Thursday, June 25, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (6.25.09)

Director: Michael Bay Starring: Shia LeBeouf, Megan Fox, Peter Cullen, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson Co-Starring: John Turturro, Ramon Roderiguez, Watch for: Repeat vehicle modes, G1 nods. Editor(s): Roger Barton, Tom Muldoon, Joel Negron, Paul Rubell Would I Buy It: I'll have the action scenes on repeat. The one thing I know is going to happen while I write this review is that I'm going to forget something I wanted to mention. This movie was long. I don't mean long as in dragged on, but it was so jam packed with robot awesomeness that there's no way I'm going to remember all of it after my one viewing last night. Some of my internet colleagues came back and commented merely on a weak story and robo-testicles. Let not the nay-sayers sway thee, there's SO much more than that. The one thing I think I have on them is a sense of humor akin to Michael Bay's. I don't think I'd make the same jokes as him, but I'm guessing he and I laugh at the same stuff. I don't understand why it's okay to have a Scottish robot, or whatever else, but the minute you cross the color barrier people freak out. Sure, Skids and Mudflap could be annoying, fine. Call them a stereotype and I shall point you towards every single summer blockbuster character in history. Nobody balked at the late great Bernie Mac as the mom-hating, less-than-reputable car salesmen who pronounced it "Alabammy". And let's not forget the FBI takedown at "grandma's house", but face it. You thought it was hilarious when the cousin slammed through the sliding door, despite all the "COPS"-laden imagery it evoked. However, the moment it's a voice behind a CG creation rather than an actor playing out the stereotype, people cry racist. They make these characters because people identify with them. Maybe YOU don't, but I'm betting you there's people in the audience either like them, or that know someone who is. Or that laugh because it's a more ridiculous take on their personality, like Sam might be to a strung out nerdy guy. As far as Skids and Mudflap, they actually remind me of a couple co-workers I used to have that worked (GASP) the dish tank at a restaurant. Though I'm pretty sure they could read. They made me laugh. The bots made the audience laugh. Did I hear anyone talking about how offensive it was on their way out? What do you think? Anyway. I've been reading up on the various characters in the movie as my girlfriend and I have been collecting the toys. Our rule is to only get characters featured in the films themselves (tho I did get her the Scout-Class Dirt Boss to put in a small matching bouquet of flowers when I picked her up to go see the movie. She got the biggest kick out of it). We got a few of them before the movie came out, one of which sparked up my attention: The Decepticons are not creative individuals. Either that, or this movie learned a lot from Hasbro. There are repaints featured in this film. Hasbro does it when they have a decent looking toy they think they can make more money off of, so they'll make one in a different color scheme, slap a new name on it and wait for the cash to roll in. This is part of the reason the g/f and I agreed movie characters only, cuz it'd be so easy to throw down $10 here and $20 there on cool variants (The G1-styled movie Jazz was tempting). In 'Revenge', I noticed multiple 'repaints', so I did a little homework to figure out just how many there were: 1) Grindor, the helicopter. The first Transformer we see in the original movie, then known as "Blackout". 2) Bonecrusher. Only seen in his vehicle mode from an aerial shot. I think he was just filling up space to make the attack look larger. 3) Scrapper. This isn't a repaint, but according to Wikipedia, there are three of him in this movie. And no robot mode to be seen. 4) Demolisher, the vertical wheelbot, was killed in the beginning, right? Be kinda hard to make Devastator without him, though. I think the second one is called "Scavenger". 5) Rampage is another re-paint. He's the yellow bulldozer for Devastator, but he's red in robot mode fighting Bumblebee. 6) The Twins got an alternate mode for the first scene, which you could argue is so they could sell one more toy. It could be that, but the other theory is to establish that Transformers can combine so when certain, more important, characters do it later, you won't jump out of your seat and call shenanigans. Again, that is. That's all I remember for now. Not sure if there's more. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of new and unique bots as well, but it does seem like a bit of lazy storywriting if they copy/paste designs instead of just making a character and commiting them to the plot points they need him for, rather than killing him off for kicks and saying "It's okay, there's another one for this scene". So that kinda bugged me. However, we have the yellow Rampage toy. If they release a red one... there may be temptation. I'm such a TF tool. Carrying on, say what you want about "the Boof" and Foxy Megan... I think their acting is fine. To every internet hater, who hates just to hate, I want to look them in their squinty, monitor-filled glasses-hidden eyes and say "You do it". If someone can give me a legitimate reason, other than "they suck", I'll be glad to listen. Until then, I think they did pretty well for the script they were given. It ain't Shakespeare, folks. It's a robot movie. The plot was reminiscent of the 80's animated Transformers, but with a lot of changes too. For one, Megatron wasn't renamed Galvatron (coughTOSELLTOYScough). That could be due to plot, it could've been a toy guy decision. They brought him back with an Allspark fragment, using spare parts from one of the Scrappers (get it?), whereas in the animated he was completely revamped by Unicron, who gave him his new name. The deep submergent Constructicons just wanted their leader back, so he woke up and was still Megatron. The other main theme from the animated was the Matrix of Leadership. Now, I confess to having not seen the older film in a while, but I'm pretty sure this was originally found within Optimus, released when he died. Eventually, Rodimus Prime got it? To Mega/Galvatron it was like Mjolnir. He tried to open it, but no matter how hard he pulled, he couldn't. You have to be worthy of the Matrix (, Neo). So it's cool they incorporated that, though I'm still trying to understand how Sam collected every littte piece of dust from when it collapsed. Even the layman's gonna think of that, that was a rather weak moment. "Cybertronian tech, don't worry about it" just doesn't work for me. There's something about summer action movies where these things become somewhat acceptable. I do think they rushed TF2 out of the box a little bit. The action was great, CGI was awesome. We got some more "bots only" scenes, which they really could and should do more of. I understand the human element, but there's something about scenes, like Optimus finding the co-ordinates of the cube in the first film, or Megatron reuniting with Starscream and the Fallen in this film, that are so... cool. That makes it feel more like a live-action Transformers than any scene with Sam or anyone ever does. When we go get a third, I want more. Send a few of them on their own mission, or something. We don't always need a bot paired with a human for a scene to feel real. I don't really feel a need to comment on the action. You saw it. You know why I like it. Even people who hate the movie said the action was cool. I got what I paid for. I think what this movie is guilty of is trying to cram too much in. Yes, Transformers have disguises so that they can hide or infiltrate our society. So the Terminatrix, Alice? Apparently she's a really, really detailed Decepticon. With a tongue that can't change, though every other piece of skin can. Aside from a momentary bicker between Sam and Mikaela, she was unnecessary. They should've either worked her in more and had her try to gain Sam's trust, thus leading her/the Decepticons to the Matrix and THEN reveal she was evil and maybe have 'Bee or the Twins smash her up. "Wouldn't the autobots have detected her" and "I knew she was bad!" are far lesser evils than using a unique character for two scenes and killing her off. Whatever happened to the ball bearing/paper-thin bot, too? I did like that the tiny bots were basically scouts and that Soundwave was sort of the carrier craft for them. He had the same role in the show, but he walked around with everyone else. Having him as sort of a spy/backup craft was a nice touch. Hopefully we'll get to see him in action in the future, but teasing him for now was cool. They had enough bad guys to kill in the final scene. I'd be better off if I hadn't watched so many episodes of "Inspector Gadget" when I was younger, but he was fine otherwise. I'm fine with the bots having human-sounding voices and dialects, but I kind of wish Soundwave had stayed synthesized. They had the right idea with Bumblebee, giving him the radio voice. I understand his voice working for a moment at the end of the first film to help make it more genuine... but I'm glad they brought it back. I sort of hope it stays that way in the future, too. The Autobots sort of cheated with their new characters. It works, but I think we spent more time with the bad guys in this film than the good. And while the Twins were funny, I really don't think they needed to be as front and center as they were. I still don't have a good feel for Ratchet. Ironhide got a good intro, but they didn't really do too much with him. Then there's the amazingly designed rollerskating Sideswipe, when just looking at him makes you say "Cool" before he even does any of the cool stuff he does. (He cut a Decepticon in HALF while it was in CAR MODE.) And the Chevy Volt character, Jolt, was obviously tossed in there cuz GM asked them to. Yay, energy transfer! Good job Jolt, now go back in your hole! Did he even fight any, that we saw? Then there's the human good guys. Who we're given weren't given a lot of time either. We lost a good chunk of the cast from the first one and replaced them with another moron. Sam is lucky in friends. Girlfriend's a grease monkey, assigned roommate knows all about alien robot conspiracies. I can forgive the coincidence for a love interest, but they're pushing it. When Optimus died, I didn't buy Sam's sadness. Not because of Shia, that was fine, but I didn't buy it for the same reason I didn't buy it when Wolverine cried about Prof. X getting vaporized. WE know and love the character. SAM does not. Sam hasn't known him that long. Sam's life was saved by Optimus, sure. He also saved Optimus' life, on one shiny afternoon. Since then, it's made to seem like they haven't seen each other since. Bumblebee is hangin' around, they seem to have a close bond. Sam seems pissed at Optimus most of the time. I blame the writers. Would you expect Sam to get all upset if say, Ratchet, had died? No. Optimus is the famous character, so we care, therefore Sam has to care. That's not enough. (Actually, my g/f was pretty upset about it until I whispered in her ear "Peter Cullen is signed for three films". She cheered up after that.) I'm not sure if Sam worked harder to bring back Optimus cuz he felt bad, or cuz of this whole "only a Prime can defeat the Fallen" thing. Not sure what that was about. Made for some cool combiner-mode-ass-kickery, I guess. Aside from Prime getting all frenzied, they never really say why only a Prime can take him down. So there's that. So things about the story bugged me. However, what we have here is a very busy film. I think about it, I'm still not sure I can keep it all straight. In the last movie there were 12 robots and prolly just as many humans. It feels like there's so much more in this one and so much more trying to happen. The plot needed to stay simple, but somewhere in the details I feel like they really missed something. Some things just didn't happen right. I mean, did they seriously have a conversation with Bumblebee in the garage while firefighters were spraying down their house? I kept waiting for one of them to walk in. And the parents getting kidnapped? That was seriously so very wasted. Similarly, I am glad they tied up a couple of loose ends, like with Scorponok. We have no idea what happened to him for two years, but his tail was fixed, right? Prolly hooked up with his buddies at some point, then got dropped off in the desert with the rest of them. However, I had a theory I shared with my friends. Someone needs to do a short film called 'Scorponok's Story'. Basically, it'd be about how he gets injured in the desert and runs off and somehow finds out about the Matrix and learns that's what his allies are also going after, so he decides to make his way from Qatar to the pyramids and secure it. It takes a while if you have to dig, you know. He decides he wants to prove he can be more helpful than just stalking humans. Then, just as he arrives, it turns out there's already a battle going on, so he goes back under the dirt and decides to take out one of the leaders, Jetfire. He wounds Jetfire, only to have his head smashed in. Poor, poor Scorponok. I'm still holding out for Barricade. My guess is that a cop car that turns into an evil robot is too good a character to just throw away in a massive melee. He'll be back. Maybe it was the writing, maybe they shot it and in post realized they didn't have enough bots, I don't know. I think they rushed it, so a lot of the minor things got fudged, while all the really big fight scenes got all the attention, so they were well executed. Optimus vs. 3 was cool... but where were the other Autobots? That can be attributed to 'movie timing', them showing up just after he's killed. Crap like that happens all the time in every genre, but in a movie that's already pushing it's practicality boundaries, it's a bit much. On the other side of it, their rescue of Sam from his lobotomy was a great moment. You knew they were going to show up, but MAN did they show up. So yeah. Transformers. I'll be there for three, should it happen. (The bank says yes.) If you're on the fence cuz people say it's bad, go see it. Go watch these robots on the big screen. You'll be glad you did, for that. If you like to nitpick the little plot holes and plan on hating it no matter what, well. Shut up. ;-) Oh, and just to be clear... if I had to design a giant robot made up of construction vehicles, that's exactly where the wrecking balls would go.


Boter said...

Actually, according to something I ready, they revived Blackout too. Remember, five hostiles going down, six coming up, but they killed one of the first bunch to make parts for Megatron (giving him the tank form that he rarely used).

Also, if you watch when the Matrix is re-forming, a LOT of the dust is left behind. I think it's more or less the essence of the thing, not the physical bit, that matters - thus, he didn't have to get all of the tiny bits of dust and not all of the tiny bits of dust were needed to re-form it. (I like coming up with things like that, it's the same mind that came up with, "Midichlorians don't cause the Force, they're an indicator, like antibodies for a virus.")

Alice: Laz said he'd heard to her referred as a "Desexicon". I like it. Also, there is a precedent for her: .

I liked Soundwave's voice... not completely synthesized, but devoid of emotion still.

I wonder if Jolt wasn't thrown in during post-production; go back and film some pickups of the car form, do a couple CG inserts and a quick rescript for a scene, but otherwise I almost get the feeling that the film had been pretty much shot when he was thrown in. Which is a shame, because I'd like to see more of the Volt in there. (It'd totally kick the Insight's ass from my story...)

Lastly, the "throw-away" characters. I just watched about half of the 1980s film (couldn't watch it solo, gotta watch again with a friend sometime). I'd forgotten it, but man, did they kill a lot of dudes in that one, too.

Vapes said...

We didn't see them revive Blackout, that's my main problem here.
Anything stated after the fact just comes off as a retcon.

As for Alice, the graphic novel reveals she scanned a wax sculpture from an Alice in Wonderland display, but since they were rushing through their characters so effectively in this movie, we didn't really get to see that part.

As for the 80's film, the entire purpose of it was to kill off characters. They were trying to make way for Generation 2, IIRC.

*_*Antoine*_* said...

There is so much hate around this movie that I just don't understand because I enjoyed the hell out of this movie so much.

I really don't feel like going into why I liked it so much because I already argued with a friend the other day and my thinking and writing muscles are a bit tired.

Vapes said...

Ha, that's pretty much the reason I started this blog.
I always have so much to say... nowadays it's easier to just tell them to look over here.