Very rarely does a director make an epic sequel that's better than its predecessor. Michael Bay
has done exactly that with "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
." With its massive explosions and its extraordinary battle scenes, I left the movie on Monday night feeling like a kid hopped up on sugar.
There is one very specific reason though why the second Transformers movie outshines the first. "Revenge of the Fallen" dares to be more than meets the eye. Once you get past the cliché reference, think about its implications.
"Revenge of the Fallen" is not just a simple repackaging of "Transformers"; it takes more risks. I know it doesn't sound unusual for Michael Bay to take chances with audiences, so I'll elaborate. The film goes in new directions cinematically, comically, and thematically. Bay responds to fan criticism of the previous movie, and while the movie is definitely not perfect, I think he addresses those concerns well.
Bay largely abandons his frenetic style of cutting action scenes and jerky camera movements. In "Revenge of the Fallen," the camera moves sleeker and smoother. More time is spent seeing the moving parts of the Transformers and their battles are much clearer and easier to watch.
Visually, Michael Bay doesn't entirely deviate from his norm. His signature slow motion shots that involve helicopters and fiery explosions are still very present. He goes just a bit overboard though with 360 degree pans. One shot in particular of Shia LaBeouf
and Megan Fox
embracing almost had me dizzy because it circled them several times.
Image © Paramount Pictures
Effects in the film are top notch, and the CG is unparalleled. Transformations of the characters from vehicles into robots look flawless. The returning Transformers also receive some slight visual upgrades. Without giving away spoilers about which ones appear in the movie, the coolest looking characters are the new Autobots and Decepticons.
Humor was certainly present in "Transformers," but in much smaller doses than in "Revenge of the Fallen." The movie makes much a bigger effort to make audiences laugh, and while most of the time it works, at points it's just too much.
Jokes in the film are much more adult, and lowbrow. Crude testicle gags are sprinkled into the movie as well as robots and dogs humping things. The Transformers say words like "bitch" and "shit" annoyingly often enough to make me cringe at their lack of spontaneity.
As a sidebar, John Turturro
returns to play the same character he did in the first movie. He has been fired from his government post and speculates on alien conspiracies from his basement, but most importantly he's funnier than ever. Turturro is fantastic in the role, stealing the show every moment he's onscreen, even when he's standing beside giant robots.
Thematically "Revenge of the Fallen" is much more adult as well, but this isn't a bad thing. The themes of life, death, and love are very present in the film. Explanation of the Transformers' mythology shows that the Autobots are willing to sacrifice their lives to preserve humanity. In battle scenes, pieces of the Transformers are ripped apart, and cut open as they brutally fight one another to the death.
The love between Sam Witwicky and Mikaela becomes a major element in the film, as their relationship grows and matures, and they form a stronger bond as a couple. Bay examines why the two care about each other so much, and shows how their relationship has changed since the previous movie. I will admit though, there are a few points when their sappy love scenes are cheesy and could be toned down.
Other large themes in the movie are friendship and growing up. Sam's friendship with Optimus Prime comes to the forefront as the two sacrifice life and limb for one another. Maturity becomes more important as Sam leaves his parents' nest to attend college. He truly becomes a man in his father's eyes, asking his mother and father to leave the heat of battle while he stays behind to save Optimus Prime.
Pound for pound "Revenge of the Fallen" weighs in heavier than its predecessor. The action is more epic, visually it is smoother, the Transformers are cooler looking and their characters are better developed. I found "Revenge of the Fallen" to be a very engrossing movie, and while it certainly wasn't perfect I thought the two and a half hours went by rather quickly.
My fellow critics mostly seem to hate "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," but I just think they have misguided expectations. Michael Bay does not create sophisticated high art; he's good at entertaining audiences with fun characters and exciting action, and in my opinion he accomplishes exactly that with "Revenge of the Fallen."
My grade: A-
Story by Starpulse contributing writer Evan Crean
, a movie trivia guru and trailer addict with a practically photographic memory of actors and directors. Get a first look at the movies premiering each week, which which ones will be worth your $10, which ones you should wait to rent and which ones aren't worth your time.