Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opens Wednesday throughout the Triangle
To quote Team America: World Police, "Why does Michael Bay get to keep on making movies?"
It's no surprise that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is as visually bleary and bombastic as Bay's lucrative, aesthetically reprehensible forerunner. Or that the plot grafted together by usual suspects Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci is as mind-numbing as it is derivative. Or that Bay's robotic approximations of women are as panting sexpots, while African-Americans are jive-talkin' illiterates—"We don't really do much reading," admits Autobot Mudflap, when asked to translate some ancient Transformer hieroglyphs. Bay's pathetic self-aggrandizement is so pervasive that at one point we see a Bad Boys poster plastered on the wall of a college dorm room.
What is notable is that it took almost 160 days for the first anti-Democrat movie to snake its way into theaters. We're given to understand that the United States has entered into a live-and-let-live agreement with the Decepticons. Foolish liberals! A new national security advisor and presidential liaison steps brashly onto the scene, aiming to dismantle the agreement—with the blessing of the new president, he continuously reminds us. The film's climactic donnybrook is fought in Egypt, and the only Arab country to come to the aid of American soldiers is Jordan. Still, even if Bay's conception of geopolitics is shallow, all would be forgiven if he had the dexterity to finally rise to the occasion and put some talent where his money is.
A college-age Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and main squeeze, Mikaela (Megan Fox, seen mostly running in slow motion wearing a tank top and Daisy Dukes), again find themselves in the middle of a war for universal supremacy between the Transformers, including a resurrected Megatron (Hugo Weaving) and his master, The Fallen. Megatron's mission is to track down some hidden power thingamabob that The Fallen will use to revive a machine intended to destroy the Sun, while also killing Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), since only a Prime can vanquish The Fallen.
Frankly, there are Mario video games with more depth than this story—indeed, sitting through Transformers is like watching a 150-minute-long arcade game. Any serious attempt to decipher the plot, with elements pilfered from Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings, is stymied by a nonstop hail of gunfire that riddles every scene. It's not enough to suffer the constant barrage of shape-shifting robots veering across the screen; Bay throws in helicopters, cargo carriers, fighter jets, motorcycles, battleships, submarines, tanks, amphibious assault vehicles and an unmanned aerial drone in a pear tree.
In order to stave off mental atrophy, I allowed my thoughts to wander, considering how—in the film's effort to incorporate LaBeouf's real-life hand injury—Sam manages to locate and dress himself with gauze and finger splints, seconds after being violently teleported into the Sahara desert. Unfortunately, I nearly missed the juvenile yuks from two instances of dogs humping each other, and later on, in which a miniature Transformer humps Mikaela's leg.
Bay's schoolyard notion of masculinity is epitomized by his steroid-infused filmmaking style. Perhaps it also accounts for why Mikaela's chosen insult for Sam is to repeatedly call him "such a girl," or why Bay expresses an odd predilection for testicles: First, Mikaela lands atop the gonads of Sam's roommate, then an ex-government agent (John Turturro) reports the coordinates of a mammoth Decepticon while hiding in the shadow of its dangling scrotum.
Transformers 2 might be a fanboy's wet dream, but most audiences will find it flaccid. To further the scatology, one might say this insipid, bloated film, like its predecessor, is merde that meets the eye.