By Aaron Mesh
The college career of Sam Witwicky, the earthly hero played by Shia LaBeouf in the Michael Bay sequel Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, lasts exactly two days. This is not because—as some of us might have forecast—he immediately flunks out, but is instead due to a summons from intergalactic robot chieftain Optimus Prime, who asks him to aid the Autobots and humanity. (The Autobots, you will recall, are the friendly robots who turn into cars. The Decepticons are the angry robots who turn into jet planes, mostly.) Sam wants to stay in school. "I'm a normal kid," he moans, "with normal problems."
This is easily the funniest line in the movie. Even allowing for his relationship with a talking Chevrolet Camaro, Sam is not living a typical existence. His life is what Bay imagines regular people live, which means it is bigger and better than anything you and I have ever experienced. Sam is dating Megan Fox, and as soon as he sets foot on a university campus, he is accosted by gorgeous members of the opposite sex, who want to molest him. Then the robots come calling. The only person who responds to the androids like a normal kid would—that is, by shrieking and crying—is Sam's roommate (Ramon Rodriguez), and the other characters grow annoyed and Tase him.
Although it opens with Optimus Prime (voiced by Hasbro cartoon veteran Peter Cullen) describing our setting as "Earth: birthplace of the human race," Revenge of the Fallen exhibits not a single recognizably human behavior. It is instead the product of a director who believes that the problems of his previous fighting-robots movie can be solved by making a movie with even larger robots fighting. (Along this line of thinking, it helps to paint the robots to look like sugary candy.) The distressing thing is that he's right: The sequel is measurably better than 2007's Transformers, simply by virtue of its utter commitment to spectacle. Everything it does, it does with unalloyed gusto, with cameras pirouetting and engines revving. It is jaw-dropping in every aspect: in its bad taste, in its muscled militarism, in its sexual confusion, and especially in its mechanized warfare. (In the most colossal touch, Optimus uproots cedars to use as brickbats.) Bay even throws in a battleship sinking, with shots filched from Pearl Harbor, as an afterthought. The franchise has been tricked out of proportion, and achieves an operatic lunacy.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Directed by Michael Bay
WithMegan Fox, Shia LaBeouf, Hugo Weaving and Peter Cullen
Dreamcatcher, Regal Stadium 14
150 min., PG-13
Correction: SFR inadvertantly ran a review of the first Transformers movie in the original poster. We regret the error.