Blockbuster Beat by Matt Parker Film

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen — Michael Bay

June 28, 2009

Let’s get one thing straight: Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen isn’t a film. It isn’t even entertainment. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour commercial for General Motors and the U.S. military. Despite the director’s considerable technical skill, this franchise does not cater to his strengths, and his latest has all the depth of a trailer, and all the plot of a porno. It’s a series of loud, predictable fight scenes strung together with sex-ploitative shots of Megan Fox, knocks on Obama and diplomacy, and arguably racist characterizations (the two “black” transformers — complete with gold teeth — are little more than illiterate, violent, and buffoonish minstrel stock characters). It’s some of the laziest, most manipulative filmmaking to ever be put to screen, and has so many continuity errors that you’re likely to catch at least five on a first viewing. Sitting through this abomination is one of the most serious tests of patience in quite some time.

Revenge resembles a coming attraction to such a striking degree that at first it’s not even clear that the film had started. It opens with a prehistoric hunting party approaching a spaceship that has just landed in their territory. A Don LaFontaine-esque voiceover explains the images with cliches like “the dawn of man” and “worlds collide” while Transformers emerge from the ship and proceed to destroy all of the humans. We then skip to the present: 11:24PM, Shanghai, China (where it’s still light outside somehow). The U.S. Military and several transformers hunt down one of the few remaining Decepticons, causing all kinds of havoc in the city and forcing a massive media cover-up. Afterward, during the debriefing, a special presidential envoy, suspicious of the transformers, challenges Optimus Prime (the most powerful of the transformers) and threatens to pull the plug on the whole team. Later on in the film, that same envoy will attempt to appease invading Decepticons under the guise of “diplomacy.” Wow, it’s exactly what John McCain said Obama would do!

Shia LeBouf reprises his “role” as Sam Witicky, the great grandson of explorer Archibald Witicky who had unwittingly re-activated the frozen Megatron during an exploratory expedition into the Arctic Circle. Conveniently, we again find Sam possessing another map that the Decepticons need (seriously, did this film even have writers, or did they just substitute names and locations from the last script and give it a new title?). A chip from the All Spark, the energy source destroyed in the first film, causes Sam to have visions of symbols, which we eventually learn from an aging rogue Decepticon are clues to the location of the “Matrix of Leadership” (no, I’m not making this up). Sam and his girlfriend Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox) soon find themselves in a race against my patience to track down the Matrix before the Decepticons can use it to the destroy the Sun.

At my screening, a pubescent hornball and his unfortunate girlfriend sat at the end of the row. In between slurps of his girlfriend’s saliva, he would loudly proclaim his approval for the film with insightful one-liners like “Why he talk like that?” and “Shit! He ripped his fuckin’ ass out!” or, my personal favorite, “Damn, you see those robot’s balls?! HA HA!!” Normally, such interruptions would have been quite annoying, but I eventually began to appreciate them more than the film itself. It became clear that this is exactly the emotional and intellectual level that Transformers caters to; it was more concerning, then, to see the large number of adults in the crowd apparently deriving the same mindless pleasure from the film as the socially-engineered homunculus sharing my row. And since a film like Revenge leaves no room for narrative invention, I had plenty of time to ponder the fate of a society that continually rewards our entertainment industry for vomiting such bilious tripe.