Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro
Director: Michael Bay
Writer(s): Ehren Krueger, Roberto Orci
Cinematography: Ben Seresin
Original Score: Steve Jablonsky
Running Time: 147 Mins.
Michael Bay is a director who will never gain the kudos he truly deserves, much like Scorcese, Tarantino and Eastwood he is an auteur, stamping his own distinct style on each film yet very rarely garnering anything but scorn from critics. There have been a couple of exceptions, The Rock for one, but his work is largely overlooked as bombastic and overblown with no substance behind the style. While this is true to an extent and he has had some major misfires, Pearl Harbor and The Island for example, he always brings the goods in the action department with an eye for on-screen destruction matched by no other. For this alone he deserves much more respect and recognition, for action is surely the most crucial thing to get right in an ACTION film.
In 2007’s Transformers Bay took a toy franchise and made it into one of the most visually spectacluar filmic experiences ever, the first time we saw Bumblebee change from car to robot, you couldn’t help but gasp in awe, and again and again throughout that first experience, if there was a flaw it was that there simply wasn’t enough robot on robot action. Roll forth two years and we have the inevitable sequel, there are now innumerable Transformers, good, bad and indifferent, and at least two thirds of the over-long running time is crammed full of robot on robot…(and often) on robot, action.
But what of plot and characterisation, well Sam (LaBeouf )and Michaela (Fox) are simply given the hook that they need to declare that they love one another, that’s it, that’s their story this time round, but hey, when Fox looks this good, who cares! New characters are brought in, Sam’s room mate is as annoying a stock character as you can get, though thankfully he is teamed up with the returning Agent Simmons (Turturro) who gives the human’s a little personality. As with the Transformers themselves Duhamel and Gibson seem to have been brought back simply to make up numbers, in the creation of a force to seek and hunt down the remaining Decepticons on Earth (a plotline which would, incidentally, have made a much better film overall).
Plot though really is insignificant, as it pretty much covers the first film’s story albeit from a slightly different tac, extending it to breaking point in order to accomodate more and more of the titular robots. It may sound like I am knocking the film for making improvements but there is often just TOO much happening, theres no doubt this is action of the finest calibre, but the Transformers themselves have little to no character development meaning we lose any empathy we have for anyone, at least first time round the characters were recognisible.
There are exceptions however, and some are given more time to “shine” than others, Optimus makes the most of his bookending scenes, and in the climax particularly you will be cheering him on, even if it isn’t out loud! Given the most time seemingly is a defective Decepticon with the same teleportation powers as the Fallen himself, old and rusty he creaks and walks using a “cane”, making him the most fun to watch and the most interesting, purely because the audience is given the time to get to know him, while favourite characters such as Bumblebee (who inexplicably still has no voice) is paired with the two most annoying characters to grace celluloid since Jar Jar Binks! Mudflap and Skids, the goofy and most racially obnoxious robots ever, theirs is the biggest mis-step in an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable, but shallow, romp.
I say mis-step because any other failings are a given, weak plotting, a lack of character development, the totally cheesy moments set against the usual Bay skylines, all something that Bay’s other films have in spades so to critisize for this is to thoroughly miss the point. Example, witness the Devastator sequence, 7 smaller “constructicons” combine to form the ultimate Transformer, the sand sucking behemoth seen in trailers, as he scales the pyramids we see the iron balls he has hanging down, funny, slightly, crass, almost certainly, Bay-esque…hell yes, and action film fans will love it!
Which brings me full circle, is Bay an auteur? Yes, of the action genre. Is this one his best efforts? Not by a long shot, it is however as action packed a film as you will see all year, that I will guarantee, just don’t expect anything more.
Love it or hate it this is “Total Bayhem” indeed, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is everything you would expect, with the action bigger and better and character development still absent in any form, with an extra slice of cheese for added measure… but come on, you already know what to expect when you buy the ticket!