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TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro
Director: Michael Bay
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 149 Minutes
Release Date: October 20, 2009

“Fate rarely calls upon us at a moment of our choosing.”

Film **1/2

Second viewings of movies can surprise you sometimes. I attended the opening midnight screening of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and remember getting sucked up into all the crazy action just like when I first saw its predecessor. Having just re-watched it, I’ve come to realize what an inferior sequel it is.

What’s funny to me is the fact that this movie broke box office records, making something around $200 million in five days time, and yet critics and audiences alike responded with nothing but hate for it. But no how negative the word of mouth was, the movie continued to make more and more money, estimating up to around $825 million worldwide. In other words, it was like The Phantom Menace all over again.

So where do I stand? While I certainly don’t think it’s the cinematic atrocity so many find it to be, there are simply one too many flaws in this follow up to the ultra-fantastic 2007 movie. And when you start to notice flaws in a movie that requires you to shut your brain off, then you know something’s not right.

Many of you will know I’m a huge fan of director Michael Bay, and I will continue to be there opening day for any of his future movies. And truth be told, this is actually not the first movie of his where I had to think twice about how I felt. Though I was all over Armageddon when it first came out, my opinion of that movie has lowered more and more through the years.

Bay has demonstrated in the past that, even if the script isn’t the best in the world, his visual style and execution of action and testosterone fueled intensity can make for a purely enthralling experience. And let it be known that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has large quantities of action and explosions as well as astonishing visual effects (even better than the first movie). However, the screenplay is ultimately what lets this entire movie down, along with some not-so-welcome new additions.

The movie does get off to a kickin' start, as the Autobots and the U.S. military are disposing of Decepticon cretins all around the world in the wake of Megatron’s demise. The opening action sequence is tremendous as Optimus Prime and company wreck through the streets of Japan taking out every enemy robot in sight. It’s the kind of scene you want a big summer blockbuster release to open with, and Bay, as always, never disappoints.

Meanwhile, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is gearing up for his first year away at college. This ends up putting his relationship with girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) in slight jeopardy, though he promises to keep in constant contact via web chat. Even more difficult for Sam is having to part ways with his first and only car, Bumblebee.

However, Sam discovers a small shard from the AllSpark in his possession. Upon touching it, he instantly starts having visions of symbols that he can’t get out of his head. Tied to this sudden story turn is the arrival of an evil Decepticon ruler known as The Fallen who, through his unlimited power, is able to resurrect Megatron.

The main problem here is that the actual plot doesn’t kick in until somewhere between the 60 and 90 minute mark. Not really a good sign for a movie with a 149 minute running time. The first half spends more time than it should on  Sam’s first days at college life, which include a dorm room party that looks more like the inside of a strip club more than anything else. Wish the college parties I went to looked more like that.

Again, length is usually never an issue with a Bay movie, as demonstrated perfectly in both Bad Boys II and the first Transformers. But this is perhaps the first movie of his where you could feel the movie drag at points. Again, I hold the screenplay accountable for this misstep.

The movie also gives way too much screen time too much screen time to several new characters that should’ve been cut out of the movie. On the robot’s end, we have two new Autobots known as The Twins, Mudflap and Skids. Chances are you may have heard the uproar over these characters for being the most over the top form of racial stereotypes in quite some time which, frankly, I thought was a little overblown. I like to think of them simply as two aggravatingly annoying characters that had absolutely no business in a Transformers movie.

And I’m guessing it’s a written rule now that all movies in this franchise must include one annoying human character, which in the first movie was that of Anthony Anderson’s loud, overly wacky computer hacker. This time, that honor goes to the character of Leo (Ramon Rodriguez), Sam’s college roommate who for some inexplicable reason manages to stick around for THE ENTIRE movie, even though he’s pretty much introduced as a throwaway character. He does nothing, and I mean nothing, but scream constantly at any hint of danger and whine about the fact that he might die, which is exactly what I was wishing would happen. In the history of movie sidekicks, Leo may rank as the worst ever.

However, there is one new character that I did enjoy immensely. An aging Decepticon named Jetfire, who’s actually a very important character to the story. He reveals himself to be a Prime just like Optimus, and joins alongside Sam to help defeat The Fallen.

And as far as visual effects go, this movie has set an even higher standard than that of its predecessor, which was certainly a hard act to follow in that regard. The look and design of each of the robot characters is downright amazing, and will dazzle your eyes in scene after scene. If this doesn’t win the effects Oscars, it will definitely be a crime. That’s how astonishing they are!

In the end, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is truly a mixed bag of a sequel in that it’s equal parts fantastic and unforgivable. It’s definitely bigger, louder and more spectacular in terms of a sequel fulfilling the promise set by the first movie. On the other hand, the super-incoherent story and bad character additions keep it from being the all around spectacular movie it should’ve been. But I still have faith in this franchise and will definitely be ready for Transformers 3 when it comes out.

Video ****

As let down by the movie as I was, this Blu-ray release from Paramount is so spectacular that I honestly think anyone should add it to their collection on the basis of the presentation alone. This was one of my most anticipated Blu-rays of the year simply because I was eager to see how this movie would benefit in HD, and sure enough…Paramount knocked this one out of the park, and then some. For the entire two and a half hour running time, your eyes will be dazzled relentlessly by every bit of visual effects work and action delivered in this purely astonishing 1080p transfer. Color and detail are in flat out extraordinary quality, and the incredible visual effects will have you reacting with awe.

Audio ****

Even coming off of the spectacular audio mixes on Crank 2 and Drag Me to Hell, all it took was the first five minutes of this movie to tell me this was going to be the front runner for best sounding disc of the year. The DTS HD mix does a huge number on your ears from the very moment the Dreamworks logo pops on the screen. Like I said, the movie is bigger, louder and more spectacular…meaning that there isn’t a single moment in the presentation where at least some form of incredible sound is going down somewhere in your surround sound system. Action, explosions, music playback, dialogue delivery and basically every sound effect associated with the Autobots and Decepticons all add up to provide one Blu-ray sound presentation you won’t soon forget.

Features ****

At first, I winced at the notion of there being two discs simply because I was under the impression that Blu-ray was supposed to include so much content onto one disc. Also, the Blu-ray of the first movie included a Picture-in-Picture presentation, which isn’t featured this time around. But as it stands, the extras on this Paramount release are flat out outstanding and contain hours of extensive behind the scenes material.

Disc One includes the feature film and a commentary with Michael Bay and screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

On Disc Two, we get some phenomenal extras, starting with the mother of them all; “The Human Factor: Extracting Revenge of the Fallen”, an extensive 7 part behind the scenes documentary that adds up to a running time of 135 minutes. Every tidbit of the movie’s production, from pre-production right down to its worldwide premiere in Japan, is covered here and you really get the sense that a lot of hard work went into the production. You also get to hear Michael Bay sound off on his haters and critics, which was fun to hear. Also included are additional featurettes including “A Day with Bay: Tokyo”, “25 Years of Transformers”, “Deconstructing Visual Bayhem” and “Giant Effing Movie”. Also, there’s Deleted/Alternate Scenes, a marketing gallery including trailers and TV spots, the music video for Linkin Park’s song “New Divide” and NEST: The Transformers Data Hub, which lists the history of every Autobot and Decepticon character in existence.

And exclusive to the Blu-ray is a neat little extra called “The AllSpark Experiment” which allows you to take the shard from the AllSpark and design your very own Autobot or Decepticon.

Summary:

Ultimately, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is both stunning and disappointing all at once. But the bad qualities are so painful and unacceptable that I can’t root for the movie as much as I would like to. However, I stand by what I said earlier, if you own a Blu-ray player…this disc is worth your money because it’s one of the best Blu-ray presentations you’ll ever see!

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