Before we start, let me just quickly establish a couple of terms:
Transformers; a group of robots created in the 1980s capable of changing shape in to various recognisable machines. Two bands known as Autobots and Decepticons are locked in an epic battle which will decide the fate of humanity.
Bayformers; film series in which the aforementioned Transformers are parodied as a group of wise-cracking cartoon characters who are fighting for the fate of the USA and its accompanying galactic hegemony.
Now, onto the review… Sweet Jesus! Does Michael Bay not know how to make a movie? Someone needs to send him back to film school. Watching Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen convinced me that he speaks to political advisers, image consultants, the creators of Ren and Stimpy, and animators before he realises he needs scriptwriters.
Bayformers 2 is a mess of a story loosely glued together with lame jokes, fighting pixels and Megan Fox’s ass. The worst thing is that I kind of enjoyed some of it, which leads me to question my own sanity, but also to question how necessary is plot in a film that’s all about the spectacle – the smell of the jet fuel, the sound of the computer-generated metallic crunching noises, the waft of the American flag as it is brutally knocked from it’s noble perch by those arab terrorists… I mean… Decepticons. Do these things need to be encased in an interesting and well-crafted tale?
For the first 45 minutes, possibly even the first hour, of this 147-minute ‘epic’ I was cringing away from a wall of noise, quietly begging Bay to insert at least a small piece of plot at some point. Sure, he had set up some stuff: the Autobots were being rejected by a suspicious global community that was beginning to believe it was them that the Decepticons were looking for on Earth, meanwhile The Fallen (one of the original Transformers who turned evil) is set to rise again from his resting place somewhere in the solar system. Oh, and Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is off to college, leaving behind hot girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox). But all this was really window dressing for the early battle scenes and some lame family comedy-drama with the Witwiky’s.
But after that period of time I fell into a Bay-induced coma (or possibly suffered from a mild epileptic seizure) and began to chill out. Was it really that bad alternating between university girls in skimpy clothes and giant CGI robots fighting? Were the Bad Boys-esque gags embodied by Bayformer duo Mudflap and Skids really that much of a distraction from the cooler robots? I wasn’t sure for a while. But then came the build-up to the ‘dramatic climax’ of the film and I think I had the answer: Yes, it’s fucking terrible. Films need plots and Michael Bay should stop this nonsense now.
Worse still, Michael Bay might not be expected to produce an excellent story filled with nuanced characters and portrayed by well-directed actors, but he could at least make the robots awesomely destructive and the stupid sidekicks genuinely funny. But in Revenge of the Fallen the boundaries blurred and the film was swamped with campy Bayformers who were used more for insultingly stupid jive-talking and puerile cock jokes than for smashing the shit out of each other. I couldn’t even enjoy his characteristic jingoism with its bombastic sweeping shots of aircraft carriers and gung-ho soldiers because the film was so flagrantly attempting to covertly convert millions of children into believing that the US should send its troops back to Iraq.
One scene in particular embodied this last point perfectly: as US troops, accompanied by a crack squad of Autobots, holed up around a stereotypical Arab shanty town near Giza they suddenly realised they had support. “It’s the Jordanians!” Hurray, support! And from a Middle-Eastern ally. Oh, wait, the helicopters have INEXPLICABLY CRASHED! Oh those silly Arabs, can’t they do anything right? It made me sick.
But, my political indignation aside, this film is worth watching in two situations: (1) You do not have a brain and must rapidly fill your head with bullshit, (2) You do not have an internet connection and want to watch softcore porn so badly that you are willing to have bad jokes shouted at you relentlessly for two-hours and twenty-seven minutes.
The trailers, which showed some jaw-dropping shots of robot carnage and some superbly crafted robot animation had genuinely whet my appetite for this sequal. I wasn’t a huge Bayformers fan, but I do like a good action film, and this seemed to promise it. But the frequency with which any scene that look stylish or exciting was interrupted by inane chatter and pointless buffoonery completely ruined any enjoyment that could have been had in this unnecessarily long movie. So perhaps films do not need a good story, but it sure would help. Particularly when you’re relying this heavily on wise-cracking CGI robots.
Review by Michael Edwards, Chief Film Critic of Obsessed With Film
This article was first posted on June 17, 2009