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Capt. Sage's Review of
Transformers 2:
Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers 2 is like an amplification of the original. Its best points are better and its worst points are worse. Some of the things I saw in that movie, I wish I'd never seen. Still, the fight scenes are amazing and well-done, and most of the characters returned and are still sympathetic and even more interesting than before, which is saying something, especially in a sequel. There were also noticeable improvements over some of the complaints I had about the first film. Unfortunately, new flaws were added, as this movie was weighed down by a few disturbing visuals, a choppy storyline (a pity, as the first film flowed better despite having more arcs), and an interesting new character whom I couldn't understand much of the time.

The fight scenes, once again, were incredible, with lots of military hardware. The movie, like the one before, distinguishes itself with the respect and professionalism it shows when portraying the military. Sadly, there weren't as many dogfights this time, but the land battles were still very interesting to watch. Like its predecessor, and unlike many similar action or disaster movies, the humans actually can fight back effectively, an interesting twist I quite enjoy.

The movie's beginning, though it did involve one of the interesting land battle scenes, was jarring somehow - there were so many changes so fast, what with new characters, both Autobots (good guys) and Decepticons (bad guys), and the formation of many of these new characters and old characters into a new team of good guys called NEST, an alliance of Maj. Lennox's men and the Autobots. I was glad that we were introduced to it very clearly by Optimus' monologue, but it was still a lot to take in at once, and it didn't seem to flow well. I liked far better the introduction to the arc in which Sam Witwicke is now going to college. I don't want to be so simplistic as to say that simply not having a monologue introduction for that arc made it better. Perhaps it'd be more accurate to call the monologue a symptom, so that any introductory sequence which needs a monologue to make sense should probably have been refined more.

The choppiness, unfortunately, tends to persist throughout the movie, and I'm not quite sure why. The first movie handled more arcs with less choppiness, but this one has more. Maybe we didn't spend quite long enough in any one scene, or maybe the final battle was too long and forced the other scenes to take less time, or maybe it was the number of locations and characters that had to be squeezed in. The movie never got incomprehensible, but as I was tossed rapidly from scene to scene on the sea of the film, my mind began to get a bit frothy.

One thing which aided comprehension in this movie was that the Transformers were finally distinguishable from each other - at least, far more than they were in the first movie. More of them had distinguishing color characteristics and faces, and the movie was much better at establishing the heights of the Transformers in relation to each other and their surroundings, simultaneously giving recognizability and an epic sense of scale.

Unfortunately, some Transformers still looked too similar to one another - Starscream and Megatron in particular. In fact, the Decepticons had generally become more generic, as the final battle involved a lot of cookie-cutter steely Decepticons. This was especially unfortunate because the movie had done well at making Starscream and Megatron more characterized and thus more interesting.

In addition, counteracting the improvements in making the Transformers more recognizable, there were now too many Transformers, both cookie-cutter Decepticons and distinguishable Autobots. As a result, although I could now recognize many of the Transformer characters, it was hard picking them out of the crowd. Also, the movie wasn't able to give us as much information about the new or old characters as a result, which was unfortunate.

One of the more interesting new characters, Jetstream, proved unfortunately disappointing - not because he was poorly animated or conceived or written or acted, but because I couldn't understand him a great deal of the time. The characters in the film had trouble understanding him because he forgot to keep his conversation in order, but I couldn't understand his actual words. This is odd, considering I usually have no trouble understanding the other Transformers. I think that, to show his age, there were continual clanking and machine failure noises going on during his speech, with the end result that I missed out on about half his lines. Which was too bad, because the half of his dialogue that I understood, I enjoyed.

Although it was great that so much of the original cast returned and did so well, including Agent Simmons, his character was responsible for many things I'd rather never have seen. I'd rather not think about them more than I have to, so I shall not comment on them here - you might try this review to find out what I'm talking about. The movie has degenerated in this regard even since the first Transformers, which is rather sad.It was almost worse that it was for the sake of gratuitous comedy - I find that Simmons' interaction with other chracters to be far more humorous than those disturbed visuals.

On the plus side, the disaster movie cliches that dogged the original movie are gone, but on the minus side, we were visited with the bad, bureaucratic boss cliche. At least this one was well-acted, so that you really could believe that he really did think he was in the right and thought his cruelty and pride was just "being tough" to get results.

So, all in all, the plot was a bit weird and choppy, though serviceable, the action was awesome, the characters were in great form, though some Transformers were more recognizable than others, and some characters grossed me out. Where does that leave us? With a summer action blockbuster that actually contains intersesting acting, and some things I'd like to be able to skip entirely. Still, considering that it was a sequel to a popular movie, one might expect it to be terrible, so in many ways, as unpleasant as some of the surprises were, the movie as a whole was a pleasant surprise. (Except for the lowering of standards even since the first movie, that was an unpleasant surprise.)

SPOILERS

I have to admire actor Shia LaBeouf for being able to say some of his lines in the Tomb of the Primes, lines to the effect that he trusts voices in head, with not just a straight face, but with believable conviction. Still, I think it sad that this is the closest we get to spirituality nowadays - voices in our head are regarded as reasonable guides. I hope this is just a necessity of the movie's plot and not a reflection on our society as a whole.

The Fallen was a new character I didn't quite enjoy. Introducing a bigger bad guy who mentors the main fighter bad guy worked in Star Wars with the Emperor and Vader, but I don't know how well it worked in here.

There was one point about his motivation that got me thinking. He wanted to wipe out Earth's sun to gain Energon for his species, despite the fact that life on Earth would be annihilated. I thought almost immediately that he didn't need our sun. The galaxy is full of them, and there are probably tons of uninhabited solar systems. But then, isn't that just like our misdeeds? How often do we need the things we crave? Couldn't we make do or do better most of the time, if we did what we should do, and didn't do what we shouldn't do? And yet we still crave what we don't even need, just because we want to have what we want, when we want it, without restrictions.

This brings out more of Fallen's character, although really the film should've done a little better at this - a lot of what he really wanted was the power to stand above the Transformers' laws and to have power over his brethren. This is the truth, the secret voice, behind our wicked yearnings as well, whether in small things or in big. I think it unfortunately possible that people may learn wrong moral lessons from this movie, but if they learn this lesson, that so often our desire for things is rooted in our desire for preeminence, then good will have been accomplished.