I figure the best way to review a terrible movie is just to summarize what happens in it, and let the movie condemn itself.
That was my original intention with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Since the old silent days of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, movies have tried to reach beyond coherent meaning, but with this steaming pile of teenage logic, director Michael Bay takes us all the way inside Caligari’s cabinet. And once you enter, you can never emerge again. I just watched this movie, and I’m still living inside it. Things are exploding wherever I look. Household appliances are trying to kill me. Bizarre racial stereotypes are constantly shouting at me.
I swore two years ago, I’d never submit myself to this mindless assault on the senses again. But for your entertainment, readers, and for the satisfaction of my poison pen, I have bravely done so. My best description of the movie, is that it’s like traveling back in time to the late 1960’s and finding Terry Gilliam when he was doing that weird animation stuff for Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and then injecting him with so many steroids that his penis shrinks to the size of a hair follicle, and then smushing a dozen tabs of LSD under his tongue. Then give him a gazillion dollars to make a movie. That’s how you get something like Transformers 2.
Just cram a bunch of excess imagery and random ideas into a pandering summer movie, and then multiply that single movie by twenty, so that you end up with a bunch of unrelated storylines smashed together into one crazy piece of garbage. You try in vain to understand how the pieces fit, you stare into the cracks between the narrative strands, until the cracks become chasms and the chasms become an abyss into which you stare until it looks deep into your own soul, and then you go insane.
You. Do. Not. Leave. The. Cabinet.
Boiled down to its bare bones, this movie is about male anxiety. Shia LaBoeuf stars as every teenage boy’s pathetic, wall-eyed, drooling dorkhood. The guy is probably a fine actor, but his job here isn’t to flesh out a convincing character. No, he’s meant to babble like a tumor removed from my prostate that somehow achieved consciousness. He’s supposed to stand in for every teenage boy’s greatest fears about themselves. No matter how great a loser they might be, they can’t be as losery a loser as Shia LaBoeuf in this movie. And yet, Shia has awesome robots stomping around telling him he’s the most important person ever. And he has the hottest girlfriend in the universe, Megan Fox, who looks just like a fanboy’s wet dream. She’s the perfect girlfriend because she finds loseryness a huge aphrodisiac. The more pathetic Shia gets, the more Megan’s lips pout and her nipples rub against her skin-tight shirt.
To make matters more awesome for the hordes of insecure males in the audience, Shia actually tosses aside his giant robot fanclub and his walking-pinup girlfriend, so he can have a normal life. Of course, this only leads to other robots and hot chicks (who turn out to be robots too) throwing themselves at him and telling him how important he is. In the end, everybody learns to appreciate Shia just a bit more than they already did, and a giant booming voice tells him he’s earned the “matrix of leadership” through his courage and stuff.
Oh, that, and lots of crap gets blown up real good.
This movie appeals to the part of the brain that thinks it would be awesome to see robots with giant dangling testicles. Or hot chicks turning into robot monsters. Or ghetto robots that speak hip-hop slang and smash against each other. Or funny Jewish men who talk about their “schmear” and randomly strip to their G-strings.
Oh, I’m sorry, is that going too far? Then let’s go 100 times farther than that.
This is the kind of movie that can only appeal to teenage fanboys, and those teenage fanboys will want to wear adult diapers to watch it. The movie’s pure celebration of unfiltered living and the primal urge to defecate will make them rejoice in their adult diapers. They’ll relieve themselves in their seats with savage joy, their barbaric yawps blending in with other fanboy’s screams of ecstasy.
Transformers 2’s teenage fanboy overload reaches such crazy levels that the fabric of reality itself starts to break down. Michael Bay has boasted about how every single shot in the movie has so much stuff going on in it, that it would take your PC since the dawn of time to render one single frame. After a few hours of watching this assault, you feel the chair melt and the floor becomes an angry mirror into your soul. Nothing is solid, nothing is real, everything Transforms.
Somewhere around the half way mark, something curious happens in the movie. The two main components of the story, male enhancement and explosions, start to clash, badly. Usually, in these kind of movies, those two elements go together like tits and ass. But creating that kind of fusion requires enslaving the violence to the male enhancement, and that in turn means only going way over the top instead of crazy, stratospheric over the top. Michael Bay is not willing to settle for anything less than crazy, stratospheric over the top.
So you have a movie that tries to reassure boys that they can actually be masters of their reality . . . but then it turns around and says that actually, reality is not real. There’s no such thing as the “real world,” and the only thing that’s left for them to dominate is a nebulous dream of blurred shapes, which occasionally blurt nonsensical swear-words and slang from hip-hop robot thugs. If you’re drowning in an Olympic-sized swimming pool full of hot chewing gum fondue, do you still care just as long as Megan Fox likes you?
Everything is a mess of total teenage boy anarchy. To put a positive spin on it, maybe it’s the first movie that’s ever conveyed a real sense of the fog of war to me. It‘s the confusion that comes with battle. I’m beginning to understand why friendly fire happens in wartime.
Damn. I’ve written all this, and still haven’t summarized the movie’s plot. Here goes.
It’s a couple years after the first Transformers movie, and Shia is going off to college, leaving his transforming car and his hot girlfriend, whom he still hasn’t told that he loves her. And meanwhile, the soldiers from the first movie are running around with a bunch of late-model GM cars and trucks, which turn into robots and fight other robots sometimes. Shia sees weird symbols which make no sense and they turn out to be the key to the location of a thing that can control another thing, that will enable the bad guys to destroy the sun. Shia has to embrace the heroic destiny he’s rejected, so he can save us all from being burned to death.
Oh, and that summary doesn’t include the twenty or thirty other storylines that could also claim to be the movie’s plot. There’s the whole thing where someone from Washington D.C. wonders why our military is running around the globe with a bunch of late-model GM cars from outer space, and tries to put the kibosh on the military-robot complex. There’s the teenager who’s got a conspiracy website, that competes with another conspiracy website which turns out to be the work of a secret agent who’s decided that the best way to keep things secret is to put them on a website. Various robots die and then come back to life, and there’s a whole story about whether bad robots can become good robots. And there’s the Fallen, who’s sort of the movie’s villain even though he barely shows up. And people from 17,000 BC who had weird teeth and fought robots. And the ancient Egyptians did stuff. And Shia’s parents go to France except that they meet a robot and then they’re in Egypt. And because teenage fan boys hate learning anything about history, lots of ancient stuff gets blown up and everybody runs away from explosions in slow motion.
Really, I could go on and on. This movie starts out with one storyline, for the first half hour or so, and then it just starts to spin faster and faster until the centrifuge of random events slams you into the walls. It doesn’t help that there are 500 robots in the movie and they all look exactly the same.
So, to sum up . . . Who needs all that sissy stuff like plot and meaning and common sense? All we need to do is surrender to adolescent idiocy and then Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen is one of the greatest achievements in the history of cinema, if not the greatest. You could easily argue that cinema, as an art form, has all been leading up to this. It will destabilize your limbic system, probably forever, and make you doubt the solidity of your surroundings. Women as well as men, everyone watching this film, will feel the dissolution of all their certainties, all their illusory grasp on the world.
But after you fall into the abyss, crying out in unabashed despair, the walls of the abyss will suddenly become like a toxic ice cream of a million flavors, and you gasp with a final realization before your last coherent brain cell bubbles to the surface and bursts. Your world is reduced, forever, to a kaleidoscope of whirling shapes and you are totally free. Feel the music of total outcast heavy metal scream inside your deepest core. Nothing matters. Effects are more important than cause, fish spawn in mid-air, and you can do whatever you want. Just let yourself go in your adult diaper. Michael Bay invites you to do so.