When it comes to summer movie blockbusters, us movie fans donâ€™t ask for much. Some fast-paced action, creative and visually-stunning effects, and some characters who deliver continuous comic relief are all it takes for a successful effort. Michael Bayâ€™s over-the-top style makes him a fine candidate for a great summer blockbuster and the first installment of Transformers is a great example of an entertaining summer blockbuster.
However, something went wrong with the second one.
Transformers 2 is a dismal, sloppily put-together piece of high school boy masturbation material. Instead of creating fun summer movie entertainment, Bay manages to put together a head-scratcher that copies other action movies in a failed attempt to create something new. It is uninvolving, unfunny, and overall just plain stupid.
Thereâ€™s a difference between being â€œlight on plot,â€ and being emotionally and psychologically empty. Towards the end of Transformers 2 I realized I didnâ€™t even care what was happening on screen, as the human characters and robots had minimal character development. If I were to draw the plot line for the movie it would look like tree branches â€“ sprouting off every which way, with no clear focus. Worst of all the movie also did one thing that a summer movie blockbuster should never do â€“ it bored me.
The film is set a year later than the first installment in a world where Autobots and humans secretly team up to fight the few remaining Decepticons. The existence of the Transformers is still maintained as a government secret (yes, despite the last filmâ€™s huge downtown fight scene) and Optimus Prime teams up with the U.S. Army as they go around the world saving helpless countries like China from their Decepticon troubles.
The human hero, Sam Witwicky has transformed from geeky to cocky as he gets ready to head off to college, leaving behind his ridiculously hot girlfriend and car/Autobot protector Bumble Bee. When digging out the shirt he wore during the last conflict he discovers a sliver of the cube that was left behind. The piece causes anything it gets near to turn into a Transformer and causes Sam to hallucinate about an alien language.
After a run-in with a Decepticon disguised as a horny co-ed, Sam reluctantly gets re-involved in the war between the two races of robot and the world is in his hands. As the movie goes on, it strays into random narratives that it never really sticks to and seem to resemble Terminator, Indiana Jones and other, better action films.
Arguably where the film failed the most was in its complete lack of humor. Mostly because it tries so hard to be funny, but just isnâ€™t (with the exception of two or three moments). The actors overact, the robots each have ridiculous accents, and the jokes are so deliberate you can almost imagine Bay standing behind the camera with a self-satisfied grin. The worst perpetrator of unfunny-ness is Julie White as the mom character who at one point eats a marijuana brownie and frolics around campus in the most over-the-top, annoying fashion.
Bay approaches the robots with a MADtv-like sense of humor in which a goofy voice is enough to create comedy and no cleverness or content is necessary. The Transformers have voices that seem to represent different ethnicities and races, with mocking accents that could easily be construed as offensive (buy why waste the energy?).
The visuals are decent, to a point, but Bay repeats the same mistake he made in the first movie by ignoring the long shot and instead using close-ups and shaky cam that confuse more than they impress. The one saving grace of the movie (and one factor that makes this review D- rather than F) comes from the sound department. Much like the first installment where the team of Greg P. Russell and Kevin Oâ€™Connell delivered one of the greatest aural experiences in recent history, the new sound team lead by sound mixer Geoffrey Patterson built on that effort. Each movement of the robots was emphasized with crisp, inventive sound effects that feel like theyâ€™re whizzing right by your ear. Perhaps I would have enjoyed the film more if I would have just closed my eyes and used my imagination throughout.
It saddens me that Transformers 2 will be mostly critic-proof and make hundreds of millions no matter what. Some people may find this type of garbage acceptable for a summer movie, but I think the movie-going population deserves a better class of entertainment.