Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Movie Review: Transformers 2 : Revenge of the Fallen

Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

My son and I have been waiting for the new Transformers movie for some time. He’s been a growing fan ever since my parents brought my box of transformers from the 1980’s.

Though there are a few parts in the first movie that are a little mature for my son (like the parents conversation with Sam while the autobots are outside his room) overall, it was pretty tolerable and those parts are easily skipped on DVD.
Vicky and I went to go see Transformers last Thursday (6/35/09) in order to see if it’s appropriate to take my son to see it. Let me say that it lived up to its PG-13 rating.

The Good:

1. The Overall Story was pretty solid. It connected to the previous one and promises a third. It’s pretty quick and fast moving. For a lifelong Transformer fan, yeah, there were a few discontinuities with canon and character—one big one I’ll get to later. I liked the search for the Matrix of Leadership and the sacrificial nature of heroism.

2. The Fight Sequences—much better than the previous—more hand to hand combat and a better view. The best fight scenes are reserved for Optimus Prime, of course but there is a good one involving Bumblebee which we actually get to see this time, unlike the previous film which cut out his fight with Barricade. It was frustrating that they went a bit too quickly and you couldn’t see them as well as I’d like. I doubt that Michael Bay (the Director) would ever film a fight sequence involving humans to look like this—if he has, give me an example.

I must say that the Decepticons were much easier to defeat this time—they were not the powerful imposing war machines which could easily overpower the autobots and humans in the first film.

The Bad

There was a fair amount of bad in this one. After reading the book/screenplay adaptation—I believe the producers & editors took out significant good elements but made sure they left in the Bad & the Ugly.

1. The Language in the movie was a lot worse. Some of the cussing was edited out at the last second in the first movie, but they didn’t bother this time and put them front and center. If you want a full listing, see the website:


and read the review for the movie. The only autobots (besides Optimus) that has more than one line are the “twins”, Skids & Mudflap. The two of them combine for a whole lot of the offending language and crude behavior. Despite some potentially solid autobot characters, these two are the only ones to get more than one line and it is very unfortunate. Even though Bumblebee could talk at the end of the first movie, he is once again relegated to saying nothing and using the radio. Presumably this is because the filmmakers wanted to keep using the radio speech feature from the first movie. What a waste, it was used successfully only once. Him talking would not have precluded this.

2. The Sexual Imagery, Language and Innuendo—this is related to the language issue but again was very frustrating. Showing the dog dominance once was irritating enough, but going back to it again was trashy. This of course came back in the late middle of the movie when the small robot Wheels switched sides to the autobots and proceeded to jump on Mikeala’s leg and do the same thing. That was just unnecessary and plain dumb. There’s one more here that is the worst that I will save for “Ugly”.

3. The Editing & Transitioning—there are far too many hard jumps and changes in camera angles. It’s like Bay believes the audience can’t hold their attention for more than 2-3 seconds before giving an alternate angle even within the same conversation. There is little fluid movement and the dialogue shots are usually tight on the character’s face and you can’t see the other person’s response without a hard edit jump. That’s annoying.

4. Megatron being a Servant—to the Fallen—umm… that is somewhat contrary to his whole character. Prime also whipped him way too easily, even breaking off an arm. Still no arm cannon in the traditional sense.

5. The Theatre—Macomb has a new theatre and on the whole it was very nice. Good seats, not too big and cavernous. They actually started the movie less than 5 minutes after the official start time—Vicky and I actually missed the beginning as they were not debit card capable yet and we had to scramble to get cash. We had actually shown up early to buy tickets, then drop the kids off. Had they had their act together we would not have missed the opening scene. Also, the sound was terrible. For a small theatre, it was as if they only had the front speakers on, the ones behind the screen. It was not very loud and much of the time, I had difficulty hearing the dialogue (though the cussing was the most articulate part). Very disappointing for the otherwise nice theatre.

The Ugly

1. Slobbering Robots—for some reason, the Decepticons were filled with dripping lubricants—it came out of their mouths while they talked and slurped around during fight scenes. Primarily it was to increase the “gore factor” and was not consistent with the first movie and wasn’t that attractive visually anyway.

2. Agent Simmons Exposed—being stripped down to his boxers in the first film had to be bested in this film. Without warning, the camera jumped to a close up of his thong/jock strap as he took off his pants. Honestly, I cannot believe how this 2 second moment made it past test audiences. Most of our theatre cried out in disgust in some way or another. With several making loud comments expressing their disapproval—and it wasn’t just prudish old ladies either—many of the college guys who thought the other stuff was great were grossed out by this.

3. Michael Jackson’s Death—how is this related you ask? It’s not related to the movie but to those forementioned college students. The news of his death was announced while we were in the movie. As people were standing up and filing out many were checking their phones and the internet. One of the college guys called out something like, “Oh yes! Michael Jackson is dead! Yeah, gimme five!” Several of his buddies joined him in the celebration. I’m not a MJ fan by any means, but the callousness expressed there was really ugly.

4. Optimus Prime, the Executioner

As a long time fan of the story lines, Optimus Prime is obviously the most important, noble leader. He is for the Autobots, Abraham Lincoln, Patton, Caesar & Billy Graham rolled into one. Every noble essence and honorary character trait he led by example on and off the battlefield. Reading the book before seeing the movie gave me no indication that there would be anything different. But the first fight sequence set in Shanghai had Optimus doing something that really bothered me. Screenit describes the resolve of the fight like this:

per screenit: “until the Decepticon is damaged and then killed with a final blast.”

The final blast came from Optimus. I wouldn’t have a problem with this if it was done in the heat of battle, but it wasn’t. It was after the decepticon was badly injured, defeated and incapable of attacking in any way. The robot gives his final warning: “The Fallen shall rise again” and Prime walks up and shoots him in the face (the book had him merely fading off-line). Excuse me????!!! Since when is Optimus Prime an executioner? I remember this one time and I’m not sure if he did it again later.

One of my co-workers is in the Army Reserves and I asked him what would happen to him (by the book anyway) if after a firefight with the enemy he found one wounded combatant who was unarmed and dying and rather than capturing him just walks up and shoots him in the head. He said, accurately that he would be court-marshaled. It would be news of the like of Abu Grahaib and protests of Guantanamo Bay. A private would receive a strong sentence, but if it was the General or Commanding Officer, he would receive a greater sentence as one who should know better.

Now you could argue that Optimus had nothing to do for him, no means of imprisonment or rehab. But when is giving quarter to the enemy ever convenient or easy? It is still the right thing to do.

There is a scene in “The Patriot” with Mel Gibson that speaks to this. In Mel’s forces, there are two types of people: ones whom his son recruited at church, and those Mel recruited at the tavern who fought with him before. When some British soldiers were surrounded, were on their knees, guns up and about to surrender, Mel’s character and type walked up to them and killed them. The church group, including his son, were appalled—“these men were about to surrender”—“Maybe, we’ll never know” came the response. “That’s murder,” said the minister. “We’re better men than that” came his son’s reply.

To treat wounded & dying enemies as an executioner says more about you than about them. Our country has been struggling with that for the last several years. And it is just plain wrong to depict Optimus Prime as one who does not understand that and would so callously execute one of his own kind, even if on the other side.
Overall, I was very disappointed with a potentially good movie. I will not be taking my son to see it and I doubt I will be buying it when it comes out. I know the movie is getting bad reviews across the board and is still doing very well financially. So once again, reviews do not correspond to box office success, but neither does box office success mean a good movie.

Overall I’d give it a 4 out of 10.

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