Transformers 2: Revenge of the Raging Spoilers

People have been pretty harsh on the new Transformers movie, this makes me sad.

I went along to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on Wednesday night, and I have to say, I just can’t understand all the hate. Sure, the humor was groan-worthy, but surely that’s forgivable in the light of AWESOME FIGHTING ROBOTS?

If you enjoyed the first movie, I can’t promise that you’ll enjoy the second one. While the same formula is there: wisp-thin plot, explosions solve everything, and Optimus sacrificing himself for the good of man-kind (and succeeding this time ’round); some people seemed to think something was missing. I, for one, disagree.

WARNING: Spoilers abound!

For a start: Bumblebee has been lovingly re-vamped for this movie. The bitching ’08 Camaro has been retooled into an equally drool-inducing 2010 Camaro (the difference is subtle – shame on me for not noticing). There’s also the suggestion that Bumblebee had an upgrade when he was repaired in between movies, with a stockier body designed to improve his combat-survivability. It’s this kind of attention-to-detail that gets Bumblebee fan grrls like me all turned on ;)

Bumblebee ’07

Bumblebee ’09

Do you remember when the first movie came out, how much disappointment there was over the fan boi’s favourite Decepticon Soundwave not making the cut? The reason for this was obvious: Soundwave was a boombox, technology that’s been replaced by the ever-shrinking iPod and iPhone. Having something like Frenzy pop out of a micro hi-fi made sense, but a big, imposing robot like Soundwave? Not happening. But a stroke of genius has been made. The kind of brainwave that could leave a fan gasping for breath: Soundwave is here, and he’s a satellite. Genius!

This movie also introduces everyone’s favourite lady-bot: Arcee. Unlike the original, Arcee is (blessedly) not pink, and is a – for want of a better word – shared consciousness over three motorcycles that transform into three single-wheeled autobots. There were rumors that Arcee would have an “ultimate” form, like the twins and the constructicons, but this was dropped: maybe next time?

We also see the introduction of Sideswipe, the sexy (but never as sexy as Bumblebee) Corvette Stingray who wields twin blades and skates around like a roller blader on crack.

Megatron makes a come-back, though not as the expected Galvatron (it was thought that people would be too confused, and I can pay that). There’s an emphasis on the relationship between the simpering Starscream and the impatient Megatron, their interactions play out really well, though Starscream’s back-stabbing side didn’t get a fair show.

Sadly, Barricade didn’t return. Barricade disappeared in the end of the first movie, making everyone ask “what happened to the police car?” It was later revealed that his death had been cut from the movie so that he could make an appearance in Revenge of the Fallen. This didn’t happen, how disappointing. I think a little rivalry between Barricade and the newly-ramped-up Bumblebee would be even more satisfying than Bumblebee’s role in the new movie.

Which brings us back to Bumblebee (squeee). Bumblebee isn’t exactly kicking arse and taking names – he’s smaller and lighter than the other autobots, even with his upgrade, he was designed to be a scout – but he is stronger this time round, and there is a particularly satisfying scene where Bumblebee rips the spine out of Ravage’s body (it feels weird calling him Ravage, as there were multiples of him) in SLOW MOTION. Yes!

The fight scenes (to my mind) have been given an overall improvement. With all the whirring, clicking, moving parts of the beautifully animated Transformers, the fight scenes of the first movie were a little much for my feeble brain to take in. There are some stunning slow-motion moments in the fight choreography, and Optimus one-ups himself from the last movie.

We all remember that moment when the preachy Optimus Prime transformed his fist into a plasma sword and impaled Bone Crusher’s head. It was possible the most awesome moment in the history of Transformers fan-dom. In this movie, Optimus comes up behind “the Fallen”, shoves his hand right through the Fallen’s chest, grabs his face, and CRUSHES HIS SKULL. I don’t know where Optimus has left himself to go from there, I can’t wait to find out!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Transformers movie without Optimus offering to sacrifice himself to save everyone. In the first movie, he instructed Sam to destroy the Cube by shoving it into his chest – killing himself in the process. I don’t know about you, but I sat there for a few baffled moments wondering why – if it was guaranteed to kill Optimus – couldn’t we just walk up to Megatron and say “okay, we fold, have the stupid-” *trips* “oops! It seems I might have accidental shoved the Cube into Megatron’s chest, killing him! My bad, everyone!”

However, this time, Optimus succeeds at his goal, torn down holding off a small army of decepticons. but allowing the other autobots to whisk Sam away to safety. It’s a wrenching moment, followed by the absurd fear that the as-yet-unheard-from Hot Rod is going to make a sudden appearance to claim the Matrix of Leadership (if you don’t know what that is, you need to read up on your Transformers history).

Taking “Roddy” seriously was never easy. This isn’t helped by my friend pointing out that Rodimus Prime is about the best gay porn star name every created.

Fortunately for us (not so much for Hot Rod, or the Transformers continuity), the awesome Jetfire – a venerable decepticon disguised as the SR-71 Blackbird – reveals that there is a Matrix of Leadership hidden on Earth (normally, a matrix would be passed from one Prime to the next, but continuity be damned, dammit!). Jetfire himself is incredible, a geriatric transformer, who had long since fallen asleep, is woken up with the remaining shard of the Cube. He limps about with a cane (that is somehow also part of the Blackbird), and generally acts ridiculously old. He also reveals that decepticons can CHANGE SIDES, though this might mean that like an ill-thought-out tattoo, his decepticon branding will have to be removed with acid, or maybe a belt sander.

The transformers seem to be injected with so much more personality this time around. From the snivelling Starscream, right down to Bumblebee gushing tears of antifreeze in an attempt to win Sam over when he foolishly informs the autobot that he’s going away to college and ‘Bee is not coming with. Poor ‘Bee. If you don’t want him, I’ll have him! Ingrate. *makes grabby hands*

But, that means it’s time to make a confession: the Transformers wasn’t 2.5 hours of pure, distilled awesome. I mean, what movie is? One reviewer said it best (link):

It’s actually quite funny, a lot of the time. Some of the jokes fall flat … But the movie’s relentless silliness is mostly pretty hilarious, in a Saturday morning cartoon kind of way, and almost nothing in the movie seems intended to be taken seriously.

And it’s true. While there were moments when the entire cinema laughed, and heartily, there were altogether too many moments when the humor was no more than groan-worthy. Sure, it was damn funny when John Turturro, crouched under the massive Constructicon Devastator, looked up to see two giant wrecking balls dangling between the decepticon’s legs. But, personally, I just wanted the whole hash-brownies episode to be OVER (get on with the robots smashing it up already!). Maybe that’s just a reflection on my sense of humor.

Well, I can’t end a review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen without mention the twins: Skids and Mudflap. There’s been a lot of ire about these characters because … well, I’ll let someone else describe the internet’s general issues with the twins (link):

There are two robots in the film called Mudflap and Skids, and despite being red and green, respectively, they are voiced in a way that clearly designates them to be the “black” robots. Also, Skids has a gold front tooth (no, I’m serious) and both cannot read.

Well, at the risk of being branded as “insensitive” for the rest of my days, I take issue with this on a couple of points.

Primarily: if I hadn’t read the linked article before watching the movie, I wouldn’t have thought “black” when I heard Skids and Mudflap’s characterisations. Frankly, their over-the-top hip-hop ghetto personalities made me think far more of white wanna-bes who grew up in the suburbs far more than it made me think of black people.

Secondly: I’m pretty damn sure (pending a re-watch) that Skids and Mudflap said they DON’T read, not that they can’t. Now, I can understand the idea of badly stereotyped black characters who are illiterate being offensive; but badly stereotyped white rapper wannabes who refuse to read? Sometimes, I wonder if people are just looking for things to take offense to (then I remember that yes, some people are).

Of course, their illiteracy – self imposed or not – is actually beside the point because the glyphs in question are written in the language of the Primes. Few, if any, of the non-leader transformers (autobot or decepticon) could read the language of the primes. The twins aversion to the written word was just one of those not-quite-hit-the-mark attempts at humor that I’m sure worked on some out there.

While there’s no way for me to pick a single moment in the entire movie to call my favourite (though, one of the Bumblebee scenes previously mentioned would probably take the top honour), I do want to give a special mention.

When Sam “dies” trying to save Optimus, Mikaela cries over Sam’s body, telling him he can’t die, and that she loves him (what a way to make your girlfriend say “it” first). Normally, I hate that kind of tacky crap, but this movie it completely absolved by shoving that “love will save us” garbage right in the backseat when Sam is confronted by the Ghosts of Primes Past and told that he has EARNED the Matrix of Leadership through his bravery and self-sacrifice (it’s what Optimus would have done!).

I call this a win for the bitter and black-hearted amongst us ;)


~ by ghostwolfe on June 29, 2009.

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