In 2007, the often critically maligned, yet still box office powerhouse, director Michael Bay (“Pearl Harbor”) presented us with his vision of bringing gigantic transforming robots to life on the big screen. It was big, bold, loud, funny, and above all incredibly entertaining, not to mention taking many audience members by surprise in terms of just how much fun the movie was. I mean seriously, here was a movie based on an animated series from the 80’s that was itself based on a toy line from Hasbro. How could that movie be anything but absurd? Yet, somehow Bay and his writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek”) found a way to make it work that was believable and enjoyable to audiences, thus leading to an incredible amount of money being spent at the box office. Which brings us to the summer of 2009; two years after the initial movie blew audiences away, the inevitable sequel to the smash hit “Transformers” has arrived.
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” picks up approximately two years after the events in the first film. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is preparing to head off to college sans girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) and car/guardian Bumblebee. However, Sam’s higher learning shall have to wait as the evil Decepticons have returned to Earth at the behest of their overlord, The Fallen, to locate an ancient artifact of Cybertronian origin that is hidden somewhere on the planet. If the Decepticons locate the relic it would spell certain doom for humanity and the Autobots. Now, Optimus Prime and company must band together to fight their deadliest foes in an effort to ensure that Earth and its people have not seen their last days.
If you saw the original film, and judging by the box office numbers not too many people didn’t, then you kind of know what may be in store for you with the sequel. Everything that worked so well in the previous movie is back, bigger and better than ever for this one. Not to diminish how great “Transformers” was as a movie, because it was incredible; however in my opinion, it was simply the opening act, and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is the main event.
If you presumed that this film was going to be a visual effects extravaganza with a plethora of explosions, then you would be correct; however, it isn’t just a brainless exercise in blockbuster movie making courtesy of Michael Bay as some would have you believe. Written by returning screenwriting duo Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, along with writer Ehren Kruger (“The Ring Two”), the story for “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is much more epic and grand in both scope and size than that of the previous film. In conjunction with all of the visually intensive action sequences, the writing team maintained the quick-witted banter of Sam, increased the presence of his romance with girlfriend Mikaela, and built upon the friendship and camaraderie between him and the Autobots. The film also has some quieter, more introspective moments, as Sam struggles with being a young adult trying to discover who he will be as a man. Meanwhile, he is also keeping secret the fact that his car is a member of an alien race hiding amongst us and that certain members of that alien race may return someday to destroy him and everything he cares about. Talk about having some internal baggage to carry with you. All of these story elements together create a movie experience that has more going for it than being just another mindless action flick.
The original film was truly an achievement in the realm of visual effects by making giant, life-like, transforming robots into a reality. With the sequel, the talented crew at Industrial Light and Magic have topped themselves yet again by delivering an even bigger smorgasbord of extremely detailed (as they were in the first one) Transformers to feast our eyes upon. Plus, because of the fact that their arrival on Earth had already been chronicled in the first film, this one allows us to see the two warring sides of this alien race much sooner, and they are much more prominent in the story as a result. I didn’t know how far technology had come in the realm of CGI in the short time since the previous movie, but it appears that the capabilities these wizards now possess are leaps and bounds above what was available two years ago. For me, “Revenge of the Fallen” possibly sets the new standard for visual effects by which all other movies may be judged.
Returning to join the Autobots in their war against the Decepticons are the two leads in the film, Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, as Sam and Mikaela. Their two characters have matured quite a bit since the last movie, and are now trying to find their place in the outside world. Both characters are also more proactive in this film, and are working hand-in-hand with the Autobots in the effort to thwart the Decepticons’ evil plans. Another aspect of their roles worth mentioning is that their relationship onscreen is very believable, and their commitment to each other in the trying times that follow is a commendable trait that is often found lacking in today’s society.
Alongside Shia and Megan are supporting cast members John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, and Tyrese Gibson. All of these supporting characters are given more to do this time around. Although the characters of Lennox and Epps (Josh and Tyrese respectively) command more respect than last we saw them, it is Turturro’s eccentric former Sector 7 Agent Simmons that has undergone the most change. No longer an agent of the government, Simmons has been relegated to working for his mother. I liked Turturro’s performance in the original film, but his work in this one is even more enjoyable, and his eccentricity seems even better suited to his character now that he is a civilian.
Also returning for more are character actors Kevin Dunn and Julie White as Sam’s parents. In this movie their characters are featured a little bit more in the story, still not major players, but the time they do get on the screen they make the very best of. Both offer several moments of levity, especially Julie White, but we also get to see them go through the difficulty as a parent having to let go of a child who’s growing up. Hopefully we will get to see even more from them in the inevitable third film.
Lastly, the actors giving voice to the various Transformers once again do an excellent job of bringing these characters to life. From returning talents Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Hugo Weaving (Megatron) to newcomers Frank Welker (Soundwave), Tony Todd (The Fallen), and Tom Kenny (Skids), each member delivers a solid performance that perfectly compliments the flawless computer-generated imagery that created these robots. One last thing regarding the voice-over actors, to be truthful saying Frank Welker is a newcomer to Transformers only applies to this movie. In reality, Welker provided many of the voices in the original animated series, most notably those of Megatron and Soundwave.
Boasting an even bigger scope, more action, humor, and almost 3-times as many robots than its predecessor, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is a pulse-pounding, fast-paced thrill ride that will entertain you from beginning to end.
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is rated PG-13 for violence and language.