Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a 2009 American science fiction action film directed by Michael Bay and produced by Steven Spielberg. It is a sequel to 2007's Transformers and the second installment in the live-action Transformers series. The plot revolves around Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), the man caught in the war between two factions of alien robots, the Autobots and the Decepticons. Sam is having hallucinatory episodes of Cybertronian symbols, and is being hunted by the Decepticons under the orders of their long-trapped leader, The Fallen, who seeks to get revenge on Earth by finding and activating a machine that would provide the Decepticons with an energon source, destroying the Sun and all life on Earth in the process.

With deadlines jeopardized by possible strikes by the Directors Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild, Bay managed to finish the production on time with the help of previsualization and a scriptment by his writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and series newcomer Ehren Kruger. Shooting took place from May to November 2008, with locations in Egypt, Jordan, Pennsylvania and California, as well as air bases in New Mexico and Arizona.

Revenge of the Fallen was released on June 24, 2009, and was a huge box office success, setting records upon release, and grossing a total of $402 million in North America and $836 million worldwide. It was the second most successful film of 2009 (behind Avatar) and 12th overall domestically, and the 28th highest-grossing film of all time and fourth highest of the year (behind Avatar, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs) internationally. Despite its success at the box office, the film was received poorly by critics; it won three awards at the 30th Golden Raspberry Awards ceremony, including Worst Picture. A third film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, was released on June 29, 2011, in 3-D.

The Plot

Thousands of years ago, the Dynasty of Primes traveled the galaxy to create Energon with sun-absorbing machines called Sun Harvesters. The Dynasty follow a law that no sun can be destroyed if it has life on one of its planets. However, one of the Primes broke this law by setting up a Harvester on Earth in 17,000 B.C. The rest of the Dynasty named him The Fallen, and sacrificed themselves to hide the "Matrix of Leadership", the key to start the Harvester.

Two years after the events of the first film, Sam Witwicky is going to college, and the Autobots have joined the U.S military to create a classified strike force, NEST (Nonbiological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty), an elite joint military task force formed the United Kingdom and the United States, selected the world's top elite soldiers led by Optimus Prime, Major William Lennox and General Morshower, to eradicate Decepticons hiding from all over the globe. While packing for college, Sam finds a shard of the All Spark, which "uploads" its Cybertronian knowledge into Sam's mind. Sam gives the shard to his girlfriend Mikaela Banes for safekeeping, and leaves his guardian Bumblebee behind.

In Shanghai, the NEST Team encounters Demolishor and Sideways. Sideswipe, Ironhide and Optimus take down Demolishor and Sideways, but bring damage and destruction to the public. Demolishor warns Optimus of The Fallen's return before his execution. Reporting to NEST's base in Diego Garcia, the Autobots are patronized by U.S. National Security Advisor Galloway for their actions in Shanghai. Soundwave, the Decepticon's communications officer, hacks into a U.S military satellite, and overhears both the location of Megatron's corpse and the Allspark shard that Optimus removed from Megatron in the first film. After Ravage retrieves the Allspark's shard, it is used to resurrect Megatron's corpse at the Laurentian Abyss. Megatron then flies to the Decepticon flagship Nemesis, where The Fallen instructs him to kill Optimus and capture Sam, as Sam has knowledge that can lead the Decepticons to the Matrix of Leadership.

In college, Sam meets his roommate Leo Spitz, who owns a conspiracy website related to the Transformers' existence. Sam eventually starts seeing and scribbling visions of Cybertronian symbols, and suffers a mental breakdown in his astronomy class. At Mikaela's shop, Wheelie tries to steal the shard, but Mikaela captures him and leaves to see Sam in Princeton. She arrives just as Sam is attacked by the Pretender Alice. Mikaela, Sam and Leo flee and eventually kill Alice, but are then captured by the Decepticon Grindor, who drops them off in an abandoned warehouse. The Decepticons brutally torture Sam to obtain the whereabouts of the Matrix, but the only way to find it is to cut his head off to get to his brain. Optimus and Bumblebee arrive and battle the Decepticons, with Optimus taking Sam into a forest where the Decepticons battle him. Optimus manages to rip apart the head of Decepticon Grindor and wound Starscream by severing his arm off, before Optimus is stabbed and blasted by Megatron. The humans flee with Bumblebee and the Autobot twins, Skids and Mudflap. The NEST team, shocked by their loss, brings Optimus' body to their New Jersey base. Galloway arrives with the U.S Army vehicles armed at the Autobots and news that NEST is being decommissioned after the arrival of the Decepticons.

Meanwhile, the Decepticons kidnap Sam's parents in Paris. The Fallen taps into media signals and broadcasts a demand that the people of Earth deliver Sam to the Decepticons or be annihilated if resist. Leo suggests to Sam that his online rival "RoboWarrior" may be able to help. When the trio find him, they discover that RoboWarrior is actually Agent Simmons from the now defunct Sector Seven. Simmons reveals that the Transformers have been on Earth for millennia and convinces Wheelie to reveal a group of Transformers known as the Seekers. They find and revive the elderly Jetfire. Originally a Decepticon, Jetfire reveals to have changed sides to the Autobots, and teleports the group to Egypt.

Following several clues, the trio find the Tomb of the Primes in Petra. When Sam touches The Matrix it crumbles to dust, but Sam puts the sand in a pouch. The Decepticons arrive and battle the Autobots and NEST, who are aided by the United States Marine Corps, Egyptian and Jordanian military forces. The Constructicon Devastator uncovers the Sun Harvester from a pyramid but is killed by a railgun strike ordered by Simmons. Epps orders an air strike from F-16s, A-10s, and a B-1 Lancer, taking out all of the Decepticons. Sam makes a dash for Optimus Prime's body, but is shot and killed by Megatron before the Decepticons are overwhelmed by the humans. In the afterlife, Sam is told by the spirits of Dynasty of the Primes that the Matrix of Leadership is not a physical item to be found, but a right that he has earned.

Sam is resurrected from the dead, and when the Matrix reforms itself from the sand in his pouch, he resurrects Optimus. The Fallen then teleports, grabs the Matrix and flies to activate the Sun Harvester. After an attack by their artillery and air support fails due to The Fallen's telekinesis, Jetfire offers his parts to Optimus before dying of wounds inflicted by Scorponok. Using a battle armor made with Jetfire's remains, Optimus destroys the Harvester, defeats Megatron and kills The Fallen. Megatron, who has been severely damaged in the battle, follows Starscream's suggestion and retreats. The Autobots, NEST, Sam, and his friends return to the US, where Sam continues to attend college.


The film has received generally negative reviews from film critics. Based on 235 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Revenge of the Fallen received an average 20% overall approval rating (the original earned a 57%). Critical consensus was that the film was a "noisy, underplotted, and overlong special effects extravaganza that lacks a human touch." Metacritic gave it an average score of 35 out of 100 from the 32 reviews it collected. In CinemaScore polls, however, users gave the film a "B+", compared to the "A" that the original film had scored. Actor Shia LaBeouf was unimpressed with the film, stating, "We got lost. We tried to get bigger. It's what happens to sequels. It's like, how do you top the first one? You've got to go bigger. Michael Bay went so big that it became too big, and I think you lost the anchor of the movie...You lost a bit of the relationships. Unless you have those relationships, then the movie doesn't matter. Then it's just a bunch of robots fighting each other." Michael Bay has admitted his disappointment with the movie and has apologized saying the movie was "crap" and blamed the 2007-2008 Writer's Strike saying "It was very hard to put (the sequel) together that quickly after the writers' strike (of 2007-08)". According to The Washington Post, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is Bay's worst-reviewed film, faring even worse than Pearl Harbor. Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times described the film as "in-your-face, ear-splitting and unrelenting. It's easy to walk away feeling like you've spent 2½ hours in the mad, wild hydraulic embrace of a car compactor".

Roger Ebert, who had given the 2007 film three stars, gave the sequel only one, calling it "...a horrible experience of unbearable length." Later in his review, Ebert discouraged movie-goers from seeing the film by saying "If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination." He later wrote in his blog about the film, "The day will come when Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen will be studied in film classes and shown at cult film festivals. It will be seen, in retrospect, as marking the end of an era. Of course there will be many more CGI-based action epics, but never again one this bloated, excessive, incomprehensible, long (149 minutes) or expensive ($190 million)." Ebert would continue to lambast the film in other movie reviews and responses to letters and emails sent to him. Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers did not give the film any stars considering that "Transformers 2 has a shot at the title Worst Movie of the Decade." The A.V. Club gave the film a "C-", complaining about the writing and length, and considering the film only works during the action scene that occurs in the last half-hour. Among positive reviews, Amy Biancolli of The Houston Chronicle called it "A well-oiled, loudly revving summer action vehicle that does all that’s required, and then some", Jordan Mintzer from Variety said it "takes the franchise to a vastly superior level of artificial intelligence", and Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly wrote that "Revenge of the Fallen may be a massive overdose of popcorn greased with motor oil. But it knows how to feed your inner 10-year-old's appetite for destruction."

On a year-end poll administered by Moviefone, the film was voted the worst film of 2009, and Fox's performance the worst by an actress that year. Comcast ranked the film as the 4th worst sequel of all time. Empire named the film the 25th worst movie ever made. In June 2009, an Associated Press article by David Germain called the film as the worst-reviewed $400 million hit ever.

There was considerable negative reaction to the characters Mudflap and Skids, who some perceived as embodying racist stereotypes. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times said that "the characters indicate that minstrelsy remains as much in fashion in Hollywood as when, well, Jar Jar Binks was set loose by George Lucas". Critic Scott Mendelson said "To say that these two are the most astonishingly racist caricatures that I've ever seen in a mainstream motion picture would be an understatement". Harry Knowles, founder of Ain't It Cool News, went further, asking his readers "not to support this film" because "you'll be taking your children to see a film with the lowest forms of humor, stereotypes and racism around." Director Bay has attempted to defend the film as "good clean fun" and insisted that "We're just putting more personality in". Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman responded to the controversy with "It's really hard for us to sit here and try to justify it. I think that would be very foolish, and if someone wants to be offended by it, it’s their right. We were very surprised when we saw it, too, and it’s a choice that was made. If anything, it just shows you that we don’t control every aspect of the movie".

Another major complaint about the film was Bay's usage of the IMAX format. Instead of using IMAX for complete unbroken sequences similar to director Christopher Nolan's approach for The Dark Knight, Bay chose to use the format primarily on a shot-by-shot basis, combining conventional 35mm footage and IMAX shots in the same sequence. That approach, combined with rapid cutting of same created a jarring, highly unpleasant experience for most moviegoers.

The Cast

Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky
 Megan Fox as Mikaela Banes
 Josh Duhamel as Major Lennox
 Tyrese Gibson as USAF Master Sergeant Epps
 John Turturro as Simmons
 Ramon Rodriguez as Leo Spitz
 Kevin Dunn as Ron Witwicky
 Julie White as Judy Witwicky
 Isabel Lucas as Alice
 John Benjamin Hickey as Galloway
Michael Papajohn as Cal
 Glenn Morshower as General Morshower
 John Eric Bentley as Aide
 Erin Naas as Arcee Rider
 Rainn Wilson as Professor Colan

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