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Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

TRANSFORMERS: Revenge of the Fallen effectively showcases the best and the worst of Michael Bay. It’s both a triumph and a disaster that somehow leaves you on the right side of feeling good.

First and foremost, it accomplishes almost everything that it sets out to. It’s bigger in every way than its predecessor, it boasts genuinely jaw-dropping special effects and it’s a fun rollercoaster ride of a blockbuster.

But it’s also wildly self-indulgent, extremely loud, overly long, overly gung-ho, terribly patriotic and, worst of all, plot-wise a complete mess.

Bay’s sequel is more a blockbuster of big moments strung together by the flimsiest of plots. But when the director gets things right, the mix frequently proves fun and irresistible.

Set shortly after the events of the original, the film finds planet Earth once again under threat from the Decepticons, led by The Fallen, who mount a new invasion using everything in their arsenal, from the resurrected Megatron to a 120ft sand-sucking beast called Devastator.

Standing in their way, meanwhile, are the Autobots – again led by Optimus Prime – and Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf).

But while the government wants to stop the Autobots in their prime and send them packing in the hope of securing peace on Earth, Witwicky also wants to lead a normal life and heads to college determined to stay faithful to Mikaela (Megan Fox) in spite of the attentions of a college hottie.

Matters come to a head once it’s revealed that Sam has unwittingly stored the location of the Transformers’ life source in his head and faces a race against time to find and extract the matter in the middle of the Egyptian desert.

At a little under two and a half hours Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen feels epic and can be exhausting given Bay’s inability to hold a camera still – but he does offer plenty of bang for your buck, including a greatest hits medley of all of his past moments.

The film hits the ground running with an almighty robot smackdown in Shanghai before trashing a university campus and a forest on its way to the grandiose finale among the pyramids.

En route, Bay sinks an aircraft carrier (in a nod to Pearl Harbor), once again lays waste to Paris (a la Armageddon) and drops in plenty of sly references to his own and producer Spielberg’s movies.

He also brings out the best in every slender curve of female leads Fox and newcomer Isabel Lucas, while putting his male leads – and LeBeouf in particular – through the physical and emotional wringer.

The result is, by turns, laugh out loud funny, seriously hot and awe-inspiringly spectacular, but equally over-indulgent and frustratingly over-directed.

Bay still doesn’t really know how to use actors and reduces almost every performance to hysterical shouting, while layering on the testosterone and the jingoistic elements – there are times when you could be forgiven for thinking he has developed a serious hard-on for the US military.

He also deprives the film of any real emotional investment, despite delivering two devastating set pieces that should really have left more of a lasting impression.

Yet somehow in spite of the film’s many, many failings, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen still manages to exhilarate on a number of occasions.

The effects really are special and continue to set new benchmarks, the explosions are as jaw-dropping as they are OTT and LaBeouf, Fox and John Turturro still manage to create likeable leads in spite of being under-developed.

The wow factor puts Terminator Salvation firmly in the shade and Bay dutifully delivers everything you’d expect from a robot movie and more.

It’ll frustrate and exhilarate in equal measure and marks the pinnacle of the trashy summer blockbuster, but you’ll probably be left thirsting for further instalments while hating yourself for doing so.

But then that’s Michael Bay to a tee!

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 147mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: November 30, 2009