"Revenge" is indeed a word that comes swiftly to mind when thinking of the hours of my life that I wasted seeing this garbage. When I consider all of the good films that could have been made with the 200,000,000 wasted on this titanic heap of horse waste, I almost shudder.
This movie is so deeply flawed, I scarcely know how to begin categorizing all of the reasons why it never should have been greenlit. Nostalgic value or no, the fact is that the entire film (and the one before it) hangs on a premise so utterly thin and insubstantial that no matter how much you try and buttress it, the best you'll ever get is the equivalent of a skyscraper made of toilet paper. Why are these giant alien robots slugging it out on earth at all? For no other reason than to provide justification for the fact that the toys-the fucking toys-this film is based on turned into terrestrial vehicles instead of some sort of unfamiliar space vehicles. Perfectly sound idea for a toy line; irredeemably idiotic notion for a movie aimed at anyone over the age of twelve.
So what's it about? Giant robots shooting at each other over this gadget or that gadget, or this bit of intel or that. It never really matters, the plot, such as it is, exists for no reason other than to get the robots beating on one another. Before we can even get to that comparative high point, we have to wade through the setup involving Sam Witwicky (who the fuck comes up with these names?) heading off to college, dealing with his annoying parents and his soon-to-be long-distance girlfriend Mikaela, whom the camera graciously introduces ass-first, setting the overall tone for the film's average intelligence level. Somehow, a shard of Autobot technology thought lost after the first film is found stuck in one of Sam's shirts, and after burning through the second-story floor but conveniently not the kitchen table, it proceeds to turn the surrounding appliances into sentient transforming robots, who apparently spontaneously grow processors and mechanisms they could not possibly have had. This leads to some shooting and exploding, and introduces the first of many big, fat, stupid plot ideas we're expected to swallow: that these sorts of events are supposed to be kept on the down low, because the governemnt (or presumably, lots of governments) covered up the events of the first film.
Excuse me? Giant robots running around in plain sight, blowing shit up everywhere, get covered up? Are you fucking kidding? Clinton couldn't even cover up a blow job. And as unbelieveable as this idea is, it's just as arbitrary. The plot would be utterly unaffected if the whole "cover-up" idea was trashed. For there to be some plot issues, there would first have to be a plot.
Sam goes to college, which is full of slutty girls and geeks who don't buy the whole government cover-up, who sit around watching YouTube videos of giant robots the government watchdogs have apparently forgotten to take down. Autobot leader Optimus Prime calls Sam out to a graveyard overlooking a busy highway to confab about how they need Sam to make the earth governments understand the need for them to work as one against the enemy. No one notices the fifty-foot giant robot just standing there, making no effort to hide, even though he can transform into an eighteen-wheeler. What was the tagline for those toy ads? Oh, yeah: "Robots in disguise." Of course, the problem could be solved just by editing out the whole chunk of movie following Sam's departure for higher education. The gaggle of conspiracy geeks never uncovers anything (or even appear again), and Sam never becomes some transformer/human liason. Do you see the problem here? Out of all those hundreds of millions, not one penny was apparently spent on paying someone to remind Michael Bay to stop sucking. As such, he forgets to not suck for a hundred and fifty minutes.
I was being catty, of course, by saying that the film has no plot. All movies have a plot; this one is just miserably incomprehensible. One could almost imagine, if one is a moron who believes in prophecy, that when Shakespeare wrote of "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing," that he was referring to this film. Shit explodes. People say and do stupid things. Robots follow suit. Soldiers walk in slo-mo in front of helicopters and a sunset. The story tries its damndest to step on and break off its own tail without end. Evil Decepticon leader Megatron is resurrected via the Allspark shard, since his body was sunk to the ocean floor instead of you, know, being dismantled or something sensical. He defeats Optimus Prime, whose resurrection depends upon a different piece of ancient robot technology. And he must be resurrected, because the Fallen, an ancient Prime who turned to the Decepticon side, is back (why the betrayer desires "revenge" is unclear), and only a Prime can defeat another Prime. Why? Why can't, say, an A-bomb defeat it? Why can't three or four other robots whose combined powers equal a Prime defeat it? Why does no one in the film even ask? Because then the script would have to be make sense, which was apparently never an option.
Did you know, gentle reader, that right behind the Smithsonian in DC is a giant field of airplanes in a desert surrounded by mountains? Did you know that the site of Petra in Jordan (best known as the resting place of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) is about a two minute drive from the Giza pyramids? Did you know that deadly shrapnel wounds can be cured outright by a hallucinogenic inspirational speech? Did you know that the titular Fallen has about five minutes of totally unimpressive screen time?
What have we the audience done, filmmaking gods, to deserve a close-up shot of John Turturro's ass in a thong? What has John Turturro done to deserve it, for that matter? He was in Miller's Crossing, for fuck's sake. What happened? The stock market? Huge gambling debts? Why must we all be punished with this movie?
I know that somewhere out there, someone is reading this with the defense, "But it's just a big, dumb action movie! It doesn't need to make sense!" poised on his retarded-ass tongue. BULLSHIT! There is no rule that says you can't have both. Just last year, The Dark Knight became the second highest-grossing film in history, and did so with far less action than Transformers 2. People responded to the story, the directing, the performances. Star Wars was a great action film. The Lord of the Rings films were great action films. Terminator 2 was a great action film, despite plenty of plot illogic. The only thing justifying this swill is the public's own low standards, not genre limits. There are good and bad crime flicks, or comedies. There can be action films that aren't outright offensively insulting. Did no one think to tell Bay that the two Ghetto-bots with their gold teeth, gang-banger-speak, constant infighting and total uselessness to the story are the sort of racial stereotypes that most films of the past fifty years would have been rightfully embarrassed to include? How much glue is this man sniffing daily?
In purely technical terms, the special effects are pretty impressive. Yet even this aspect is ruined by the presentation. Most of the robots are indistinguishable masses of silver pistons and gears contorting about; the average robot fight looks like someone put a camera in a car factory and then rolled the building off a cliff. Only Bumblebee, the bright yellow Bug, can be spotted without inordinate effort, and he can't speak, for some reason. So to sum up: the robots have no discernable personalities (except the racist ones), the people have mostly irritating personalities, the plot has not the remotest clarity, the Fallen is a big pussy who might as well have just died in his sleep, and the film grossed over four hundred million dollars. Oh, and Shia LeBouf calls his co-star by her real name when they're fleeing the slut-bot, and apparently no one noticed.
Yay, human race. You can go die now.
-review by Matt Murray