“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”
Dreamworks / Paramount
At the Quality 16 & Showcase
3 out of 5 Stars
You’re always entitled to diss Michael Bay’s latest bad creation.
Roger Ebert recently likened “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” to the American auto industry — useless, outdated and out of touch with the general public. Fair comparison, but here’s a different one. “Revenge” is like one of those behemoth packs of Costco American cheese — bloating, bulky, unnecessary and a little bit on the costly side. But the thing is, I like American cheese.
Complain all you want about the obvious atrocities of Bay’s wholly flammable space opera — horny robots, allegedly “black” robots, femme bots — but there’s something credible and ambitious on display in “Revenge.” In its lunacy, it could be argued that “Revenge” is exciting, adventurous and entertaining. You know, the type of movie you more or less come to expect in June.
Sequel in a nutshell: The Autobots — i.e. the morally good cars and other vehicles/electronic devices that turn into robot people called Transformers — are working with the military to kill Decepticons, the naturally evil race. In their efforts, they come across a truck that foretells the prophecy of “The Fallen,” a super bad Decepticon that wants to destroy Earth, claim our sun and show off his lava-filled veins.
Of course, the Autobots must stop these evil Decepticons. And that’s about it. If you want to know about Sam (Shia Labeouf, “Eagle Eye”) and Mikaela (Megan “toe-thumb” Fox, “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People”) and what they’re up to, then see the movie. They just don’t matter in lieu of alien robots ninja-fighting their asses off in order to destroy a pyramid. There’s also something in the film about shards of the last film’s MacGuffin, the Allspark (some laser machine in the pyramids)and Sam’s destiny. All perfunctory.
Now, what constitutes value in a film that would otherwise be considered American car and/or military porn? Well, “Revenge” is just plain dumb summer fun. Emphasis on the dumb.
It’s easy to complain about what a loud and obnoxious event this movie is. Again, it’s filled with jive-talking, white-trash robots and decepticles (you’ll get it if you see it). But “Revenge” is a film that isn’t afraid to be brassy in its lunkheadedness. Like “The Mummy Returns” or “Godzilla” before it, “Revenge” has big money, little brains and a willingness to not take itself seriously. It wants to notice how silly its production is, which is endearing. Unlike last May’s “Terminator,” it uses the same size budget to actually have some fun and not awkwardly dry hump someone’s legacy. It’s a show-and-tell spectacle.
Bay knows how to make a crass, fantastic set piece. Here, he’s working on a grand scale, and giant machine monsters and advanced outer-space machines still using knives intimidates. Plus, his signature spastic, overactive sense of humor is here too (come on, a jet Transformer farts a parachute). Groan about logic, dialogue and drama all you want, but that’s just not Bay’s style. Care about the “Transformers” legacy or how well Bay makes a wholly satisfying sequel? Tough luck.
Bay makes brilliantly bad films. Ever see “Armageddon” or “Bad Boys II?” But there’s always a baroque tastelessness coming through and it’s quite effective. He’s got style, and damn if you can’t get into it.
If you want to laugh at Bay for how he depicts college life in the film (slam dancing at Princeton with music video lights?), great. You want to make fun of people screaming things like “not on my watch!” while sweating? Fine. And if you loathe the film’s inherently conservative politics, you’re in the right. We’ll argue this all later. But seriously, just go see it and have some fun. It’s all Bay and Optimus would want.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to Costco.