'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen'
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, language, some crude and sexual material, and brief drug material. 150 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.
A joyless cacophony, an insistent and seemingly endless onslaught, "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” director Michael Bay's follow-up to the 2007 smash "Transformers” plays more like a parody of a Bay movie.
You name it, it gets shot up, blown up or otherwise obliterated in a massive fiery ball, from suburban homes and cars to aircraft carriers and even an Egyptian pyramid. Along the way, our sense of sanity and humanity also get destroyed, as we feel as if we are being held captive by these walking, talking, shape-shifting robots — both the good guys and the bad.
The Autobots and Decepticons aren't the only ones assaulting us in their epic battle: Regular people are just as obnoxious — probably more so — with their nonstop yelling and yammering. Everyone is overcaffeinated, everyone screams their lines, perhaps so they can hear each other over the explosions and the thunderous score.
Who knows, and more importantly, who cares? It is impossible to become emotionally invested in the Transformers, cool-looking as they may be when the movie settles down for a rare moment (the work of the venerable Industrial Light & Magic), because it's impossible to tell who's doing what to whom. It's all one messy amalgamation of twisted steel and shattered glass, accompanied by generic crunching and shrieking sounds. The only robots with any discernible personality traits, aside from bravery or antagonism, are the Autobot twins, Mudflap and Skids. These are shockingly crass and unfortunate black stereotypes, jive-talking fools who can't read and bumble their way from one mishap to the next. They are Jar Jar Binks in car form.
After only an hour, it all feels boring and numbingly repetitive, and one glance and the watch tells you you've got another solid hour and a half to go.
What's that, you say? You want to know what the "Transformers” sequel is about? How quaint. Basically, it follows the further adventures of plucky, young Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf, seriously straining his likability), who is yet again stuck in the middle of the eternal fight between the noble Autobots and the evil Decepticons.
The mythology is much more dense than that, though, as we learn from several self-serious, expository speeches delivered by Autobot leader Optimus Prime (voiced as always by Peter Cullen), Decepticon leader Megatron (Hugo Weaving) — oh yes, he's back — and the elderly Brit, Jetfire (Mark Ryan). Something about millennia of history and oppression, and capturing the energy of the sun. (Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman returned to write the script, along with Ehren Kruger, inspired by the Hasbro Transformer toys and the animated '80s TV show.)
Megan Fox is also back as Sam's impossibly hot girlfriend, Mikaela, with whom he hopes to maintain a long-distance relationship as he heads off to college. (The first time we see her, it's from behind in a pair a Daisy Duke shorts as she's bent over a motorcycle seat; this, and running across the desert while maintaining perfect lip gloss, are all she's asked to do.) Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson also provide eye candy as commanders of a secret team that works alongside the Autobots to hunt down any remaining Decepticons; this requires them to look hot in camouflage as they squint pensively into the sunset.
Laughs are unusual in this brawny endeavor, but if anyone gets them, it's John Turturro as a former secret agent who gets hauled back into the fray. You'll feel as if you've been dragged in, too.