10
Jul
09

Transformers 2 Review (with Spoilers)

2009_transformers_revenge_of_the_fallen

Sawasdee,

Let me preface with a few confessions:

• I paid an extra 200 baht so that I could get the Transformers DVD box that could turn into a standing Optimus Prime.

• I put this movie on before bedtime so frequently that my wife insists on exaggerating to her parents that I “watched [Transformers] every day.”

• I did a fist pump when I learned that Peter Cullen, the original voice of Optimus Prime, would be reprising his role in the movie. And while I was disappointed that Frank Welker wouldn’t be doing the voice of Megatron, I thought that Hugo Weaving was a solid choice.

Clearly, I was going see the sequel. I knew ahead of time not to expect anything very inspiring or enlightening; I was just looking to be entertained. I fully anticipated that feeling after polishing off a whole bag of Cool Ranch Doritos in one sitting: a little bit queasy, with a tinge of regret. But while I was mindlessly shoveling it in, it tastes so good.

Post-viewing, I like going through movie reviews glean insight from cinemaphiles who know way more than me. I find it enriches the experience, and so I enjoy how Roger Ebert skewers a bad film, how Richard Corliss from TIME exalts a great one, how Owen Lieberman and Lisa Schwarzbaum neatly summarize their discerning (and sometimes diverging) viewpoints, and how the notoriously difficult to please Kong Rithdee from the Bangkok Post whips exotic adjectives from his pen like an Asian Jackson Pollock.

If there is a movie I know I am going to see, I will assiduously avoid reviews (and even previews if possible) because I enjoy being surprised by the narrative. As a courtesy, people who write about a movie will give a warning that if reader keeps reading, then they may read something that will spoil their viewing experience, so if they want to preserve the element of surprise to stop reading right there. A quick example:

[SPOILER for Terminator 2]

Do you remember in Terminator 2 when the liquid metal terminator and the Arnold model showed up on Earth at the same time? If you were watching it for the first time without any reference except for the original movie, it looks like Robert Patrick is the good guy and Arnold is there to kill Sara and John Connor. The gestalt moment occurs during the first chase in the video arcade, when Arnold tells John to “Get down!” and shoots the evil quicksilver terminator, and then you learn that Arnold is the good killer robot.

[SPOILER for the Matrix]

Because I didn’t pay attention to any reviews about the Matrix and went into the theater not expecting it to be much better than Johnny Mnemonic, it was a complete m!ndfu¢k when Keanu woke up for the first time in that tub of KY Jelly. Whoa!

[SPOILER for The Sixth Sense]

Dude, I couldn’t believe the whole time Bruce Willis was a frickin’ ghost!!!

So you see now how that works? The reason I am carefully explaining the concept of spoilers is in case you haven’t seen Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen yet, and don’t want to have this movie about metal-morphing robots partially ruined. So if you haven’t had a chance to see this movie yet, you might want to stop reading now and come back right after you have, so you can write comments telling me how thankful you are I didn’t ruin your viewing experience.

The following are things I found a little nitpicking. Me, I am superhumanly ready to suspend disbelief, and buy into the notion of vehicles changing into talking robots. I am also willing to believe that a guy like Shia Lebeouf can bag a girl like Megan Fox simply by sporadically writing a cleverly named/relatively obscure WordPress blog. And yes, I know Michael Bay is what he is, and does what he does. He is a highly successful commercial director who ably delivers big, set-piece, summer tentpole studio blockbusters. Most of them are watchable, no-brain fun (Armageddon, Bad Boys, The Rock) and some of them excruciating (Pearl Harbor, The Island).  Turn down your hearing aid, shorten up that attention span, and roll out!

Here are just things about the movie that I found a more juvenile than necessary. Last chance to turn back…

Thumbs up!!!

Thumbs up!!!

BRING IT ON!

Okay, you asked for it…

1. The Hot Decepticon Chick
It was a little bit obvious the way that this smoking hot girl was stalking and eye-fucking our hero Sam Witwicky that there was something not quite right about her. Then we find out she’s actually Kristanna Loken’s little sister! Now if she was this assassin robot, why didn’t she just rip Witwicky to shreds as soon as she saw him? Why was she worried about people discovering her identity? It’s not like the Decepticons cared if she completed Intro to Music History and College Algebra.

The silver lining is that the lovely Isabel Lucas has been unleashed on the world, and soon she’s going to be a big star, get a few loony tattoos, and give interviews in Maxim about how much she needs sex everyday. Thank you, Michael Bay.

2. Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.
It’s obvious from the first movie that Sam is a smart guy, and he got into a good university somewhere on the east coast. Filming for these scenes depicting his first day of college took place at Princeton and University of Pennsylvania, and the stately tableau gives us the whiff of higher education. But what do we see running around campus? Hot chicks everywhere! Blonde, tanned, brunette, toned…it was like the Playboy version of college life. Granted, on the first day the Freshmen Fifteen has yet to rear its padded rear, but don’t paint a picture where college is only filled with nubile, bang-ready betties. That’s sexist. (Except for UF and FSU, where it really was like that. Screenwriters, all you had to do was put a Gator cap on Sam’s head and this plot hole would have instantly disappeared. Bunch of amateurs.)

3. Dorm Rats
I remember showing up to Weaver hall my freshman year on the first day of college, and admiring the bare, painted concrete walls, the room still smelling of disinfectant, discussing with my new roommate whether we should bunk our beds to give us more space.  Sam Witwicky shows up to a fully decorated two room suite complete with posters and bumper stickers adorning the walls, one room already networked up like the NORAD control room.  Later, we learn that Sam’s roommate has only been a college student for two days, one of which was spent decorating in the spirit of the fifth day of Genesis.

4. The Fallen
Supposedly, only a Prime can kill The Fallen, which may have been a reference to the biblical story of Lucifer. Without getting to deep into the arcane backstory of the Autobots and Decepticons, we learn that the Fallen is an all-powerful Decepticon that changes into a particle gun, but is afraid of the mere chance of getting into a scrap with a Peterbilt truck, who knows his weakness (that his name makes him sound like an emo band). For such an omnipotent character, The Fallen is a big pussy.

5. Heavenly Bots
I laughed out loud at the theological leap of faith, by Reverend Michael Bay. Sam Witwicky dies and meets the ancient Primes (who are the only ones that can defeat the Fallen…so naturally all six of them sacrificed themselves and transformed into a safe) and they send him back to Earth to the girlfriend who is trying desperately (but failing) to look distraught. Can you imagine some old guy dying in the Transformers universe? His immortal soul makes it to the pearly gates, and he asks St. Peter, “I thought I saw…were those…giant talking robots?”

6. An Obamanation
Presumably set in the present day, Obama’s national security advisor turns out to be an insufferable weasel. Granted Chief of Staff Emanuel Rahm is known for being a bit coarse (perhaps even a bit of an a-hole), but no one doubts how sharp he is.  But here, America is willing to deal with autocratic Iran but not make peace with the giant robots from space trying to help us? Is that something we can let slide? No We Can’t!

It’s hard to say if the filmmakers had an ulterior agenda.  But it is worth noting that The Island can be seen as a heavy-handed argument against abortion and Armageddon is a jingoistic fairy tale.

7. Wack Time Frame
So the most ancient of the Transformers appeared on Earth millions of years ago, or was it less than 20,000 years ago?  The most ancient of Transformers?

8. Liar, Liar, Pants Skyfire

The orginal Jetfire was based on the Macross Valkyrie, an iconic mecha familiar to all fans of manga, in the movie he’s an“ancient” Decepticon plane who sounds like Vinnie Jones.  But seriously, an SR-71 Blackbird?  If you consider a fifty year old plane ancient, then maybe you should be doing HR for MTV. (And what form was she hiding as before that?  The wheel?)

9. The Goddamn Pyramids

This is the one that really annoyed me.  Throughout the thousands of years of human civilization, the Pyramids of Giza have been probed and examined by all manner of archaeologists, tomb robbers, and treasure seekers.  And no one bothered to notice the gigantic Sun Destroying Machine hidden inside?  Whatever.

***

You may ask yourself, why care?  I guess it doesn’t really matter.  But when I watch a film, that’s a hundred-odd of my life I invest in it.  The ones that deserve to be watched again and again, you hope that it is because each time, you discover something new, and appreciate the nuances brought to the monumental collective effort of thousands of man-hours–behind and in fromt of the camera–it takes to make this proverbial two hour roll of celluloid.  Does it teach you? Whisper to unspoken, universal emotions?  Open up another universe?  Inspire your dreams?  Or is it merely a pretty, bombastic diversion?  A bag of tasty junk for your grey matter?

Enough pondering, its time to re-watch The Wire*.

*Be careful with that link, it contains spoilers!

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4 Responses to “Transformers 2 Review (with Spoilers)”


  1. July 11, 2009 at 10:14 am

    mr. Emanuelle can Rahm me with his chief of staff any day. Love him.

    Dont even get me started on the two comic relief “blac” transformers that almost made it to Jar Jar binks level. Really, did we need them?

  2. 2 Mat
    July 18, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Thank you sir Jack for your review here, i was actually quite amused with your articles and the spoilers.. i mean, comment.. i’ve watched the movie, on the first it was shown on the big screen together with my girlfriend.. and we were pretty entertained for the whole period of the show, damn i just love the way optimus prime kicked 3 decepticon’s ass at the same time.. and how bumblebee fought with the destructicon in egypt..

    Still i have some question in my head too you see:
    1. Did optimus and the others learned Kung Fu when they were in NEST? seriously, the decepticons looked so slow and stupid compared to the autobots. And i still remember that optimus had a tough time handling megatron alone back in the first movie, so what gives? haha…
    2. When the decepticons went down the sea to resurrect megatron, did they destroy one of the destructicons just to give megatron some parts to regenerate? I didn’t see anything about it, next thing i know one destructicon were ripped apart and megatron was brand new again. WOW…
    3. What does a PRIME has that could take out the Fallen? size? or the mere name? i think even bumblebee could take the pussy out if he were a little bigger..
    4. Did 2 of the Arcie twins died when they were shot from behind while yelling:”Sam, get to pillar and we’ll cover you. (BOOM)AHHHH!!!

    Yeah this is perhaps a kids movie but i really enjoyed it till the end and i’d even watched it another time with my pals, it just a movie man so stick with it. Cheers..

    • 3 jackprinya
      July 20, 2009 at 12:16 pm

      Thanks for the well-thought out reply, Mat. Hope to see more from you again later.

      To answer your questions:

      1. I think Optimus must have gotten a hold of the kung fu programs from The Matrix (the one with Keanu Reeves, that is). His moves were definitely Wo-Ping inspired…

      2. I remember this scene you are talking about in the Laurentian abyss (thinking how unusually bright it was 5 km down). One of the Decepticons pointed to an unlucky decepticon and he was stripped for spare parts. Very Hellraiser indeed.

      3. The box for the Hasbro toy Fallen has every attribute listed as 10, including courage. Obviously false advertising.

      4. I think at that point of the film my brain shut down from sensory overload. I snapped out of it when Sam was in robot heaven.

  3. May 17, 2010 at 1:43 am

    Thanks, dude! That explains it.


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