In some future film class, Michael Bay’s second Transformers film will no doubt be presented as the Platonic ideal of sequels. Everything about it is taken directly from the first movie, but blown up bigger and louder. The script’s basic beats are identical: massive opening action sequence; lengthy period of terrible Shia LaBeouf comedy; an extensive McGuffin hunt. The primary differences are that the new film’s explosions are bigger, and eventually, Bay’s major directorial weaknesses work to his advantage.
Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen’s one new idea is placed in the mouth of a bespectacled ninny, then immediately dismissed: The giant sentient alien robots known as Decepticons are still infiltrating earth, and their enemies the Autobots are working with the American military to find and destroy them. But the collateral damage is vast, and an angry Washington flunky suggests to Autobot leader Optimus Prime that the Decepticons are only lingering to carry on the war, and humans are paying the price. Briefly, it seems like introspection and moral decisions might enter the picture. But the ninny is wrong; the Decepticons really want a bunch of ancient intel that’s accidentally wound up trapped in LaBeouf’s head, causing him to act more embarrassingly spastic than ever.
For far too long, the movie consists of chase scenes, scrotum jokes, shrieked conversations, broad slapstick, and depressingly regressive ethnic caricatures. A good deal of time is also wasted on LaBeouf and dream-girl Megan Fox dickering over when he’ll finally say “I love you.” Which is an odd choice for a film otherwise once again pitched at 13-year-old boys, to whom fart jokes are always funny, all women below the age of 40 are apparently plasticine porn stars, and nothing’s cool unless it blows up—or better yet, in an unfortunate running gag, humps something else and then blows up. At least in the last half-hour, Bay’s incredibly sloppy continuity and overeager rush to action pays off, as he forgets the comic-relief characters, whisks past the story elements, and just gets down to a massive, eye-popping combat sequence that blows up everything in sight. Which is probably all anyone really wanted from Michael Bay’s Transformers in the first place. So why did it take nearly five hours of movie to get there?