Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Review

Megatron has teeth. He is the villain of the Transformers movies (a bit character in this sequel), and the only one of these robots from space with rows of razor sharp teeth. Is he the only one that eats? Do they not need food? If not, why does he have teeth? Maybe he had them in the first movie too, or maybe it was the advancement of special effects that now let us put teeth on digital giant robots. Regardless…

It’s notable to bring this up because it is one of many burning questions in Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen without answers. There is obviously some interest in developing mythology, a lively hood, and a backstory for these robots, one individualized from the cartoon/toy series they were born from. Or, at least something more than “planet destroyed, we’re here, deal with it.”

For instance, there is a scene where audiences are introduced to a robot nursery. Baby Decepticons are dying due to a lack of energy. Okay, but how are they born? No female robots seem to exist in the Decepticon ranks, so that rules out any known form of natural -impossibly creepy- robot birth. Do they simply appear inside a blue egg and pop to life when ready? A small robot humps the leg of Megan Fox for laughs (and it is funny), but do they even understand the concept if their babies appear from nowhere?

Fallen also introduces an aging Transformer, a one time Decepticon who switched sides to join the Autobots. He transforms for the first time (in the movie at least) inside the National Air and Space Museum, and he carries a cane. Was the cane part of his original construction? If not, where did it come from? What is the life expectancy?

These questions, however picky or corny they may be, pile up after a while. See, summer blockbusters are not allowed to simply blow things up; they still need a base, rules, light logic, and a core to fall back on. That’s what separates the enjoyable junk food of the movie world from the Transformers. It is especially critical in the case of a franchise like this. It is even worse when you have 150 minutes to do so, and still fail miserably.

Michael Bay is more concerned with tossing two robots on screen, twins born from apparently the same mysterious blue bubble, who could be the worst racial stereotypes in modern film history. But hey, one has a gold tooth, and that’s funny right? It’s doubtful their names are spoken in the movie, and if they are, it’s likely drowned out by a mass of explosions.

Revenge of the Fallen does a fine job with its action. It’s impossible to question the technical wizardry behind the movie. They even addressed a key problem with the original, that of incoherent fights that mashed similar looking robots together in battle. Thanks to slower edits, better camera angles, and slow motion, there is at least attempt to make this work.

Of course, those battles lead to casualties, at one point 7,000 of them. Mere seconds after this announcement, the film tosses in one-liners from the wise cracking ghettobots (not an actual movie term) for a laugh. If you want the audience to take this seriously one minute, why are you trying to make them laugh the next? Even Independence Day knew how to properly handle tonal changes, and that’s saying something.

A lot of the non-action set up shots feel like a poor car commercial. The cars/Transformers drive into view, spin needlessly to kick up dirt, and yet stay clean without a speck. If this where the automakers government bailout money went, why is everyone being charged to see this? All these shots do is waste an unbearable 150 minutes yet it doesn’t have the brains for 80.

The human side of this mess reunites Shia LeBeouf and Megan Fox, a young couple bafflingly caught in the middle of this alien war. Supposedly, LeBeouf has unknowingly had a piece of the life-giving All Spark from the original film with him for two years. The Decepticons have been looking for it since the first film, but through the power of script writing magic, finds it the same time LeBeouf does with a simple robot made from a RC car.

That’s mildly plausible, but audiences are also supposed to believe that government covered up the appearance of the Transformers from the general public despite causing a few billion dollars in damages to downtown Los Angeles in the previous film. Now the Autobots have become part of a special government sect, sent out to fight off the final Decepticons who are still trashing major cities while governments claim a gas leak left a streak of blown up cars, buildings, and military vehicles all through Shanghai.

Um, no.

Of course, what follows that opening Shanghai assault (which has no bearing on the story) is an equally ridiculous kitchen assault, where blenders and toasters come to life after LeBeouf drops the All Spark piece. Obviously, these Transformers are not birthed in blue sacks, but they do come fully loaded with rockets and ammunition. Maybe that’s how the Transformers reload, by popping blue ammunition sacks somewhere inside their mass of metal.

That would make more sense than 90% of this movie.

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 

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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is simply astonishing in its hi-def presentation, arguably one of the top five or so discs on the market. Michael Bay loves deep, bold color, and this does cause some problems in terms of flesh tones, which tend to look bronzed. This is replicated on the Blu-ray in this AVC encode, along with the enormous level of saturation elsewhere.

Black levels are stunning in their depth, with minimal crush that is at its worst during the early Egypt scenes. Some noise is evident, typically during special effect or complex air photography. This is all minimal, nitpicking material, as shadow delineation is typically astounding and the grain structure completely unobtrusive.

Everything else about this transfer is beautiful. Stunning levels of detail hold during long, mid, and close range shots. The complexity of the robots is amazingly held true, with no visible aliasing or flicker (although the Transformer home base backdrop is slightly troublesome). Sharpness wavers in a few focus-oriented shots, and remains razor sharp for the rest of the ridiculously long run time. Faces are filled with texture, from dirt, sweat, pores, and scrapes. The contrast is wonderfully bright with rare intentional “Michael Bay style” blooming, loading this transfer with the highly sought after “pop.”

Video ★★★★★ 

A DTS-HD 5.1 track grabs you from the company logos, delivering a throbbing robotic bass line and swirling transformation effect in all channels. It immediately continues its dominance, with an unbelievable level of low-end power. Optimus Prime saves Sam by barreling into a building, and then flipping upside down to find his shot. The bass that accompanies that move is unreal, crisp, and astoundingly deep.

The front soundstage is wide, with positional dialogue, action, and movement tracking left to right. The surrounds are consistently engaged, from missiles firing front to back or flying vehicles filling each channel. Highs are maintained beautifully, the transformations replicating the clang of smashing metal with zero distortion. Any of the action scenes offer demo-level material, and there are plenty to choose from.

Note: Those playing the Wal-Mart exclusive “Big Screen Edition,” with certain scenes in the IMAX format, have noted a lower volume level, resulting in sub-par audio. The HiDefDiscNews review notes the differences in detail, typically boiling down to a -4dB dialnorm in the dialogue, and a higher discrepancy elsewhere.

Our review on DoBlu is based on the standard edition.

Audio ★★★★★ 

Housed in a two-disc set, Transformers 2 is a bonus-packed release. The first disc offers only a commentary from Michael Bay and his writers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

The second disc houses the awesome making-of, The Human Factor: Exacting Revenge of the Fallen. This documentary is over two hours in length, and split into seven parts, loaded with behind-the-scenes footage, and an excellent piece on the deadline crunch.

Fans will adore the somewhat promotional but still fun 25 Years of Transformers, an 11-minute featurette detailing the toy line and how it has evolved since its inception. A Day With Bay chronicles one day of Bay’s schedule as he begins his first interviews with the press. Giant Effing Movie is a mildly funny montage of the production, from the first day to the Tokyo premiere.

Two interactive features let you look at the history of certain robots in the film (across multiple mediums), and another lets you create your own Transformer (meh). A 23-minute piece on pre-visualization is followed by a brief collection of deleted scenes. The latter is closed off by promotional material, namely trailers and a music video.

Extras ★★★★★ 

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