Transformers: Revenge of the FallenA column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Ray Tate
I see that mainstream critics are back to their old skewering ways. The latest Transformers flick is getting a fierce drubbing, and I haven't the foggiest idea why.
In the first film, Optimus Prime fought Megatron. Ultimately, it was Sam (Shia LaBeof) who destroyed Megatron by shoving the All Spark into his chest unit. The threat of the Decepticons did not end there, and Revenge of the Fallen picks up where the first film left off.
The Autobots have forged an alliance with the U.S. military to root out and destroy the remaining Decepticons. That's something you have to appreciate. Optimus Prime and the Autobots are out to kill the Decepticons. The Autobots are the good guys, but they intend to kill the enemy. Anything else would be ridiculous.
The Decepticons are engaging their own strategies, and Soundwave proves to be the most important player. Information is power, and Soundwave gives the Decepticons power. The Decepticons have a clearly laid out goal resurrect Megatron. In the process of acquiring that goal, they will release the dogs of war.
This is what I do not understand. Did critics know what movie they were seeing? I mean, were they expecting to see a Merchant Ivory film where Eugenie and Paulina wish to be courted by the handsome, gallant solicitor their father hired to pull him out of a spot of bother? Revenge of the Fallen is a movie about living alien robots that metamorphose into vehicles, and it's based on a beloved cartoon series. Review the movie on its own terms.
The strategies of the Decepticons are brilliant. The relationship between Megatron and the simpering Starscream is a continuation of what played out in the cartoon series. The body count is as high as it should be, and the death gives meaning to the war. Megatron and the Decepticons do not care about humans. They are in the way, and they need to be destroyed. If it is in his power, Optimus Prime will not let one human come to harm. This is what I think is the secret to Optimus Prime, why he is so noble and what Peter Cullen instilled in him. Optimus bears the weight of the dead on his shoulders. I think he feels sorrow for every life he could not save. No wonder Prime must be so huge.
Revenge of the Fallen is a movie painted in broad strokes, but it does have substance. The makers of the movie studied the television series and saw the seed of an idea that was planted in the original animated Transformers movie. Optimus Prime is a different type of Autobot. Oh, he's not just the coolest Autobot there is. Optimus Prime is special, and the movie makes him even more resonant by giving him a history steeped in Autobot legend. From that legend, they also draw out a newer Big Bad and a threat to planet earth's existence. In addition, they distinguish the Transformers from other robots. Being an Autobot or Decepticon is a choice. They are not made that way. They have free will.
I don't know why anybody would go to see this movie for the humans, apart from Megan Fox, but the humans acquit themselves well, especially in the latter half. Familiar faces from the previous Transformers movie abound, and it's nice to see them again. I also enjoyed the camaraderie between the armed forces and the Autobots. The element reminded me of Gamera: Attack of Legion. After Gamera saves the army, the Japanese military stand to attention and salute the giant turtle as he jets off. See, if you cannot take pleasure from a scene like that, then you really shouldn't be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, let alone reviewing it. It's not your kind of movie. However if you liked the cartoon series, if you liked the first Transformers movie, then you are going to enjoy this film. It's that simple.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen isn't a perfect movie. The humor, which is subjective anyway, often misfired for me. Although I was surprised that a comedy relief character actually pulled out some decent fighting chops, another indication that the Autobots are "More Than Meets the Eye." Some of the sections focusing on Sam at college were a little too long. I also didn't like President Obama being turned into an extra bad guy by having him empower a Donald Rumsfeld like sphincter who seeks to have the Autobots expelled from earth, but overall, I was entertained. Time seemed to pass quickly, and I'd say that I got my money's worth.
If you want to see realistic humans exhibiting contrasting foibles and strengths contend against human problems then you should not see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. If however you want to see Optimus Prime in his finest hours, then Revenge of the Fallen is the movie for you.