talking, inbred Mudflap and Skids who I don’t find offensive but I do find horribly characterized and more than a little reminiscent of the annoying Jar Jar Binks. Why would there even be robots that look and act that way? Why do any of the robots have Earth accents at all? If the Autobots are sentient beings why are they content being locked up in a military garage during downtime? And with all of their advanced weaponry and technology why can’t any of the Transformers hit a single goddamn thing they aim for? Even our “antiquated” missiles can strike with pinpoint, laser-guided accuracy but these bastards can’t hit vehicles, people, or even the flimsy walls they’re hiding behind. Since when can Decepticons create humanoid (Alice) bots and why don’t they use them more often? At the end of the day, the biggest (and most unexpected) issue with the entire movie is how unrelentingly boring it is. Giant ass-kicking robots should never be boring but somehow Bay and friends managed just that.

I could go on but I promised this wouldn’t be a proper review… so let’s take a look at what the apologists defenders of the movie are saying instead. When I first voiced my opinion last night the two most common responses I received basically said “yeah, but it’s fun and the CGI is awesome.” (Oh, and Fure said I’m dead to him now.) So let’s focus on these two points.

FUN! – I understand the summer blockbuster aesthetic where logic and substance take a backseat to entertainment and style. I don’t agree with it but I get it, and I’ve enjoyed movies like Iron Man, Independence Day, and Star Trek… all movies that can be nitpicked to death but even with their faults are still incredibly fun and entertaining. They accomplished this with varying degrees of character, charisma, humor, and spectacle, none of which is present in Transformers 2. “But Hunter,” you say, “the movie is wall to wall explosions and brawling robots! How can you claim there isn’t spectacle?” More robots and bigger explosions don’t automatically make for an engaging experience people, and to be honest we should be demanding more than that anyway. The new trailer for Roland Emmerich’s 2012 contained more ‘wow’ moments in two minutes than this entire movie does over six hours (or however long it is). The humor on display here falls flat in almost every instance (with the exceptions of a few funny lines from Sam’s mom and his crack at the Frat boy about a tighter shirt). And since none of the characters are worth caring about or ever in danger I was never on the edge of my seat excited to see what would happen next. Claims that the movie is fun are claims of self-delusion, period. I’m told that my opinion means I’m a film snob (untrue), or have lost touch with my child within. On that last point I defer to fellow critic James Rocchi for the final say on the subject of the movie being made for kids and the young at heart… “I have an inner child; he’s just not an inner idiot.”

CGI! – For all my negativity, ILM truly is the only real star of the movie. They have done some fantastic work here, but it’s nothing they haven’t done before and it’s not enough to save the film. And to be honest it’s not even all good. The scene where Sam is held down (just kill him already!) and facially probed has some incredibly sloppy CGI saliva/slime erupting from his mouth. Several shots of Mudflap and Skids seem hastily put together, as do a few shots of robots walking towards the camera against the backdrop of the sun. And the question of quality CGI becomes moot when the various robots come together to grapple and grope each other. Their fights and fisticuffs are often edited with no sense of spatial awareness leaving the viewer unable to discern who the hell is doing what let alone give them time to appreciate the quality of the effects. Add to that the fact that each Transformer looks pretty damn similar to the next and much of the action becomes a mess. I was no fan of the first film, but at least there the CGI work was fresh and impressive. Here it’s nothing more than wallpaper.

Fure’s review lists the film’s final battle as “total shock and awe” and claims “America kicks ass” during it. All I saw during the end battle was a bunch of giant robots and tiny squishable people shooting thousands of rounds but hitting very little. Starscream should have taken the humans out ten times over, no excuses, but instead he blows up some sand then leaves. America’s top military soldiers may make Fure all wet with how cool they look in their gear and weaponry, but did they actually accomplish anything? No, not until jets appear overhead and bomb the hell out of the Decepticons… and the Decepticons only (luckily the good guys run fast enough to get out of the way of explosions and resulting shrapnel). He also says he loved that the movie gave us “a true robot war” as opposed to the tease that was Terminator Salvation. I can’t argue with that specific point, but it raises an interesting one.

McG deserves an apology.

Don’t get me wrong, Salvation was not a good movie and I stand by every criticism I’ve made. But at least it made an effort. Yes, the story had holes and it failed to connect, but at least they tried to tell a story. Yes, some of the characters were left wanting for something to do, but at least they were actual characters just a few lines away from sincerity instead of the generic and idealized placeholders in Bay’s film. Salvation was widely derided by everyone (including me) for what it failed to do, but few of us gave it credit for what it tried to do. Instead the movie was dumped on before release, opened weakly, and then tanked. It took over three weeks to reach $100 million, something Transformers 2 will do in just a few days. (Salvation did far better overseas.) Do I think more Americans should have gone to see the movie in theaters? No, not really, but seeing the same people who bitched about McG’s movie slather Bay’s film with accolades and sex-juice is disappointing. McG has limited talents, he reached too high, and we shot him down. Bay has equally limited talents, but he’s struck upon a simplistic formula for triggering a Pavlovian response in audiences, and he gets rewarded with a pass from critics who should know better and boffo box-office from movie-goers who don’t. Good for him and his bank account. Bad for America and our brain cells.

Does it matter that Transformers 2 is probably this summer’s worst movie? Sadly, no. Audiences are going to eat this shit up like it was McDonald’s and push the movie into the top twenty grossing films of all time. The movie is little more than crassly commercialized cinematic excess, but still some viewers and reviewers have latched blindly onto Bay’s teats as if they expect awesome-flavored milk to start splashing against their tongue. (Keep suckin’!) Bay’s sequel is just one more step in the dumbing down of audiences around the country. It’s not the first and it definitely won’t be the last, but it won’t stop until audiences start demanding more for their entertainment dollar. Wouldn’t it be an amazing thing if even one tenth of Transformer‘s audience bought tickets for Moon or Away We Go instead? If more people got to hear about those films and had both the opportunity and wisdom to go see them? I won’t be holding my breath for that to happen. Now who wants to go see GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra with me?


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