AWFJ Women On Film – Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Betsy Pickle reviews

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Time supposedly flies when you’re having fun, which is probably why “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” makes you feel as though you’ve been trapped in the theater for days, being assaulted by toys posing as gigantic metal machines.

“Revenge of the Fallen” is not escapist popcorn fare — unless your popcorn has been seasoned with NoDoz instead of butter and salt. Just because it’s mindless doesn’t mean it’s entertaining and compelling to watch. Repetition and stupidity turn this overindulgent special-effects show into a test of endurance.

While 2007’s “Transformers” had a certain amount of charm and imagination, along with the aforementioned gigantic metal toys, the sequel primarily consists of humans and machines behaving in annoying ways. Not that that matters; this movie is more interested in destruction and mayhem than likable characters or logical actions.

Two years have passed since the good Autobots and the evil Decepticons, machine creatures from another planet, battled it out on Earth in 2007’s “Transformers.” Their antics have been dismissed as urban legends, and only conspiracy theorists suspect that events of an extraterrestrial nature took place. In the meantime, the Autobots have been working secretly with the U.S. government and military to track down and destroy hiding Decepticons, but that’s about to change thanks to a stubborn national security chief, Galloway (John Benjamin Hickey), who thinks the Autobots are attracting trouble.

Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), the Los Angeles teenager who was caught in the crossfire of the alien war, is now heading to college back East. Not only is he leaving behind anxious mother Judy (Julie White) and relieved father Ron (Kevin Dunn), he’s also abandoning his Autobot guardian, Bumblebee, and babe-alicious girlfriend, Mikaela (Megan Fox), with whom he hopes to maintain a long-distance romance. Sam’s hopes for a normal life are dashed by scheming Decepticons who discover that Sam holds the key to ancient Autobot secrets that could empower the Decepticons and destroy Earth.

Director Michael Bay’s movies often seem to have passed directly from pitch to production, with little writing in between, but screenwriters Ehren Kruger and Roberto Orci have outdone themselves in fading from pertinence here. Although most of the characters are returnees from the first film, any affection they’ve engendered is offset by cliché and inane actions, and the new characters are a rogues’ gallery of irritating beings, starting with Galloway but continuing with Sam’s Bill Gates-wannabe roommate, Leo (Ramon Rodriguez), two trash-talking Autobots and a sexist Decepticon.

In the main cast, males outnumber females five to one, but no worries. The women paint a spectrum from jealous sexpot/damsel in distress (Fox) to overprotective/erratic/imbecilic mom (White) to predatory she-beast (Isabel Lucas as Alice). The diversity is astounding. Not that the men are treated with any more respect, but at least LaBeouf, military men Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson and ousted agent John Turturro are allowed a patina of heroism.

The dialogue, such as it is, is barely audible, and with metal constantly pounding on metal and ammo disintegrating everything onscreen into dust, it’s hard to get excited about the action sequences. “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” promises summer-movie eye candy, but it’s less than meets the eye.

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Betsy Pickle

Betsy Pickle is a freelance film critic and journalist. She was the film critic at the Knoxville News Sentinel from May 1985 to November 2008. A Knoxville native, she graduated from the University of Tennessee with a B.S. in communications. In 1992, Betsy co-founded the Southeastern Film Critics Association, a group that has grown to more than 40 members in nine states. She served as SEFCA's president 2001-2004. She is a past member of the advisory council of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission and has served as a judge at the Nashville Film Festival, the Asheville Film Festival and the late and lamented Valleyfest Film Festival. Her reviews and features have appeared in newspapers from Atlanta to Anchorage and Stuart, Fla., to Sacramento, Calif.