Thursday, June 25, 2009

More than meets the eye. But enough about Megan Fox.


Let me start by being honest.  I am not a big Transformers fan.  When the original cartoons and figures came out, I was in high school and a little too old for that sort of thing.  Same with GI Joe and He-Man.  I'm surely not the demographic for this franchise, even today, with the target audience being 12 to 13-year-olds and those that were 12 to 13 the first time around.  But enough about me.


Here’s what I think about the movie.  Even though I’m an admitted non-fan of Transformers, I did enjoy the first movie.  I knew enough about the cartoons to recognize most of the characters and have a general understanding of the plot.  And I generally like Michael Bay movies.  Nobody spins a steadi-cam like this guy.  I’m still a bit dizzy from a tender moment, in this film, between Sam (Shia LaBouef) and Mikaela (Megan Fox) where the camera circled them about 25 times.  


Transformers: Revenge of the Nerds, uh Sith, I mean Fallen has basically the same feel as its predecessor.  Lots of robots, tons of explosions, and much more Megan Fox.  Whether you like the first 2 hours of the movie or not, it’s worth the wait to see Ms. Fox running in slow motion.  If you’re a fan of The Transformers, then you’ll probably enjoy this movie.  If you’re like me, it’s definitely bearable.


***Spoilers below.  Proceed with caution.***


Oddly enough, there seems to be more backstory in the sequel.  We get a slightly confusing look at Earth circa 17,000 B.C. (Before Cartoons) where we learn that robots have been here as long as mankind.  And they built the pyramids.  Hmm.  There’s a big fight, a key gets lost, and the Decepticons (bad guys) move to Saturn.

19,009 years later Sam Witwicky is on his way to college, leaving behind his brand new Camaro (Autobot/good guy Bumblebee) and his girlfriend Makaela.  Now I’m a big fan of education and I got my 5-year college degree, but some things are worth staying home for.  Priorities, man!

Another way this movie differs from the first one, is the humor.  There’s a lot more of it.  (Unless you count the irony of making two live-action movies based on a line of toys.)  Sam’s parents not only follow him 3,000 miles across the country to college, but they provide much of the comic relief in between tense battle scenes.

This is where the movie starts to confuse itself.  Is it an action-comedy or a comedy-action?  Most good action movies have humor in them:  Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys (another Michael Bay franchise).  Some comedies have action scenes: Back to the Future, Smokey and the Bandit, Princess Bride.  But the ratio is usually 80/20: action movies with a little comedy or comedies with a little action.  Transformers tries to split the action and comedy 50/50.  This partly leads to the long running time.  Too much comedy for an action film or not enough action for an action film.

There’s still plenty of action, though.  One thing I swore I wouldn’t do after seeing the first movie, was to sit that close to the screen again.  I normally sit in the first or second row at the movies.  But there’s so much going on in this movie that you could miss a lot being so close.  However, on opening day, you gotta get there early to have your choice of seats.  So, in the second row I sat.  But I would still recommend sitting a little further back.  There is a lot of camera movement and not just in the action scenes (like the aforementioned steadi-cammed tender moment).  Plenty of robot-fighting-pyramid-exploding-camaro-transforming-Megan-running-in-slow-motion-action-packed goodness abounds.  I’ve heard complaints about it being too loud and that the dialogue gets drowned out.  In my theatre it wasn’t that loud, but a lot of the robot punchlines got lost.

Some reviewers have complained about the noise, the running time, and the confusing plot.  I didn’t have much problem with any of that, though I did note that it was about an hour and a half into the movie until they even mentioned the main focus of the plot.  And about 30 minutes in, they abandoned the action for some unnecessary comedy with Sam’s parents at college.  Apparently this was about the same point when Kevin Periera and Olivia Munn from G4’s Attack of the Show walked out of the premiere and went to dinner.

The plot could use a bit of trimming though.  The best advice to the filmmakers is actually given by one of the characters.  John Turturro (returning from the first movie) as he listens to an old Decepticon fill us in on the story so far says (in essence), "Too much plot.  Just give us a beginning, middle and an end.  Condense it."  This movie could easily have come in at under two hours and been just as enjoyable.

Much like the recent Star Trek movie, I was expecting not to enjoy this.  But like the recent Star Trek movie, I did enjoy it.  The audience I saw it with certainly enjoyed themselves – cheering whenever the good guys whooped the bad guys.  The supposed fellow critic next to me (60-year-old, well-dressed, white guy sitting by himself, I’m just saying) didn’t react to anything but the crying baby in the theatre and got up 3 times.  Fans of the Transformers will have as good a time at this movie as they did in the original.  Non-fans who enjoy a good action flick will be entertained.  Either way, there’s still Megan Fox.


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