Michael Bay certainly has his own style of film-making and is the industry’s veritable man-child director running amok with big budgets and even bigger explosions. And while Bay usually does what he does well (which says nothing of it actually being good), he’s overdone it with his latest, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The preceding film in 2007 introduced audiences to Hasbro’s nostalgic toy-line in fitting blockbuster fashion, bringing childhood imaginations to life in a way few thought possible. That right first step, presumably, gave Bay the inclination to crank it up to 11 this time and overload Revenge of the Fallen with so much eye candy and fury you’ll walk out of the theater with ocular cavities and a general amnesia to the preceding two-and-a-half hours. We’ll call the condition “Bay Overdose,” which can be traced back to a number of the film’s afflictions.
Revenge of the Fallen first and foremost suffers from the “sequel virus,” a sickness of a follow-up film characterized by unnecessary exaggerations of elements that made the original popular. More robots means more box office bucks, right? And more of Megan Fox means more salivating fans — horny nerds, frat boys, and gay men and straight women questioning if they’d switch sides for the glossy-lipped seductress. Bay sticks to his original recipe and at a minimum doubles it. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is back with even more frenetic movements and unnecessary lines, while Mikaela Banes (Fox) returns as his unbelievable girlfriend, whose hotness seems to repel the grunge and grease she wades in day after day. The bots are back of course, too, but in indiscernible numbers. I lost count of how many lead bad guys there actually were kicking up sand. As we all know, more is not always better, and Bay proves this equation in dizzying fashion. If you’re looking for an accomplishment in this film, look no further than this.
The film’s writing is proportionally plagued, as well. Two Autobots in particular, “twins” Skids and Mudflap, are the mechanical equivalent of the funny, black sidekicks. Every line is a jab or joke, and each “poppin’ caps” command or “bitch ass” retort is screeched through through their gold tooth; or teeth…it’s hard to tell. Other miscellaneous bots have similarly transparent, stereotypical parallels — the German-ish little doctor bot, the grubby one that humps Mikaela’s leg and who would be right at home in a wife-beater, and the list goes on…and on. It’s an annoying rash of undemanding writing that spreads unnecessarily throughout all elements of the film, not just through the characters.
The central plot wanders and wanes, equally, and generates a recollection significantly short of the film’s unduly long run-time. This is because of another condition ailing Fallen called “shiny object syndrome.” You’ll quickly forget the absurd scene where Sam and Mikaela should have definitely died — there were audible, “what the fucks?” after this sequence — because Bay throws a confetti of shrapnel and sparks in your face every few minutes, washing away any memory of what just happened. Granted, some of that confetti is pretty damn awesome, such as a pivotal battle in the woods about mid-way through. But as with the bad moments, the good ones are also a bit hazy when you try to recall them. When you reach the end of the film, don’t be surprised if you feel kind of like the guys from The Hangover, and don’t exactly remember how you got there.
To counteract the effects of “Bay Overdose,” you could sit promptly in front of almost any animated feature and wash your mind clean in vivid colors and a wholesome story. Or, if you’re like Dory from Finding Nemo and have an exceptionally short memory, you’re probably immune to the condition. Lucky bastards.