2009 | Director: Michael Bay (“Armageddon”) | Writers: Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (“Mission: Impossible III”) and Ehren Kruger (“The Ring”)
If “Gremlins 2” were a two-and-a-half-hour-long car commercial, it would closely resemble “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” which fills the screen with enough sight gags, quasi-comedic characters, and candy-colored vehicles to cause the viewer to suffer an occasional seizure or four while watching this sequel. The difference is that “Gremlins 2” was a loving homage to Chuck Jones-style cartoon comedy, resplendent in its mayhem, while “Fallen” is only in love with its own butt-kicking bombast. Its narcissism is partially warranted, however; with a good 45 minutes and 20 or so characters cut from its substantial margins, it would have been the mindlessly endearing popcorn film it imagines itself to be.
Two years after the events of the first “Transformers” joint, “Fallen” finds Sam (Shia LaBeouf) on his way to college while trying to hold together his unbelievable relationship with the mind-blowing Mikaela (Megan Fox, playing by far the most attractive, inappropriately-dressed mechanic in the history of the world). But when a remnant of the AllSpark fills his simple brain with ancient robot hieroglyphics and junk, Decepticons universe-wide scramble to find Sam, in order to extract the information from his mind, in order to resurrect the evil Megatron, in order to get an even eviler old robot named The Fallen back to Earth, in order to turn on some prehistoric Sun-killing machine, in order to mine all the planet’s Energon—and heck, to murder all humans for good measure. Luckily, Optimus Prime and all your favorite new GM automobiles, available for sale at any almost-bankrupt domestic car dealership near you, are there to protect mankind.
As with any Michael Bay film, “Fallen” suffers from a severe case of bloating, with countless actors with clichéd character arcs fighting for screen time with CGI robots voiced by even more actors. (One imagines last year’s potential SAG strike was averted when Bay and producer Steven Spielberg hired half of Hollywood to work on this film.) The plot is so muddled with major storylines that it’s nearly impossible to keep everything straight, and needless subplots come and go every five minutes just to introduce a new potential action figure.
Bay, for all his faults, knows how to piece an action scene together, and he also understands the power of humor—hit-and-miss as it may be—as an important facet of the tentpole blockbuster, meaning somewhere deep inside the shell of constant explosions and screaming, ridiculously-tan characters is a sleek, entertaining action film that manages to tell a big, fate-of-the-human-race story in grand fashion. Ultimately, the satisfying battle setpieces that pepper each act aren’t enough to keep “Fallen” from collapsing under the weight of all its bells and whistles, but one would be hard-pressed to find a more impressive failure to watch this summer.
Rating: Two and a Half of Five Stars