• mecha, science-fiction 29.07.2009

    Last night I made a rare appearance at the movie theater and watched Transformers 2 – Revenge of the Fallen. Overall I’d say I liked the movie more than I disliked it. I can’t give it an enthusiastic “thumbs up” but don’t let me dissuade you from seeing the film. It’s roughly two and a half hours long. That running time is great for viewing at home but at the theater, with the plot as weak as it is, you start wondering when the credits will roll.

    I’m sure you’ve all either seen the movie already or read through a synopsis so I won’t recap the events of the movie. I want to get straight to the positive and negative points.

    POSITIVE
    The action was plentiful and amazing. I can remember older science-fiction/fantasy movies where the special effects were so difficult that the robots/aliens/whatever didn’t get a lot of screen time. Those days are over and the Transformer robots strut their stuff in many scenes. The action scenes were impressive and fast-paced. Lots of cool weapons and cool moves. For example, the robots that turn into wheeled vehicles are using their wheels as roller skates at opportune times to get the jump on their opponents. When Optimus Prime decided to fight he really kicked ass! There was lots of stuff like this and it made the movie cool. The special effects were so good, in fact, that I’ll go so far as to say that the movie is worth seeing for the effects alone. I don’t often say things like that but a mecha fan needs an opportunity to see giant robots on the big screen handled like they are in Transformers 2.

    The actors may not be the most talented that Hollywood has to offer but they did a great job and were a lot of fun to watch. Shia LeBeouf and Megan Fox should be given credit. Shia LeBeouf can ham it up pretty well and has at least some true comedic talent. Maybe he’ll have a chance to take it farther in the future.

    The movie was packed with comic relief and although much of it didn’t work and didn’t belong, there were enough good laughs to make it a fun movie.

    NEGATIVE
    The movie had many problems but I’ll try to keep this brief. I get tired of hearing people complain endlessly about commercialism in our society but this movie gives their complaints merit. It’s no secret that the movie wanted to sell toys but a good writer and director can keep the damage to a minimum. In order to ensure a large audience of kids they packed the movie with juvenile humor. The immaturity and over-abundance of that humor made the movie annoying at many points. Also, the desire to appeal to a larger audience resulted in too many elements being packed into the movie and diluting its theme. We had pee pee jokes next to teenage sexual content next to scenes stolen from horror movies. This desire to maximize ticket sales while drawing in kids young enough to want toys resulted in a mess that confused and annoyed the audience. Movies always benefit when the writer and director flex their muscle to keep the executives at bay and concentrate on just making a good movie.

    In the second half of the movie we’re given history about the transformers former visits to Earth and their shared history with humans. This could have been really cool and is usually the sort of thing that draws me in but it was handled very poorly. It was rushed and poorly thought out. We’re told Megatron serves an older transformer that has remained on the planet the Decepticons use as a home base. Why couldn’t Megatron’s boss be mentioned in the first movie? It feels too “tacked on”. Also, towards the end of the movie the heroes have to solve a riddle about the dagger’s tip and the three kings. A riddle like this doesn’t belong in a decent science-fiction movie and especially didn’t belong in Transformers. How could I be expected to believe that a race of high-tech artificial intelligences uses dopey riddles that belong in adventure movies written for young children?

    Several pages were stolen from the horror movie director’s playbook. Not only does this not belong in a science-fiction movie that is written to appeal to young audiences but I hate this kind of stuff to begin with. I don’t want to take my kids to a movie with half-naked teenage girls dissolving into necrotic zombies! And what was that doing in there anyways? The Transformers don’t immitate humans. They didn’t do it in the first movie and it strays too far from their premise.

    Like many mecha fans, I didn’t like the design philosophy of the two Transformer movies. The robots were overly complex with far too many moving parts to be believable. An advanced technological civilization would work to produce designs that had less moving parts, were easier to maintain and could transform more quickly. Besides, when in robot mode most of the Transformers look like they transform into a pile of random parts! If the designers for this film wanted to ignore the Transformer designs that came before they could at least have drawn some inspiration from anime.

    The new take on the Transformers that began with these new movies was interesting but unravelled too quickly. This time around the robots from the stars were more alien, less inviting. This was a cool way to handle things but Transformers 2 gives us an “old timer” that is nothing more than poorly done comedy. An SR-71 Blackbird transforms into a robot with a scraggly metal beard, a cane and a collection of old fart comments. This tore down the alienness of the Transformers and made metallic robots far too similar to human beings.

    I would expect some nods to older fans that grew up playing with Transformer toys but it was too weak in this movie. The names of old Transformers were retained but their looks and personalities were totally changed. If you’re going to put in some material to honor older fans, don’t do a half-assed job of it.

    FINAL ANALYSIS
    In the final analysis the movie was good enough to go see and even good enough to keep a DVD on your shelf. It could have been so much better but the awesome action scenes made me forgiving of the poor writing and immature humor. If you’re a mecha fan you need to make time to watch this movie. Then roll up your sleeves and join the online discussion. Future mecha movies can be better if we don’t stop reminding Hollywood what we like to see.

    For the maximum experience I’d recommend getting together a group of guys and popping Transformers 2 into a DVD player. I look forward to seeing the movie again this way.

    What did you think of the movie?

    • It was ok. (43%, 3 Votes)
    • Loved it. (29%, 2 Votes)
    • Don't need to see this one. (14%, 1 Votes)
    • Hated it. (14%, 1 Votes)
    • Plan on seeing it. (0%, 0 Votes)

    Total Voters: 7

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    Posted by Tachyon @ 6:00 am

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  • 2 Responses

    • I agree with much of your review, but insofar as the transformers being incapable of imitating humans– there is a precedent for this concept in transformers lore. The autobots and decepticons who used organic outer shells as a disguise were known as “pretenders”. I’m assuming the Alice character in the Revenge of the Fallen movie was supposed to be one of these. The only difference between Alice and the original pretenders is that she didn’t “shed” or emerge from a shell– she could simply generate the appearance of an organic form. You can read about them here:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretenders_(Transformers).

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