Special Effects Overshadow Cast in Bay’s Bigger-Budgeted Sequel
This summer blockbuster has hit written all over it, given that Michael Bay freely admits that he makes movies aimed at teenaged boys. At the very least, his testosterone-sodden spectacular won’t disappoint that targeted demographic either in terms of its eye-popping special f/x or its gratuitous displays of appealing eye candy.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen generally amounts to a worthy sequel for several reasons. First of all, Bay has upped the ante (increasing the budget from $150 to $200 million) in terms of all the bombastic bells and whistles which have become his trademark. The explosions have become bigger, the locales more exotic, the morphing machines more imaginative.
Of equal importance is the fact that he brought back all of the principals, including Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, Kevin Dunn and Julie White. For it’s the task of the human cast members to give the audience a reason to care about an otherwise impersonal showdown between sentient robots from the planet Cybertron: the good Autobots and their evil adversaries, the Decepticons.
At the point of departure, we find Sam Witwicky (LaBouef) headed east for a normal life at college, but regretting having to leave his girlfriend Mikaela (Fox) behind. But not long after meeting his new roommate, Leo (Ramon Rodriguez), an alien conspiracy buff, our unassuming hero already finds himself being pursued by Alice (Isabel Lucas), an ardent admirer who might be after something other than his bod.
Soon, Mikaela shows up and catches her boyfriend in a compromising position, but not to worry. Turns out Alice is just a Decepticon who is after the shard of the “All Spark,” the precious Transformer lifeblood that Sam had inadvertently brought with him to campus. This confrontation kickstarts a globetrotting adventure during which Sam, Mikaela and Leo team with both Autobots and the U.S. military.
Since the pyrotechnics and CGI are givens in an action-driven saga such as this, what makes Transformers 2 work, mostly for better, but sometimes for worse, are its humorous asides. Early on, a lot of these arrive courtesy of Sam’s loudmouthed mom (White) who accidentally ingests Marijuana-laced brownies. Later, however, the jokes turn troubling when we’re introduced to Skids and Mudflap, a couple of twin robots who resemble apes.
Not only do these African-American-voiced characters played by a white actor (Tom Kenny) speak street jive, but they boast about being unable to read and one sports a gold tooth. Because they are aliens and not technically black people, perhaps it is an overreaction to complain about what appears to be a case of modern minstrelsy.
Regardless, Revenge of the Fallen earns hig marks as a high-octane, 2½ hour diversion certain to stimulate, titillate and satiate the blood and other lusts of the raging-hormone set.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, profanity, crude behavior, sexuality and brief drug use.
Running time: 150 minutes
Studio: Paramount Pictures