Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
After the success of 2007’s Transformers, Michael Bay wasted no time jumping into the sequel but he probably should have waited. To understand why you need to understand the climate of 2007. Around late 2007, a writer’s strike was underway to demand better payments for screenwriters. With the screenwriters of Transformers 2 absent, Bay decided to move forward with the synopsis that had been written. Taking the story into his own hands, he churned out one of his most embarrassing films to date and highlights just how much damage he can do when left to write a script.
Revenge of the Fallen somehow manages to be far worse than Transformers in a number of ways. Shia LeBeouf now plays the plucky teenager headed for college and finds himself thrust back into the world of Autobots and Decepticons. He experiences visions of the past as the writing further tries to reason that Transformers have just been hiding out for millions of years and just now are starting to rise from the shadows. He’ll do so by mindlessly scribbling runes all over the college campus, including the awkwardly placed Bad Boys 2 poster on his wall.
All the Autobots and Decepticons return in the oddest of ways but the additional bots are some of the most baffling and inappropriate. Things start off small, literally, with a mini Johnny-5 style Decepticon who speaks like an exaggerated Joe Pesci. Then we get perhaps the most racist robots ever seen in these movies: two robots meant to represent exaggerated gangsters and stereotypes of black people. This is highlighted by the characters having gold teeth, speaking about how they can’t read, and going into battle with such cries as “put a cap in his ass.” The apologists would probably argue it can’t be racist because robots don’t have races. Sure thing, racist. Then there’s the Transformer made of other Transformers by the title Devastator, a Decepticon so massive that it literally killed slews of computers just to finish the final renders.
Michael Bay got really involved with the shooting process and tried to frame his fight scenes to be as chaotic as possible. The result is a mess of a movie where nearly every fight is loaded with shaking angles and blurry bots battle about the screen, so smeared in their visual effects that it’s often hard to tell one Transformer from another. The characters are already a heaping pile of endlessly moving parts that one would hope Bay would fair more stable shots to take in all the details.
The plot is about as messy as the action. I’m honestly not sure what the film is even about and I’ve watched it twice. Something about the AllSpark being some representation of all life or something? There’s a battle for Energon and protecting humans is kinda more of a side mission that the Autobots don’t seem as interested in. The film also starts up a lot of bad habits of the series where Optimus Prime will constantly make heroic speeches about fighting with honor and then proceed to win with the dirtiest of tactics.
There’s a lot of other questionable choices in how Bay frames his film but I’m probably preaching to the choir at this point. Dunking on Michael Bay is an easy sell considering how loud and excessive commercial thrills his films tend to be. I’m sure that even proclaiming this to be one of Bay’s worst films would probably be recognized as an oxymoron. But as someone who has found worth in Bay’s brashness for projects like Bad Boys and The Rock, I can’t say I’ve seen any other film of his that misfires so greatly as Revenge of the Fallen.