WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
The uber-anticipated sequel Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen picks up shortly after the events of the blockbuster first film. With evil Megatron’s carcass buried at the bottom of the ocean Optimus Prime and his Autobot comrades working together with an elite group of human soldiers are now focused on hunting the remaining Decepticons scattered across the globe. Sam Witwicky hero of the 2007 movie is busy preparing for his first year at college while his unlikely girlfriend Mikaela Barnes stays behind to tend to her father’s auto-repair shop. Little do they know however that back on Cybertron a Decepticon elder known as “The Fallen” is hatching a scheme to invade Earth where hidden somewhere on the planet is the last known source of energon the life-blood of all Transformers. If he succeeds the devastation left in his wake will no doubt spell the end of the human race. With the fate of Earth hanging in the balance Sam and Mikaela must once again have to team up with Optimus and the Autobots to defeat this powerful new foe.
WHO’S IN IT?
All the major human players from the first Transformers film are back for the sequel including Shia LaBeouf Megan Fox Tyrese Gibson Josh Duhamel and John Turturro. Newcomers include Ramon Rodriguez who plays Sam’s conspiracy-obsessed college roommate Leo and The Office’s Rainn Wilson who enjoys a notable cameo as a pompous physics professor.
Of course the actors merely serve as background filler for the real stars of the show: those titular talking-alien robots. And director Michael Bay fills up the screen with enough mechanical eye candy to dazzle even the most skeptical gearhead. Returning characters include Optimus Prime Bumblebee Ratchet Ironhide Barricade Jazz (don’t act surprised) Starscream Frenzy and Megatron (again don’t act surprised).
Several new Autobots are introduced to the mix: Mudflap and Skids a pair of jive-talking ceaselessly annoying hatchbacks; Jolt a Chevy Volt; Sideswipe a silver Corvette; and Jetfire an elderly Decepticon turncoat who walks with a cane speaks with an English accent and transforms into an SR-71 Blackbird. Additions to Decepticon side include: The Fallen who we learn is the Decepticons’ real head honcho (consider him the Emperor Palpatine to Megatron’s Darth Vader); Soundwave a communications specialist who sinks his tentacles into a satellite and spies on us from above; Ravage a panther-like creature; Wheelie a radio-controlled truck who talks like Joe Pesci; “the Doctor ” a sort of mad scientist who speaks with a German accent (naturally); and the Constructicons a group of construction vehicles that fuse together to form a massive four-legged beast.
No director does over-the-top explosion-laded action better than Michael Bay and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen features several staggering set pieces. The CGI work on this film makes the last one look like it was designed on a Commodore 64.
Any scene in which people talk — and several of the ones in which robots talk too. Just as the action and visual effects are beefed up for the sequel the bad jokes and cringe-worthy dialogue are as well. Highlights include two dogs humping John Turturro in a thong a robot humping Megan Fox’s leg a sequence involving Sam’s stoned mom and a glimpse of a very large pair of testicles on one very large Decepticon. The latter will likely go down as the “nipples-on-the-Batsuit” moment for the Transformers franchise.
The show-stopping climax set in the Egyptian desert is one extended riotous battle royale packed with so much robot-on-robot action you’ll feel overwhelmed at times.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
This big-budget spectacle begs to be seen at the multiplex — IMAX if possible. Just bring a pair of earplugs for the dialogue sequences. You might want to bring some Dramamine as well as Mr. Bay went a little overboard with his trademark circling-camera sequences this time around.
The sequel centers around an aspiring cartoonist named Tim Avery (Jamie Kennedy) who happens upon that magical mischievous mask from the original. After a whirlwind romantic night wearing the mask he gets his wife pregnant and nine months later boom! Little Alvey is born. But this is no ordinary baby. Seems he has inherited all the mask's powers and causes unimaginable amounts of mayhem for Tim. At the same time the Norse God of Mischief Loki (Alan Cumming) has come looking for his mask and will do whatever it takes to get it back. But wait there's more. The family's jealous dog also gets his paws on the mask and uses it for his own personal toy--as well as a ploy to get back at Alvey. Oh the insanity! The plot is stretched at best and lacks any of the charm of the Jim Carrey original.
Along with an abysmal story the performances are equally banal. Jamie Kennedy (Malibu's Most Wanted) who is best known for his off-the-wall characters is ill-suited as Tim never quite pulling off the new father thing much less a husband with a steady job. The usually stellar Alan Cumming (X2: X-Men United) takes Loki way over the top with the heavy eye-makeup and wild hair while his relationship with his father Odin--played loudly by Bob Hoskins--is sorely out of place. Alvey is a pretty cute kid however played by twins Liam and Ryan Falconer. And as his mom Traylor Howard (Me Myself and Irene) is sweet and awfully patient as Tim's wife--and who is also blissfully unaware her son can be a mischievous devil. You'd think she'd pick up on it when the baby blows his head up like a giant balloon but hey who knows?
While Son of the Mask does attempt to create Looney Tunes-ish eye candy director Lawrence Guterman (Cats & Dogs) seems to have forgotten how to effectively mix computer animation with live action especially with the digital Alvey. In the old days it would be equivalent to seeing all the strings and levers. Maybe we are used to perfection when it comes to CGI. We expect it all to look real. But in Son of the Mask the baby's face is so weirdly distorted it's scary. Also what made the original so fun was the mask itself. When Carrey cavorted around wearing it there were big musical numbers and wild antics. In Son it's the dog who wears the mask the most. Doesn't really have the same effect.
Vassili Zaitsev (Jude Law) becomes an unwilling hero of World War II when he rises from the bottom of the Russian ranks to a coveted sniper position with the help of Soviet political officer Danilov (Joseph Fiennes). A master at publicity Danilov turns Vassili into a national hero by publishing Vassili's extraordinary sniping exploits and together they boost the flagging spirits of the Russian army as it attempts to resist the Nazi invasion of Stalingrad. But Hitler wants this city which means Vassili's got to go. Enter the celebrated Major Konig (Ed Harris) a ruthless Nazi sharpshooter sent to Stalingrad to hunt Vassili down and kill him. Oh yeah and there's this love triangle thing between Vassili Danilov and Tania (Rachel Weisz) a female soldier.
This reviewer would watch eye-candy Jude Law in a bad Internet short and as grimy and bloody and war-torn as he gets in two hours he's still mighty fine. Oh yeah and he's good as the humble somewhat bewildered Vassili. You can't help thinking though that no backwoods kid from the Urals (Russia's version of hillbilly country) is going to have the effortless grace beauty and upper-crust Brit accent that make Law more suited for roles like the one he played in The Talented Mr. Ripley. Fiennes is fine as his backstabbing best friend. Weisz as Tania is unnecessary (and please no more closeups of her having sex fer chrissakes - her love scene with Law is so over-the-top it looks more like he's killing her than making love to her. It's a particularly cruel-looking Harris though who commands the screen in a skillful performance almost solely conveyed through his eyes and facial expressions.
Why is it Hollywood used to be able to tell a good war story without a) the nonstop carnage and b) the backside-numbing two-hour-plus run time? Director Jean-Jacques Annaud (Seven Years in Tibet) proves once again that his movies are nice to look at but lack much substance - probably why a promising epic with a good cast like this was released in March instead of Oscar season. Accents were weirdly inconsistent settings improbable and characters virtually undeveloped. Good points: The opening scene reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan with all the bloodshed but less f/x is quite chilling and Annaud gives us glimpses of creativity (the showdown between Harris and Law in the broken glass-strewn factory is one of the few inspired scenes in the movie).