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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) Dir. Michael Bay 26 June 2009

Posted by jordanfarley in Cinema Review.
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Proving more moving parts isn’t necessarily a good thing, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen landed in UK cinemas this week (a full week ahead of its US release no less), bigger, badder, Bay-er but ultimately too bloated and meaningless for its own good.

Despite its arse-numbing 150 minute length the ‘plot’ is as forgettable as blockbuster scripts come. Essentially a rehash of the paper-thin story which drove the first installment, Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox are back as the young couple caught up in the giant robot war between the Autobots and the nefarious Decepticons. But this time around the McGuffin they’re after is the Matrix of Leadership as opposed to the Allspark (see what they’ve done there?) and there’s a legendary villain to deal with in the Fallen – one of the original Transformers who wants to destroy the Earth, just to prove a point apparently – but apart from that you’d be hard pressed to spot the difference.

Then again no one goes to see a Transformers movie for its intricate, complex story telling. Giant robot scrappage is what it’s all about and while Revenge of the Fallen certainly offers this in spades, solving one of the key criticisms of the first film, it almost becomes too much of a good thing, particularly when the standout set-piece occurs just over an hour into proceedings.

Opening with a bang in Shanghai the pace and structure of that first hour is spot on, flitting between explosive robot action (which we can actually see this time round, with a lot more lingering wide shots) and Sam’s comic relief move to college. But the film grinds to an abrupt halt after one particularly brutal round of deforestation. Screenwriters Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman also seem to be scraping the barrel when it comes to the comedy moments Transformers handled so well. Decepticon testicles and a robot humping Fox’s leg are two notable low points and Ramon Rodriguez, along for the ride as the beef’s roomate, is nothing but irritating from start to finish.

As much as I liked the first film for what it was – mindless, yet exceptionally well made action cinema which pandered to the obsession of my childhood – Revenge of the Fallen has lumbered into the trap of many blockbuster sequels, bigger isn’t always better. ILM have crafted some of the most impressive CGI yet seen with over 40 individual Transformers rendered in all, but it’s too easy to be overwhelmed, and when several similarly dull coloured destructive bots are on screen at once you’ll be hard pressed to tell the difference. Certainly by the final set-piece in Egypt, which feels like a huge anti-climax after bigging up the power of the Fallen for two hours, action fatigue kicked in for me, while a brief foray off to robot heaven for one of the (human) characters was laughable in its stupidity.

Enjoyable enough for the spectacle of it all but ultimately a shallow, derivative and overblown (albeit with good intentions) sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen proves to be a huge disappointment after the wonderful first hour and fails to live up to the standard set by its prequel. And if Michael Bay’s statement that he wants to make movies ‘without explosions’ now is to be believed (I find that one hard to swallow) we could be seeing a very different threequel in the inevitable future.

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