Sunday, August 3, 2014

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the 2009 followup to 2007's Transformers.
Some of you may be wondering why I'm choosing to review Revenge of the Fallen instead of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides this week, and the answer is the same reason why I'm not reviewing the first Transformers movie, or The Hunger Games: Catching Fire this week. To give those reviews context. You see, after we were done with the first three Pirates movies, we watched the Transformers movies we had. We'd already seen Transformers on TV several years back and it hadn't come in at the library yet, so we decided to go with it.
So anyways, before I begin I might as well just say this: I am a huge fan of Steven Spielberg, and for that matter I'm also a huge fan of Michael Bay's work. I don't think there's a single movie of his that I've seen that I didn't like. I also had no experience with Transformers outside of a Decepticon that I got for my birthday years before I watched the first movie (God I feel old now). And at the point that I'd watched this movie, the only other experience I had with the franchise was a Transformers Animated graphic novel I'd found somewhere. Going into the original movie I still knew who the main four were. I knew Optimus, Bumblebee, Starscream, and Megatron.
Someday I might get around to watching the movies in the right order, but for now I'm going to be reviewing them in the order I saw them most recently.
Now that the disclaimers have been gotten out of the way, let's get to the movie.
So Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen takes place some amount of time after the first movie. A cover-up of the Transformers means that not a lot of people know about the existence of the Autobots or Decepticons. An organization called NEST has been formed to replace the disbanded Sector 7. It's essentially the Joes from G.I. Joe with Autobots. Which leads me to something I thought during the film: Why didn't they make a Transformers x G.I. Joe movie? Or maybe just do what Marvel was doing at the time and have them at least take place in the same universe. It'd make for some really fun action and plots. I mean come on, wouldn't it be great to have Optimus Prime in the same movie with Bruce Willis?
Anyways. The film opens with Peter Cullen narrating, as the last one ended and I have to say, if I was putting together a cast for an audio play, he'd be one of the people I'd call.
After that, it cuts to an action scene where the Autobots and NEST have tracked some Decepticons to a factory in Shanghai and something I have to say about it is that the action is amazing, and the CGI on the autobots is astounding. I was surprised by how good it was. I remember hearing Transformers fans complaining about the CGI, but good lord... Is there any other decent way they could have done it? Traditional animation would have just looked weird and there's no way in hell that puppets would have looked half as detailed as the CGI in this did. The level of detail they had on the Transformers is amazing. Pick a random part of one of them to look at and it'll have something interesting going on. Well maybe not interesting, but still. The computers they rendered this on must be BEASTS.
But anyways, in Shanghai they meet up with a massive decepticon and a smaller one disguised as a car. The massive one gets away, and they bring in Optimus to take it down.
Now, while I've never seen Transformers: The Movie, I have heard some of the things off the soundtrack (Thank you 331eRock) and the scene where Optimus drops from the plane to take on the Decepticon was absolutely begging to have The Touch by Stan Bush playing behind it. Granted, the theme they made for the movies is one of the few that have become as iconic as the original. Sort of like with the Spider-Man movies, I immediately recognize it as the Transformers theme.
After having seen the movie, I looked up the soundtrack and found that there was a version of The Touch made for this movie. And I listened to it. All the way through.
Good lord does it suck. They took an uplifting power anthem and turned it into a melancholic mess of disconnected rap-verses between crappy chorus lines and almost intolerable backing music.
Granted it was better after they took the rap lines out, but not by much. It's not better than the original, the remastered version, the 2007 version or even the Epic Guitar mix. What worse is that it was subtitled "Sam's Theme"
Again, I have very little knowledge of Transformers lore, but from what I've gleaned from the internet, The Touch was very much the theme-song of Optimus Prime. I read that they called it a "remix a-la Linkin Park." I don't know about any of you, but I like Linkin Park. Well, I like some of their work. Castle of Glass, In The End, New Divide, those are pretty good. This song was never suited for Linkin Park, or even people TRYING to be Linkin Park.
After a Decepticon beatdown the Autobots return to base with the NEST taskforce and proceed to get berated by an absolutely brainless bureaucrat who might as well have been dipped into the river of cliches as a baby for all he's a stock restraining boss character. Why does he exist? What purpose does he serve? Without him nothing would have been lost aside from a couple of absolutely pointless scenes, and there could have been a more creative way for the Decepticons to find out where the fragment of the allspark was. Then again, there are other things I'm going to get to later in the review.
And then we cut to the antics of Sam Witwicky, the least likable human being on the face of the Earth. After a bunch of pointless moments with his parents that could have been cut completely, he finds out that he's got a shard of the allspark in his jacket. It implants a bunch of Cybertronian knowledge in his head and then burns through his floor and brings the kitchen appliances to life, Transformers style. So Bumblebee fulfills his job as guardian and proceeds to bring the beat-down to these mini-cons. And then, for what seems to be a bunch of lines intended to fill space Sam and his parents berate Bee for destroying part of the house.
So. THE HELL. WHAT?! Come on people! They were trying to kill you and Bee saved your worthless lives! How does that make any sense in the least? None at all? That's what I thought!
Sometimes I like to play devils advocate and try to come up with a reason for the characters actions, but there's absolutely no reason for them to be berating Bee like that. Just call up the government and tell them that Sam found a piece of the Allspark in his jacket and it brought the kitchen appliances alive! In fact, that would have solved a good deal of the problems in the movie! I'm sorry, but who was writing this? Apparently three people did. I just have to wonder who thought that it was a good idea to NOT have Sam phone up NEST and tell them what was going on? And who greenlit this? Granted it'd probably be a completely different film without that but come on! Sam just gives the shard to Mikaela and then for an absolutely contrived reason, he leaves Bumblebee behind because the college doesn't let freshmen have cars.
Okay, I don't really have any experience with that, but Bee shows up at his school later in the movie anyways, so that's just plain pointless.
Well the Allspark shard might be influencing Sam's mind into not turning it over..... But I'd have loved to have some kind of reference to that in the film.
Anyways, at college Sam's mom eats cookies that have some kind of drugs in them.
I say "some kind" because I've looked up the effects of THC on the brain and her reaction is nothing like what has been cataloged. Maybe someone laced the pot brownies with cocaine or purified caffeine? Who knows. Another scene that didn't really serve a purpose. It wasn't even funny.
Now Mikaela not going to college with Sam..... I don't even really know what the purpose of that is, since, like with Bee, she meets up with him later.
Speaking of Megan Fox, her character has locked the shard in the safe in her machine shop, but a mini-con comes along to steal it. His scenes are okay, they're actually pretty funny.
He winds up being caught by Mikaela, and she proceeds to torture him. Sadistically. Like she's taking some sort of sexual pleasure out of BURNING HIS EYE OFF WITH A FREAKING BLOWTORCH.
Not doing much to make the human characters seem sympathetic there people. I know he's a Decepticon, but A) Wheelie is less than two feet tall, and B) It's not like he poses any kind of threat to Mikaela. He has no weapons and isn't exactly strong.
Anyways, Sam begins hallucinating the Cybertronian language and essentially going nuts, drawing the answer to a problem in class all in Cybertronian and reading through one of his textbooks in under a minute. I don't really have any problems with this, since it's pretty cool and does a decent job of making Sam relevant to the plot of the movie.
 He then goes to a party with his conspiracy-nut roomates and winds up having Bee track him down because while Sam's been at college, the Decepticons followed up on what they overheard from that idiot of a security adviser, Galloway. They stole the Allspark shard that NEST had recovered (Remember, this is different from the one Sam has) and have used it to make more Decepticons, as well as revive Megatron. Guess that the pressure of all that water wasn't enough to crush Cybertronian metal.
At some point in time here, Sam meets up with Optimus and proceeds to ask why exactly he's necessary to the Autobots.
Asking something the audience was wondering. Thank you Sam! At this point in time this was exactly what I was thinking, and unfortunately Optimus doesn't tell him why. Just sorta vaguely says why they need him. Sam proceeds to do the stupidest thing he could in any situation and leaves Bee with the Autobots and the NEST taskforce. What even? Come on dude, you're hallucinating the language of Cybertron and probably have Decepticons coming after you and you leave your appointed guardian angel somewhere else?! Specifically telling him not to come with you?! COME ON!
Then Sam takes this girl, Alice back to their dorms and she proceeds to reveal herself to be a Decepticon. Granted I know I'm not remembering this correctly, so I'm gonna go watch the rest of that scene again.
Okay yeah. I knew that wasn't what happened. Instead the girl shows up at his dorm after some interaction with his roomate about the time when Sam was drawing cybertronian symbols all over the walls. I actually really liked the scene because Sam was freaking the hell out and it made for a nice spectacle.
Remember what I said I'd get back to? Well here it is. If you've got Decepticons that can turn into humans, why use them in an attempt to seduce Sam Witwicky? Why not use them to find out where the Allspark fragment is? There was a perfectly good, not cliched way they could have handled it and yet they wasted it on Sam! Yeah he's got info in his head but if the douche of a security adviser hadn't spilled the bolts on where Megatron was and where the Allspark piece was we wouldn't have had a plot!
Maybe they were trying to emphasize how very little the Decepticons can do right without Megatron, I don't know. Considering that at this point I hadn't seen Transformers in years I had no clue how competent they were under Megatron.
So Mikaela catches Sam with the Alice robot right before she was about to torture him for information. That's the Alice-bot, not Mikaela. So this leads to a bunch of pointless bickering and the Alice-bot almost strangles Sam to keep him from leaving the room while she tries to extract the information from the All-Spark from his brain. The action scene that follows is pretty cool, and I liked how it was resolved. Then the Decepticons air-lifted the car that Sam, Mikaela and Sam's roomate, Leo are in to their base of operations (In a pretty cool way I might add) and then threaten to rip his brain out unless he co-operates. Optimus and the Autobots show up and proceed to engage with Megatron until more Decepticons show up and overwhelm them.
Now, something I need to say is that, like At Worlds End, Revenge of the Fallen has some awesome fight-scenes. I especially loved the moment where Optimus shot a round at where he knew Megatron was going to be and hit. That was a great scene. In fact, the entire scene that followed was a joy to behold. Optimus Prime holding his own against an army of Decepticons? Awesome.
Now, the one behind this whole plan is the original Decepticon, "The Fallen". He betrayed the other Primes and they cast him out of their ranks. Megatron apparently answers to The Fallen, so one would suppose that the Decepticons' actions in the first movie were under orders by The Fallen, and that he was planning both incursions upon planet Earth. So why were the Decepticons' operating less efficiently under him in this movie? Maybe because he's a legend to them while Megatron is very real and very dangerous? Or maybe Megatron just comes up with the plans and The Fallen is resigned to let him do all the real work. Who knows?
Also, for some reason only a Prime can kill The Fallen, and guess who the last one is?
So anyways, while protecting Sam, Megatron stabs Optimus through the chest, killing him.
It was at this point I realized I was empathizing with the Autobots more than the human characters. I don't know if this was on purpose or a complete accident on the part of the crew of the movie, but I never really cared when Sam was in danger. He wasn't a very likable guy, and Optimus seemed like a kindly old leader who wished to protect everyone he could, even at the cost of his own life.
And it would just so happen that "The Death of Optimus Prime" off of The Transformers: The Movie soundtrack would start playing now wouldn't it? Good lord....
Anyways, Sam and company (useless as ever) retreat while the Autobots hold off the Decepticons to cover their exit. After the battle is over, Megatron says that the coast is clear for The Fallen to come down from space and start taking over the planet. The Fallen One hacks all (I repeat, all) of the telecommunication services on Earth to tell them to hand over Sam in return for not killing everyone on Earth. Sam, currently in hiding with Bee and two more Autobots in addition to Leo and Mikaela (WHY didn't they make it easier to spell her name?) sees the broadcast and decides to (finally) try and find someone who can help them decipher the stuff Sam has in his head. Leo conveniently enough knows someone who might be able to help and leads them to a deli where ex-S7 agent Seymour Simmons works. Simmons, who has spent some time researching the history of The Transformers tells them that Cybertronians have been on the planet for a long time. He apparently kept a log of a bunch of them. With the help of Wheelie, they track down the Decepticon defector Jetfire. Wheelie decides to follow Jetfire and join the Autobots. Jetfire explains what all The Fallen did to Sam and company and then teleports them to Egypt.
Now, I don't really have any problem with the exposition-dump Jetfire laid on us there. It was very informative, and it was something that the main characters genuinely needed to know. (To some extent anyways) It didn't really take away from the movie, and it filled in a few gaps. Too bad there weren't any scenes like that for why Sam didn't just call up NEST and tell them he had a piece of the Allspark. After some puzzle-solving the group finds what they needed to bring Optimus back to life, The Matrix of Leadership. Which is also the key The Fallen needs to activate his sun-harvesting machine that converts suns into Energon. Why it's spelled with a G instead of a J I don't know.
The Matrix crumbles to dust, but Sam gathers as much as he can into a plastic bag and takes it with him.
Now, at some point in time around here NEST dropped the body of Optimus off at their base. And I was practically screaming at the screen for them to treat him with a little more respect! They just. Plain. Dropped him. About sixty feet onto a concrete runway. First off, that would most likely damage the runway, and second off the man had just given his life to protect the human race! No gratitude, no respect, and no dignity! Galloway ordered the Autobots shipped off and Optimus's body with them. With absolutely no regard to anything else going on! He just ordered the one advantage they had to stop helping them and didn't even BOTHER seeing if they could fix Optimus!
Disregarding the orders given to them, Major Lennox leads a mission into Egypt to air-drop the Autobots in to provide cover while Sam tries to revive Optimus.
The Autobot/Decepticon fight is pretty cool, but after a while I wasn't able to figure out who was who. There's a reason why the Autobots were all brightly colored and the Decepticons were all drab in the original series, so you could tell them apart! I pretty much forgot who was who aside from the main handful of Autobots.
Now, Simmons and Leo were off running around during the fighting between the Autobots and the Decepticons with the two Autobots that came with Bumblebee and Sam earlier. Mudflad and Skid.
I know that they were accused of being racist, but considering they learned how to speak from the internet I'm glad they represented internet trolls in the Autobots. I actually kinda found them funny. Huh.
Anyways, they run into what was probably the most hyped bot of the entire film, Devastator. A total of about two hours into the movie and they introduce the single most hyped up Decepticon in the entire movie. I remember when Revenge of the Fallen was new thinking that "The Fallen" was probably going to be Devastator. And five years later I found out it was something entirely different.
Why did they do that? Leave the coolest robot of the entire movie until the end and then kill him off in a quick fight? Devastator could have made a credible villain for an entire movie!
I mean hell! Out of everything being said about the movie before launch the thing I most remember was promotion for Devastator being in it. Me having no clue about anything Transformers I figured he was what the title was talking about and figured he was probably going to be the main threat. Nope!
Anyways, moving on down from that little bit of disappointment I have to say that the climactic showdown was fairly fun to watch, despite it being a little confusing as to who was who at times.
During an airstrike called in by NEST on the Decepticons, Megatron shoots and kills Sam just as he was about to reach Optimus. In the afterlife, Sam met up with the spirits of the dead Primes, who gave their lives to keep the spark out of the reach of their brother. They heal him and give him the true Matrix of Leadership, saying that in his fight to bring back Optimus he has earned the right to wield it. Waking up from certain death, Sam slams the Matrix into Optimus' chest and brings him back to life.
I have to say, I wasn't all that broken up about Sam dying. It's just... Well I haven't exactly heard good things about Shia LeBouf (Understatement of the week right there brother) and I was having a hard time differentiating my dislike of the actor from my dislike of the character. Sam is a bit of a douche and not the smartest guy in the world, but he's not a terrible person. He did, after all risk life and limb to save Optimus. But at that point all I was feeling was relief that Optimus was going to take center stage away from Sam.
While Optimus was still recovering from death, The Fallen steals The Matrix and activates his sun-harvester. Jetfire, having been fatally wounded fighting alongside the NEST task-force sacrifices himself to give Optimus the edge he needs to beat The Fallen.
Here is where my love of these movies comes out. Optimus Prime, too noble to ask another to sacrifice themself for him refused to take Jetfire's parts, and Jetfire, too noble to let Optimus go into battle outmatched and die again defiantly rips out his spark and makes Optimus take parts from him, because he knows that he's dying and won't be able to help any other way.
No Sacrifice, No Victory just came on and I almost cried writing that line just above.
You see, for all its faults, Revenge of the Fallen was still a good movie. The robots are a great group of characters, and the action scenes are entertaining. It's not a great movie by any means, but it's still a good one. I can recount worse movies I've watched, certainly.
So Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen gets a 7.8* rating from me.
Check back next week for Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
Something I figured I should mention before I wrap up this article is that the ending credits were absolutely begging for Transformers by Lion to be playing during them. Granted, New Divide is a decent song, but with a couple of line changes Transformers or even a cover of it would have been a great way to end the movie. Funny thing, they actually made a version of the Transformers theme for this movie! By Cheap Trick of all people! You'd think that would be a recipe for success. 80s band for an 80s series, right?
I didn't research this, but I'm not even sure if Cheap Trick is the same lineup as it was in the 80s.... It's just that the version made for this movie was so.... Boring. No emotion, no decent beat to it... It starts out okay but it fails a short time into the song. I'm glad it wasn't used in the movie. Again, I'd rather they stick to Steve Jablonsky's score then use an unlistenable remix.