Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Michael Bay
Stars: Shia La Beouf, magan Fox, John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Ramon Rodriguez, John Benjamin Hickey, Julie White, Kevin Dunn, Isabel Lucas, Rainn Wilson, Glenn Morshower, Spencer Garrett, voices of Hugo Weaving, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Anthony Anderson, Robert Foxworth, Mark Ryan, Tom kenny, Darius McCrary, Tony Todd, Charles Adler, Reno Wilson, Mike Patton, Jess Harnell.
Michael Bay is not the most subtle of directors, but he is certainly a master of the big screen spectacle. In his previous big budget action-driven films like The Rock, Bad Boys, and Armageddon, etc, he delivers big bangs for his mega-bucks. His latest film Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, the sequel to 2007’s live action adaptation of the popular Hasbro action toys, is full of his trademark pyrotechnics, excessive testosterone, explosions and large scale action sequences.
Transformers 2 dwarfs the original in terms of non-stop action, but is somewhat inferior in virtually every other department. At a bloated 147 minutes, the film suffers from lots of unnecessary padding, particularly in some of the early scenes, and is something of a mind and bum-numbing experience. There are also plenty of attempts at humour, particularly through the inclusion of some cheeky and annoying Gremlin-like robots, which carry on bickering like R2D2 and C3PO.
Transformers 2 begins some two years after the original. The autobots now work with NEST, a secret government department, to battle Decepticons. An opening sequence set in Shanghai reveals that something very bad is about to happen involving the Decepticons and something called “the Fallen”. From that eye catching opening sequence we then move on to catch up with our hero Sam Witwicky (Shia La Boeuf), who is preparing to head off for college. Before too long though he is once again drawn into the on-going battle between the autobots and the Decepticons. This time the Decepticons are looking for a mystical power source known as the Matrix Of leadership, which will help raise a thousand year old Decepticon leader known as the Fallen from its hidden tomb and bring about the destruction of Earth.
As with most of Bay’s films, the action is spectacular and relentless, but there is little opportunity to emotionally connect with the characters. La Boeuf continues to impress, and is again quite good as the flawed young hero. Bay uses Megan Fox’s sex appeal to great effect. Comic relief is once again provided by John Turturro, Reprising his role as conspiracy expert agent Simmons, who has been demoted and now works in a deli butcher shop, Turturro brings a much–needed touch of sarcastic humour to proceedings. John Benjamin Hickey contributes some humour also as an over officious government bureaucrat.
Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson are wasted this time around, and given little of note to do. Also reprising their roles are Kevin Dunn and Julie White, who are basically wasted as Sam’s overly protective and anxious parents. And a quite impressive vocal cast has again been assembled to provide the voices of the autobots and Decepticons, including Hugo Weaving as Megatron, Robert Foxworth, and Anthony Anderson. A new addition to the cast is Ramon Rodriguez, who plays Leo Spitz, Sam’s college room mate, a computer geek who is dragged along for the ride.
Co-written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (the new Star Trek) and Ehren Kruger (Scream 3, Arlington Road, etc), the plot is somewhat bewildering, and seems like an excuse on which to hang as many impressive action sequences as possible. Admittedly the CGI sequences are quite spectacular, especially the climactic fight amidst the pyramids of Egypt. Ben Seresin’s camera never stops moving, and the rapid fire editing means that the film is often vertiginous to watch. Some sequences were also shot in the IMAX format, although it adds little overall. Steve Jablonsky’s bombastic score is over the top and intrusive.
Bay knows what his audience wants, and he certainly delivers. But Transformers 2 is film making by the numbers, and offers pretty much plenty of the same stuff we saw in the first movie, only on a bigger canvas. However, by now the “wow” factor and novelty value provided by the original has pretty much worn off.