REVIEW – “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
*1/2 (out of *****)
Directed by: Michael Bay
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Frank Welker, John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson
Before I dispense with the expected unpleasantries regarding Michael Bay’s latest installment of the “Transformers” franchise, let me first cover the positives in this film.
For starters, occassionally the giant robots look pretty. There are two or three moments in the film where the stars align just so and the visuals, combined with well-paced chase/action sequences, provide for some fairly acceptable popcorny fare. And character-actor Kevin Dunn – who was once considered for the role of George Constanza on “Seinfeld” – turns in a miraculously likable performance as the protagonist’s father despite the best efforts to at some point make the audience hate each and every single human (and most of the robots) introduced in the film.
As for every other aspect of the film, I can only surmise that Michael Bay is the worst kind of auteur – a hateful, shallow, and petty human being whose primary purpose in filmmaking and life is to exhibit as much contempt for his audience as is humanly possible.
What’s fascinating isn’t so much that “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is a bad movie. It’s that it’s a bad movie despite an incredible budget, bottomless resources inluding top-notch special effects artists, an otherwise competent cast of actors, a built-in rabid fanbase eager to wax nostalgic with their $10.50, and a simple premise of giant robots that turn into cool cars and fight each other over the fate of the human race. However, making a movie with an otherwise guaranteed winning formula into a long, drawn-out, frustratingly nonsensical pile of cellulite chaos is what keeps Michael Bay walking around with a constant erection.
The script cannot and does not withstand the on-the-set rewrites of Bay. I’d perhaps have more respect for him if he were a bit more honest and earnest in his approach and simply started shooting without a script, because I cannot imagine anybody with half a brain in their head writing a script wherein robots that are the equivalent of ten stories tall (though some change size once they re-appear at other points in the film) have a direct conversation with human characters one second and then literally disappear and aren’t seen or mentioned again. It’s quite a feat if it’s intentional and the character is Batman. Otherwise, disappearing in mid-conversation is a fairly distracting oversight.
Also, I’m positive that nobody but Michael Bay could write the line “it’s another damn day in this godforsaken desert” and have Tyrese Gibson deliver the line in the middle of a scene with absolutely no context whatsoever. Also, I doubt any screenwriter worth his salt would introduce a midget border patrol agent for the sake of having a midget in the film and then have the pay-off of a five-minute scene with dramatic tension culminate in the non-joke that when you’re in the Middle-East, you just tell people you’re “from New York” and they do whatever you want. I’m still scratching my head over that one.
As for the accusations of racism, I can only say it’s been quite some time that a film so blatantly racist and wrong-headed has been this widely accepted by the movie-going audience. I’ve always had my suspicions of Michael Bay’s views on race in the American landscape, particularly since he doesn’t seem to have any use for black people unless they’re providing comic relief or in the military. I was willing to chalk that one up to the fact that all of Michael Bay’s characters are simple props with all the depth of a turtle-shaped swimming pool hanging off the wall at Walmart until I actually saw the big ears, big lips, buck teeth, and gold tooth on “Skids.”
Yet I haven’t viewed the anger and backlash I would expect from such a blatant and obviously intentional callback to the Stepin Fetchit/pre-Civil Rights black caricature, and perhaps that’s the most frustrating aspect of this film. If anybody needed proof that we do not live in a “post-racial” society (beyond the use of the term “post-racial” which is self-defeating in its own context), this was it. The fact that anyone would create the racist caricatures of “Skids and Mudflap” and make them look the way they do is quite shocking, but perhaps not moreso than the fact that I haven’t seen a single protest against the sort of blatant racism that so many people have worked so hard to eradicate over the years. Michael Bay has plead ignorance to the charges and put forth the defense that they’re robots, and therefore cannot be racist black caricatures. By that reasoning, I suppose he should also don blackface and do a few Mammy tunes; after all, it’s not really a black guy, it’s a white dude in blackface. So it can’t be racist, right?
Rather than continue angsting over the detriments of Michael Bay as a filmmaker, perhaps it’s best to just provide a simple and short list of what compromises Michael Bay’s core belief system:
- We should celebrate and show proper appreciation for the hard work and amazing contributions of all ten dudes that comprise the entire United States military.
- You can direct those ten dudes to go anywhere and do anything with a simple phone call.
- Nothing is racist so long as it shines.
- Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, and John Carpenter are excellent filmmakers and you should steal entire scenes and concepts from them as much as you can.
- It’s always best to shoot from the ground and shake the camera during action sequences, lest the audience actually be able to tell what’s going on and enjoy the scene.
- People in the Middle-East literally live in ruins in the desert with no electricity or running water. And yet, they all have cellphones.
- Everybody who uses the internet is an a######, but Webcam Dates are serious business.
I guess what I’m trying to say that the level of awful that Michael Bay continually puts out would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic. But oh well, at least the giant robots crashing into each other provided a brief respite from all that other madness.