Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) Review

Last year’s Transformers amazed the world with its larger than life story and breathtaking visual effects that erased the line between reality and CGI. Unfortunately, the film was bogged down by excessive characters and interminable comedic scenes that missed “funny” in any age group. Happily, critics of the first film will be pleasantly surprised by Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Most of the pitfalls that trapped the original film have been addressed – perhaps not fully, but enough so to keep the cringing and eye-rolling to a minimum – and everything that did work in the previous film has come back with a vengeance.

At the onset of Transformers:RotF, unlikely hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf) is college-bound and in the midst of saying his goodbyes to his girlfriend Mikaela, played by the peerless beauty Megan Fox, who is no short supply of toothy-angled shots. While Sam is shaking out his clothes, he discovers a splinter of the Life Spark, which was the cube that destroyed Megatron in the previous episode. The splinter uploads alien runes into Sam’s brain, which turn out to be directions to an ancient machine that can destroy the planet. The machine is coveted by an equally ancient Decepticon called The Fallen who naturally doesn’t mind destroying the planet. So it’s up to Sam to evade the Decepticons, protect the runes in his head and prevent the machine from being used. Along the way, Sam teams up with Mikaela, his one-time-enemy Agent Simmons (John Turturro) and newcomer Leo (Ramon Rodriguez) to get the job done.

Transformers:RotF is an indulgent movie. It’s almost as if the filmmakers had a bunch of fun, disparate scenes they wanted to create and strung them together with a meandering plot. So the audience is forced to watch extended sequences, like those featuring Sam’s flighty mother or the homage to Terminator 3 with a female assassin robot or the extended CGI sequences showing off the visual effects. While these scenes aren’t necessarily bad, they do become belabored. Clocking in at roughly two and a half hours, the film could stand to lose about half an hour.

Also, for better or worse, it would seem that the Transformers films are destined to set aside a set piece dedicated to silly and ill-timed humor. Those who couldn’t wait for the “find the glasses in the house while these gigantic robots try to stay inconspicuous” scene to end in the first film will have horrible flashbacks when the character Jetfire is introduced. Apparently Transformers get old, grow metal beards, require the use of a cane and lose control over bodily functions. Only very small children will find this comedy remotely funny.

While it’s understandable to throw in humor that caters to children, the comedy doesn’t stay consistent as jokes about being tasered in the testicles, standing under scrotum and losing cherries pepper the dialog. On the bright side, the corny scenes are better directed and better acted than in the original film. Characters that were previously over the top and annoying are now tolerable and simply eccentric. Some of the humor is also genuinely funny, like Rainn Wilson’s cameo as a rockstar professor.

It’s the robots that steal the show, of course, and they look better than ever. Every moment they’re onscreen is a joy to behold. When things get hectic and the screen seems to be a mess of flying metal, the action wisely dips into slow motion so that the audience can understand what’s happening. Thankfully, the cinematography focuses on the robots during fight scenes and action sequences this time around and there are plenty of them. In fact, the film may feel a little front-heavy half way through when things slow down. The last act, however, is so action-packed that audiences will be hard pressed to remember any complaints in the second act.

Even with these gripes, most audiences are going to love Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. It’s loud, exciting and beautiful to watch. It’s not very deep or challenging, but it’s everything people want out of a summer blockbuster. By that standard, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a resounding success.