R089 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

(2009, Action/SciFi, color)


Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

The studio focus grouped this movie with a dead rat.

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:

Vroom vroom, jabber jabber, kaboom!


...waiting for the story to arrive.  You haven't seen it around have you?In China, vehicles transform into robots to fight and crash and generally make things go boom. Meanwhile, Shia LeBeouf jabbers and Megan Fox poses while the people playing Shia’s parents buzz and quip like the Costanzas on speed. There’s a fragment of the prior film’s MacGuffin that changes the household appliances into murderous little chrome-plated gremlins, but mostly this part’s about the family dogs gettin’ it on like there’s no tomorrow.

Shia leaves to attend college in another city. At this point the movie suffers some kind of nervous breakdown, spending the next twenty minutes or so under the delusion that it’s Species V. In the midst of the hot-human-girl-shaped evil transforming robot shenanigans, Shia gains sudden alien genius powers while his parents wander campus like some unholy amalgamation of the Costanzas and Something-That-Might-Seem-Kind-of-Animal-House-ish-But-Is-Actually-a-Horrible-New-Creation-All-Their-Own (gasp) on speed.

Just then, Decepticons (i.e. bad guys) attack! This is because, uh... Alien robot noble Optimus Prime dies defending our heroes. (If you don’t know who Optimus Prime is, don’t worry; it doesn’t really matter.) Everyone spends the rest of the movie trying to resurrect him. Their eventual success involves John Turturro, giant robotic testicles, some of the most cheerfully oblivious racism to grace the silver screen since the early twentieth century, and many, many, many explosions.


Codger-Bot, transform!Revenge of the Fallen is bad. Not bad but still kind of exciting, like your average summer blockbuster. Not the bad but loveable work of an overeager incompetent. Not even bad like the work of a filmmaker who’s already made all the money he needs, and can’t be bothered to care whether or not anyone enjoys his current oeuvre. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’s badness is of a particularly pernicious variety. It's the kind of movie that holds you in contempt, plying you with the most offensive, puerile garbage it can muster while openly snickering to itself. “Kids are so stupid,” it says, not caring if you overhear. “They’ll watch anything.”

I find this kind of odd because, yes, Michael Bay’s films have always been chest-thumping explosion-laced nonsense, but up till now they’ve also been reasonably exciting popcorn flicks. Case in point: the prior film in the series. It’s rather loud and makes very little sense, but if you switch off your brain, Transformers can actually be kind of fun.

Revenge of the Fallen isn’t like that. It’s frantically paced, to be sure. If someone isn’t racing to the next location, they’re blowing something up. If they’re not blowing something up, they’re jabbering incoherently. If they’re not jabbering incoherently, they’re doing a vaudeville routine that will make you retch with vicarious embarrassment. It has fountains of frenetic energy but never moves forward, constantly veering off course into ugly and unnecessary vignettes. These include, but are not limited to: the new Secretary of Defense’s bureaucratic incompetence, Mom’s drug-fueled cluelessness, Racist-Bot’s punk-ass bitch-edness, Turturro’s thong-based eccentricity, and the full, rich sex life of Shia’s dogs. For a different film, I might have recommended taking these out to improve its focus, but Revenge of the Fallen is composed entirely of ugly and unnecessary vignettes. Removing the film’s dead weight leaves it with nothing; we would essentially have spent our ticket/purchase/rental money paying Mr. Bay not to make the movie at all. Which, now that I think about it, would have been a much better deal than the one we got.

Showcasing the movie's stars.Riffing this abomination seems like it would be an uphill battle, and indeed Mike, Bill and Kevin turn away from it almost as much as they did from the ubiquitous unsex scenes of The Room. During many of the loudest explosion sequences they jabber like Shia LeBoeuf. This is only moderately amusing, but there’s no way we’d be able to hear and understand an actual pithy joke over the noise. Likewise, Disembaudio pops in with an irrelevant pitch for his Energy Balls to distract them (and us) during the physics lecture, a scene so awful it made every particle of my being cringe with pity for the actors involved. Where the riffers can wedge a comment in edgewise, we hear things like Kevin’s, “Beavis and Butthead just left the theater, feeling their intelligence has just been insulted.” During Shia’s Mom’s campus rampage, Mike notes, “This would have to be in Icelandic to be any less coherent,” while Bill adds, “And be a dog whistle to be any more shrill.” During the ugly and irrelevant Touring Paris vignette, Mike has to ask, “Does it get any lower than playing a mime in a Michael Bay film?” It’s not the best Rifftrax they’ve released, but it’s watchable and reasonably fun. That might not sound like high praise, but when you consider the source material, making a viewing of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen into any kind of positive experience must have taken heroic effort.