MOVIE REVIEW- Robots return: Second <i>Transformers</i> even bigger
Wouldn't it be cool if, with the push of a button, a mild-mannered film critic could be transformed into a huge, fearless, megafreakinawesome creature capable of doing battle against soulless, equally megafreakinawesome robot machines? Well, such a button exists. It's the SEND button on my computer.
But since I only use my powers for good, I'll cut Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen some slack. I've trashed director Michael Bay enough over the years, and Team America: World Police did it better. The second edition of this Hasbro infotainment has more action, more drama, more comedy, more romance, more CG effects, more robots and less coherence than the first. The obvious intent was to make it the only summer blockbuster you'll ever need...until Part Three comes out in two or three years.
(There's even a scene in the National Air and Space Museum, so you needn't have wasted your money on Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.)
A brief prologue shows that the Transformers from planet Cybertron visited Earth in 17,000 B.C., setting us up for the theory that they also built the pyramids. Two years ago, high-schooler Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) joined forces with the Autobots (good Transformers) to save our civilization from the Decepticons (bad Transformers), with the help of his protector, Bumblebee, a 1976 Camaro that's actually a Transformer.
Now Sam is going off to college, leaving behind an empty nest that's more welcomed by his father (Kevin Dunn) than his mother (Julie White), although both overact extravagantly and sometimes amusingly. He's also leaving behind his impossibly hot girlfriend, Mikaela (Megan Fox), but they plan to have nightly cyberdates and he swears he's "a one-woman guy." (Too bad, because she's a woman and a half!)
Meanwhile the neat resolution of Part One is beginning to unravel. Some Autobots stayed behind to work with the U.S. Army, including Capt. Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and Sgt. Epps (Tyrese Gibson), to hunt down any remaining Decepticons. They're called to Shanghai to investigate a "toxic spill" (wouldn't it be nice if all corporations had Decepticons to blame them on?), and a vanquished foe warns, "The Fallen shall rise again."
Just before he leaves for college Sam finds a sliver of the cube that was destroyed in the last movie. It transforms all their household appliances and nearly burns the place down, while also burning some information into Sam's brain.
At college, Sam meets his roommate, Leo (Ramon Rodriguez), a conspiracy theorist with a website, therealeffindeal.com, that tries to expose the very things Sam tries to keep secret. At a party the first night, Sam's hit on by lovely Alice (Isabel Lucas), who will cause problems aside from the obvious.
The information he got from the sliver takes possession of Sam at odd times, making him spew information or draw strange symbols. (Speeded-up photography makes LaBeouf believably manic– it's his finest hour.)
Optimus Prime himself comes to seek Sam's assistance for reasons too complicated to go into. (Did I mention there's also more plot than Part One?) Soon Sam, Mikaela and Leo are on the run, and they're joined by former agent Simmons (John Turturro), who's now a civilian but still knows a lot because he was debriefed but not lobotomized.
The second hour is less entertaining than the first as it mainly takes the necessary steps to get to the climax in Egypt, where Bay doesn't skimp on the fireworks. It's a typical battle scene, but with giant robots...and pyramids and the Sphinx.
There's plenty of pyrotechnics and metallic pugilism throughout, along with transformations and chases galore. Arguably the best sequence has a Decepticon invade a government facility by dropping ball bearings down a duct. They transform into spider-bots which then coalesce into a larger robot.
Because LaBeouf smashed his left hand in the middle of filming, a bandage suddenly appears on it in the middle of a scene with no explanation, and remains there to the end of the movie.
Is Revenge of the Fallen better than the first Transformers? Tough question. Since there's more of almost everything and this isn't a "less is more" genre, I'd have to say yes.
Michael Bay says he's had enough of Transformers movies for now, and so have I; but if you're only going to see one of them this week, it should be Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Now look out! I'm going to push SEND.