Before we begin, I’ll apologize for the hiatus. Moving to Australia takes up quite a lot of one’s time, you see. I would also like to take a moment to acknowledge the loss of my movie-going partner. The team has split up, the glory days are over. There are enough notes for a few more reviews, and then I’ll have to start calling these reviews by another name, I suppose. But Kellie, they’ll never be the same without you.
On To The Review!
After the mediocrity of Transformers 1 destroyed the halcyon memories of my childhood days, I decided to set the bar low for this one. Very low. Upon entering the theater my expectations were that I was going watch 2+ hours of robots beating each other up. I was not disappointed.
However, if I’d had any other standards at all, like… oh, say a coherent plot, intelligible narrative structure, or even the tendency for a series of events to obey the natural laws of cause and effect, I would have been sorely disappointed. The action of Transformers 2 is (for a PG-13 rated film) of a disturbingly adult nature while the dialogue treats you like a child, and the plot treats you like a drooling imbecile.
Instead of coming up with a few really good ideas and exploring them fully, Michael Bay & Co. simply invented twice as many mediocre ideas and used them all to pad this celluloid monstrosity out to 2 1/2 hours. And by ‘invented’ I actually mean ‘shamelessly stole from better movies‘. At various points in the movie Kellie and I found ourselves watching: Alien, National Treasure, Stargate, Aeon Flux, Indiana Jones, Men in Black, Terminator, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, or the Matrix.
I feel Bay must have gotten confused keeping track of all the plagiarism and was ultimately unable to stitch it all into a coherent narrative. That would certainly explain why the film can’t make up it’s mind whether it’s an action movie, an army/navy recruitment video, a car advertisement, or a music video. Whenever possible, various types of military machinery are paraded across the screen to demonstrate the triumphant might of the US military. Meanwhile the American auto industry must have been in the throes of ecstasy that so many gleaming, high-performance vehicles with maxed-out upgrade packages were continually roaring around the film. Occasionally Shai LaBeouf and Megan Fox are filmed with over-exposed lighting from low angles with while bland radio fodder blares in the background. If one were to cut the dialogue track out and add a few shots of a band playing instruments, these scenes would be right off of MTV.
The couple have no real chemistry on screen and their dialogue is so unhealthily passive-aggressive it makes me wonder if their characters weren’t married between films and no one thought to tell the audience. And Fox wears an awful lot of makeup for a young lady supposedly working a motorcycle repair shop, but somehow manages to stay miraculously free of grease-stains. But then I probably shouldn’t be expecting too much from a gal who aced her audition by allowing herself to be filmed washing the director’s Ferrari.
Unfortunately, the plagiarized ideas are the best bits of the movie, the rest being composed of either fight sequences or scenes the editor refused to chop. For instance, every single scene that included LaBeouf’s parents could easily have been cut from the film and it would have made no difference to the structure or narrative except, perhaps, to actually make the film less painful.
Even the issues with the previous movie have been barely improved upon. The fight scenes in the first moving were large, blurry confrontations between indistinguishable robots moving so quickly that whirling metal was all that could be seen. The only improvement in this film is that the action occasionally slows for a slow-motion highlight of a particular punch or blow. However, the action speeds up again just as quickly and you’re back to being unable to tell who’s winning or losing.
[Spoiler Alert] The plot is composed entirely of holes large enough that Megatron himself could stride through them without having to bend over. For instance, after Optimus Prime is killed in battle the film takes a half hour detour to look for ‘Jetfire’, a Transformer who, once restored to life by a metallic shard LaBeouf possesses, will be able to impart the secret of how to return Optimus to the land of the living. Personally, I would have thought the easier solution would have been to just use the shard on Optimus. [End Spoilers]
Time and again Transformers 2 heads off down these narrative rabbit trails, only occasionally justifying them with throw-away lines from minor characters. Most often they go entirely unexplained, and the movie quite rudely assumes the audience will simply accept them and come along quietly.
Decepticons seem rain down from the sky whenever the story requires more action, but it’s never explained where they come from. There are brand new Autobots whose origins we’re never told, but we care about them… uh… because the movie thinks we should. Decepticons now can transform to look exactly like humans… because. The cube of metal they used to kill Megatron in the first movie? A shard from that no longer kills but instead brings Transformers back to life… because.
And as if the plot holes to which a blind eye has been turned by those perpetrating this cinematic horror weren’t enough, the ‘humour’ leaves even more to be desired. There are Transformers with phallically placed firearms, Megan Fox is humped by a miniature Decepticon, a chihuahua mounting a larger dog gets played for laughs twice, and three, count ’em THREE separate testicle jokes! The creators seem to think that because they’re making a movie based on a line of Hasbro toys, that gives them licence to treat their audience like 6 year old children.
In the end, Shia Labeouf goes all the way to robot heaven in his quest to revive Optimus. In a move strongly reminiscent of children clapping to revive an injured Tinkerbell, our metal hero is restored to life by LaBeouf’s faith alone. Optimus then turns into an overpowered, Japanese inspired uber-robot and puts the villain down in a fight that lasts less than 5 minutes. And with that end note of ‘that’s it?’, the film finishes.
Given the somewhat imperfect, but acceptable launching-pad of the first film, it’s sad to find that this was all they could muster for a second attempt. Transformers 2 is like an expensive, gaudy, toy make of impractically brittle plastic; it’s fine as long as it’s left on the shelf, shiny and in the box, but as soon as it’s exposed to the rigorous use of imagination, it’s inferior quality quickly becomes clear as it breaks easily and the batteries run down quickly.
Frankly, I’d be quite happy if someone took Bay’s toys away from him and gave them to another director to play with. Perhaps they’d treat them with more respect.
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know everything, but I do have some famous friends to back me up. Critic Roger Ebert’s review of the film is worth a read. His bewilderment and consternation with the film are palpable as he roundly decries the film as “a horrible experience of unbearable length”. I particularly enjoyed his comments with regards to the parent characters.