June 27, 2009

Walking Out / Waking Up - A Tale of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 1:11 am

Two weeks ago, I took the time to discuss my fears and apprehensions around the second Michael Bay directed Transformers film, entitled Revenge of the Fallen. In that piece, I attempted to articulate my feelings on the first film and my fears on the second.

Before I provide more comments to what was to be a summer blockbuster, allow me a moment to go back and talk again about the first film. Or rather, my earlier apprehension. You see, I was concerned about how the source material would be treated and the characterization of the robots, as well as smaller points like their faces and acting. But I actually enjoyed the first film. Yes it was different. And yet it was believable, while hitting enough nostalgia for me to get caught up in the good and very good and allowing me to mostly overlook the bad.

Very much like Generation One.

Generation One, the original cartoon, was never a perfect cartoon. It had glitches, both animation and dialogue wise. Some of the stories were simply terrible, and there were plot holes throughout. But there was an overarching story of good versus evil, of guardians who came in the hope of defending our planet against those who would destroy, just as their planet had been consumed by the fire of war. It was a story of heroism and the entire cartoon run tried hard to remain true to those themes and ideals.

One can regard the 2007 movie in a similar fashion. Yes, it had hiccups. Urinating robots played for comedy, for example. But it has this real quality to it that made the robots seem believable. The honour of Optimus Prime. The terror of a Scorponok attack. The defiance of Jazz. The loyalty of Bumblebee. The all-consuming hatred of Megatron. And that is to say nothing of the dedication of Captain Lennox, the growth of Sam, and the strength of Mikaela. The seeds of good characters were there and I’d hoped that, given more time, more money and a greater interest by the director and the writers, we’d see what could be great.

What we got was Transformers Energon.

I honestly cannot begin to tell you how close I came to walking out on this film. Over and over again, I kept asking myself, “why am I sitting here torturing myself?” For me the sign of a good film is the number of times I check my watch and I was checking my watch within 30 minutes of the film coming on the air.

The good in this film was few and far between. The design of the Fallen was cool. The battle scene in the forest with Optimus Prime defending Spike was reasonably well done. The first 15 minutes of the film, where they explained the creation of N.E.S.T. was actually quite watchable. And honestly, though I hated him in the first movie, John Turturro was fun in this film and he seemed to actually have a character, which was a nice touch.

As for the rest? Well, let’s start with the plot. I think the idea was that the Decepticons, under orders from new character, the Fallen, seek to find the ancient technology left behind to build energon to create new warriors for conquest. Learning that Sam has the map to bring about their goals, the Decepticons mobilize to find this information and bring their goals to fruition. Only the Prime and his Autobots stands in their way.

But even this plot cannot hold up when interrupted by dog humping, bad dialogue and too many changes of scenes and tone to allow the viewer to really become invested in the story. Why did Spike need to go to college for a day? Why did the Fallen spend such effort to revitalize Megatron who is simply another toadie to him anyway? How did the Fallen forget where he put the sun cannon? Why did Sam and Mikaela decide to reach Lennox’s team on foot, when they access to the twins and Bumblebee? Why did the group go in search of Decepticon seekers only to be surprised when they found a Decepticon seeker? What was the point of Devastator? What was the point of having Simmons try and convince the Navy to use a railgun against Devastator, succeed, and then not have any follow-through?

And then there are the other flaws. The twin who make you question the seriousness of the Autobot operation. The space bridge landing that surely would have killed all four humans. The unlikelihood of keeping the Autobot and Decepticon war a secret.  The difficulty in telling a number of the robots apart.  The idea that an all-spark fragment can remain inert for two years and yet suddenly bring to life a half dozen appliances that all come out evil. The awkward pacing.

For me, the movie was doomed when Optimus Prime shot an injured Decepticon in the face at point blank range, and destroyed when Megatron was sidelined completely by the forgettable Fallen. It was like seeing Greedo shooting first, and learning that the FBI were only chasing you with flashlights and not guns. Oh there were some pretty pictures, but I couldn’t stay immersed and look forward to leaving.

What am I left with? Well, I sat through a bad movie that made me, to paraphrase my earlier comments, truly for the first time “feel like an idiot for continuing to invest time and energy into this hobby.” To quote Jetfire, “I am too old for this crap.” I went in with the bar low and still came away disappointed.

The first movie I saw seven times in the theatre and I own five copies on DVD. I doubt I can be bothered to even try and see this in IMAX to see the different scenes, and I’m embarrassed to think of this film on my shelf. And I’ll be ashamed to respond to queries about my thoughts on the movie with the venom that this piece of trash so richly deserves.


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