Although it’s endless and eardrum-buckling, the Hasbro-sanctioned toy-tie-in Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen will pack them in, because guys all over the world dream of manipulating those amazing parts. And that’s just Megan Fox — there are also those cool robots. Actually, the camera lingers more lovingly on the Fox than the ‘bots, which transform so cartoonishly fast that any pretense of reality is instantly vaporized. Much of the movie is computer-generated hash, weightless even with nonstop BOOMS and METAL GROANS and THUDS. Fox’s jugs, in contrast, have verisimilitude — and heft.
I have a soft spot for director Michael Bay, probably because the South Park guys wrote a song about how much he sucks while, at the same time, Ridley Scott makes movies that win Academy Awards. They’re not that different. From time to time Bay even shows a better grasp of action than the director of Gladiator. The Island was more exciting than you heard, and the first Transformers had its modest charms. But Transformers 2 is self-parody. I saw the movie in Imax, and it’s a feat to shoot an Egyptian pyramid with the biggest cameras ever created and make you say, “Eh. Whatever.” The man who directed Pearl Harbor now depicts the annihilation of an American aircraft carrier with indifference — for a kick. He has no shame.
The premise? Bad transformers want to obliterate Earth’s sun, and Shia LaBeouf says “It’s not my battle” because he wants to be “normal” and get a college degree. His college is populated with stacked women in micro-miniskirts, which makes me think the extras casting session was the real place to be. Shia changes his tune when he starts spontaneously scrawling alien hieroglyphs, like the guy in A Beautful Mind except with no chance for an Oscar. Meanwhile, alien robots — led by “the Fallen” — hover just outside Earth’s orbit, plotting their revenge for … something. I was never quite sure. You’d need an evolved alien brain to be able to follow the battle scenes. With apologies for my alien-racism, at these speeds all transformers look alike.
Transformers 2 features two squabbling, jive-talking robots that made me think back fondly on Jar-Jar Binks. How sad it must be to be one of the talented computer artists who spent months and many millions animating their slapstick fight, which people at my screening watched in dead silence. (My 11-year-old daughter, Lucy, mounted a halfhearted defense: “8-year-olds might like it.”) The actors stare dutifully at FX To Be Animated Later, paid too well to show their boredom but unable to show much else. They’re blank slates, their minds wiped clean.
I don’t have much nice to say about Transformers 2, but I’m happy to see my Park Slope neighbor John Turturro get another big paycheck — and he’s very funny given the Drake-and-Josh level of the jokes. There’s a terrific bit with a blonde coed who transforms into a killer-‘bot — but her send-off goes by so fast that the audience doesn’t even have a chance to say, “Yeah! Kill dat bitch!” There’s also a gorgeous effect in which thirteen transformers hurtle down from space into the desert sand — thump thump thump thump — and the colossi slowly rise from the smoke. But then they start blasting and it’s back to video-game weightlessness. I remember in the eighties watching The Howling, in which a man slowly morphed into a werewolf: His flesh quivered and his snout crunched out of his flesh and the bones in his feet cracked and elongated. Why can’t these transformers transform so that we marvel at their metamorphoses? Can’t 200 million dollars buy that much?
Oh well — back to La Fox. The camera first ogles her in short shorts and cowboy boots astride a motorcycle. Later, she wears white pants that appear to have had the air vacuumed out of them for maximum cling, and a plunging blouse that makes her dash from robot projectiles — in slow motion, arms pumping — even more suspenseful. As she emerged from a desert dust storm with her pillowy lips wet and glossy, I was reduced to ga-ga-ga-ga … There’s an old joke about a guy interviewing for a lion-tamer job who watches his female competitor shed her mink to reveal her naked breasts, which the lion contentedly licks. The circus owner says, “Can you do that?” and the guy says, “Can I?!!! Just get that lion out of there!” I feel the same way about Transformers 2. Just get those transformers out of there!