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Philly2Philly Philm Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

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Directed by: Michael BayTransformers

Written by: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Ehren Kruger

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker

Running Time: 147 minutes

It’s been two years since Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) overloaded Megatron in Mission City, sacrificing the Allspark in the process. Now Sam is hoping to restore some normalcy to his life by shipping off to college on the other side of the country. Bumblebee has taken up residence in Sam’s garage, doing little more than collecting dust. Meanwhile, his Autobot pals have formed a joint task force led by Major Lennox (Duhamel) sanctioned to combat lingering Decepticon threats. Their latest mission brings the team to Shanghai, China, where they face down an enormous hydraulic mining excavator that is, naturally, a Decepticon in disguise. Optimus Prime flexes some robotic heroics and single-handedly dismantles the monstrosity, but not before receiving an ominous threat: the Fallen’s return is imminent.

So begins 147 minutes of madness, mayhem, destruction, and death. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a frenetic mess that hits the ground running and never stops – relentlessly pummeling through brick wall after brick wall while dragging the audience wincing along for the ride.

The most painful part of Revenge of the Fallen is a pair of robotic twins, Mudflap and Skids, who are undeniably archaic racial caricatures, complete with enormous orb-like eyes, elephant-sized ears, buckteeth (one gold), and even some robotic nappy hair. The twins are insufferable, and only deliver lines that further perpetuate their stereotyping. What’s more, they serve no purpose other than comedic relief. Too bad they aren’t remotely funny, and instead succeed only in stealing screen time from characters people care about, like Bumblebee, Ironhide, Ratchet, or newcomers Arcee and Sideswipe.

The twins are one in a series of “what where they thinking!?” moments that become a running theme in Revenge of the Fallen. The film lacks anything closely resembling cohesion. Say what you will about the first Transformers, at least the plot moved forward at a steady rate and built up to the action-packed, Saving Private Ryan – but with robots – denouement. It had focus. It flowed. Revenge of the Fallen, on the other hand, has about as much focus as an ADHD-stricken 14-year-old boy sitting in math class who forgot to take his meds. Much of the film is best described as glorified tech demos, scenes that showcase intensely realistic CG but add nothing to the overall experience. The film’s central story becomes cluttered very quickly, and instead of having a simple, straightforward quest that strings together a series of epic action sequences we get a series of not-so-epic action sequences around which a patchwork story has been constructed.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is not without its enjoyable moments. When it’s good, it’s really good. But when it’s bad, well, it’s really bad. The opening sequence in Shanghai? Really Good. Sam’s mother getting high and running wild? Really bad. Soundwave? Really good. The “pretender” robot, Alice? Really bad. Optimus Prime’s big brawl in the forest? Really good. Sam taking a short trip to Robot Heaven? Really bad. Rinse, wash, repeat.

2 Liberty Bells out of 5