Sunday, June 28, 2009

Transformers 2 Stays True to the Shape of an Action Movie

Warning: Spoilers!
(spoilage factor: about the same as the cake at the frat house after Sam finished pawing it for his Cybertronian equations)

Most of the bad things you've heard or read about Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen are true. The plot was filled with plenty of holes large enough to drive Optimus Prime through (where do we start?! I know, how about if the Decepticons can field an infiltration bot that looks like a hot college girl, why do they need to show up with their big guys like Megatron - never mind the supersize model Devastator - which draw too much attention and lots of pesky, and, in this movie, pretty effective firepower from the natives? Let the fembots do the legwork, track down the Cube or the Tomb of the Primes or the all-powerful Pencil of the Animator or whatever, snag it, and boot it back to Cybertron in half the time and with no loss of Decepticon resources?), it rarely stopped long enough to have a breather, let alone explore any of the issues that it could have touched on if if it was smarter, it was limited its female characters to sex objects (I'm no prude - I enjoyed watching the shots of Megan Fox as much as the next guy - but I just wish that her character had more of a role to play than to scream and jiggle and put up with leers from humans and aliens alike. The scene with the leg-humping, mini spy bot was truly, irredeemably stupid and offensive.) or clucking mother hens, and some of the fight scenes moved so quickly that it was difficult to tell who was busting what move on who. To name just a few problems.

That being said, all in all, it was exactly what it was meant to be - a fast-moving summer popcorn special effects movie that loved to make things go kablooey. It never pretended to be anything else, and anyone who went into this flick expecting anything approaching profound philosophy should have been disabused of that notion when right up front in the opening credits, toy company Hasbro was given its due.

The fight scenes were amazing (even if some of them were too fast to tell which punch was being thrown by which bot), especially Optimus and the "I'll take ALL of you on!" match in the woods.

It was nice to see more characters added to the ranks of the Autobots and Decepticons. I was always a fan of Soundwave, so seeing him revamped as a spy satellite was a real treat but I would have liked to see him actually do something - throw a punch or two - rather than just kind of float around feeling-up other sats and being the mouthpiece. Ravage the panther was extremely cool though. The twins, Mudflap and Skids, had their moments (when they put in their first appearance in Shanghai and one of them had the form of an ice cream truck, I had to give myself a pat on the back for hitting pretty close to the mark with last week's list about rejected choices for Transformers), although at times they were annoying enough to approach Jar Jar Binks territory. One one hand, it was good to see the introduction of some female transformers with Arcee (who, in this version of Transformers, took the form of 3 motorcycles), but on the other hand, she didn't have much of a speaking role (really was more of an occasional background presence) and the bikes were pretty flimsy when pitted against their much larger Decepticon foes. It would have been much more enjoyable to watch (and a better character for girls in the audience to identify with) if they would have done something cool like bring in a big black Humvee voiced by Queen Latifah or someone with some oomph to their personality. Ah well, missed opportunities and too narrow a focus on the 14-year-old boy audience. The real treat in terms of additional characters though was Jetfire. What a great way to bring in a pretty obscure character (he was only in one episode that I can recall) and reimagine his story! Making him into a vain, grumpy old man was a brilliant move that worked out perfectly. In fact, Jetfire was probably the most fully-rounded character (robot or human) in the movie. I only regretted that they didn't have him take to the skies in a aerial duel to put Starscream in his place. But having him put the boots to Scorpinok and Ravage was adequate.

As summer action flicks go, I didn't regret paying to see it in Imax, although if I could do it again, I'd probably save a few bucks and see it in a regular theatre - maybe at a discount matinee or cheapo Tuesday night.
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