“I'm fifty feet under the enemy's... scrotum!”
I think that line just about sums up this movie. A line like that tells you everything. It says that the enemies are really, really big, that the dialogue is far beyond ridiculous, and that the whole movie is going to rely on cringeworthy visual gags. If you need any further points of reference, I'll tell you that this line is delivered by John Turturro, shouting into a Jordanian walkie-talkie which magically connects him directly to the admiral of an American naval fleet, while climbing up the side of an Egyptian pyramid which is apparently on American soil within spitting distance of Jordan's most famous archeological site. And the enemy does indeed have a scrotum dangling far above Turturro's head.
Yes, the movie is really that bad. And did I mention the latest additions to the Autobot team, a pair of “twin” hatchbacks who turn into particularly clumsy bots, spend more time fighting with each other than with the enemy, can't read, have jug ears and buck teeth – one of them gold – and talk like rejects from one of the skits on an early Ludacris album? Well, if you thought the passing of Bernie Mac and the ignominious death of Jazz in the first Transformers movie meant that this movie would be short on racist comic relief, think again. Step and Fetchit, or whatever their names are in the script, have got you covered more than adequately.
I mean, god damn, at least Jazz looked cool!
Let's get back to John Turturro on that pyramid. John Turturro is a fair actor who has, in between being Jesus in the Big Lebowski and an absolute nutcase in Secret Window, paid his rent by working on some really lame movies – but even he seems painfully aware of the extreme shittiness level of the movie he's in right now. In the first Transformers movie he spat out every dumb line with gusto, taking his character to sublime levels of absurdity. This time around he seems almost ashamed of himself. It's too bad, then, that his character has to carry the movie through its whole third act, explaining everything that needs to be explained (and there's a lot of that), leading the cast through plot holes (lots of those, too) and even, in one scene, offering a quick recap of the primary quest objectives for those who fell asleep (“The machine is under the pyramid – if it turns on, it'll blow up the sun...” and I swear I could almost hear him thinking “fuck it, let the sun blow up”).
The fact is, Revenge of the Fallen actually needs signposts like this, because the plot is convoluted to the point of absurdity. At one point the mandatory Meddling US Government Official asks Optimus Prime, “what if the Decepticons are here because of you?” and, aside from the fact that the Batman franchise already used that plot, it would have made a much better plot than the Byzantine maze of plot holes the movie actually uses.
Take a deep breath. Ready? OK. First the movie wants to be about a shard of the Allspark that amazingly managed to go undiscovered in a pocket of Shia Labeouf's sweatshirt ever since the first movie. Then that shard doesn't matter at all, even though it apparently has the power to create an entire army of Decepticons in about ten seconds, and what the Decepticons really want is Shia's brain. They want it so that they can rescue Megatron, who it turns out is only mostly dead. It also turns out that Megatron never really wanted the Allspark for himself. No, he serves this other dude called the Fallen, who apparently came to Earth ten thousand years ago or so. Shia is seeing weird runes in his head, there are ancient Autobots living in the Smithsonian, and, oh yeah, there's a machine under the Great Pyramid of Giza which everybody knows those poor, primitive Ay-rabs couldn't have built without alien help. The key to the machine is buried inside a mountain in Petra, hidden away by a bunch of self-sacrificing Autobots and then cleverly disguised as a massive and intricate monument by the Nabateans, probably with help from the aliens because, well, you know. Optimus Prime is slaughtered in about ten seconds by the Fallen (at least, I think it was the Fallen), but Optimus is the greatest warrior in the history of the Autobots and the only one who can defeat the Fallen, so isn't it handy that the only thing that can bring him back to life is the very same mystical key that can turn on the machine that the Fallen is going to use to “blow up the sun”? You betcha it is.
Oh, and there's a government guy shutting down the top-secret Autobots branch of the US Army which just blew up half of Shanghai (that's in China, y'all) but is still top secret, and Megan Fox got her worthless dad out of the joint and has a Decepticon pet, and there's a hot chick who wants to have nasty tentacle rape sex with Shia, and Shia can't say I heart you to Megan, who seems to have stolen Jessica Alba's lips, and John Turturro, who is apparently 1/36th Arab, has been thrown out on his ass after the fiasco of Transformers 1, but still has all of the government's files on aliens and runs the world's foremost Website on alien contacts, and the government lets him do this because I forget why, but it doesn't really matter because, like half the plot points I mentioned here, it doesn't connect to anything else in the story.
Seriously, this is the plot of the movie. I know, I know, it's a movie about robots who turn into cars. The plot doesn't matter, right? As it happens, I agree wholeheartedly with that premise, and thought the first Transformers movie was served pretty well by its cookie-cutter plot because hello, it's a movie about ROBOTS who turn into CARS! We're not here to watch Jason Bourne triple-cross his control team. We didn't buy tickets to the remake of Dangerous Liaisons. All we want to see is cool robots transforming into cool cars and coolly beating the shit out of each other. What moron would mess that kind of pure robo-action up with this kind of plot? But I guess that's what you get when you order a script made by the same guys who wrote the unnecessarily complicated, yet completely noncerebral, Star Trek relaunch.
It doesn't help that “Fallen” jumps around like a kid with severe ADHD. I'm not even talking about the hyperactive camera work and editing that make it impossible to tell which of your favorite Autobots just bit the dust, I'm talking about basic storytelling. About forty minutes into the movie, I went to the bathroom for two minutes. When I left the theater, Megatron was at the bottom of the ocean, guarded by a fleet of battleships, and the Fallen from the title hadn't been seen yet. By the time I got back, Megatron, Starscream and the Fallen were all squabbling in a set that simultaneously ripped off the Alien franchise and the Matrix movies, surrounded by insect Transformers which had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie. I'm still not sure whether this secret lair was underwater, on another world, another dimension or the reality outside of the Matrix. It doesn't matter, because two minutes later all of them were back on Earth, but it would have been nice to know.
This is the sort of movie where a character can start out a fight scene in broad daylight, continue fighting under the stars, and end the fight in daylight again. It's the kind of movie where a character can be in California one second and in New York the next, without ever leaving the ground. Worst of all, it's the kind of movie that treats the entire world as a playground for US military forces.
Now, Transformers 1 had more than a little of that USA Number One fighting spirit. If you'll recall, every time fighting in that movie shifted to the deserts, a label would helpfully tell us that we were in “Qatar – the Middle East”, and every single Arab in Qatar (the Middle East, remember?) was a goatherd who lived in a ruin. But that was nothing, NOTHING compared to the geographical and political violations inflicted on the Middle East by “Revenge of the Fallen”.
Remember that pyramid? Yes, the big one at Giza. That one that has the Sphinx next to it – you can see the Sphinx in some of the shots. The Middle Eastern action in “Fallen” starts out at the pyramid. Team Alpha (Shia, Megan, an ancient Autobot named Jetfire who is probably the coolest character in the movie and is therefore guaranteed to die, and the Racist Comic Relief Twins) get to the pyramid, and by following three stars which Shia mistakenly (!) identifies as Orion's Belt they somehow figure out that the key they're looking for is in Petra. That's the place in Jordan (or, in Michaelbayspeak, “Jordan – the Middle East”) that has all the cool tombs and monuments – you saw it in the Last Crusade. Followed closely by Decepticon forces, Team Alpha drives (!!) to Petra. This takes them at least five minutes. They get to a border crossing, which is a little hut manned by an Oompa-Loompa. (!!! - I can't make this shit up.) Turturro tells the Oompa-Loompa that they're tourists from New York, and the guy immediately waves them through. (!!!!) Another thirty seconds of driving, and they're in Petra digging up the tomb of the original Primes.
Apparently nobody told Michael Bay that Petra is about 400 miles away from Giza as the crow flies, or that in between Egypt and Jordan there is this little country called Israel, which happens to run some of the most uptight border crossings in the known universe. Apparently it doesn't matter anyway, because in the very next scene Jetfire is using his mystical power to hyperblast them right back to Giza (why he didn't hyperblast them to Petra five minutes ago is never explained), where a major war is shaping up between Autobots, Decepticons and... the US Army.
That's right, the US Army is in Egypt fighting Decepticons. I'm not talking about a little Rainbow Six fire team of elite troops, I mean the entire armed forces of the United States – fighter jets, destroyers carrying railguns, M1 tanks invading from the sea, Bradleys, drones, and a division or so of infantry – is duking it out with alien invaders on Egyptian sovereign soil. The Egyptian army, which in reality has quite a few of its own M1 tanks and F-16s, is nowhere in sight. No real surprise, I guess, because everybody in Michael Bay's Egypt rides camels and lives in ruins.
But wait, what's that? Could it actually be a pair of Jordanian gunships flying over the pyramids? Oh, yes, indeed it is. Makes no sense at all, but okay. Wow, the Ay-rabs have helicopters! But don't worry, they aren't actually going to do anything. They're going to be shot down by Decepticons before they even get a shot off. Their big contribution to the global war on alien terror will be crashing in the sand and handing a walkie-talkie to John Turturro, so that he can tell the Big Fucking Guns on the American destroyers...
“I'm fifty feet below the enemy's... scrotum!”
Which just about sums it up for the movie that should have been called “Transformers: How Our I.Q.s Have Fallen”.
I'm sorry, did I just spoil the ending?