Thinking back to 2009 and what we considered some of the most anticipated movies that were coming out, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen could’ve been on either side of fans waiting to see the Michael Bay-directed sequel and those who didn’t. The original Transformers from 2007 was a global box office success though it received mixed reviews for the first installment of Hasbro’s live-action Franchise. I didn’t mind it when I was a pre-teen, but as an adult now, I saw why it let down fans of the toyline and the popular ‘80s cartoon. There was some hope in expecting this follow-up with a price tag of $200 million to give audiences around the World a darker and possibly edger popcorn Flick to be entertained by. In reality, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is less than an improvement over its predecessor; it’s one big mess of a sequel that’ll ultimately lead to the franchise losing its way and making Roland Emmerich look like a genius in the process.
What’s the Story: Picking up two years after destroying the AllSpark, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) and the rest of the Autobots formed the task force with the humans’ named NEST (Non-biological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty) to eliminate the remaining Decepticons around the world. Meanwhile, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is heading off to college, where he wants to leave everything with the aliens behind, including his protector Bumblebee and focus on his long-distance relationship with his girlfriend Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox). Yet things change when he discovers a piece of the AllSpark in found in his sweatshirt and starts seeing these strange symbols, which leads to the resurrection of Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving) from the bottom of the ocean and finding the ancient Deception The Fallen (voiced by Tony Todd) to setting revenge on Earth to destroying the sun.
Regardless of quality, getting thrilled about any blockbuster sequel was the standard back then. On the last day of sixth grade, I saw this opening day with my family that afternoon in a packed theater, expecting a great start to my summer vacation. I’m not sure how 13-year-old me thought it was enjoyable when it was the polar opposite, but my taste evolved as I grew older. Watching it for the first time in its entirety in over a decade was full of regret to sitting through those 2 1/2 hours of a movie that’s purpose was to be bigger and better, only to feel hatred as it continued. But, as much as the first wasn’t a masterpiece by any stretch, it at least knows what it tried to achieve. This sequel is an example of Bay making good on some decent visual effects but needs more brains to deliver a captivating story to latch onto, unlike a couple of his earlier works. Unfortunately, without that detachment to have these plot points have any sort of advantage, making the flow disjointed as hell.
And if you went into this expecting a plot, you would be mistaken. Sure, it’s about robots that can turn into vehicles. It’s intended to be entertaining, except that Revenge of the Fallen failed to be enjoyable in any manner. Instead, the story goes out of its way to be incredibly confusing in order for what should’ve been Autobots to overcome the Decepticons once more, giving fans what they want and failing to deliver from what I observed. This was largely due to the 2007-2008 Writers Guild Strike, which negatively impacted similar poor summer sequels like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Terminator: Salvation. The returning writing team of Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci (who wrote the great Star Trek a month previously), and Ehren Kruger may have had to develop a plot before time ran out. Bay had to expand on the treatment and continue from there, but he went uncredited, which could explain why the dialogue wasn’t Oscar-worthy. Did it genuinely impact how bad this turned out? Well, it’s undeniably lazy in how everything is told. I also scoffed at the idea that Sam had a shard of the cube because we saw him running with it in the previous film and there’s no way something could’ve come off.
I had no idea what was going on and had tuned out at the 30-minute point, and it took about 90 minutes to inform us. The film falls apart (for me) when Sam finds the attractive Alice (Isabel Lucas) is a Decepticon dressed as a human. Adding to the confusion was the fact that turns the left cheek, including the reason for never explaining why the old-timer Decepticon called Jetfire, who turned good, is able to transport everyone from Egypt to Washington, DC, having the same time zone, apparently. But does Bay care? Well, he thinks you’re dumb for asking silly questions.
At this point, two movies in, the emphasis should have shifted away from the human characters and onto the robots, who receive little growth. You’ve forgotten about Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. What about the others? I’m afraid I can’t tell you. Everything becomes extremely dull when it pauses for unnecessary crucial exposition dumps that we’ll likely forget a minute later. They kept piling on to the point that I feared I was missing vital information. They mentioned this “Matrix of Leadership,” which is supposed to be the MacGuffin, but who cares?
Shia LaBeouf is mainly sleepwalking his way through his return as Sam, and this is the first time his continual screaming isn’t funny. Megan Fox’s performance as Michaela does not always improve. This was also back when every male believed she was the hottest actress in Hollywood, and I never chimed in. There’s no chemistry between them, just like in the previous movies, and I’ll only take another chance at death until one of them admits their actual feelings to the other. Ramon Rodriguez’s Leo Spitz, Sam’s roommate and conspiracy theorist who tags along with him and Michaela, was annoying. There’s no purpose in being there as the unnecessary comic relief when he only complains and feels more like John Turturro’s character Simmons. With Turturro, the moment you see an actor like him wear a g-string in one shot, it’s sad when this guy worked with better directors. Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson, who reprised their roles of Lennox and Epps, had little to do before they and the rest of NEST went on their mission in the third act. They even gave Tyrese some of the most obvious lines I’ve ever heard.
People came to see Transformers fight each other. Not become irritated by Bay’s incessant attempts at humor to highlight his lack of knowledge. When the action does occur, it is as loud and meaningful as one might imagine. The forest fight with Optimus is possibly the best moment in the game, but that’s not saying much, given I had trouble figuring out the deceptions. Speaking of Optimus, Bay thought he dared to kill him off when we know he’ll come back in the last ten minutes. And as it comes to a close in the Egyptian desert, I couldn’t care less because it’s the same old robots dying, gunfire, and explosions that made me want to see this movie finished, resulting in no stakes. Just imagine the depressed look on my face of not one, but two scenes of watching two dogs humping each other, Sam’s mom (Julie White) getting high on a weed brownie, or just any scene involving his parents or the image of the giant Devastator having wrecking balls as a pair of testicles. Isn’t it charming? And who can forget the groan-inducing Autobot twins Mudflaps and Skids, voiced by Reno Wilson and Tom Kenny? Even as a teenager, I could tell these two characters were bad anytime they spoke, as if they were attempting to build this franchise’s Jar Jar Binks by how racist stereotypes they made them.
Still, the one aspect I’ve always been optimistic about is the music. Steve Jablonsky’s score deserved much better than to be associated with these movies. Much like how they provided a single for the first, Linkin Park released a new song with their track “New Divide,” another one of my favorites from the band, and was received more positively than the movie itself. When it originally came out, I even downloaded it onto my iPod. Green Day’s “21 Guns,” The Fray’s “Never Say Never,” and The All-American Rejects’ “Real World” were also included on the soundtrack. Isn’t it sad that I prefer the soundtrack to the actual film?
Critics weren’t as gentle with their reactions to Revenge of the Fallen as the first, as it garnered negative reviews and currently holds a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes. But this is one of those times where a terrible movie makes a ton of money at the box office, becoming the second-highest-grossing movie of 2009 (behind Avatar) with $402.1 million domestically and a worldwide total of $836.3 million (too much). For some reason, it earned one Oscar nomination for Best Sound Mixing. And while the Razzies are a joke now, they actually got it right when it was up for seven nominations and won three: Worst Screenplay, Worst Director for Bay, and Worst Picture, which was well deserved if you ask me. One positive outcome of how horrible this was that it launched Jeremy Jahn’s career as a movie reviewer on YouTube, and let’s just say he didn’t have kind words for what he watched. A couple of years later, both Bay and LaBeouf admitted to being displeased with the film overall, with the former calling it “crap” and blaming it on the Writers’ Strike (sure), while LaBeouf thought Bay aimed too big and backfired. While the third installment, Dark of the Moon, improved a bit, it’s still a bad movie.
Overall, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen insults all senses. Somehow it took no lessons from its lackluster predecessor, with director Michael Bay making a slug of a sequel irrelevant for its loud action sequences and mess of a storyline, culminating in one of the worst blockbusters in recent memory. Never reached the point of being a guilty pleasure when it’s simply terrible a decade later.
Release Date: June 24, 2009
Runtime: 149 Minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, language, some crude and sexual material, and brief drug material.
Studios: DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures
One thought on “‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’- Throwback Review: One of the Worst Blockbusters of the 2000s”
The only movie I’ve ever had to apologize to my mom for making her go see with me when it was in theaters.
It’s a lesson on how not to make a blockbuster 101.