So going into “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” you know there will be plenty of giant robot fights, explosions and rapid-firing guns.
But the big question heading into this sequel is: Can it possibly live up to the hype that’s been building since the original film came out two years ago?
Simply put: Yes.
Aside from the action – which was pretty sweet, even if it once again was hard sometimes to make out whether the robots were Autobots or Decepticons – there was the same downplayed humor throughout the film that made the first one such a delight (well, a delight in an “action film” sense, anyway). There also were a couple pretty crazy plot twists, but your disbelief needs to be pretty well suspended before you even enter the theater showing a film about talking alien robots, so the jump isn’t that hard to make if you’re a fan.
All of the humans from the original film return, with “Fallen” following Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) as he prepares for college – arranging to keep his long-distance relationship with girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) in the process. He only has a couple days to enjoy school, though, as the Autobots soon seek him out to assist in their efforts to fend off an attack from rejuvenated Decepticon forces.
Wanting to lead a normal life, Witwicky declines Optimus Prime’s offer, only to discover soon after that the enemy is already on his trail (seeing a human transform into a killer cyborg was one of the many superb effects rolled out for this film). Soon, Sam and Mikaela are on the run from the Decepticons, who under the leadership of a general who didn’t appear in the first film (as well as the guidance of a revived Megatron) want to steal the sun’s energy to create a new means to generate new life forms of their race.
The federal government, meanwhile, shuts down the unit that had seen the Autobots working with the military to hunt down rogue Decepticons left on Earth, which forces Capt. Lennoz (Josh Duhamel) to defy orders and lead his troops on a mission to Egypt, where the Sun Harvester machine that could destroy the planet has been hidden for centuries amidst the pyramids.
The toy franchise had countless robots upon which to draw for this film, and the filmmakers failed to disappoint with their selections. As soon as you saw the characters walk past a green dump truck, you just knew that Devastator was about to make an appearance. Soundwave is also here (albeit not in the tape deck form many fans are familiar with), as is his jungle cat minion Rampage, the Autobot motorcycle trio Arcee and Autobot Sideswipe.
As in the first film, Sam’s scenes with his parents provided some slightly uncomfortable comic relief (including his mother unwittingly eating a pot brownie). The Autobot twins Mudflap and Skids, meanwhile, offered non-stop laughs as Sam’s street-talking companions, using various PG-13 slang phrases to taunt their much larger adversaries and each other.
While it’s good to see John Turtorro’s Simmons (the federal agent from the first film) return, how he comes to be uncovered was a bit preposterous (as covered above, though, just a BIT preposterous). The editors did a great job, though, with mixing in topical elements, such as referring to the president by name and throwing in some swine flu humor. While the film nears 2 1/2 hours of running time, there’s enough going on to keep your interest throughout – as well as a convenient out to transition into “Transformers 3.”
Is this film going to receive serious consideration from the Academy? Heck no. But it’s not supposed to. It’s a summer release that knows its role – blow things up, lots of action, a pinch of romance – and performs it to perfection. “Fallen” at least matched its predecessor, if not exceeding it, and – while not offering more than meets the eye – is as satisfying as mindless summer action can get.