"It is easy to shoot an art movie in a winery in the South of France. But people have no idea how hard it is to create something like Transformers. They (the critics) review me before they have even seen the movie."
-- Michael Bay
-- Michael Bay
The real question is, "What was Michael Bay thinking"? Did he sincerely believe that the scene where Shia LaBeouf's movie parents, finally, on an apocalyptic desert battle field "learn to let their boy grow up" -- a plot arced telegraphed so blatantly from the movie's opening, leave-for-college-scene that you couldn't miss it --would be powerful just because there was swelling music and slow-mo scenes? Did he similarly really think that setting up Shia and Megan Fox’s "will the two teen-lovers manage to finally say 'I love you'" question be powerful when it is answered late in the movie as cardiac resuscitation fails on a wounded Shia?
What I mean is did Michael Bay think the movie actually had heart because Frankenstien's Monster had touched in some scenes that sort of looked like they "had heart"? Or did he just figure that that stuff should be in there and the real draw was giant battling robots? I'm going to go with the latter: Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen has clearly spent most of its time, energy, and budget on giant battling robots.
Although to be fair, there are three separate stories packed into its ungainly 150 minutes. There is the human-interest/heart story: Sam Witwicky (Shia, the go-to guy for young action heroes) is leaving for college. He just wants a normal life and to be faithful for his not-leaving-for-college super-hot girlfriend (Megan Fox, who allegedly had to gain weight to improve her figure with a "cake diet").
Will his parents "learn to let go"? Will he rise to his potential destiny as a friend of the auto-bots? Will the two teenagers get the guts to tell each other "I love you"? Chances are you (a) already know, and (b) paid ten dollars to see robots fight it out and so do not much care. If those two are correct then Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen will not disappoint you.
Secondly, there is the robot battle story. This story involves robots with code-names that turn into various product-placement vehicles who fight each other. They are CGI spectacular and often have some fairly pointed stereotypes in terms of their language and behavior. While they "look good", they are also incredibly confusing to try to figure out and the less colorful bad-guy robots (Deceptions) are sometimes hard to tell apart. But so what?
Finally there is the military story line: Michael Bay does the army-guys first-rate. The hardware gleams, the spec-op soldiers look sufficiently serious; there is even a moment where President Obama is moved to a "safe location". He does a first-rate job with getting the look and feel right (there is the obligatory Predator drone take-off scene), and it made me wish we had just gotten 150 minutes of robots and army guys and left off the awkward humor, the unconvincing heart-stuff, and the unnecessary stereotypes.
But, alas, Bay didn't. Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen is both too long and too uneven to be considered any kind of stellar achievement (unless, um, you count second-largest opening day gross ever: which is an achievement and guarantees a sequel). I found the movie too long, too obvious, too visually complex, and too shallow. It certainly is a spectacle, and well, it is a movie about giant robots that transform into cars -- but I am just wondering if maybe there was some way to really wring a crisp powerful story out of that rather than putting all of the time and effort into rendering.
Side note: Shia LaBeouf hurt his hand in a real-life car crash leading to a write-in scene in the movie where he (mildly) injures his hand and then spends lots of time with a bandage on it. I wondered about that; the injured hand made no dramatic sense, and I just scratched my head thinking -- "people survive giant explosion assaults and death, but all this main character gets is his hand injured and suddenly it sticks!?"