Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

With that calamitous stateside civil war between shape-shifting space robots now a couple of years behind him, young Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is off to college. But it means parting ways with his protective pet Camaro, Bumblebee, and his girlfriend, Mikaela (Megan Fox), to whom Sam swears he’ll stay true, even though neither of them wants to be the first to say, “I love you.”

Maybe they’ll get some perspective when a forgotten souvenir from their mechanized adventure fills Sam’s head with strange robotese runes, and suddenly another war is at hand. (No, it doesn’t matter what that even means.) Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) and his benevolent Autobots, now in covert alliance with America’s military, will again need Sam’s help to keep down the evil Decepticons, whose new plan involves filling our world with transforming, trash-talking, leg-humping, orifice-invading, explosion-making nonsense, then shutting off the sun. Thing is, after two and a half hours of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, total frozen silent darkness seems very appealing.

Pausing occasionally to gawk at babe brulée Fox (seriously, she looks like a custard, finished with a layer of sugar and a butane torch), the camera seems less jittery than in the first Transformers film, but still restless as hell — swooping, swirling, gliding off to nowhere in particular when it should be seeking out a better view of whatever it’s supposed to be recording.

As for that whatever, well, whatever. Weird how annoying it is not to be able to tell what’s going on when you know perfectly well that what’s going on is robots wailing on each other. Weirder how annoying it is to actually become incensed — then overwhelmed, then exhausted — by the cheesy idiocy of a movie developed from another movie developed from a crudely animated 1980s TV cartoon developed from a line of action figures. Even by the lowest possible standards, this should be so much better.

Screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman muster the same “Oh, like you care about plot logic” abandon they supplied to Star Trek, with The Brothers Grimm writer Ehren Kruger also on hand apparently to polish up the leaden bloat. That being the most realistic-seeming metallic surface in the film does not constitute an advantage. Also, other actors are employed, for the mostly failed comic relief of D-list-sitcom shtick and wince-worthy minstrelsy. But really, it’s about the rock’em sock’em.

I was trying to go the whole length of this review without writing the words “Michael Bay,” just to see if it’s even possible. But Bay, America’s greatest-ever auteur of asininity, has a gift for just not going away.

Is it because he has something to say? How about Sam and Mikaela’s three little words? Right: First we’ll need some aimless, aggressive jingoism, for context. Keep your eyes peeled for flapping flags, solemn Marines and the biggest pair of truck nuts anyone should ever have to see. Come to think of it, maybe the movie’s several references to testicles are intended somehow to compensate for the neutering of General Motors, whose vehicles some of its heroes become.

Anyway, the climax occurs in Egypt, because it’s the world’s biggest sandbox and Bay has lots of toys.

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