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Home » Culture and Criticism

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Submitted by on March 4, 2010 – 11:38 AM22 Comments

I actually enjoyed it, because I expected to hate it, and while it is definitely bad — buys into its own pompous mythos, takes too long to explain a conflict nobody cares about, thinks it's funny when it isn't — it also has a few fun bits.

It helps that it's cast with people who, in one sense, "don't belong" in a franchise like Transformers, but because Julie White and John Turturro needed the money (I assume), it makes the whole project more interesting. Turturro seems to have decided that the writing is terrible, but he signed a contract, so he might as well give it 100 percent, and he does.

Everyone does; the movie's execution is very good. That's the thing with steroid-popcorn fare like Transformers — you have to look at it for what it is, and not complain about what it isn't. It isn't subtle. It isn't going to give you the small, sharply observed moments. Megan Fox isn't Meryl Streep — so what? You want Meryl Streep, go to a movie with Meryl Streep in it. You want a bunch of shit to blow up while Megan Fox dashes around pouting and having taut abs, you go to Transformers. Michael Bay does, well, Michael Bay movies, and he does them really well; if you use a Woody Allen ruler to measure them, that's kind of on you.

I've gotten tired of commentary on Transformers and its ilk that doesn't review the movie, but rather can't wait to indict movies made for teenage boys for cheapening the culture (and also gas on about how much smarter than the material the reviewer is). I agree that, if big-budget toy-tie-in kablamotrons like Transformers take money away from smaller projects, it's a shame, but there isn't anything per se wrong with a movie that basically only exists to rig explosions — and not every quirky indie is per se better at what it does than Transformers or The A Team, or even very good at all.

Sarah 47, Death Race 11; 14 of 24 categories completed

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22 Comments »

  • Jaybird says:

    I like "kablamotrons". Very, very much, and was going to "amen" the assertion that small indies aren't better just by virtue of being small indies.

    That said, I reserve the right to renounce Shia LaBoeuf and all his works, which is why I've refrained both from seeing "T:RotF" and from criticizing same. For her part, Megan Fox's turn in "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People" was the role she was born to play, right down to the "Theresa" parody biopic.

  • John says:

    I tried to watch this film (full disclosure: on an aircraft). I can normally channel my inner 13-year-old and get into big-CGI-explosion-fests, but this one baffled me. About 15 minutes in, I realized that I was unable to follow what was going on — the fight scene I was watching at the time was cut so close and so quickly, and featured robots I had never seen before, that I was totally lost, and didn't know who was the good guy and who was the bad guy. I ended up turning it off and watching something else instead.

  • Jen S says:

    My only real objection to the Transformers films in and of themselves (as opposed to "It's Not Ahhhhhrt!") is that the 'bots themselves are so complicated I can't tell who's who in a fight scene. I wished all of them were painted one solid primary color to make it easier: "Okay, Good Bot is Blue, Bad Bot is Red. GO BLUEY!"

  • Bitts says:

    Kablamotrons is my new favorite word.

  • rayvyn2k says:

    I, for one, cannot wait for "The A-Team". Loved the series and when I head the music the first time I saw the trailer, I got goose-bumps.

    "I love it when a plan comes together" is still one of my favorite sayings ever.

  • Jeanne says:

    Thank you for this review, I was getting sick of all my friends mocking me for actually enjoying this movie. Sometimes a girl just wants to watch giant robots fight while stuff blows up and the Transformers movies fit the bill nicely. And no one is better at blow 'em up movies than Michael Bay.

  • rayvyn2k says:

    That would be "heard" the music, not "head" the music. *facepalm*

  • Jaybird says:

    Sort of "meh" on "The A-Team" remake, but one masterpiece I do wish they'd film is "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies".

  • Elizabeth says:

    Jaybird, I believe they are making a film adaptation, which I will not be able to watch because a) I couldn't get past page two of the book and b) I can't get the Ehle/Firth adaptation out of my head. Also, zombies? SO PLAYED. Ever since "The Zombie Survival Guide," it's like 24/7 zombie jokes with the nerd set, which has just spoiled the entire business for me. Sucks, because I like horror movies, but at this point it's like trying to watch "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" without hearing endless nerd repetitions in your head.

    I wonder about the people who condemn kablamotrons and other popcorn fare. Are they on all the time? Are all their pursuits of the highest intellectual order? It must be exhausting. I'm not saying we all need a dose of reality TV in our lives or anything, but geez, people, relax once in a while.

  • TashiAnn says:

    The above about P&P&Zombies made me go check IMDB and it is apparently in production with Natalie Portman playing Elizabeth Bennett, which to me is perfect casting – for this specific adaptation. No one will ever come close to the Ehle/Firth adaptation.

    I think the people who can't appreciate kablamotrons are the same people who don't own TVs and look down their noses on us that not only own a tv but watch them too.

  • La BellaDonna says:

    JenS: Don't a lot of things go blooey anyway, regardless of the colors they're painted?

    Nothing wrong with big shiny explosions on screen, IMO. I have enough room in my heart for those AND for the Ehle/Firth P&P!

  • Tarn says:

    I don't know. I don't feel that snobby criticizing the Transformer movies (and to be fair, I only saw the first one…hated it so much that I'd have to be dragged kicking and screaming into any sequels), since there are a lot of "kablamatron" (awesome!) movies that I really like…I can compare the Transformers to those. A critic comparing XXX to Woody Allen…well, that's just silly. But compare XXX and Transformers? And it's Vin Diesel's mumbling "The things I'm gonna do for my country" while a random hooker dances in front of him every time. See? Not great. No reason to be critically acclaimed. Yet entertaining, easy to follow and enjoyable. Transformers, less so, IMO.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I'm fine with criticizing them, and I don't think it's that snobby. I do think that, if you're reviewing the movie, you need to review the movie, and if you use the review as a conduit for a torrent of cultural anxiety about Megan Fox, be upfront about the fact.

    …I don't know. Michael Bay isn't in need of my help or anything. But there's a difference between "I don't care for X" and "this movie does X poorly." It's like if I order a raisin tart and then complain about all the raisins in it — it's not trying to be an ice-cream sundae, and judging it with that metric is unfair and misses the point.

    With that said, even for what it is, T: RotF was at best a B-minus. The battle scenes were pretty confusing and often went on one or two kablams too long.

  • bluechaos says:

    My issue with T:RotF is this: they filmed at Princeton University including right outside the library in which I work. The extra traffic was annoying but it was mostly an entertaining experience (if nothing else it gave us something to talk about/mock). Then months later, there's an interview with Shia LeBeouf saying that they blow up a library. I, weirdo that I am, get incredibly excited by the idea of the library that I work in getting blown up therefore meaning that I die in the movie. I happen to think it would be awesome to die in a movie. Sadly, it turns out that while they do blow up a bunch of Princeton buildings, Firestone Library remains in tact, and I do not die in the movie. No fair.

  • Claire says:

    I couldn't even enjoy it and I saw it for free on campus. It was just so confusing. And loud (although not loud enough that I didn't have to turn around a give a bitchface glare to the girls behind me who were having a screechy conversation about their opinions on Megan Fox (which then sent me into a spiral of depression because I just glared at people for talking during a Transformers movie))

  • Elisa says:

    Honestly, I tried watching this movie and I really thought it was boring. The story was nonsense. I mean I don't expect much, but I expect them to keep me entertained. I was so bored that I fell asleep, and when I woke up there were still about 45 minutes left of the movie and I was so indifferent that I didn't even care enough to go back to where I had left off. I just want a fun movie sometimes, but I didn't feel it was fun at all. I'm very glad I only paid 1.00 at Redbox for it.

  • Jaybird says:

    Yes, zombies are played. But Regency-era (?), ninja-trained, Empire-waisted zombie killers aren't. And were I to make such a movie–which I won't, but still–I'd DEFINITELY do whatever it took to get Firth and Ehle, because that would redefine "surreal", except that Ehle is going to be busy with the whole "Game of Thrones" business.

    Shia LaBoeuf still bothers me infinitely more than Megan Fox, despite the fact that their "blindingly stupid public comments" ratio is 1:197. And I saw a hilarious article online awhile back, featuring a proposed Bay script for a "Hamlet" remake that featured "!!@#~" (POW) (BLAAAAMMM) on every page. Little explosion graphics, and everything.

  • kategm says:

    I only saw bits and pieces of this when my dad rented it one weekend. The parts I saw included when Shia went to "robot heaven."
    That was worth it. I decided, "carry on, movie! I'm not quite sure what you're up to but you have fun with it."

  • Jen S says:

    @LaBellaDonna, oh, yeah, Bay may not be the most sensitive arty guy around, but he knows that audiences come to his movies for two scoops of explosions. And explode things he does. It's just that after six fight/explosion scenes where you have no idea what just blew up or which side won, it makes the movie either baffling ("What just happened?") or boring (characters exposit on what just happened so everyone understands whether to be happy or sad). In my mind, the explosions can't just be works of boomey art unto themselves–I have to understand WHAT just blew up and why. All the closeups of tangled, intricate machinery didn't really clear things up.

  • DensityDuck says:

    1) Someone said that the year 2009 was maybe the best year ever to be an early-teen boy going to the movies. I agree with that.

    2) The problem with treating "Transformers ROTF" like a context-free independent artifact is that the "Transformers" brand is the whole reason it exists!

    3) And even if you do say "okay, it's just a movie, just pretend that none of this property ever existed", the movie is STILL crap. Topless Robot's "Transformers 2 FAQ" is probably the best critical treatment of the subject: http://www.toplessrobot.com/2009/06/bonus_robs_transformers_2_faqs.php

  • Kelly says:

    Thank god it wasn't just me who thought T:RotF made no sense! I liked the first one OK, but I had to stop watching and go do something else 15 minutes into this.

  • Jenny says:

    I actually really enjoyed the first Transformers movie and was looking forward to the sequel. I couldn't stand the sequel because a) it was waaaayyy too long, b) as mentioned already, the fights scenes confused the heck out of me because all of the robots looked the same, c) the chemistry between Shia LaBoeuf's character and Megan Fox's character was not the same anymore, and d) Shia's character treated Bumblebee like a pet instead of the giant killer robot who almost died saving his life in the first film.

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