Comfortable and Furious

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Well, here it is, folks: the worst film ever made by anyone, ever. Sure, there have been blockbusters in the past that had nonsensical plots (Pirates of the Caribbean 3, the last Star Wars prequel), suffocating amounts of cultural imperialism (Independence Day) and terrible acting (take your pick), but the way in which Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen brings it all together is spectacular. Sadly not compelling, because that would imply that the film is worth watching, but it’s bad enough to offend anyone with a brain in their head and shortchange the rest of the cinema-going public, who want bright lights and lots of smashy-smashy.

From what I remember – dizzy, confused and still feeling slightly violated, 24 hours after the fact – the whole thing pivots around the Autobots and humans stopping the Decepticons activating a machine buried on Earth to harvest the sun. We learn that six ancient Transformers built the machine but swore not to use it on planets that had any life on them. All well and good, except the opening scene shows the Transformers duking out with some spear-carrying types on earth, which makes the fact that they installed the machine on earth a) pointless and b) contrary, seeing as they seemed happy enough to smash the shit out of our ancestors.

The Fallen is basically Hasbro’s imagining of a cross between Emperor Palpatine and Don Corleone; the one surviving ancient Transformer who decided to harvest the Sun anyway and promptly got bitchslapped into outer space by his peers. To be honest he never should’ve been involved in the original sun-harvesting process: I’ve found that people with glowing red eyes and a rasping, demonic voice rarely work well as part of a team.

Maybe that glaring plothole upon which the whole film is based means I missed something. All I really know was by the time Shia LaBeouf showed up I wanted to see some fucking robots, not spend every scene he’s in wondering if he’s the next Harrison Ford or the next Mark Hamill, because of the IQ-reducing, solipsistic dialogue he’s forced to hack up throughout. “It will work because I say it will work,” is about as inspired as it gets, when he has a moment of clarity during the never-ending final showdown an Egyptian desert.

Likewise, I don’t know if Megan Fox is a good actress or not, as the decision to dress her in hot pants and slap her lips with a retina-scorching layer of gloss meant I couldn’t do more than sit and gawp at how beautiful she is, which was probably the point. All the ingredients needed to make a movie of this type are present: actors, cameras, CGI, editing software and presumably, somewhere, a script, but as Michael Bay gallantly jettisoned any notion of telling a coherent story, the end result is something that looks like a movie but carries itself like a portmanteau of different types of shit.

This is all because the robots are the only thing we’re encouraged to care about, so here’s what wrong with them: Optimus Prime blows away his first Decepticon of the movie after calling him a punk ass bitch, or something similar, which I can’t see Orson Welles signing up for, even at his lowest ebb. Given how the modern incarnation of the character still speaks like Brian Blessed using Stephen Hawkins’ vocoder, it’s a bit like hearing your parents recite their favourite Snoop Dogg lyrics. A couple of mildly entertaining Autobot ‘twins’ soon turn into this century’s answer to the crows from Dumbo – I was surprised their ‘upgrade’ 10 minutes in didn’t involve them turning into vans that delivered fried chicken and watermelon, or at very least a convoy carrying Soul Plane DVDs. In the interest of race relations, they don’t kill them off like they did the Autobot with the black person’s voice in the first film.

Also, Tyrese Gibson bros down with Optimus Prime in one scene, while we all sit through the tedium of the stuffed shirt/fall guy bashing through a “Let me get this clear…” speech, reeling off all the plot points we need to remember from the first movie to comprehend what the hell’s going on in this one. The old adage of Hollywood films saying something once, then again, then showing someone doing it if it’s important gets condensed down here into 90-second bursts. I can only assume from this that you need to suffer from severe short term memory loss and chronic stupidity to appreciate this film as intended.

Not that it’s worth mentioning, but the initial fucking about of a storyline involving LeBeouf’s character going to college plays like American Pie spliced with Terminator 3 and appears pasted in like the missing reel from another movie. The poor woman who plays his mother has clearly been instructed to overact even more than last time, so we get her losing her mind after half a hash brownie and a pointless dig at France when his parents pop up there at one point – don’t ask – which I’m not complaining about, being British, but it’s yet another example of all the tedious shit they left in because no-one can be bothered to edit big summer movies down to 90 minutes anymore.

The brief appearance of some Jordanians provides the final twist of casual racism/cultural imperialism, as they get announced as backup only to be blown to smithereens within about five seconds of making it onscreen. No white people or characters integral to the franchise die, obviously, which is good news for that one British soldier from the last film, who appears to have had his US-UK army exchange program placement extended, and Megatron, who dips in and out of the film like his agent took one look at the script and wisely advised his client not to get too involved.

I went to a late showing on a Monday night where people laughed in the wrong places, groaned when the soundtrack was briefly quiet enough to hear anything else and even those audience members of simple pleasures were noticeably fidgety and bored during anything other than the fight scenes, which were oddly spaced out and therefore unedifying, compared to the first film.

Revenge of the Fallen has nothing to say, and even if it did, no one involved with making the film would be capable of articulating it.