Review - 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen'

WARNING: WE WON’T DISGUISE THE SPOILERS

When you review the track record of theatrical adaptations of what were originally animation properties, the results are pretty grim. The graveyard is filled with the stinking carcasses of attempts like He-Man & The Masters of the Universe, Scooby Doo, The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas and many, many more.

That’s what made the first Transformers movie so exceptional. Yes, director Michael Bay took extreme liberties with the Autobots and Decepticons, but many not only made sense, like turning Bumblebee into a Camaro, but made for an overall enjoyable film. Who knows if it was the presence of producer Steven Spielberg or just some solid luck, but Bay turned out a solid movie. 

Naturally, when a film also makes $700 million worldwide, which Transformers sure did in 2007, you know there is going to be a sequel. Out today, the film’s subtitle is Revenge of the Fallen.

With this one, Bay also makes some pretty radical modifications. Again, he managed to get away with it. His re-adaptation of Decepticons Soundwave (voiced by legend Frank Welker) and Ravage (non-verbal) are creative, and fit the film beautifully. The true main villain, the Fallen (Tony Todd), was never animated, but from the comics, and his story line fits in nicely. Ironhide, always a personal favorite, also has a boosted role. Probably the most interesting revamping is Jetfire (John Turturro).

The basic plotline picks also picks up very successfully where the previous film left off. Set “two years” after the first film, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and his surviving Autobots are now working with the government in hunting down Decepticons. Working with him are Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and Sergeant Epps (Tyrese Gibson) from the first movie. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is getting ready to go to college, and his love Mikaela (Megan Fox) and his first car Bumblebee (Mark Ryan) are taking it harder than he is. In fact, only Sam wants is a normal life, even if he has a 60 foot robot in his car’s garage.

Naturally, no way in the world is that going to happen, especially as Sam still has a shard from the All Spark, and it effects him in ways he has no control over. At the same time, the government has another shard, and when the Decepticons get their metallic claws on it. The Fallen, who is the “father of all Decpticons”, has a very nasty plan about re-launching his race at the expense of humanity.

One can actually divide this new film into four key acts. The first establishes the present day. The second is when the Decepticons get busy. The third is the consequences of the second. The final act? This is a Transformers movie after all.

At 150 minutes long, this film definitely could use some trim, especially in the third act. Watching Sam, Mikaela and new comic relief pal Leo (Ramon Rodriguez) go through all kinds of torture to save the day has its moments, but gets tiring after 30 minutes. Even the return of Turturro as a much improved Agent Simmons can’t save the day, even though he tries mightily. Yes, Turturro’s performance is a marked step up from the first film.

Otherwise, on the plus side, one major improvement Bay made was making the various T-Bots much more distinguishable. In turn, this kills a ton of the confusion that marred the combat scenes of the first movie. The battle sequences in and of themselves are all pretty amazing. Bay realizes he’s working with characters that can twist, turn, and take hits in a number of ways no human body ever could, and capitalizes on this. The end result is some mind-blowing violence. It’s a ton of fun when Optimus rips Starscream’s arm off and starts beating the Decepticon with it.

The overall acting is also much better than the previous film. Yes, LaBeouf is put through some pretty torturous scenes, but holds up in spite of them. Megan Fox is a perfect foil to him and Rodriguez, and Turturro saves many a scene. Duhamel and Gibson also have their moments.

As for the ‘bots? Except for the addition of “the Twins,” they all have been wonderfully upgraded in subtle ways. All the big guys are much more expressive, both in posture and in facial expression. As hinted before, who ever was their action animator deserves special recognition. He or she did wonders with them.

So, the only thing left to ask is if this new Transformers film continues the franchise of defying the fate of most animation-to-live action adaptations. The answer is yes, they did. As long as you can sit through that third act you’re going to have a great time. Isn’t that all any movie fan ever wants?

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