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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (review)

The Empire Strikes Out

I’m certain that someday it will be acknowledged that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is like the most totally awesome artifact ever of the end of the American empire. It’s so us, a preposterously perfect reflection of who we are: loud, obnoxious, sexist, racist, juvenile, unthinking, visceral, and violent… and in love with ourselves for it. And Michael Bay is the high priest of our self-engrossment. It’s not enough that we like blowing shit up: the blowing shit up must be transubstantiated into something religious by having, say, a ridiculously gorgeous girl humping a motorcycle, her face aglow in the golden hour of sunset as she watches the shit get blown up, her glossy lips parted just a little in orgasmic joy.

What we have right here is the Easter Island statue of our legacy. People 1,000 years from now will gaze at Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in wonder and mystery and marvel how we just couldn’t see. How could we not see?

I liked the first Transformers, two summers ago. It worked because it pretended to absolutely nothing, aspired to absolutely nothing beyond being a big dumb loud brainless advertisement for toys. Unlike every other propagandistic Michael Bay film, which all revel in their jingoism about justice or patriotism or heroism, Transformers felt no need to bother.

If only Hollywood could have left well enough alone. Of course, in Hollywood, “well enough alone” means you wear out a franchise with 12 movies, until even the fanboys are complaining that it’s stupid and a budget-bloated sequel finally bankrupts the studio. We’re nowhere near that, though. Transformer 3 is coming soon to a theater near you, you may rest assured of that.

I was ready for Revenge to be as agreeably inconsequential as the first film, and I was perfectly happy to be enjoying that it’s so completely fuckin’ bonkers from the get-go, when we discover that the alien robot things have been on Earth from 17,000 BC, when they apparently fought off Stargate SG-1’s Goa’uld or something for the right to pick on the poor uncivilized cavepeople natives. But then I got lost beyond that, for — unlike the first movie — this one either assumes that you’re steeped in the laughable mythos that Hasbro invented for its toys, or else screenwriters Ehren Kruger (The Brothers Grimm, The Skeleton Key) and the team of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek, Mission: Impossible III) invented a new laughable mythos. I’m not an eight-year-old boy, and I wasn’t in the 1980s either, so I don’t know which is which.

It’s something to do with an ancient bloodfeud between the good robots (the Autobots) and the bad robots (the Decepticons). You can tell which are the good robots — they have blue eyes and are nice and round and shiny and look like Japanese motorcycles or something Paul Walker drove in Fast & Furious or gas-guzzling, all-American pickup trucks manufactured by companies now in bankruptcy — and you can tell which are the bad robots: they’re very pointy and have red eyes. Beyond that, there’s a lot of high-falutin’ about wrongs done eons ago and such: it’s impossible to understand 90 percent of the Transformers’ dialogue, which is probably a blessing, because the other 10 percent sounds like Gandalf explaining to Frodo about the Ring, or Darth Vader grumbling about the damn Jedi Knights, but without the gravitas of either.

Apparently the good robots have discovered that Shia LaBeouf is Indiana Jones’s kid, because they send him on a mission to find an ancient doohickey from 17,000 BC in the North African desert. And luckily his superhot girlfriend (Megan Fox: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People) is along to gape in ecstatic joy at stuff blowing up and blue-eyed robots and red-eyed robots beating one another up over the ancient whatchamacallit, which is supposed to have the power to do something-or-other.

To call Revenge incoherent and bloated is to put it kindly. To say that Michael Bay fetishizes slow-motion and we still can’t see what the hell is happening the half the time is probably something he’d take as a compliment. But eventually I got so bored — for these two and a half hours feel much, much longer than the same two and a half hours the first movie consumed — that I lost track of the number of testicle jokes and taser jokes that flew by. The target audience will be pleased to know, perhaps, that yes: one joke combines testicles and tasers. It’s like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of frat-boy humor. But it’s all good, because, you see, even though a Decepticon snatches the American flag from the Brooklyn Bridge as a show of contempt for us puny humans, it’s back later. America rules! Take that, Decepticons!

Welcome to Easter Island.


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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
US/Can release: Jun 24 2009
UK/Ire release: Jun 19 2009

MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, language, some crude and sexual material, and brief drug material
BBFC: rated 12

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Rykker

    I didn’t realize that there was a ridiculously gorgeous girl* in this. Because if there actually was, there might be a chance of me seeing it on DVD someday.
    But since there isn’t, then I won’t be.

    *People keep using some variation of that phrase when speaking of Megan Fox, but I do not think it means what they think it means.

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t want to pick on Megan Fox — the poor girl cannot help what she looks like.

    I’m picking on Bay for using her as he does.

  • Kim_cool

    Thank you, the first paragraph is the best material I’ve seen in a movie review of the 21st Century so far, maybe the best ever.

  • Whisky Tango Foxtrot

    I haven’t seen this movie (I hated the first one and have no desire to subject myself to its sequel) but I was an eight year-old boy in the 1980s and I can say for certain that there were no Egyptian tie-ins in the original mythos.

    The original mythos could get pretty convoluted at times (although it was Marvel Comics that came up with most of it, not Hasbro) but it seems that Bay needed to muddy things up even further this time around.

    There were no testicle jokes in the original mythos either, just so you know.

  • JoshDM

    Fox had to go and ruin herself with some awful tattoos.

  • JohnSmith

    honestly im not sure why you saw the movie if ur not a transformers fan in general. i felt this movie was more of a fan service than the last, catering to those who knew the show and toys. i can agree a lot is mindless at times but thats the fun of it. Since i was 5 when the toys n show first came out, i guess i relate much better than you and can enjoy the fan service.

  • JoshDM

    Also, these movies have soured the Transformers mythos (there’s a mythos? Why, yes there is!) for me.

  • amanohyo

    JohnSmith, did you read the review? It clearly states that she liked the first movie. It is also her job is to review movies and she specializes in geeky scifi, and this is one of the biggest movies of the summer. How can a man of your age honestly be confused about why she would choose to watch this movie? It’s baffling.

    Like you, I was also crazy about the G1 Transformers when I was a kid, both the toys and the comics. I can’t speak for all fans, but it takes a lot more than mindless fan service to satisfy me. Luckily, I don’t respect these movies enough to let them sour the Transformers mythos; I just treat them like the Star Wars prequels and pretend they don’t exist.

    Oh, I wanted to ask someone who’s seen the movie, are there any of Michael Bay’s trademarked hilarious racial stereotype jokes? I’ve been waiting ten years for him to grow out of that lazy, insulting shit, and it hasn’t happened yet. If the reports of testicles getting tasered are accurate, my hopes are not high.

  • Jon Kapp

    I truly hope that the box office numbers for this stupid film will be low.

    In short, I hope that the American public will prove your review wrong.

    I have some faith that most people do not like their intelligence insulted, especially sci-fi fans.

    There was another film from a few years ago that had a lot of action, big explosions, good robot vs bad robot plot line, funny one-liners, helicopters, motorcycles, all that….but this film was much more intelligent, the camera shots were more fluid, the einematography was more coherant, and action scenes were well paced and clearly defined, where the scene didnt seem to fly all over the place until no one knows what the heck is going on…and oh yeah, this previous movie had many groundbreaking CGI effects.

    That film was T2. When action/adventure filmmakers start to get back to those basics, things will improve.

    In the meantime, I do not want to see Transformers. I will make a conscious effort not to rent it later when it comes out. and I certainly wont buy the DVD, not even in the inevitable discount bin.

    The release of “Moon” has some hopes up for me as a much more well made Sci Fi film (on a vastly smaller budget).

    Meantime, if the American people stay home on this one, we’ll be better off for it as people.

    I won’t hold my breath, though.

  • Whisky Tango Foxtrot

    Of course, I can’t let that Lord of the Rings comparison go by without linking to this.

  • Paul

    Well, Foxtrot, that just goes to show that the same stories are being told again and again; the difference is in the telling.

    As for Megan and her motorcycle, I’ve heard that some women do get excited on a motorcycle. Of course, my source was Roseanne Barr, so take that for what it was.

  • stryker1121

    I’m really gonna try to avoid this one despite my affinity for giant explosions and giant robots beating the hell out of each other. MaryAnn gave the first Transformers far too much credit…i thought it was as dumb, loud and obnoxious as she criticizes the sequel to be. Put simply, Bay is one of those directors who has nobody in his ear to tell him if an idea sucks. he just plasters anything that comes into his head onscreen, much as Lucas seemed to do w/ the Star Wars prequels.

  • Kenny

    Hmm.. as a movie, I quite believe this sucks. I’m willing to bet the dialogue is corny as hell and the storyline will make me want to tear out my eyeballs… unfortunately if it’s got a giant robot in it, I have to see it. :(

    (If they’d put a big stompy robot in Gigli I’d have gone to see it…)

  • Kenny

    (Oh and for my feelings on Michael Bay… please see my Armageddon rant in the movies you find insulting thread.)

  • derek T

    Writing a review on a movie on transforming robots and aliens really requires trashing Americans and putting up ridiculously overstated and off-based stereotypes?

    I’m curious which gets more rolling eyes… the over-the-top garbage in the movie or your hack review

  • Sarah

    Maryann, you have quite a thing for claiming that movies you don’t like presage/herald/encapsulate the downfall of our civilization. I don’t like bad movies either, but…really?

  • Victor Plenty

    If you must see this movie, or any other stupid movie just because it’s got giant robots or big explosions, then please for the love of all that’s good in the universe, just don’t see it on its opening weekend. That’s all I ask.

    Professional reviewers have to see movies as early as they can. The rest of us can stay away from bad movies on opening weekend. First weekend box office is currently the most important measure of any big budget action picture’s success. In public the studios will just blame any resulting losses on “piracy” and “stealing” but they’ll know the real reason if we stand together and stop the worst of the crap from setting new box office records.

    If you send the message this way, you can still see any movie you want. You don’t have to boycott all movies, or sacrifice the entire big screen experience. Just avoid the opening weekend for bad movies.

    That’s it. Simple. No opening weekend for bad movies.

  • Kenny

    Hehe.. I’ll go with you on that one Vitcor. Well, to be fair, I live in Scotland, where it came out last week. The fact that I’ve not seen it already means I won’t see it on opening weekend.

    Also.. don’t get me wrong.. I won’t see any old movie just because of explosions. Really…. it’s got to be robots.

  • MaryAnn

    are there any of Michael Bay’s trademarked hilarious racial stereotype jokes?

    Yes.

    Writing a review on a movie on transforming robots and aliens really requires trashing Americans and putting up ridiculously overstated and off-based stereotypes?

    Not all the movies I don’t like. But when the movie itself celebrates stereotypes, and the people being stereotyped will surely flock to it… then yes.

    I’d be delighted if I was proven wrong about what Americans like, and this movie flopped.

  • JoshDM

    I’m not going to see this, but it’s not my fault the people are driven like cattle to see this crap.

  • Very doubtful it’s going to flop. It’s so weird to have mixed feelings about that, as a huge Transformers fan since 1984. I was so disappointed that the 1986 animated Transformers movie was considered a flop, and I wished there was a way for something I loved to have more mass appeal… unfortunately, you have to be careful for what you wish!

  • Ryan

    Oh, if only this would flop. What a wonderful world that would be.

  • doa766

    does anyone else here think that Megan Fox is not that attractive?

    she’s pretty an all but IMO she has a sort of “deep fried” look, overtly tan, too much make up and hair care

    it’s interesting to note that all the comments are about how “hot” she is and how great her body is but nobody says that she’s beautiful, because she’s not, Natalie Portman and Keira Kinghtley are beautiful, Megan is “hot” and trashy and it’s for guys with bad taste in women

    but that’s just my opinion, if it wasn’t for all the articles and comments she would’ve go unnoticed to me in the first Transformers and no different than any of the dime-a-dozen girls playing a damsel in distress in movies

    for example the blonde lead from Hostel 2, she’s much hotter than Megan Fox and much prettier, I think her name is Bijou Phillips but no one noticed her, and that’s one of many many examples

    maybe it’s just because Transformers was so popular and it has very little to do with how she looks and it’s all just advertising that make people find her more attractive than what she really is

  • The pity of it is that this movie will not flop. For all intents, this month of June was relatively free of “shit blowing up” films (instead the majority were shitty comedy films and – THANK GOD – a Pixar film) and so there’s a huge swath of 13-to-53 yrs hungering to see any kind of shit blowing up. Especially since well at least here in North Pinellas County FL Star Trek – a shit blowing up movie that actually had a plot and good actors – is not in the local AMC stadium seating theater, so there’s no fallback plan.

    Can’t we fans sue for ownership rights at some point and make our own $200 million shit blowing up movie for Transformers 3? Maybe if we can vote for the next director. I’ll campaign for the job. If we can get *me* in the director’s chair, I promise you 90 percent less Shia, 150 percent more Grimlock, and 200 percent more OH HELL YES. >:-)

  • D

    Sarah:”MaryAnn, you have quite a thing for claiming that movies you don’t like presage/herald/encapsulate the downfall of our civilization.” She didn’t say the end of civilisation. She said the end of the “american empire”.
    (sight)You americans…

  • doa766

    the NYT review very cleverly pointed out how this movie shows several GM cars as symbols the american industrial might

    Bay is clueless

  • Films like these make me really miss Jim Cameron.

  • JoshB

    it’s interesting to note that all the comments are about how “hot” she is and how great her body is but nobody says that she’s beautiful, because she’s not, Natalie Portman and Keira Kinghtley are beautiful, Megan is “hot” and trashy and it’s for guys with bad taste in women

    Yeah, she’ll only get ogled by troglodytes and die lonely. She’s definitely not beautiful in the proper way that attracts nice guys with good taste in women. What a trashy skank.

  • PaulW

    Can we stop insulting Megan Fox? She’s not the problem with this film. Michael Bay and the screenwriters and the producers are the problem with this film. Spielberg? Spielberg, what the bleep is wrong with you??? Last year you nuke the fridge, this year you… augh! Whatever crazy pill Lucas took from 1999 onwards apparently is being shared with his buddy Steve. Just put the paycheck down, Mr. Spielberg, you aren’t earning it!!!

  • Cam

    Yeah, she’ll only get ogled by troglodytes and die lonely. She’s definitely not beautiful in the proper way that attracts nice guys with good taste in women. What a trashy skank.

    glad to see we’re keeping the critique of the movie on-target. I mean, for real? This is an honestly depressing comment.

    I loved Transformers when I was nine. I cried when Prime died. The first movie was such utter garbage that … God, I feel embarassed to have liked the show in the first place.

  • Ryan

    Yeah, she’ll only get ogled by troglodytes and die lonely. She’s definitely not beautiful in the proper way that attracts nice guys with good taste in women. What a trashy skank.

    Wow, that’s…wow. So Victorian of you, JoshB. Would you date a woman who wasn’t a virgin? If she knew what sex was, would that be a turn off? Give me a break dude.

    There are things you could dislike about Megan Fox; she tends to spew out some ridiculous quotes from time to time, and I won’t say she’s one of the better actresses I’ve ever seen, but on what basis are you calling her a trashy skank? Are you threatened by women who aren’t beautiful in a ‘proper’ way? Please.

    Transformers is garbage for many reasons, but Megan Fox’s sexuality is not one of them. (Although the robot humping her leg…that IS one of them.)

  • JoshB

    This is an honestly depressing comment.

    *chuckle* That’s not quite the reaction I was going for, but I guess it works. Carry on then =P

  • JoshB

    Damn, cross post.

    Wow, that’s…wow. So Victorian of you, JoshB.

    Hee! My Sarcasm Insertion Machine is clearly on the fritz.

  • Moe

    Listen to yourselves. You sound extremely judgmental. Who are you to call Megan Fox trashy or skanky?

    You’ve probably slept with less attractive and more *ahem* accessible women.

    Or maybe it’s just me. Granted, I’m not a “nice guy with good taste in women”.

    I’m willing to settle for human, flawed, and available.

    I might even add misjudged or misrepresented to that list.

    What you’re doing is just another form of prejudice and the worst part is you’re so self-righteous you don’t even notice it.

    You’re even buying into the ridiculous idea that how a person is portrayed in media has any bearing on their actual personality.

    Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I read, “She’s definitely not beautiful in the proper way that attracts nice guys with good taste in women. What a trashy skank”, and honestly got the impression you’re full of it.

    I apologize if I misjudged you.

  • Muzz

    This is tough. All my favourite critics (MJ, Devin Faraci at CHUD and Mark Kermode), to my eternal diappointment ( ;) ), gave the first one a vague pass with some faint praise on the side.
    Now all three have eviscerated the second film, using words that basically sum up my opinion of the first.
    I feel a little like “this I gotta see!”.
    Is there a chance that its interminable horrors could give one chuckle in hindsight like, say, Plan 9 from Outer Space?

  • doa766

    there’re no differences in tone, style, writting, acting, directing, pacing or editing between the two movies and yet some critics managed to like the first one and not this one

    I guess it’s a like like criticising Bush in 2001/2002 and criticising him after 2007, it’s a lot safer

    (not that I’m accusing anyone in particular of betraying the trust of geeks by endorsing with a positive review a warmongering, pro-guns, anti-women, anti-inteligence piece of crap movie)

  • amanohyo

    I know what you mean Muzz, I’m kinda curious to see just how awful it is too, but please, please if it’s at all possible, wait until next weekend, then buy a ticket to a better movie (say…Up or maybe even Star Trek) and theater hop (assuming it isn’t sold out).

    I’d really like to see this movie tank, but since that’s unlikely, it would be nice to see it break the record for biggest second week drop. Maybe Bay has finally managed to underestimate the tastes of the average American moviegoer… I can dream can’t I?

  • bitchen frizzy

    If you want to see it, you want to see it. That is what it is. Give it a name, if you like… morbid curiosity, love of robot films, guilty pleasure, whatever. You should be honest about it. It’s the height of filmstudent psuedointellectual snobbery to go to the movie but not want be seen paying to go to it.

    And if you do want to see it, and if a lot of other people do too, then Bay hasn’t underestimated his audience.

  • Jack

    I wonder if the DVD will include deleted scenes of the robots turning into cars in 10,000 BC. Interesting that robots, which can turn into automobiles, would choose to come to a planet where technology hasn’t even been invented yet.

    And would the defenders of Bay shut up with the “this isn’t Citizen Kane” crap comments? Yes, we know. Star Wars and Ironman wasn’t Kane either and they are examples of superior filmmaking. You know, a cohesive plot, solid acting and effects that serve the story…not the other way around.

  • Lizitish

    One of the best lede’s I have ever read (excerpted over at Movieline) – and voila, you have yourself a new reader!

  • Jacob

    I wasn’t too interested in seeing this, but a close friend asked me to go, and I figured, why not? It’s got giant robots in; it can’t be that bad.

    It was that bad.

    The problem is that there is literally nothing below the surface of this movie. What your eyes see is what you get, and that’s all. There are no characters, and the plot makes no logical sense. There are, however, plenty of slow-mo shots of Megan Fox’s breasts, along with some idiotic sex jokes and robots that embody racist stereotypes. What fun.

  • zids

    Loved the first. And while I didn’t find enough things to make me hate this one, I understand why critics panned it.

    Things I don’t like:(SPOILERS AHEAD – don’t read if you haven’t seen the movie)

    1. One female character made me whether I was watching a Transformers or Terminator movie. Since when a Decepticon can assume a human form?
    2. Bay can’t seem to keep his camera still. Especially when it comes to romantic interactions.
    3. Too many dumb jokes.
    4. The overuse of Green Day’s “21 Guns”.
    5. Incoherent fight sequences. More often than not, it was hard to tell which is which.

    Interestingly enough, the writers for this are the same as those for Star Trek – anyone else thinks we should get J.J. Abrams to direct the third one?

  • amanohyo

    bitchen, I don’t care about being seen buying a ticket (does anyone?), I just don’t want any of my precious, precious money to trickle up into the pockets of anyone involved in the making of this movie possibly encouraging the production of similar work in the future.

    It might be psuedointellectual snobbery in large part to want to steal a free whiff of the crap that other people pay to smell, but I usually internally rationalize my thievery like so: My dollars are the most powerful vote I have, and if the showing doesn’t sell out, it makes absolutely no difference to the theater which room a patron enters (assuming people don’t follow my example in large numbers).

    Plus I’m cheap.

    My morbid curiosity may make me no better than a hypocrite and a common pirate to most, but the distinction is clear in my mind and I’m willing to live with the consequences of my crimes. In this particular case, after careful consideration and further research, I’ve decided to wait until it arrives at the public library and watch it while exercising on the elliptical… muted with the French subtitles turned o… Sweet Jesus, you’re right. I am a pseudointellectual snob.

  • Robert McCoy

    People need to be warned how punishing this movie is to watch. I think one reviewer wrote it best by comparing it to putting a trash can over your head while people beat it w/ baseball bats.

  • Shadowen

    I just wanna know how one filmmaker’s vision can make a movie so brain-meltingly schizophrenic.

    From the noble sacrifice of a warrior’s last stand to protect an innocent boy…to a robot humping an attractive human woman’s leg. And pretty much nothing in between. There were moments of brilliance (mostly the combat sequences with Prime, but I liked the relationship Sam had with his parents, and the juxtaposition between the beginning of the movie an the ned of the movie vis as vis the three of them), and moments of absolute shitballs stupidity (endless dick and scrotum and fart and shit jokes, racist and sexist under/overtones, and so very much male gaze).

    I would like to be able to compare it to that other summer movie disappointment, Wolverine, except that the Wolverine movie was mediocre from start to finish. Transformers veered wildly like a desperate goalie in the last thirty seconds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Oscars and the Razzies and I think I lost the thread of that metaphor somewhere, but I think you get the picture.

  • Whisky Tango Foxtrot

    One female character made me whether I was watching a Transformers or Terminator movie. Since when a Decepticon can assume a human form?

    Again, I haven’t seen the movie, but from what I’ve heard that plot point was a homage to the “Pretenders” subline from the 1980s, which consisted of human-looking shells with transforming robots inside.

    Of course, it was only the Autobot Pretenders that actually looked human; the Decepticon shells looked like monsters. The subline was also not particularly well-liked from the beginning which makes it an odd thing to include in a new movie.

    There’s a lot of material in the Transformers franchise that could make for a good movie in the hands of competent filmmakers who are able to separate the wheat from the chaff. Unfortunately, it looks like Michael Bay chose to keep the chaff.

  • A.V. Jones

    I must comment on what I saw to be unfortunate ethnic stereotyping in this movie. I saw it at a free sneak on 6-22-09, and there were two robots who were obviously fashioned after Bay’s idea of what African-Americans are like. They both spoke ghetto slang, both had crunk-mouth, and one was proud of the fact that he couldn’t (or didn’t) read. Oh well, at least they didn’t die like the ethnically-stereotyped robot in the first movie. Disappointing.

  • Blank Frank

    Not entirely on topic but…
    Recently, wandering through the video game section of Target, I heard someone say that they weren’t keen on the sort-of-new Sonic the Hedgehog game because it’s “loud and fast, but not satisfying. It’s too Michael Bay.”

    I’m not sure which amused me more; the pretentiousness of the analysis, or the use of “Michael Bay” as a bad word.

  • Scatman Crothers (who played Jazz in the original Generation 1 Transformers) must be rolling in his grave.

    Yeah, that’s a PeteHoekstra-ism.

  • zids

    Sorry, I meant:

    One female character made me WONDER whether I was watching a Transformers or Terminator movie.

    Whisky Tango Foxtrot, thanks for the explanation. I still think it’s an inappropriate move.

    Additional points:

    6. The twin robots. They’re like a double helping of Jar Jar Binks.
    7. Stereotypical racist elements.
    8. Acknowledgement of President Obama- though I’m not sure if that is really a minus point.

  • stryker1121

    Amen, Bongwater…I too miss James Cameron, who has been working on “Chinese Democracy,” err, “Avatar” for what seems like a decade. Maybe once he’s done w/ Avatar he can save the Alien franchise, which of course is already getting some reboot or prequel to which Cameron is not attached. At least we have JJ Abrams…

    Quick digression: There was a time I felt I had to go out and see all the summer blockbusters in the theater, even if I knew the film would suck. I don’t feel that need anymore, hence my avoiding Indy 4 last year and Transformers 2 this year. I’m just bored w/ all these toothless CGI crapfests. I won’t be seeing “2012” either! WHO’S WITH ME?

  • Brian

    Robert Frost once famously compared writing free verse poetry to playing tennis with the net down: Operating without restrictions tends more often than not to produce results that are aimless, pointless, often pretentious, and just plain boring.

    When your movie’s production values are limited only by the amount of hard drive space and programming talent you can buy, then the net comes down and you can throw as much at the screen as you can possibly dream up in your most megalomaniacal fantasies. You can toss around elaborate set pieces like a spoiled kid bashing up and discarding his toys.

    Suddenly the pressure is off to craft a script that makes any damned sense — especially when your choice of subject matter is trivial in the first place*. You can choose a subject that presents zero expectations of solid story and character development, and proceed to meet those non-expectations without anyone calling you out, because you can always fall back on the, “well, it’s not Shakespeare” excuse.

    So we get treated to very expensive “blockbusters” that are little more than elaborately filmed first drafts. Bay is not the only practicioner of this — hell, one of the most popular franchises of the decade is based on a theme park ride — but he is certainly the most audacious and reckless.

    It’s not written in stone that big-budget effects bonanzas must be vapid and incoherent. Some people care, like Peter Jackson, J.J. Abrams, and the aforementioned James Cameron. Even Spielberg – As bad as Indy 4 was, compared to a Michael Bay movie, it’s Tolstoy. But people like Bay keep coming around and proving that you don’t even have to pay the slightest lip service to story and character to make boatloads of money, so the bar just keeps getting knocked lower.

    *Yes, I was a child in the ’80s and played with Transformers. I thought they were great. Then I grew up.

  • sparsh

    I liked how you started your article. The first paragraph was right on, reflecting precisely how i felt about this movie and the general state of things in this country. However, i do think you chickened out. You helped yourself into the ‘review’ rather than continuing your expose. I would have much preferred to have read what you really thought about the movie and its makers. There was a lot missing between the first paragraph and the last line.
    Pity.

  • Michael

    “I’d be delighted if I was proven wrong about what Americans like, and this movie flopped.”

    Bashing a movie for stereotypes and stereotyping all in a single review? This woman has it all!

  • Bree

    After seeing it, I keep asking myself:

    how can an action movie so loud, eye-scorching, messy, offensive and ADHD be SO DAMN DULL? It felt about 5 hours long it was that boring.

  • My review of Transformers 2 was titled, “Transformers: The U.S. Military is Awesome.” What a great recruiting tool, eh?

  • TrojanDawg

    The fanboy in me won’t allow me to hate the travesty I watched but boy was this movie horrible. It baffles me how Ehren Kruger, Orci and Kurtzman screwed this up so. More importantly, how any sane producer signed off on their sorry excuse for a script. After Star Trek I thought Orci and Kurtzman were going to give us some amazing story for the ages. Instead they gave us one bad joke after another. This script/movie was trash at best. Any and everyone who worked on this should be ashamed of themselves. When will Bay learn that its the story not explosions that keep seats filled!

    I smell a reboot for trans 3…i’m calling for J.J or Cameron who’s with me?

  • MaryAnn

    Bashing a movie for stereotypes and stereotyping all in a single review? This woman has it all!

    Thank you!

    Oh, you were being sarcastic, weren’t you?

    So, if mass audiences respond in a positive way — as they already have — to multiple testicle jokes, racist stereotypes, sexist portrayals of women, incoherent explosions, random jingoism, and other such nonsense, that means that it’s *wrong* to characterize those audiences as embracing multiple testicle jokes, racist stereotypes, sexist portrayals of women, incoherent explosions, random jingoism, and other such nonsense?

    Interesting…

    Or are we meant to believe that audiences like this movie *despite,* you know, everything it is?

  • Michael

    MaryAnn,

    First off thanks for actually stepping back up to the plate and addressing my post. Getting to the point though, you’re setting the point that Americans are this film. That the audiences who went to see this movie are what America is today. That’s just wrong. My blood doesn’t get any more American nor does that of any of my friends born and raised in this country and this movie was not us. My point is that you lump Americans into one big ball and say that this is pretty much our anthem because it drew an audience.

    I’m a filmmaker and doing my part in the “starving artist” way of life. I grew up on blockbusters where as many classmates look at the movies I grew up loving (Star Wars, The Matrix, Ghostbusters, etc..) as junk because they weren’t doing anything groundbreaking in the way of film. To me; however, these movies gave me heroes to look up to and inspired me to become a story teller.

    I agree that Michael Bay doesn’t know how to convey a story so much as he knows how to create action sequence after action sequence (and from what I’ve heard from those who worked with him, the man’s not a ray of sunshine), but even the audiences for this film who went and watched what turned out to be a horrible movie went looking for another great story. It’s like what we’re headed for with the G.I. Joe movie coming out soon. I’m really dreading that one.

    If ya made it this far thanks for reading, but my point is that people are still looking for a great story. Sometimes it’s accidental when they find it, but to lump all Americans into being represented into the people who were part of these audiences is a stereotype in itself and not right to do.

  • ladiesman217

    I’d have to agree with Michael on this one.

    And no more bashing the GORGEOUS Megan Fox, unless any of you have actually met her in person and know what kind of character she is, but I’m assuming none of you people have.

  • MaryAnn

    My blood doesn’t get any more American nor does that of any of my friends born and raised in this country and this movie was not us. My point is that you lump Americans into one big ball and say that this is pretty much our anthem because it drew an audience.

    I’m not lumping all Americans into anything. I’m commenting on the American character at the moment. That doesn’t mean it applies to every individual American — my blood doesn’t get any more American, either, and it doesn’t apply to me. I am not “loud, obnoxious, sexist, racist, juvenile, unthinking, visceral, and violent” — but when I look around me, that’s the overall tenor of what I see.

    You are free to disagree with me, of course.

  • Michael

    I’m not lumping all Americans into anything. I’m commenting on the American character at the moment. That doesn’t mean it applies to every individual American — my blood doesn’t get any more American, either, and it doesn’t apply to me. I am not “loud, obnoxious, sexist, racist, juvenile, unthinking, visceral, and violent” — but when I look around me, that’s the overall tenor of what I see.

    Fair enough. Seems we have two fairly different ways of seeing those audiences and this country, but more my point is that your review at the top of this page speaks of the American character being all of those things. For instance when you say,

    “It’s so us, a preposterously perfect reflection of who we are: loud, obnoxious, sexist, racist, juvenile, unthinking, visceral, and violent… and in love with ourselves for it.”

    It’s said as though you’re part of this American body too. You may be a fingernail on this body that disagrees with what the hand’s doing or the way the body walks, but your words say that all of those things are your character since you are American when perhaps you should be referring to the audiences that see and love this film. Your words lump as all together with those audiences as Americans.

    I don’t disagree with your review of this film. It’s like watching a slow motion, dramatic death of one of the extras in the old Star Trek. It’s taking a really long time and making a spectacle out of itself on the way down. Unfortunately people loved the novelty of the first one and went back expecting to get that same feeling.

    Thanks for the debate, it seems we just have different views of America. I can honestly say discussing this more in depth has put a smile on my face. I love and welcome diversity in my own life and to find different perspective that’s willing to discuss it and debate it is very welcome. I’d certainly enjoy doing this again. Feel free to email me and have an excellent day.

  • Molly in Love

    I found you from Movieline. Thank God for you. Honestly and without sarcasm, you’re review made me feel sane.

    Thank you.

  • PaulW

    Re: my earlier post, there’s nothing wrong with a “Shit Blowing Up” film as long as it’s done well. So I just saw the film with my friends tonight… and for the most part, at least for myself, I thought it was eh okay…

    Not a ringing endorsement, true, but… thing is, it wasn’t THAT bad. It’s not Gigli bad or Manos bad. Maybe Batman Forever bad.

    I think the biggest problem I could see of the movie was its’ over-reliance on humiliation humor, ala the Hangover… what with all the pot brownie consumption, cybernetic fluid spraying everywhere, farting airplanes, and of course the oversized truck scrotum that we honestly did NOT need to see on Devastator… I swear to Prime, the Constructicons are just ruined for me now Bay thanks a lot. Also didn’t need to see Turturro’s undies again either. And the blackface twins? We had them instead of Arcee’s triple-cycle character? It could have worked out so much better if Arcee in cycle mode would team up with Megan Fox, given her character’s working on cycles early on.

    As for Fox, guys, she wasn’t bad at all. The scene where she in a single-handed and matter-of-fact manner took out a mini-Con played well. She didn’t scream or freak when she saw it… she saved that honor for Shia when they get chased by the Pretender Con (Shia: Best Girly Scream ever. Suck it, Duchovny!) When she goes back to DiD mode towards the end, that kinda hurt (and again, teaming her with Arcee by that point could have been five kinds of cool).

    What did work in this movie is that the fight scenes were more detailed and with better camera placement (the first one you could see maybe 40 percent of the battling bots, this time they got the fights to fit). And the plot wasn’t as disjointed or as confusing as all the critics are implying.

    It’s just… here’s the thing. The humiliation humor stuff… that’s not why I come to “Blow Shit Up” movies for. If I want humiliation humor I’ll go see a Ben Stiller film. I want my action movies with a little bit more dignity.

    Oh, and more DINOBOTS DAMMIT! GRIMLOCK! GRIMLOCK! GRIMLOCK! Cough.

  • burningeko

    the original mythos was actually quite good, Bay totally fucked it up. i have nothing but hatred for this film now.
    i paid to see transformers, and a movie plot driven by transformers, not by meat bags, nor an advert for the army.
    gaaah, the racism and sexism were the best things about the film.

  • MBI

    I’m kind of amazed the critical beating this movie is taking, seeing as it is pretty much exactly the same awful movie as the last one. It certainly doesn’t fetishize the military any less.

    No, actually, maybe it does on further consideration, seeing as the military turn out to be actually useful here, where in the last one, when trying to protect the MacGuffin from the pursuing enemies, they rush to the nearest populated area.

    Anyway, though Michael Bay did make a jingoistic movie, I don’t really buy that it’s the heart of “Transformers 2,” because I don’t believe Michael Bay truly likes anything, not even America. All he likes are tits, explosions and humiliation. He does prove his right-wing bonafides by slamming President Obama — and it is definitely President Obama, not a made-up president — by making his appointee a pussy and (this is rich) having him alienate necessary allies.

  • Marshall

    I was getting disapointed with the movie long before I saw it, because I desperatly wanted to like Transformers :RotF as much as I did the 1st one. The reviews coming in were really slamming the film and then something interesting happened – I HAD to see the movie, to see if it was as bad as people were saying it was. So, now it has me wondering if so many bad reviews can have the opposite effect? It’s an interesting thought.

    I didn’t hate RotF, but I didn’t really “like” it either. This review, where-as I don’t agree with every single point in it, did make a lot of valid spot on points. More than anything, it made me look at the movie much more critically than I normally would have – which I think is the point that Mary-Ann tries to do with her sight and reviews.

    Part of me really wishes they’d edit all the stupid juvinile crude humor out of it. Then, we may be left with a movie that is much more like the first one. Then again, there are the amricans galloping around on international soil like they own the place, there’s the college that apparently only let’s in very attractive women. I have also never heard of a completely co-ed dorm like the one Sam moves into. Stocked of course with VAW. Women apparently don’t shut their doors after taking a shower.

    There were some things I liked – little character bits that weren’t crude or stupid. These were few and far between. The dialoge between Megatron and Starscream was classic Transformers. Soundwave – I really digged the update. There was a quite moment in the last battle where the two soldier leads were hunckered down with Samn & Micala. “Man, I hope the pilots have good aim.” “Why?” “Because I told them to hit the orange smoke” The other soldier looks over and notices they’re sitting next to orange smoke. “Yea, it’s not one of my better throws.” That was a nice quite moment that was funny. I didn’t mind the battles so much, I never felt lost during them – but although the robot battles were very exciting – it takes more than that to make a good movie.

    So in short, I thought there were some good parts. Mostly however, it’s just not very good.

  • Jurgan

    Just saw this quote:

    “Michael Bay is essentially what you get when you take a porn director, give him $200 million, and tell him to film anything he wants, except actual sex. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is proof of this.”

    A friend of mine named Greg Bishansky wrote that (credit where credit is due), and I don’t think he was quoting anyone else.

  • MBI

    “Part of me really wishes they’d edit all the stupid juvinile crude humor out of it. Then, we may be left with a movie that is much more like the first one.”

    Uh, yeah.

    Things that happened in the first movie:
    * A dog pisses on a robot
    * A robot pisses on John Turturro
    * A robot pulls down Sam’s pants
    * Shia LaBouef hides in his room, and his mother thinks he’s masturbating and suggests that if he’s embarrassed by talking about it he should call it “Super Happy Fun Time”
    * A soldier tries to call in backup only to get hamstrung by a nosepicking Indian phone operator
    * A robot says, “What’s crackin’ bitches?”
    * Anthony Anderson is a moron who stuffs himself with donuts
    * Bernie Mac’s mom gives the middle finger

    I have no idea the delusion that lets people think that this awful, awful sequel is any different than the awful, awful movie which spawned it.
    *

  • MaryAnn (Sat Jun 27 09, 11:52AM):

    Or are we meant to believe that audiences like this movie *despite,* you know, everything it is?

    No, it’s more like we’re meant to believe audiences like this movie despite everything you think it is. Your opinion is certainly valid, but it’s a bit of an overreaction. There’s a lot to like in this movie, and a lot to dislike — at worst it’s a mediocre exercise in action filmmaking. The so-called racist elements are pretty mild, the testicle jokes get big laughs, and John Turturro steals the movie at least twice, if not in every one of his scenes.

    I’m not a proponent of the “dumb popcorn movie” as a general rule; a smart script is my holy grail. But Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen made up for its chintzy story with a kickass spectacle that exceeded my (ridiculously low) expectations. And, for $7 on a muggy, hot, Thursday afternoon, that ain’t bad.

  • A huge opening weekend is not a reflection of a movie’s quality (or perception thereof), but a reflection of its appeal. Sustained success is built on positive word-of-mouth, which this movie won’t have from many people past the age of, say, 21.

    Before we start bashing America for making this movie a hit, remember that we hadn’t seen the movie yet when we bought our tickets. “The Phantom Menace” and “Titanic” were huge hits, too, but do you know many people these days who will admit to liking them?

    I think there is the possibility of a good movie buried somewhere in “T:ROTF,” I really do, but it would seem that nobody (Steven Spielberg included) wanted to say that one magical word to Michael Bay: “No.”

  • MBI

    “the testicle jokes get big laughs”

    Are you at least a little embarrassed that you wrote that?

  • dgrhm

    You know, the Romans who lived in Rome were oblivious to the collapse of the empire. Americans are oblivious to our own demise. At least we were well entertained in the end.

  • You know, the Romans who lived in Rome were oblivious to the collapse of the empire. Americans are oblivious to our own demise. At least we were well entertained in the end.

    What about the Romans who didn’t live in Rome?

  • Paul

    Actually, I think both the Republicans and Democrats are well aware of the risk of American decline; we’re just busy blaming each other for it. The Republicans blame the fiscal crisis on Democrats spending billions of dollars trying to help people and the rest of the problems on the minorities, while the Democrats blame the GOP for spending hundreds of billions more than they needed to on the military since Reagan was elected and blame the Reagan Revolution in general.

    Many Romans knew it was risky filling the legions with non-Romans, and that buying off barbarians instead of conquering them showed the limits of their power. They just couldn’t see their way out of the system that had made them powerful in the first place.

    Every imperialistic system runs out of steam; that’s why the center of geopolitical gravity shifts. Adam Smith’s unheeded warnings foreshadowed the fall of the British Empire, and many of his warnings went just as unheeded by the very Republicans who used his name to justify his policies. Sometimes I think it’s too late and now there’s nothing to do but sit back with the Popcorn and Movies just as the Romans did with their Bread and Circuses.

  • Yet, to paraphrase one science fiction writer, the Byzantine Empire used a similar approach to the original Roman Republic’s and lasted centuries longer.

    On the other hand, a certain German regime took on all comers and despite advertising itself as a thousand-year-something-or-other, perished in less than fifteen years.

    If history has taught one thing, it is that nothing is inevitable. Which is both good news and bad news…

  • ecostar

    I’m so glad I didn’t go see this movie. I never really liked the Transformers as a cartoon, I was just a bit older than the target audience, and the cheesy dialogue and moralizing were annoying to me. Regardless, I saw the first Transformers and the cheesy dialogue was not too cheesy and the movie was mostly fun. Ultimately, though I mostly enjoyed the first movie, it didn’t move me, so I gave it 3 out of 5 stars.

    I won’t be going to see this one. I loves me the special effects movies as much as the next guy, but the plot has to be coherent and I really hate jingoistic movies.

  • Fortunately, I don’t have to waste money to see this drek. I’m in the Navy, and eventually it will be shown on the ship’s closed-circuit TV system.

    With any luck, I’ll be on watch.

    Thanks for the warning Mary Ann, I would have been supremely annoyed if I expended effort to see this and hated it.

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