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Transformers Take Two

Overstuffed and stupid.

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How can you tell quickly that a movie is going to be terrible? The opening title "In association with HASBRO" is probably a pretty good indicator.

The second feature film based on the '80s-era toy line, Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen is even more preposterous and pointless than the first film. It opens in 17,000 B.C. as sort of an ersatz 2001: A Space Odyssey, with a tribe of primitive earthlings discovering a metallic monument from a more advanced alien race. It ends with a noisy, chaotic war-as-hell battle in the desert — except with big, shiny robots. All in all, this 150 minute box-office behemoth could well become the worst movie to ever gross more than $300 million. (Take that Passion of the Christ! Take that Phantom Menace!)

I'm not even going to bother trying to explain the plot here, because it's unbearably idiotic, and I can't imagine even fans of the film really caring. Besides, these films are, of course, purely visual.

I found the first film somewhat enjoyable on these grounds. The shape-shifting title entities are most interesting when small and not in mid-combat. In the first Transformers, that meant everyday objects like a portable radio and a vending machine springing to life. Here, aside from an extended and over-played bit with a remote-control toy truck (almost directly referencing the toys that the movies are based on), that level of wit is missing. There's a promising moment early on when a kitchen full of small appliances transform into creatures obviously inspired by Gremlins, but they're dispatched quickly. Instead, the film features an anachronistic and offensive tag-team of "jive-talking" transformers that might be the worst comic relief since Jar Jar Binks.

For much of the audience, the most compelling visual spectacle is likely to be Megan Fox in denim Daisy Dukes or a black leather biker get-up. But, like a "Decepticon" or "Autobot," she's less compelling when she goes verbal. (Co-star Shia LaBeouf is more personable, but he doesn't exactly have a lot to work with.)

Transformers 2 is somewhat notable for its clear right-wing undercurrent: Fox uses enhanced interrogation techniques on the toy truck, the only real human villain is an Obama adviser who has the nerve to exert civilian control over the military and suggest "diplomatic solutions" (an idea the film openly mocks), and the finale is a U.S. Army-led conflagration across a Middle Eastern desert village whose residents barely register as people the audience is supposed to think about.

Adding to the struggle, Transformers 2 is at least half an hour too long, with plenty to cut among its relentlessly boring action set-pieces and sub-stupid storyline. Losing the ponderous voiceover from white-hat robot Optimus Prime (a noble leader from another world who disguises himself, even when he doesn't seem to need to, as a candy-colored semi-truck) wouldn't have saved any time. But the cutting could certainly begin with the gratuitous shot of John Turturro's naked ass.

Related Film

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Official Site: www.TransformersMovie.com

Director: Michael Bay

Writer: Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman

Producer: Ian Bryce, Tom DeSanto and Lorenzo di Bonaventura

Cast: Megan Fox, Shia LaBeouf, Rainn Wilson, Hugo Weaving, John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Frank Welker, Isabel Lucas and Reno Wilson

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