For those of you just tuning in, here's my list of the the 23 Best Movies I've Seen In Theaters This Year.
#19. Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen
Here's everything you need to know about Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - at the end of the movie, Shia LaBeouf dies (temporarily) and is sent to the Land Of The Primes, where they thank him for his friendship, find him worthy of their help, and bring him back to life.
Really, tells you everything you need to know. You are perfectly free to stop reading here and go about your life. Because honestly, what else do you need to know? The Land of the Primes. Michael Bay invented his own robot-based afterlife.
Still, if you must continue:
I was not particularly impressed with the original Transformers movie and lacked any real excitement for this one, though I went in with some degree of forced enthusiasm because:
a. I was with a couple guys who were full-on amped for the film, and I didn't want to be a downer
b. Michael Bay, for all his other failings, has a technical mastery of explosions, special effects, and CGI character assimilation unmatched in Hollywood. That's right, Michael Bay is actually the best at something.
The problem with the movie? All of Michael Bay's other failings.
Let's ignore the obvious problems, for a little bit (this won't be the last time we take this step). Let's ignore that the idea of a movie where robots fight other robots is kind of dumb, and instead focus on the fact that it's also kind of awesome. Then, let's ignore that the general tone of the script, featuring robots and Shia LaBeouf developing emotional bonds, is weird in a number of ways. Let's instead focus on the fact that we don't often see movies this deeply weird on this sort of scale all that often (think about it: a race of galactic robots who can transform into any sort of machine they want, who chose to have their eternal battle with a different race of galactic transforming robots on Earth while establishing lasting friendships with certain humans? When you consider it, this is more nuts than Howard The Duck).
Instead, let’s assume that Transformers: ROTFL is meant to be a fun popcorn flick, filled with wackiness and bad acting (check) and evaluate it only on those terms. And even on those terms, it somehow manages to fail.
Let me boil it’s most major problems down to this one statement: this movie takes itself much too seriously.
First of all, it’s two and a half hours long – this is supposed to be, at least in part, a movie for kids. It travels all over the world and manages to introduce a character who I can only assume is modeled after "Treebeard" in Lord of the Rings (the boring movie version of Treebeard, not the endearing book version). He’s from an older time, he talks slowly, he provides long stretches of boring, unnecessary exposition, most of which doesn’t make sense.
Consider how mind-bogglingly nuts this plot is, keeping in mind this is introduced by a slow-talking rusty fighter jet an hour and a half into the movie, when the viewer is getting a little bored and pining for some crazy robot fighting:
(Spoiler alert! This movie’s terrible plot is completely revealed below. Do not keep reading unless you have actual taste, at which point you should be fine)
"The Fallen", a crazy-evil robot with a bizarrely overwrought name, is imprisoned by giant robotic tree roots on his spaceship high above the Earth’s atmosphere. He can’t get out, because he was placed there by… fate, or something, when he chose to dishonor the Primes and try to seize power for himself by taking the Matrix of Leadership (a jagged, football-sized glass object). The other Primes sacrificed themselves by molding themselves into a giant ball around the Matrix of Leadership, so that The Fallen could never get it away from them and use its awesome power. Why they all needed to die for this to happen is unclear, since it seems fairly easy to find a pile of dead robots and much harder to find a glass football. Plus, then all of the Primes - who are the most powerful robots in the galaxy, and apparently not the brightest - would still be alive to defend it, or at the very least hang out and have fun robo-adventures.
Megatron (the main villain in the first movie, now an underling of The Fallen. This is known as "upping the ante" or "adding extra characters for no discernable reason"), kills Optimus Prime, the Last of the Primes, which, naturally, magically frees The Fallen from the robotic tree roots imprisoning him (this opens up the possibility of a greater Robotic Deity, who has established rules for the robots by which they must abide. Or, simply, a Greater Need for Plot Devices). He then comes to earth to find The Matrix of Leadership, which was hidden inside one of the Great Pyramids (Transformers was the first film ever to be allowed to shoot at the Pyramids, which is honestly the saddest thing I’ve ever heard). Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, the Treebeard guy, and a pair of vaguely racist, jive-talking robots uncover the Ball O’ Robots and grab the Matrix of Leadership, which crumbles to dust, because… I dunno, it seemed like this movie should go longer. They gather up the dust and take it with them, because this movie’s plot holes won’t fix themselves.
It is at this point that there’s finally a big robot fight, Shia LaBeouf dies and is sent to the Land of the Primes, where they resurrect him and re-make the Matrix of Leadership out of the dust. He plunges it into Optimus Prime’s chest, Optimus is resurrected, and he’s able to stop The Fallen from using one of the other pyramids – which had a “Sun Harvester” hidden inside it - to destroy the sun (because, why not?).
Got all that? Now, ignoring the fact that everything that you just read was almost criminally insane (and yes, we keep doing this, but this plot is like the sun during an eclipse - it might blind you if you look directly at it), consider how completely unnecessary all of that was. Every single person who came to see this movie came for one reason: robot fighting (if you want to make the case that everyone came to see Megan Fox, I would like to point you to the box office figures for How to Lose Friends and Alienate People and Jennifer’s Body). That’s it. We would have accepted almost any loosely-conceived plot, as long as there was a lot of robot-fighting. In fact, let me write one right now.
Shia LaBeouf is bored with life after his adventures with the Transformers. There seems to be no excitement now that Megatron is defeated and his body sunk to the bottom of the ocean. He and Megan Fox have split since their time together, though they both still have feelings for each other.
However, a new pack of Decepticons arrive on Earth to see why the planet has yet to be conquered. They resurrect Megatron (not with magic this time, but with their new, advanced evil-robot technology) and begin to wreak havoc on the planet. There are lots of explosions and robo-fights in crowded cities, where buildings can crumble and highway overpasses cinematically destroyed.
In the meantime, Megatron vows revenge on those who defeated him, and captures Megan Fox. He demands the surrender of the Autobots. Instead, using their advanced robo-intuition – combined with a little pluck from Shia LaBeouf - the Autobots and LaBeouf launch a plan to rescue Fox from Megatron. Hungry for excitement, LaBeouf insists on coming – which only leads to him almost being captured himself. In a desperate bid to save him, one of the other Autobots is killed, but the group is able to get away safely. LaBeouf is distraught, but rallies when he discovers that Fox has learned the plans for where the Decepticons plan to attack next.
Unfortunately, it turns out the plans were a trap set by the Decepticons, who let Fox get away. The Autobots try to ambush the Decepticons at this location (ideally, New York City, London, or D.C.), but instead are ambushed themselves. Much robo-fighting ensues. The day is only saved when LaBeouf and Fox sneak over to the other side and destroy some important piece of equipment that affects how the Decipticons robo-fight or robo-communicate or something. The days is saved and all the new Decepticons introduced in this movie are destroyed, though Megatron and his original Decepticons escape and vow to fight again, probably in 2011 when the next movie comes out.
Content with the easy life and a lack of adventure, LaBeouf and Fox get back together while all the Autobots robo-applaud.
(FADE TO BLACK)
In six minutes, I just wrote a plot that sort-of rips off Star Wars and sounds like every action movie Bruce Willis ever starred in but remains substantially better than the actual Transformers movie because at no point during my movie would you say to yourself “okay, now what the f--- is going on?” But Michael Bay (along with writers Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci, and Ehren Kruger, who are getting a free pass since they also wrote Star Trek this year) decided to create a plot packed with the most bizarre, extraneous details to muddy up whatever appeal the movie had. It’s a $200 million dollar movie that really gets $300 million worth of effects in there, but about negative seven dollars worth of plot. And if you can’t get a decent plot in your standard robots-fighting-robots summer movie, than what hope do we have left for American cinema?