a critiQal film review Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Plot: Two years after he and his Autobot friends saved the Earth from the Decepticons, Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) faces a new battle: college. Meanwhile, Optimus Prime and the Autobots are working with a secret military organization and trying to make a home for themselves on Earth. When an ancient Decepticon known as The Fallen rises up to wreak vengeance, Sam and his girlfriend, Mikaela (Fox), must figure out the history of the Transformers on Earth and find a way to defeat The Fallen once and for all.

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  • ...the action is so amped up in this sequel it leaves the viewer a little slap happy - and slightly disappointed.

After seeing the way Michael Bay was able to bring the toys of my youth to vibrant and fantastic life in Transformers (2007), I’ve been waiting for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to hit theaters. So, of course, I avidly scrambled for all the news I could when this film landed in theaters this past Wednesday – and was surprised at all the negativity from the critics. Lots of high profile critics panned the film, citing no character development and large amounts of confusion as some of their main reasons.

Would this be another time I’d disagree with what other critics had to say? Or would Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen be the biggest disappointment of the summer?

The ability to combine visual effects and human emotions has been a problem for years, with too many films going for the all-out visual effects but leaving the equally important human emotions out of the mix. With just visual effects, the sequences may be stunning, but without that important human connection, the viewer won’t be invested in the outcome, and will quickly lose sight of the plot.

Transformers (2007) was able to ride a fine line, by delivering lots of good human interaction in the form of Shia LaBeouf and pals, while still delivering impressive effects on a large scale. Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen doesn’t toe that line quite as well, and Shia LaBeouf and friends are largely ignored as characters once the action starts heating up.

Thankfully, the first part of the film does a good job of reconnecting viewers – if only briefly – with the characters they enjoyed from the first film, giving the viewer a reason to re-acquaint themselves. Once the action picks up, however, the characters get a little lost amidst the epic battles, and spend most of their time just running and screaming (a la old monster movies). While this can be entertaining, the first film set such a high bar keeping the characters relevant in the battle sequences that it’s a bit of a disappointment this time around when their efforts don’t quite match up.

The Autobots themselves aren’t giving as much “getting to know you” screen time for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen either, which gives the new Autobots a bit of a short shift. The viewer is barely introduced to them, so will not really be as invested in what happens to them. Last time around, with just a few Autobots, the viewer got to know each character as an individual (if mechanized) being, rather than grouping them together as a whole. This time, the new Autobots – and most of the new Decepticons as well – seem to be nothing more than nameless soldiers in the battle.

That may be due in part to the much larger scale of the effects in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. If viewers thought the scorpion attack sequence or the Megatron/Optimus battles were something to see in Transformers (2007), this film will quickly erase that notion – those were child’s play in comparison with the colossal effects shown in this sequel. Whether it’s Devastator attacking while the rest of the Decepticons focus their attack elsewhere, or the Megatron/Optimus/Starscream battle royale (just to name two), the enormous scale of these battles are almost beyond belief…and that’s part of the problem.

With battles on such a massive scale, it’s hard for the viewer to really get involved – it just goes beyond the scope of what viewers can comprehend. There is so much action, the viewer hardly knows where to look (thus resulting in some of the confusion mentioned by other critics).

The plot seems a bit awkwardly handled in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, as well. Instead of just one continuing storyline, the story seems to be split into two parts. While the first part is a nice way to get Sam Witwicky back into things (a shard of the Cube still exists!), the 2nd part – which introduces a character that should have been mentioned, at least in passing, in the first film – leads to the more massive battles and crazy effects, and tends to focus on those while forgoing most of the human element that helped make the first film so exciting.

That being said, despite a bit of confusion during some of the spectacularly huge action sequences, and the short attention giving to the new Transformers, the film does manages to salvage a bit of the connection the viewer felt in the first film with the characters – although that seems more notably pointed at just Sam Witwicky and Optimus Prime this time around – and the film comes off as enjoyable popcorn entertainment.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen may be the biggest movie of the summer, but it’s got enough flaws to guarantee it’s not the best movie of the summer. The massive special effects may warrant another look by some, but most will be content after one viewing to wait for the DVD for a repeat performance.

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