I know folks come here for G.I. Joe news and perspective, but as regular visitors know, I delve into other things from time to time. Considering that last night I devoted 5 hours of my life to drive down to the nearest IMax theater and spend 2.5 hours with Michael Bay’s most recent Transformers film, I figured maybe it was worth a few more minutes of time to talk about it, since I’m sure many of my regular readers have an interest in this property as well.
As I’ve already documented, around the country this movie has been getting pretty harsh reviews, and it currently sits at a measly 20% (out of 100) on RottenTomatoes.com, but many of my peers who have seen it have given it fairly decent reviews. I’ve heard lots of comments like “check your brain at the door”, which generally I don’t mind doing when it comes to the summer popcorn flicks. However, for Revenge of the Fallen, you not only have to check your brain at the door, it’s best just to leave it at home in bed, or else you’ll find yourself scratching your head many times throughout the film just trying to figure out what the heck just happened, why it happened, and how it got past the editing stages.
That’s not to say I hated the film…I actually didn’t. It was an entertaining 145 minutes (well…a lot of that time was entertaining, some of it was downright bizarre), and I felt like it was a fun movie to watch, but by the end I just felt…I don’t know… unfulfilled? I had no emotional attachment to any character in the movie, robot or otherwise, hell I didn’t even know who many of the characters were, and by the end, it just felt like a somewhat empty experience. I mean, I knew I spent a considerable amount of time witnessing the world in peril, lots of explosions, death, and huge robots whaling on each other, yet after the film, it just didn’t feel like any of it really left an impact. This is considerably different from the first film, when I felt goosebumps and anxious anticipation almost around every corner. This time around, it seemed very “ho hum” which is really saying something, considering the spectacle of the whole thing.
I didn’t even really care about the bathroom humor, which is what a lot of folks are kind of complaining about… the twins didn’t offend my delicate sensibilities (hell, I laughed out loud when one of the called Leo a pussy before fist-bumping the other one), Wheelie was annoying, but not much else, and I think the whole bruhaha over Devastator’s “wrecking balls” was pretty overstated, after actually seeing the film. To me, the problem is more systemic, and it’s something that carried over from the first film. The issue is that the screen writers and Michael Bay don’t seem to see the Transformers as characters. They’re scenery…props…nothing more. They might as well just be tanks or hummers that walk and talk. And when they try to give the Transformers character, they just end up making them charactitures instead. “Oh look, those Twins! They’re the “hip hop” guys!” “Jetfire! He can be the stereotypical old codger!” “Wheelie will be small, wise-cracking sidekick!” Bay promised us more robots with this second film, and he delivered, but the only problem is in this case “more” does not equal “better”. Sure, we got more robots, we got bigger robots, we got more elaborate set pieces, explosions, and events, but for crying out loud, some of the new characters weren’t even named, you only saw them for the briefest split-second, and in the end they were just as meaningless as the first film, there were just more of them.
As a perfect example of this, we see Demolisher in the beginning of the film get pretty brutally taken down by Optimus Prime…however, then he shows up again later in the film to form Devastator with no real explanation or reason for doing so. Then there’s this cement truck (who’s name I don’t know because we never heard it in the film) who combines to form Devastator, yet then he shows up again a few minutes later in a separate scene acting as a gun turret. Along with that we have Rampage, who actually was called by name, who is a bulldozer and appears in a separate scene while Devastator is doing something else. Is Rampage a part of Devastator? I have no idea…I honestly can’t remember what kinds of vehicles were used to form it, but it would have made sense considering he’s a construction vehicle.
The battle in Egypt was really frenetic with a team of Decepticons bearing down on NEST and the Autobots, but besides Megatron and Starscream, none of them are ever named, or even shown in clear view. We have Blackout making a new appearence, only apparently he’s Grindor now, but no one in the audience realizes that. Hell, “Devastator” from the first film comes back again, even though Prime cut his head off in the first one, yet again he’s not called by name, nor is any explanation given as to why or how he somehow returned.
And this is the essence of my problem. To the filmmakers, the film really is about Sam and Mikaela. They are the main characters. The huge robots are merely set-pieces to compliment them, which I guess is okay, but considering the film is really supposed to be about the robots, it would make sense to me to make it more about the robots.
Of course, this doesn’t even get into the various McGuffin devices like the Space Bridge or the Matrix, or the fact that Agent Simmons can call an Aircraft Carrior with a random Jordanion walkie talkie and order a rail gun strike on a target even though the guys on the ship have no clue if he’s even who he says he is. Or hell, how it is that Jetfire can basically rip himself apart, and his pieces just sorta magically attach to Optimus Prime and make him super powerful. I know, I know, “Jolt” charged them up with strange electricity, but who the hell is Jolt and where did he come from? For that matter, was I the only one who was really confused at the beginning when it seemed like the Autobots were all chasing Sideswipe, only it wasn’t Sideswipe because Sideswipe started chasing him too, and since I’m a toy nerd I know it was actually Sideways who they were chasing, but as I looked around the audience, no one had any clue whatsoever what was going on. To the unintiated it was silver sports car versus silver sports car, then one silver sports car cuts the other one in half with his kick ass sword.
I mean, really, almost the entire film was spent like this for me, and I’m a diehard toy nerd. Yet even I couldn’t figure half this stuff out. I can’t even imagine your basic 10 year old walking out of the theater. “Who was your favorite character, Son?” “Umm… I don’t know, dad, none of them had any names”.
Yet, even with all of these complaints, there were still aspects of the film I enjoyed. Pretty much every scene with Optimus Prime was awesome. The battle in the forest, the fight in Shangai at the beginning…the culminating battle and the end. It’s quite obvious in this film franchise, Optimus Prime is the MAN. He’s not just a good leader, he’s a pretty kick ass soldier, and it’s also obvious that the label “Prime” really means something here.
I LOVED Soundwave and Ravage. They were probably my favorite characters in the entire film. Soundwave’s updated alt mode made a lot of sense, Ravage kicked some serious ass, was quick and stealthy, yet he met a pretty brutal and vicious end at the hands of Bumblebee…another very cool scene.
The Fallen was pretty cool as well, though I was surprised at how subservient Megatron was to him…that struck me kind of odd. Speaking of Megatron, he, too was a huge improvement over his previous incarnation. Somehow he’s now a Triple-Changer, which was never explained either except to show the Decepticons beat a poor Constructicon to death deep below the ocean, then use his parts to rebuild their leader. I do love Megatron’s new look, which retains much of his sinister appearence from the first film, but with some cool as hell bulky tank-like pieces as well.
Starscream and Megatron played off of each other much better in this film than previously told, too, which was cool to see.
So yeah, overall, the experience was a bit tough to describe. On one hand there was plenty of spectacle, action, and kick ass robot battles. On the other hand, pretty much all of that was rendered meaningless by the fact that I didn’t care about any of the characters involved or the outcome of the event. At times I smiled and laughed, at other times I scratched my head, so here it is, nearly twenty-four hours later, and I’m still not entirely sure what to think.
I know the film will rake in the cash, it already has, but ultimately time will tell whether it can be considered a “success”. All I know is the bar has been set at least somewhat lower, at least in my mind, for what the G.I. Joe film will have to meet. As the days go on, I get more and more optimistic about what August 7th might bring.