THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
MOVIE REVIEW

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Boys and their toys, part II

Autobot Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) joins forces with Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf, right) in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.’’ Autobot Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) joins forces with Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf, right) in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.’’ (Paramount Pictures)
By Ty Burr
Globe Staff / June 24, 2009
  • Email|
  • Print|
  • Reprints|
  • |
Text size +

‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’’ is - there’s no polite way to say this - 2 1/2 hours of tumescence disguised as a motion picture. Giant robots smash each other to rivets, Shanghai and the Egyptian pyramids are reduced to rubble, fighter jets scream across the sky, bombs burst in air, and Megan Fox’s measurements are deployed on the screen for maximum effect.

Admit it: Your inner teenage boy went into a blissful coma just reading that sentence.

You don’t have an inner teenage boy? Sorry, you’re out of luck. The sequel to the 2007 summer hit “Transformers’’ - based on the Hasbro line of snap-together battle-bots and thus the ultimate toyification of American cinema - offers nothing for mature adult sensibilities. On the contrary, it laughs at the very idea and then blows more stuff up. Fast, deafening, and dumb, the movie is total nonsense and will make a fortune. But it’s a Michael Bay project, and the man does have the lack of shame to go with his deficiency in basic storytelling skills.

Shia LaBeouf returns as Sam Witwicky, the teenage hero - now bound for college - who’s the human emissary between the Autobots (good) and Decepticons (evil), alien mecha-thingies who’ve made Earth their last-stand battleground. This being a sequel, the villainous Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving) isn’t quite dead yet and the core group of Autobots led by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) is filled out by various clanking newcomers. (If you’re a fan, you already know who’s here; if not, it’s not worth the bother.) Megatron’s boss, a sort of silver-plated Lucifer figure called The Fallen (Tony Todd), has aims on Sam’s brain, which has become imprinted with ancient runes leading to a doomsday device. But, silly me, I’m talking about the plot, which is the least of the movie’s concerns.

This being a sequel, the running time is also padded with comedy. Sam’s dumb-cluck parents (Kevin Dunn and the unstoppable Julie White) get a lot more screentime, as does the intense government nerd played by John Turturro, who knows a good franchise when he lands in one. Some of the laughs are genuine, although a little of Ramon Rodriguez as Sam’s fraidy-cat roommate goes a long way.

Some of the new ’bots are fairly clever, too: an old codger (Turturro again), a sassy little Brooklynite voiced by Tom Kenny. They’re dopey enough to drive the fanboys nuts - oh, the disrespect - but they do liven up the show. Still, what are we to make of Mudflap and Skids (both Kenny), a pair of shuck-and-jive Autobots who talk in ridiculous gangsta-speak. The insultingly unfunny comic relief of “Transformers,’’ they’re Jar Jar Binks times two and the first known example of robot blackface.

Technically, of course, the movie represents state-of-the-art CGI overkill, with metallic behemoths that roar and unpack themselves and leap tall buildings and are forever smashing the masonry. They’re visually astonishing and ultimately exhausting. All Bay knows is the action that never stops, the detonations that reach orgasmically ever higher, the chase scenes that build and crash and build some more.

So what if he can’t put a coherent series of shots together? Bay’s going for pure sensation, and everyone knows dramatic continuity is for women and the weak. “Revenge of the Fallen’’ is the kind of movie that puts the Rockies in New Jersey, that appears to send the heroes into the Smithsonian from Washington, D.C., and back out into the Southwestern desert, and if you want to complain, text someone who cares.

Anyway, the director would rather let his camera caress Fox as Sam’s bodacious grease-monkey girlfriend, the kind of woman who can keep her lip gloss fresh in the midst of global apocalypse. Bay knows she’s a critical part of the fantasy, just as Isabel Lucas as a college co-ed with a Freudian nightmare of a tongue is part of his audience’s primal anxieties. “Revenge of the Fallen’’ could use some time on the couch: one character tasers himself in the testicles and the Constructicon called Devastator is startlingly well-equipped. Bay may be the face of the new blockbuster fascism, but he and his constituency might want to work out the kinks before they dominate the planet.

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com. For more on movies, go to www.boston.com/movienation.

TRANSFORMERS: Revenge of the Fallen Directed by: Michael Bay

Written by: Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Ramon Rodriguez

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs; Jordan’s IMAX theaters, Natick and Reading

Running time: 150 minutes

Rated: PG-13 (intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, language, some crude and sexual material, and brief drug material)

Movie listings search

Movie times  Globe review archive