Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers2

 

  • Released Internationally on 19/06/09
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 24/06/09

 

In a nutshell

Two summers ago a much-loved cartoon series made the jump to the big screen, managing to meet most fan expectations as well as introduce the franchise to a whole new audience. It helped that the film also made truck-loads of money. With an open-ended conclusion to the film, and numerous popular characters still waiting in the wings to make their live-action debut, a sequel was announced only two months after release.

By way of introduction

After a very brief prologue which offers a chilling glimpse of how the Transformers have been around for far longer than we imagine, the film quickly shifts into top gear for a never-ending action sequence in the Far East. Over the next half-hour or so we are introduced to a host of new characters in rapid succession, as the increasingly convoluted plot starts to unfold.

Bits and pieces

My major gripe with the initial film was the design of the Transformers themselves, possibly stemming from my infatuation with the cartoons as a child. The chunky, solid forms of the cartoon characters have been replaced with piecemeal metallic structures with way too much clutter. The look and design were obviously kept for this second film. Whilst working wonders in the style and streamlining departments, this look often makes it harder to distinguish between characters, and makes the action sequences incredibly difficult to follow.  As we see Autobots (the goodies) take on Decepticons (the baddies) in tussles and high-speed chases, the result is often a mass of metal without much definition. I sometimes felt relieved when they changed back to their other form (truck, car, whatever), because they took on a solid form again and were clearly identifiable.

Revenge of the Fallen

The subtitle can be interpreted in two ways, but I won't go into details so as not to spoil the plot. Suffice to say that Megatron (Decepticon-in-chief), left for dead at the bottom of the ocean last time around, is back and in a foul mood. The Autobots have also fallen out of favour with the US president (shown to be Obama in a brief news clip - his first film appearance?), and their assistance is no longer needed. The tables turn when the Decepticons enlist the help of the Constructicons - a group of construction vehicles (with full extras) which I remember vividly from the cartoon series, and which are a welcome addition. They also have a neat party trick which adds greatly to the film's climactic action sequence. Less welcome are the intensely annoying Autobot 'Twins' who plague a number of scenes with their witty banter, and ultimately add little to the plot. After visiting Shanghai and Paris, most of the second half takes place in Egypt and Jordan, offering lots of spectacular scenes of huge robots mingling with the pyramids.

Who's in it?

Director Michael Bay, the man who has become synonymous with large-scale summer blockbusters (Armageddon, The Rock, Bad Boys, Pearl Harbour), returns to direct the sequel in his usual over-the-top style. Despite regularly drawing fire from critics for choosing style over substance, his focus on scale was very suitable for the first film. Sitting somewhere in the shadows with a cheque-book and a few choice tips is Steven Spielberg, who is credited as executive producer for both films. His recent pet actor Shia LaBeouf (Eagle Eye, Indiana Jones) returns as Sam Witwicky, the energetic young only son who first makes contact with the Autobots and continues to serve as the link between them and humans. His heroics in the first film landed him the love of the smouldering Michaela Banes, played by up-and-coming Megan Fox (How To Lose Friends & Alienate People), who stands around looking ridiculously hot but not doing much else. John Turturro (Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski) returns as the eccentric but helpful Transformers expert, and Rainn Wilson (The Office's Dwight) has a brief but amusing cameo as Sam's lecturer. Numerous voice actors return to voice the metallic heroes and villains, most notably Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings) as Megatron, and Peter Cullen (who voiced the character in the cartoon series) as Optimus Prime. Steve Jablonsky's simplistic score adds some gravitas to the more sombre moments, and adds noise to the action sequences, but is ultimately forgettable.

More than meets the eye?

Not really, no. The action sequences are often messy, and we're introduced to so many new characters that it's hard to get involved or interested. The plot seems built around a few spectacular locations, and is mostly fluff. Many scenes are still a sight to behold, so if all you're after this summer is loud noise and lots of glitz, this might be just your cup of tea. If, however, you like your summer blockbusters to be based on good filmmaking and a great story, look elsewhere.

 

Mark5

 

Trailer:

http://www.apple.com/trailers/paramount/transformersrevengeofthefallen/ (High-res QuickTime)

 

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