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Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen

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Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen
Released on Friday, Jun 19 2009

Director: Michael Bay
Screenwriters: Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro
Running time: 150 mins
Certificate: 12A

Claiming a hollow victory in this summer's battle of the giant robots, Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen crunches metal louder and more rambunctiously than Terminator Salvation. They're both poor films, but at least Michael Bay's effort is content with being stupid and silly. Unlike McG's Terminator revival, this doesn't flail aimlessly hoping to find profundity in its B-movie idea. For better or worse, Fallen fulfils expectations. It never wants to be a Ken Loach film, it's Michael Bay unwisely off the leash, all explosions, momentum and paper-thin characterisation. The spectacle is impressive, but deep down it has even less of an emotional core than its Amblin-lite predecessor.

This time we're following Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) as he heads off to college. Leaving behind girlfriend Mikaela (Fox) and his Transformer car Bumblebee, he finds himself zapped by a shard of space rock and his mind imprinted with symbols that lead uber Transformer the Fallen to Earth to wage war against Optimus Prime and the Autobots. Moving from the depths of the ocean to the Pyramids of Egypt, Fallen is a charged up, supersized version of the 2007 box office smash. At times it's a soul-destroying experience, with the bangs so frequent you become desensitised to it all - proof that a high-powered rocket of a film like this can easily become dull and tedious.

Attempts were at least made to ground the last Transformers in something relatable, with Bay wrapping the spectacular action around a nerdy high schooler's coming-of-age and ownership of his first car. Steven Spielberg is credited as executive producer on both Transformers, but his touch isn't evident here as Bay uses his human cast as window dressing (Fox is revealed straddling a motorbike in denim short-shorts!) for jaw-dropping visual effects and noisy robot scraps. Bay, of course, is the filmmaker whose Pearl Harbour showed an attack on an aircraft carrier from a bomb's point of view - it's hardly a shock that he values hardware over humanity.

In Fallen, characters die and come back to life in an effort to lend a sense of drama to the carnage. It's a redundant tactic and robs the film of any tension when the resurrections are so effortless and, in one instance, happen in the space of a couple of minutes. The action sequences, a triumph for CG effects artists, are whittled down to epilepsy-inducing edits, frantic flashes and deafening decibel levels. The sinking of an aircraft carrier, an Optimus Prime vs. Megatron forest smackdown and the finale in Egypt may look cool, but by jettisoning character and story, Transformers 2 feels a bit like watching someone else play a video game for two and a half hours.

John Turturro's government stooge-turned-delhi counter worker provides a flicker of a pulse. He sells the comedic moments with a slightly deranged, off-centre performance and strikes up an entertainingly bickering relationship with newcomer Ramon Rodriguez. The pair's incompetent infiltration of the Smithsonian Air and Space museum to find decrepit Decepticon Jetfire (voiced by Turturro as a grumpy old Brit) is the pair at their funniest. The film is even vaguely topical at times, with President Obama getting namechecked and a brief mention of swine flu. You're left wondering about the fate of Autobot Ironhide, though, whose other guise is a GMC truck. Rebranding himself during financial armageddon is probably not a major concern when there's Megatron and Michael Bay to worry about.


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