On The Aisle
By Tony Macklin
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is a popular mixture of absorbing adventure and clattering claptrap. Unfortunately, the latter dominates. It’s machines on Viagra. I’m happy for the machines, less so for the humans.
Director Micahel Bay is the master pimp for the machines. He brings them together in violent coitus never interruptus.
I’m not outraged or offended by the film as many of my peers are; in fact, I enjoyed some of it. Where it falters and fails is obvious. It turns action into cliche. As stylistic and vibrant as the special effects are, they are made redundant and dulled by the ham-footed pedal-to-the-metal direction.
Bay directs as though he is shell-shocked and has been Tasered once too often. He has lost all sense of timing and proportion. When his final action sequence has much less impact than his first, you know he has lost his way.
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is the story of how the Decepticons have attacked Earth to regain the source of energy. They are pursuing Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBoeuf) who has the key to their success. Sam has just entered college. Chaos ensues.
When Bay is at his best, as in the original “Transformers” he blends characters and action, and when his scripts have some credibility.
In “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” he and his writers squander all credibility. The screenplay has three writers: “Transformer” franchise veterans Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (who also did good work on this year’s “Star Trek”), who are joined by Deceptihack Ehren Kruger. But this trio delivers a sloppy script full of inanity and coincidence. They write dialogue that is mostly screamed. Bay seems to think hysteria is drama.
For every amusing scene — a Tasering in a men’s room — there’s a dumb one — doggy-sex on a sofa.
And what are the writers doing with the character of Sam’s mom? They turn her into an obnoxious whack-job. As Judy Witlesswicky, actress Julie White is a leading contender for a Golden Raspberry as worst actress of the year. Her role is hopeless, and she does it justice by being a hopeless actress. It makes no sense to turn her into a screaming shrew as they do.
She’s also involved in the worst contrivance in the movie, when the writers suddenly bring her and her husband (Kevin Dunn) to the Egyptian battlefield. It seems like a desperate attempt to give the scene human interest amidst the endless martial mechanics. It’s a terrible idea.
The cast seems to have gone to the open mouth school of acting. At least Megan Fox’s (Mikaela) open mouth is moist. Shia LaBeouf adds wide eyes to his open mouth. Irrepressible John Turturro is engaging as the addled agent.
Bay insisted that the pyramid scenes be set in Egypt; he shot there. It is as though Bay wanted to show actual pyramids to counter the argument that his film is just an orgy of CGI. It’s neat that the pyramids are authentic, but CGI still takes over. It’s like going to the Parthenon to photograph a car wreck.
I’m not sure there has ever been a film with more explosions. The studio (Paramount Pictures) has presented response to “Transformers” as the smart masses versus the dumb critics, or even worse, the intelligent critics. A whole political party has risen and fallen on that premise.
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is an impressive potboiler. But its overheated pot has a lot of holes. For a critic, quality and creativity matter. In my world, the masses are Decepticons. A critic is Optimus Prime.