It’s one of the most anticipated films of the summer and a sequel to a film that was nearly as good as it gets when it comes to mindless summer popcorn films. With that in mind, there is no way “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” can possibly misfire. Is there?
Well, yes and no.
Despite being overloaded with a boatload of problems, this follow-up to the 2007 hit manages to work for one simple reason - it gives fans of the original exactly what they want to see, plenty of explosions and action. This is far from a perfect film but, for what it wants to accomplish, it manages to succeed just enough to be passable.
“Fallen” picks up two years after the original, with Sam (Shia LaBeouf) headed to college looking to put his past encounter with aliens from another world behind him.
Those plans quickly change when Sam discovers he still has a piece of the all-spark (the device that gives the aliens their life force) and may now be the key to unlocking an ancient weapon that could destroy the world if the Decepticons get to it first.
Sam joins up with his girlfriend, Mikaela (Megan Fox), a former government agent (John Turturro) and his college roommate (Ramon Rodriguez) in a race around the world to get to the weapon first.
I was a big fan of the first film, which packed a lot of action with some really neat special effects.
But there was also something special about the discovery of this alien race and the different transformers, and that feeling just isn’t there this time around (although there are some cool new additions).
I also found plenty of problems with the film - enough to make me understand why some might come away unsatisfied. Those problems include a mostly uninteresting cast upstaged by the special effects, and the fact that the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime, sounds like a bad Yoda retread.
The film is also hurt by a weak script with a really contrived scenario to kick start the story (I mean seriously, are we supposed to believe Sam had the all-spark piece for two years and didn’t know it?).
Then there’s the Michael Bay factor. The man behind “Pearl Harbor,” “Armageddon” and “The Rock” has built his share of detractors who find his films to be nothing more than cinematic train wrecks. Bay certainly doesn’t help his cause here with a non-stop barrage of camera movement throughout the film’s 147 minutes. (Could you stop the camera for more than five seconds just once?)
But for all its faults, Bay and the film won me over … OK, maybe wore me down is more accurate. I found myself enjoying the different gadgets, and the special effects are impressive (especially a female shape-shifting alien that puts everything in “Terminator: Salvation” to shame). There are also a couple of nice action sequences - one involving that female alien and another in the Egyptian desert that ends the film on a high note.
Those moments are just enough for me to barely recommend “Revenge of the Fallen,” with some serious reservations. Here’s hoping a third installment (which is already slotted for a July 2011 release date) can find a way to be more like the original and less like this one.
Also in theaters
“Year One” (D) doesn’t have quite the same amount of buzz as “Transformers,” nor will it be likely to pick up some solid word of mouth. Here’s a comedy that, despite some very talented people in front of and behind the camera, proves to be a bigger disappointment than “Land of the Lost.”
Jack Black and Michael Cera star as Zed and Oh, a pair of bumbling hunter-gatherers who are banished from their village and set out on a journey that eventually leads them to Sodom and Gomorrah. Along the way they meet some familiar Biblical-era faces - including Cane (David Cross), Abel (an uncredited Paul Rudd), Abraham (Hank Azaria) and Isaac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, McLovin from “SuperBad”).
One of my favorite comedies of the 1980s is Mel Brooks’ “History of the World, Part 1,” so I had some mild hopes for “Year One” - especially with the great Harold Ramis serving as director and a co-writer.
Unfortunately, all the talent doesn’t translate on the screen. Sure, there are a few mildly amusing moments (most coming courtesy of Cera), but for the most part “Year One” was one big dud - with joke after joke thudding to the ground in horrible fashion.
Black’s performance proves to be quite annoying, while Cera fares better - even if he is essentially playing the same character he has in every other film.
According to the Independent Movie Data Base at imdb.com, “Year One” was originally rated R, but was edited to get a PG-13 rating. I mention this because I wonder if this would have been the case where a more adult approach could have helped the material. It certainly couldn’t have made it much worse.
“Year One” is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, brief strong language and comic violence and is now playing at the Greenwood Mall 10 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.
— Sportswrite/movie reviewer Micheal Compton, whose wife’s “True Blood” addiction has become contagious, can be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Vampires are politely asked not to correspond.