Okay, first off, this is not a fair review. I didn’t go into this thing in good faith. I never thought there was a possibility I would genuinely like this movie. So don’t think I’m trying to be objective here. But I’ve been getting emails and comments for months asking me to review this sequel to a movie I hated, and there’s a hell of a conversation going on in the comments for my review of the first one. And to be honest I was strangely excited to see it. It just sounded so insane, and as a fan and scholar of the summer blockbuster movie maybe it was important that I see it, just like I saw MY GIANT for the sake of Seagalogy. Whatever my excuse is, the same guy who got me into the first one for free hooked me up for this one too. So your wish is my command.
Obviously you already know what this is. There’s no reason to try to explain the plot, except as a personal challenge. I accept. Here is my serious attempt to remember what in holy hell was going on in the movie I just saw.
Okay. In the caveman days there were already Transformer robots on earth, fighting with robot spears. Meanwhile, a few years after part 1, a giant wheel attacks Shanghai. Also I believe a car or SUV was helping the giant wheel by driving around real fast. The “Autobot” good guy cars now work with the US military (same soldiers from part 1) so they are there to chase around the wheel and enemy car and savagely murder both of them on the spot.
Sam (Shia Lebouf, I, ROBOT) is about to leave for Princeton. His dogs like to buttfuck each other and his parents bicker all the time – you know, the kind where you can tell it must be funny by the way they say it. Sam takes out the shirt he was wearing in part 1 but he never washed it so he didn’t notice the large chunk of alien technology still attached, which comes out and turns his kitchen appliances into robotic gremlins, so his Camaro/robot guardian Bumblebee appears and heroically blows up the house. Sam is afraid of commitment so he avoids telling his Playboy model/mechanic girlfriend (Megan Fox, from the magazine covers) that he loves her.
In college his roommate Leo runs a robot-sighting websight. (This character will stick around for the rest of the movie because it’s supposed to be funny when he gets real scared or when he gets tased.) Also a hot girl keeps hitting on Sam and his girlfriend at home gets attacked by a small robot that she tortures and captures but Sam starts seeing symbols and going nuts in class so his girlfriend comes and sees him about to fuck the other girl who turns out to be a robot like in TERMINATOR 3 so there’s a car chase, etc.
At some point an hour or more in they meet up with John Turturro, who you’ll remember got pissed on by a robot in the first one so in comparison his part here seems very dignified. I forgot to mention that the bad guys resurrected Megatron (dead leader from part 1) but I’m not sure why since he’s now just an asskissing flunky for the new villain character, The Fallen (voiced by Tony Todd, hopefully they paid him enough that he can take a break from signing CANDYMAN posters at conventions). Megatron lives in a cave in space with Starscream and The Fallen, who if I understood correctly just sits in a throne all day shitting out slimy baby robots and complaining about the Prime brothers and how they’re the only ones who can “defeat” him. So Megatron goes back to earth (jesus, I just got home, you’re sending me back already?) to kill Optimus Prime so that The Fallen can come down and get the secret symbols from “the boy” and use those to find a secret tomb where his brothers sacrificed themselves to hide The Matrix, not the movie but a piece of metal that can power a machine that nobody noticed was hidden inside one of the pyramids and that will destroy the sun in order to do something else although I honestly forget what it was, but it was evil. I remember that much.
I think the robot Starscream has to stay home and take care of the babies, but I’m not sure. Most of the evil robots look about the same so I’m not sure who is in what scene, but every half hour or so I would figure out one of them was Megatron (usually standing on a building with a camera flying around it in circles) and I’d think “oh yeah, forgot about him. Where’s he been?”
At one point somebody kills Optimus Prime, but the girlfriend’s little robot prisoner brings them to a museum where they find a jet plane that turns into a robot that is an old man and farts parachutes but agrees with Sam’s hunch that the Matrix could bring Optimus Prime back to life so he warps them to Egypt (I didn’t catch how) and the military flies in with Optimus Prime’s body so they bring it back to life and then a giant robot climbs up the pyramid for about ten minutes until they come up with a plan: shoot something at him, and that kills him. Then I think there was some more fighting, Sam died and went to robot heaven and came back and at the end Megatron was still apparently there because I remember he ran away. Score by Steve Jablonsky featuring Linkin Park.
It’s hard to measure but in my opinion this is the single worst script ever used in one of these huge moron movies. It makes INDEPENDENCE DAY seem witty and tightly structured. Traditionally plenty of stupid shit happens in a movie like this, but usually there’s an obvious plot there, “they have to stop the aliens from destroying the world, so they find a flaw in their defense systems and work out a plan to destroy them” or whatever. It’s a new development to make it so hard for a normal person to even have a clue what the fuck is supposed to be going on, what anybody is trying to do. Michael Bay applied this disorientation method first to editing, then to character design, and now to writing. But it’s good for many laughs because every 30 minutes or so some robot earnestly gives some explanation of some magic gizmo or ancient history that comes out of the fuckin blue and then they’re off to do some other stupid shit somewhere else. At about the 2 hour mark it sinks in that you are nowhere near a passable ending or climax to a story and there could well be another hour or more left.
I think you all know where I stand on TRANSFORMERS PART 1. I took some flack because I hated the fucking thing but apparently it was agreed on that we were gonna let that one slide. I guess I took it a little personally because I love these types of movies when they’re done well, so it really chapped my hide to hear everybody parroting and accepting that cliche about it’s just a summer movie, it’s supposed to be dumb and incomprehensible, what did you expect, Terminator 2 Terminator 3 Hamlet? only a dijon mustard loving elitist snob would not get a huge boner just from watching a blurry robot punch (hug?) another robot (building?) in 1 second shots while a camera rotates around it really fast so fuck you you hate America why did you call me stupid by saying you don’t like it you are a faggot it’s not supposed to win oscars.
You know me, I can enjoy stupid movies, even bad movies. I fucking wrote SEAGALOGY, man, of course I understand appreciating different types of movies for what they are, warts and all. All I’m saying is have the courage of your convictions. If you like it, tell me why you like it. Don’t just give me a list of the standards it’s not supposed to live up to. You’re selling movies short. Don’t tell me that a movie about this can’t also be good. And especially don’t tell me that this counts as good action scenes. That’s crossing a line, pal. That’s like pissing on Abraham Lincoln’s grave.
It’s a fight I still get dragged into from time to time but you know what, after last summer had THE DARK KNIGHT and IRON MAN and WALL-E, all great, fun, smart, well-made, and hugely popular, it’s hard to really get upset about it anymore. I can let go of my fear that standards are so low nobody will try to make good ones anymore. If people like a movie I think is shit then so be it. It’ll take more than Michael Bay to kill the summer movie.
But give him an A for effort, he’s running after the summer movie naked with a chainsaw like Patrick Bateman. And he has the same abs. TRANSFORMERS PART 2 THE REVENGE OF THE FALLEN is the single most relentless cinematic assault on the human brain that technology has been able to achieve so far. It has everything from the first one, but more: more robots, more visual information, more confusion, more bad jokes, more racism, more minutes to sit through. I compared part 1 to BATMAN AND ROBIN, which nobody agrees with. But forget about the quality comparison and consider this as a case of Batman and Robin Syndrome. Director makes dumb movie, people are okay with it and make it a huge hit, so for the next one the studio says “he seems to know what he’s doing” and lets him indulge in every excess and fetish a couple hundred million dollars can buy, truly believing that’s what people want because they paid money that first time.
Well, they’re paying money a second time too, and that’s all that matters to Bay, unfortunately. But unless the general audience response is drastically different from what I’ve seen so far I think it will have the same effect of killing the popularity of the first one. After all, the robots in that one won’t seem as novel after having seen this one. It’ll be obsolete. But who wants to watch this shit again?
That really is the only thing the movie intentionally has going for it: an unprecedented amount of ridiculously detailed CGI creations. But just like last time they’re put into such a dumb story making such terrible jokes that it’s hard to care, and on the occasions when they do the robot fighting that fans of the movies keep talking about it’s not all that exciting because you sort of want all of the characters to die and you can’t tell if they did because the groundbreakingly indecipherable designs make it hard to tell exactly what’s going on. I honestly think they made an effort to pull the camera back a little this time, and I was able to follow it slightly better. In probaly the best scene (I guess) Optimus fights a bunch of bad guys in a forest, and although I don’t know who any of the bad guys were I was able to tell that Optimus was the one in the middle and the grey guys surrounding him were the bad guys. That’s progress.
In the same way that I’d rather watch BATMAN AND ROBIN again than BATMAN FOREVER (because both are terrible so you go for the more spectacularly terrible one), I enjoyed this alot more than the first one. I have to admit I had a big smile on my face. This crazy motherfucker never runs out of what the fuck!?! moments. I’m sure you’ve heard about many of these but this movie includes: wrecking ball testicles, robot farting, a robot humping Megan Fox’s leg (and she likes it), an extended skit about Sam’s mom getting high on pot and going around tackling people, a robot with a cane and beard, a robot that talks like Joe Pesci, internal car peeing in the form of anti-freeze on a girl’s face, John Turturro suddenly tearing his pants off to show a closeup of his ass in a g-string, and a scene where Turturro tells a robot that a story he’s telling should have a clear beginning, middle and end, a “plot,” – as if one of the screenwriters is trying to send out an S.O.S.
I’m kind of fascinated by the schizophrenic tone not only from scene to scene, but even within a scene. For example when the gremlinbots attack Sam it keeps changing from shot to shot whether they seem to want it to be a hilarious comedy scene or a tense moment. People are getting attacked, I think somebody dies, then it cuts to dogs fucking, then Bumblebee gets a hero shot accompanied by THE ROCK style music of courageousness, then the mom bumps her head and it makes a sound like two pans hitting together. It’s like one of those writing exercises where you write one sentence and then pass it on to somebody else to continue. Sometimes there are weird non-sequitur cuts like suddenly the hot girl is walking down a hall for no apparent purpose, or they walk out of the Smithsonian and appear in an airplane graveyard. Like in BAD BOYS 2 Bay seems to think he can both do a serious movie and make constant lame jokes.In the middle of what I guess is a tense sequence where the whole world is after Sam there’s a cameo by Deep Roy as an Egyptian border guard, they make midget jokes and then he lets them through because he knows John Turturro from a falaffel stand in New York. Get it? I think the comedy is his worst sin, worse even than the action scenes, because constant unfunny jokes are harder to laugh at than confusing action scenes.
I’m sure you’ve all heard about “the twins” Mudflap and Skids, last seen in a montage in Spike Lee’s BAMBOOZLED. It’s funny because in my review of part 1 I got on Michael Bay for the racist stereotype of having a “black” robot whose entire part is to say “what’s crackin bitches?”, do a breakdance move, and later be dead. Well jesus, that seems quaint after the twins. I read all about it but when you actually see it on screen it’s actually shocking, your stomach just drops. They’re these two “comic relief” robots who talk ebonics, always punch each other and talk about “popping a cap in your ass.” Defending the bigotry to the Associated Press, Bay said “Listen, you’re going to have your naysayers on anything,” and “I purely did it for kids. Young kids love these robots, because it makes it more accessible to them.” Which explains why they’re first disguised as an ice cream truck that says “SUCK MY POPSICLE” on the side of it, and spend most of the movie punching each other and calling each other “pussy.” Because of the kids.
(By the way, have you ever noticed how blowhards like to throw in a “listen” here and there? “Listen, you’re going to have naysayers on anything. Even David Duke, when he ran for office, alot of naysayers were saying nay to that. Are you listening? Listen. Listen to this. Listen to me. Shut the fuck up and listen. Listen, I’m Michael Bay.” Other good phrases for Michael Bay to use would be “Hark!” or “I declare!”)
Although there was alot of derisive laughter throughout the movie, some of the audience I saw it with were into it enough that they clapped during some of the fights. But in the scene where you first see the twins’ faces clearly everybody groaned and booed. That was right before the joke about how they don’t know how to read. I’m embarrassed for Steven Spielberg having his name on this thing, not just because it’s so terrible but because I know he fucking knows better. He should have to bring Michael Bay to a slavery museum. Sure, the jive-talking gangsta wannabe stereotype is a common one, but those faces are straight out of some Ku Klux Klan newsletter, or at best a cartoon from the 1930s. How the fuck does that even happen? Look at that shit! He has a gold tooth! They have monkey ears and stoned eyes! This is actually in a 2009 movie, no joke! Who designed these and why?
In Devin Feraci’s article about the twins he mentioned that Spielberg was going to screen the movie for the Obama family. Maybe he was making some joke I didn’t get because I can’t find any other reference to this, but if it’s true I would’ve loved to see the CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM-worthy uncomfortableness on his face during that “we don’t read so much” scene. Sitting there with the first black president, watching ol’ Mudflap and Skids. What a great time. If I was Spielberg I would’ve shown up and said “Hey Obamas, I’ve got a special treat. I know I said we were watching TRANSFORMERS 2 but instead I brought E.T.! Or MUNICH! SUGARLAND EXPRESS! Anything! Whatever you guys want to watch from all of my movies pre-summer of 2009, we’re watching it! Just for you guys!”
There are other politics in the movie that I think are on purpose, not just done out of moronic ignorance. One of the bad guys is a nerdy bureaucrat working for Obama, who talks about diplomacy in the same way a bad guy dean talks about discipline in a fraternity movie. (Michael Bay hates nerds and has to have a scene where a soldier physically humiliates the guy and practically makes him shit his pants.) This guy wants the Autobots to leave earth, because if they weren’t there the Decepticons wouldn’t be attacking and the war would go away. Optimus says he’ll leave if Obama asks him to but implies that it would be foolish and fatal. So yeah, I’m pretty sure Michael Bay wants us to stay in Iraq. Good one. Thanks for your insights, genius.
So, there is some political subtext here and there, but I don’t know who wants to analyze that shit. As far as I’m concerned the one aspect of this thing that deserve more thought is the robot babies. Did I dream that part? I had to ask some other people and although one was too drunk to remember it two others agreed with me that there really was a scene with slimy robot babies. The movie just throws that one in your face like you already know about it. “Oh yes, of course, there is a cave in space where Starscream is the nanny to a whole bunch of baby robots. Everyone knows that. You didn’t know that?”
I don’t know if there are webisodes or prequel comics all about the Deceptitots, or a spinoff sitcom, but personally I was surprised. I guess it’s like CARS, you gotta wonder how these things reproduce. Even Tyrese muses about Optimus Prime, “You gotta wonder – if God made us in his image, who made him?” You know how Tyrese is though, always philosophizing. It seems like The Fallen must be the Queen Transformer, laying robot eggs, but I’m not sure. We do know there are girl Transformers, but they don’t seem capable of bearing the entire race. I count four, and one of them just has one line and then dies, and then another one dies, and a third one I think might also die in that scene but of course there is no way to really know in a movie like this. Plus all of them are skinny and do not have robot-bearing hips.
It would be best for mankind if there is never a part 3 and if everyone involved in making this one goes off to live on an island harvesting bees and staying away from any sort of device that would cause them to share ideas or pictures with the outside world. But there is a chance these pricks are in it only for the money and will make a part 3, so if that happens I hope they will address the nature or nurture issue. Are these Trasformkins born Autobots or Decepticons? Or are they raised that way? At what point do they grow the symbol? Is it possible for a doctortron to see the symbol on an ultrasound? We learn from the guy with the robot beard and the “funny” Scottish accent that it’s possible to switch sides, so the symbol really doesn’t prove anything. But I doubt most Transformers see it that way. They’re gonna be real upset when a baby pops out with the wrong symbol. It leads to some serious ethical and biomechanical issues.
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Geoffreyjar wrote to me to ask why I thought people were being so harsh in their reviews when really this is just more of the same shit everybody liked two years ago. For example Roger Ebert wrote a hilariously dead-on evisceration of the movie, but doesn’t ever argue that it’s different from the first one, which he gave three stars and seemed to enjoy. And it’s true, alot of these reviews are basically saying the same things I ranted about in my part 1 review that made so many people so mad.
To answer Geoff’s question I believe it’s because the novelty of computer animated robots was the only thing people liked in the first one. Same thing here but the novelty has worn off so now they’re noticing the rest of it. They’re being harsh because they’re going through what some of us went through with part 1. I already aired my grievances about the action scenes looking like a closeup of a ball of smashed cars rolling down a hill. So now I guess I’m less mad about it and more able to laugh about it. As camp, if you’re able to stomach it, it’s actually pretty hilarious for a while, although it would be much funnier if they trimmed 60-80 minutes. I usually think people have too short of attention spans but this is clearly too long for a movie that doesn’t make a very serious attempt to include characters or stories.
I think Roger Ebert may be right, this may be the peak for this type of crap. It would be pretty hard to devise a more potent mix of expensive and horrible. Stephen Sommers and Roland Emmerich will make movies almost as stupid and equally full of destruction, but it will seem a little underwhelming. Unless some studio wants to spend $400 million on an adaptation of a Mountain Dew commercial with no script, seven years of postproduction and the entire cast in blackface this is about as far as this path will take them. Even then, what kind of special effects would catch people’s attention? No matter what stupid shit they come up with people will think, “Yeah, but are there twenty or thirty fifty foot tall robots with ten thousand moving parts wiggling around? No? Then I’m not impressed.”
To say that Optimus Prime has an overly complicated design is a huge understatement. I don’t even like to look at the fuckin thing. Then at the end another robot dies so Optimus takes the pieces of his corpse and attaches them to himself to go into battle! Never mind the weird Ed Gein implications of that, it’s just funny that they think it’s a good idea to add even more clutter. That’s all they can do is keep spending more money to stack more junk on top of junk. Either that or go back to that whole “good stories and characters” idea from last summer.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.