Autobots and the US military have united to form NEST, an elite unit dedicated to wiping out Decepticons. But when they catch a rogue bot in Shanghai, it warns that something very bad is heading for Earth: a diabolical entity known as The Fallen.
A notable moment occurs during the dementedly frenetic final act of Transformers 2. A robot-on-robot fracas is unfolding around Egypt’s Giza Necropolis, with Devastator, an especially massive mechanoid comprised of several construction vehicles, set on clawing its way to the peak of a pyramid. As it lumbers up the dusty colossus, a shot tilts up to its mid-section, revealing two wrecking balls dangling down. Yes, Michael Bay, the man who brought us cyber-micturition in this movie’s predecessor, has one-upped himself: Decepticon testicles.
If the thought of that gag makes you laugh, chances are you’ll have a ball with Revenge Of The Fallen. If not… well, Bay really doesn’t care. His first and only sequel since Bad Boys 2 is, like that film, marked by swaggering confidence, wild excess and a string of bad-taste jokes. Dogs hump each other, robots hump human legs and the camera spends so much time ogling Megan Fox’s torso you start to wonder if it’s being operated by a 13 year-old boy. There are now 42 robots, including one that looks like a jaguar, one that can turn into ball bearings to access high-security areas and one in the form of a Dyson vacuum cleaner.
It all looks good on paper, as does the added-value 150-minute run time. But it’s a case of same meal, bigger portion, with the flaws of the first not only present but accentuated. You’ll be even more hard pressed at the end of this one to remember which robot’s which — there are three or four new Gremlin-esque ones that chitter and skitter about like the first movie’s Frenzy — and few get more than a scene before Bay’s attention flits elsewhere. Even the Fallen, an Emperor figure to Megatron’s Darth Vader, who can hurl tanks around with the aid of his jagged staff, is only blandly nefarious.
The plot, meanwhile, is as baffling as before, not only bringing back the abstruse Allspark but throwing in a new MacGuffin called the ‘Matrix of Leadership’. It tries harder to be funny but is actually less so, despite Shia LaBeouf working some early new-kid-on-campus schtick, Rainn Wilson amusing in a single scene as a rock-star astronomy teacher, and John Turturro doing an entertaining reprise of MIB wannabe Simmons (“What you’re about to see is top secret: do not tell my mother”). This is a film that doesn’t know where to stop — even comic-relief characters get their own comic-relief characters, like the offensively irritating Twins, who bicker in hip-hop slang, or Wheels, a turncoat Decepticon who for some reason talks like a ‘30s screen gangster.
What saves it, just about, are the effects. At times the frame is so packed with whirring cogs and twirling cranks that you could replicate the effect by staring at the innards of a domestic appliance, but when these CG moto-men from another world duke it out, the images are often so screwy it’s impossible to do anything but sit and stare. The Shanghai-set opening sequence is lunatic fun, with Optimus Prime leaping onto the face of a colossal, rampaging unicycle and ordering it to, “Pull over”. And while Prime’s later forest face-off against a trio of Decepticons suffers by comparison to a recent film’s spar between a big ape and three dinosaurs, there are more flawlessly rendered money shots in the last 40 minutes alone than in a dozen less ambitious blockbusters.
It’s just a shame there aren’t more ideas behind the spectacle, since we’re not given much in the way of compelling reasons to root for one pixelly pugilist over another. Long before the final minute it’s become a numbing, wearying viewing experience. Next time could we have less balls and more brains?
A super-sized second helping, but the novelty factor and some of the charms gone. Hey, at least theres more Megatron / Starscream squabbling this time round.