"Is this where we're at? Are the rest of our screenplays to be written in crayon?"
When I walked out of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, I was frustrated. About five guys on Earth have access to the kind of budget Michael Bay does, yet all the man does is offer up slow-motion explosion after slow-motion explosion. OK, sure, he throws in a scantily-clad Megan Fox in for effect, too. Super. But plot? No. Logic? Negative. Any semblance of a coherent story whatsoever? Nope. But then it hit me, like a ton of Transformer, this was actually better than the first one. No kidding, it seems as though The Bay is evolving. So I have to give a bit of credit where it's due there. No, this isn't a film for folks who want to engage intellectually with a movie, but it is summer escapism. Fine. You win, world.
Sam Witwicky and his parents rock the house again! I know everyone was concerned for the human lead characters in, erm, Transformers, so I can tell you they are back in fine form. Back too is the hottest auto mechanic in history, Megan Fox's Mikaela Barnes. Oh, to be transported to the mystical world where a gal can fix a car without getting her hands dirty. All the Autobots and Decepticons you've fallen in love with are accounted for too, with the only caveat being you can't really tell who is who on the bad guy side. Something about the one size fits all "grey-silver blade" look they all sport. But it hardly matters. You know something is fighting something else, and that will have to be enough for your ten bucks.
It's another big story, spanning the globe, with end-of-the-Earth implications. The military boys are locked and loaded, the bad guys are snarling and vengeful, the Autobots are moral compasses. It adds up exactly as you'd think if you've seen a moving picture before; the motivations are simple while the laughs pound you about the head and face. At 150 minutes, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen could have used a bit of editing, but when every explosion has essentially the same value what would you cut? It's a classic filmmaker's dilemma.
Now then, I'm dinging this film for a few reasons. One is the continued insistence that we're supposed to care about the human element of the giant metallic fighting robot war. I don't, and I can't. The other is Bay's love of testicle jokes and "madcap" Three Stooges-style fun. First he's got dogs humping each other. Then, a tiny Transformer humping a gal's leg? Really? Is that where we're at? Are the rest of our screenplays to be written in crayon with only the drool from our big dumb mouths providing color? I lament for the industry. But then I think of Dark Knight, and Iron Man, and hell, even the new Bond series and find some solace. There are guys out there who know how to provide escapist entertainment while not asking us to turn off the part of our brain that thinks -- it's just that this guy this isn't one of them. At least not with the Transformers series.
However, the C grade isn't meant to be all that bad. The first hour passes fine, and the culmination is of course a huge spectacle. The film is comprised of an artificial momentum with fake moments all over the place but it is CGI-riffic. At the very least it's worth watching as a learning tool. Those who can turn off their brain and just enjoy the shiny things and multiple explosions will rise up in defense of this film. Those who note the bushels of logic flaws will be miserable throughout. I'm somewhere in the middle, as for minutes at a time I was able to enjoy Megan Fox running away from things. At other junctures I was perturbed by Bay's apparent lack of respect for the audience or himself. I suppose the saving grace of this film is that in ten years no one will talk about it anymore. We'll have evolved.