Cinema in 2011 has been so far so good as we’ve seen the most anticipated films knocking film fans right out of their socks (Green Lantern not withstanding). On Wednesday Michael Bay will unveil his final installment to the epic Transformers franchise. As I like to do my homework before a sequel hits theaters, this weekend I rewatched the first two Transformers films.
Without fail, 2007’s Transformers delights with the added bonus of looking simply stunning on Blu Ray. It’s so good I really don’t need to waste any time gushing over it. But like any film that was “the first one” maybe it unfairly get put on too high a pedestal. I don’t think anyone expected a Transformers film to work but (like Iron Man) it did and then some. Then the highly anticipated (and over-hyped) follow-up happened and as Nic Cage said in one of Bay’s more favorable films “it’s something we wish we could dis-invent“. Not Kingdom of the Crystal Skull bad mind you but still pretty awful. At least it looked good while it went down inflames (btw the Revenge of the Fallen ‘Big Screen’ Blu Ray Edition still takes my breath away).
Bay has a lot to make up for and before we go to the theaters to see what he offers us as a penance I thought it necessary to show that not everyone thinks Revenge of the Fallen was a horrible horrible mess. So I’m doing a sort of “then vs. now” evaluation review for this Off the Shelf and calling it the Double Dip. Leading off this Double Dip, from our 2009 review, here’s what Rob (one of G-S-T’s original editors) had to say about the Transformers sequel:
In a country known to be fairly late on getting the new movies, Japan has scored a coup this time around with being the first country to show the new Transformers movie. Scheduled for June 20th, they even decided to move that up a day to the 19th. And you bet I was there to be one of the first in the world to see it.
PREMISE: In the highly-anticipated sequel, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) again joins with the Autobots against their sworn enemies, the Decepticons. Decepticon forces return to Earth on a mission to take Sam Witwicky prisoner, after the young hero learns the truth about the ancient origins of the Transformers. Joining the mission to protect humankind is Optimus Prime, who forms an alliance with international armies for a second epic battle.
HIGHS: Hmmm, transformers, transformers, and more transfomers? One of the biggest complaints about the first movie was the lack of screen time for the title characters. Well you don’t have to worry much about that in round 2. From an excellent opening sequence, to the fight in the forest, to the shock and awe of the finale, we have all the transformers you could want. Of course, while the transformers are the name of the game, Shea Labeouf jumps back into the role that really kickstarted him in Hollywood, and that he fits in best. He really fits the role of the cynical college kid going off on his own, and is totally believable. But, not to be outdone, this time around mom really steals the show as well with some great lines. Megan Fox is also just damn good looking for the whole movie. And, if our boys in uniform fight and coordinate like they do in this movie, than all the more reason to be proud of them, because damn, they’re good. And Jetfire was an extremely good point of the movie, from the way he acts, talks, and walks, he steals the show in an most unexpected way. Who ever thought there were old senile transformers?
LOWS: Honestely, these are small points. First up, if you want to knock on anything, you could call it a little long, clocking in at about 2 and a half hours. But that’s chock full of transformers, and much more screen time of said transformers than the first movie that you’re wishing it doesn’t end to begin with. Secondly, all the decepticons end of looking alike so outside of Devastator, Starscream and Megatron, it’s kind of hard to really tell the rest of the “grunt transformer fodder” apart and who they are. Lastly, while Optimus and Bumblebee get some prime action time, the rest of the team, while on screen, doesn’t get much action or speaking time. Again though, these are small things, that really don’t detract from the film in my humble opinion. Girlfriends and wives who aren’t fans of giant transforming robots may have other opinions though.
RULING: This movie has come out to knock Star Trek off the top of my list of best movie remakes/reboots/adaptations of shows watched as a child. Honestly, I was smiling from the first moment I heard Optimus Prime’s voice, I was amazed, and stunned during the awesome forest sequence, to smiling again by the end of the movie. It’s honestly a humorous movie, with some great moments, lines and emotions that are brought out well by the transformers, tons of action, a hot Megan Fox (and hotter college lady who takes a liking to Sam). Oh did I mention that there were lots of robots? Oh, and yeah, Jetfire rocks too by the way.
Fanboy spewing aside, I was really impressed in the amount of “life” put into the transformers, from Bee, Optimus, the twins (who have some of the best lines in the movie) to Jetfire (who also has some of the best lines). Some of the most impressive effects seen yet from movies this year, and overall, simply a great movie that serves up an excellent imagining of the toys, and cartoons we all grew up with. I’m already planning to go see it again, next time in IMAX.
G-S-T Ruling: 3.5/5
G-S-T Seal of Approval: GRANTED
As you can see Rob liked it back then and to this day he still does. Me on the other hand, I never liked it and further have never gotten over just how deflated I was walking out of that IMAX theater. I felt like Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and newbie Ehren Kruger punched me in the brain and knocked the wind out of my intelligence. In fact I’m still reeling from it that I refuse to collect the braincells to do a proper Off the Shelf review. But rereading the praise Rob gave it, it shows some fans aren’t put off by Bay and his bombastic ballyhoo.
To me, it just hurt to watch Revenge of the Fallen as it was filled with just so many lame elements and bad writing that it took the fun from the first and created a carnival out of non-descript characters and action pieces that were over before you could question their relevance/gravity. Don’t even get me started on the Twins or any of the farting robots. Ugg! An utter let down I really only find solace in the fact that I can laugh at it (thanks largely to this brilliant video) as opposed to endlessly crying “why God why??”
Revenge of the Fallen was a spectacular train wreck that honestly could have been passable if a few things were edited right the hell out of there. Further it is, at times, a gorgeous ride that aspires to be better than its predecessor. It tries to right it self in many instances but like a bully, right when things look to get stable, the trifecta of Orci, Kurtzman and Kruger come and knock it on its ass. In the end, like Spider-Man 3, Pirates 3 and any other film that follows the “too big to fail” mentality, it does masterfully as it, like Devastator falling off the pyramid, makes a big pointless belly flop.
Even Peter Cullen (as Optimus Prime) didn’t even try in this outing. Having fewer lines, it sounded like he was phoning it in…from his toilet, which is fitting because its exactly where this one went. So yes I saw it in the theaters. As I’m one for punishment I bought it, and have since watched it three more times desperately searching for embers of redeeming value and sadly found none. Granted the Blu Ray IMAX scenes hypnotize me into wanting to like what I’m watching. But the reality (or analogy) it that it’s like eating a whole jumbo bag of chips in one sitting. You just can’t stop yourself and at the end you’re just so exhausted and full you want to kick yourself as you’re because you allowed it to happen. But then by the time you get the crumbs off your shirt and vacuum your couch you find yourself hungry again and desptie better judgement end up sitting through it all over again.
Man I so hope that Dark of the Moon makes up for this last catastrophe…and if it doesn’t, at least (so they’re promising) it’ll look good with even better news that Transformers won’t have to endure heartbreak any longer. Still, as always, I hold out hope in the darkest of times and am looking forward to it as that Super Bowl ad was just awesome looking. Guess we’ll see at the screening tonight…look for me to drop our review tomorrow. “Autobots, Roll Out!!”