Far less than meets the eye. And racist to boot. But we'll get to that. My mother used to repeat ad nauseam that if I couldn't say something nice about someone I shouldn't say anything. So, let's kick things off with a compliment: Megan Fox has really, really sexy lips.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, this second installment in the Transformers canon is a shapeless, insulting, special effects-driven pile of crap. Mostly it's punch-your-face loud. I'm tempted to boost its grade for the sheer spectacle of its flawless visual effects, but that might suggest some level of approval for this cinematic abomination. It deserves none. Yes, Michael Bay blows things up real good, has a decent eye for scale, and is shamelessly pornographic in his leering over hot babes and military hardware, but fabulously canted angles do not a good film make. For most of the action director's work it's been a matter of balancing the thrills-to-garbage ratio. Like excessively sweet junk food, your enjoyment depended on the size and number of cavities in your head. Here the trash is so rancid and intense it overwhelms any hope for sustenance.
To recant the plot would be an exercise in futility and stupidity. Screenwriters Ehren Kruger (The Ring), Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek, MI-III) have all produced far better genre work but here they seem to be spitting in the audience's face, offering up a cynical, incoherent and joyless script filled with big action set pieces, pathetic comedic asides and blandly exotic locales. If you thought the title was an evocation of Lucifer's fall, well, the title is as deep as that allusion goes. From Optimus Prime's regal but moronically stilted voiceover to characters who spew huge chunks of exposition to lapses in internal logic (apparently Transformers can now disguise themselves as humans but only one actually chooses to do so), the movie is two-and-a-half hours of bombastic tedium. Even Bay's over-the-top displays of destruction feel redundant, cribbing from earlier efforts. How many times can we thrill to the debris of sinking ships mixed with tragically silhouetted bodies?
All this would be forgivable in the holy name of mindless entertainment if not for the film's shocking moments of racial stereotyping. Two of the Autobot heroes, Skids and Mudflap (voiced by Tom Kenny), are a pair of illiterate, ghetto-talking, simian-shaped Stepin Fetchit robots. One even sports a gold buck tooth. If these characters had been flesh-and-blood actors rather than computerized pixels, the outrage would've deafened. Maybe that's why Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is so determined to pummel its audience into submission. The depressing truth is, it'll probably make well north of $200 million. Hell, it already had the biggest Wednesday opening in history ($60.6 million).
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].