Two things we know about Michael Bay: he loves to blow stuff up and he loves America. It’s a fitting pair given the explosive way most Americans celebrate their independence. Unfortunately, his desire to blow stuff up is just as infantile as his view of the country that he loves so much.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen picks up somewhere after the first installment left off…although plot doesn’t necessarily matter in either film. After the dust settles from the battle of the Autobots and Decepticons, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has settled into a relationship with love interest Mikaela (Meagan Fox). However, he is about to leave for college. while packing up, he finds a broken shard of the All-Spark (don’t ask), which signals to the Decepticons that he has vital information about an energy source that they desperately need. Licking their wounds after their first loss, they mount a search for Sam and an attack on anything that stands in their way.
Like most people, I go see different films for a variety of reasons. As such, I often gear my expectations to the genre of film I am seeing. For example, I do not expect a Casablanca experience from a Harold and Kumar film. So when I go see Transformers, for example, I go for all the cheesy action, special effects, and, let’s be honest, popcorn. I am increasingly fascinated by the special effects geniuses that engineer both the visuals and the sounds to match. Though they are again fascinating here, they aren’t flawless, particularly regarding the robots in motion. It’s often hard to distinguish “body” parts which makes deciphering fight sequences even more difficult. Who is hitting whom and where? These fight scenes become little more than poorly-organized chaos. Also, as a sci-fi film, Revenge of the Fallen is simply too long. Had the filmmakers cut it by at least an hour, it would have been a much more enjoyable film.
Though the times may be changing in the culture at large with, for example, the Great Emergence and the election of Obama, Bay’s view of America and the role our country plays in his films is not. In fact, it is infantilely imperial. Here, the Decepticons are an invading alien force that do not know the meaning of subtlety. They blast onto the scene in loud explosions and as the story progresses, the action moves to the Middle East, an area ever in the news. Yet for some reason, the only country to respond to the action is the United States. Well, I take that back, the Jordanians send two helicopters which are quickly destroyed by the Decepticons. Now whether Bay intended to portray America and the American military as the world’s police and savior (because the Decepticons are indeed trying to destroy the entire planet), it is the message that comes across. Even more, in not portraying international cooperation, bay seems to suggest that America=the world. This is indicative of summer blockbusters throughout the ’80s and ’90s that contribute(d) to our sense of global superiority. Yet with rapidly advancing technology and means of communication, our world is become smaller than ever, and we are realizing (or should be) how closely connected we all are and how much we rely on one another. Celebrating a spirit of independence in life and in film is a good and noble thing, but it should always be done with an eye to interdependence as well.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (150 mins.) is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, language, and some crude and sexual material (the final boss has wrecking balls for testicles–yeah, this is the kind of filmmaker you’re dealing with) and is playing in theaters everywhere.