The inadvertent surrealist genius of TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN

meganfoxReview by Brad Nguyen

Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a fairly perfect encapsulation of the Hollywood summer blockbuster: Big on spectacle, be it two giant robots battling one another or Megan Fox’s ass; and light on coherent plot. And as easy as it would be for me to dismiss the movie, I would be lying if I were to say that the film wasn’t an entertaining and, yes, a fascinating experience.

Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBoeuf) is about to begin his first semester at college, leaving behind his girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox). Before long he becomes embroiled in a war between the Autobots and the Decepticons. The Decepticons are apparently looking to bring The Fallen, an ancient leader of the Decepticons who once tried to destroy the Sun in order to harness its power.

The plot makes no sense at all and this is ultimately the film’s biggest strength. The film’s complete lack of internal logic is its most distinguishing factor. One demented scene follows another demented scene with only the barest acknowledgement of narrative thrust. Megan Fox’s leg gets humped by a tiny robot. Shia LaBoeuf has a conversation in robot heaven. The camera lingers on the bare ass of John Turturro. Shia LaBoeuf’s mum eats hash brownies and tackles a random student on campus. We’re introduced to two robots, Mudflap and Skids, who are the most shamelessly offensive black stereotypes of recent times and a giant robot with a very conspicuous scrotum consisting of two wrecking balls. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is basically a David Lynch film without the irony but with approximately the same effect. The film’s incoherence does speak to Michael Bay’s crass commercialism but it’s also defiantly weird and refreshing. Hollywood films are generally fairly rote, following predetermined formulas and character arcs and are boring as hell. But as more and more money gets injected into film projects, somehow the imperative to make neat, standardised films gets lost and we end up with these gaudy Hollywood messes that operate according to some weird capitalist dream logic. The ‘badness’ of the film becomes amplified to the level of parody.

If you leave behind the requirement that the film be some emotionally involving work of art, there are many strange pleasures to be had from the film: I personally enjoyed the incredibly cheesy battle dialogue of the Transformers, much more true to the spirit of the toy advertisement that was the original TV series than was the previous film. Also look out for the marvellous Megan Fox who I suspect received only one direction from Michael Bay: look hot. It is endlessly entertaining to watch how the variety of emotions that her character is supposed to feel are expressed through the same sexy pout.

Sure you can complain about the lack of a classical Hollywood narrative and if you are inclined to do so you’ll probably prefer the first film’s ‘heartwarming’ coming-of-age story about a boy and his giant freaking robot. Somehow, I feel that in this sequel Michael Bay has embraced the fact that making a piece of art from a TV series about transforming robots is inherently silly and has foregone any attempt to hide the pure commercialism of such a venture, ramping up the product placement to the point of parody. ike Michael Bay, you too should embrace the lunacy.


Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End (Gore Verbinski, 2007)

Tens of Johnny Depps become confused in a sparse desert landscape. A giant mythical lady appears at the end and unleashes a maelstrom. The hero has his heart cut out and is forced to captain a sailship for eternity. Awesome.

Spider-Man 3 (Sam Raimi, 2007)

A pile of sand gains consciousness and form. A substance from outer space infects the hero and causes him to erupt into a dance number and adopt an emo haircut. Also awesome.


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5 responses to “The inadvertent surrealist genius of TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN

  1. Ramon Glazov

    I thought you didn’t like surrealism, Brad.

    • Brad

      I sympathise with surrealism and enjoy it to some extent, but I think it’s a flawed ideology. My particular problem is their silence on ethics.

  2. Your reviews are hilarious and spot on. Do you review REALLY indie stuff? I’m a filmmaker and would love for the opportunity for you guys to check out my shorts. If not, no worries, just keep up the good work.


  3. ian wong

    you gave michael bay too much credit. and comparing him to lynch is madness. one is making a surrealist film by choice, the other just stumbled into it. bay did not make a silly movie because he “embrace the lunacy”, he made a silly movie because he doesn’t know any other way to make a movie. and that is a huge difference.

    • Brad

      Actually, surrealist films can be found too. The French surrealists of the early 20th Century would champion texts considered low brow at the time because they found in their imagery traces of the uncanny: Fantomas, for example. So there is a tradition of surrealists adopting commercial texts as their own even if surrealism had nothing to do with the original author’s intention.

      But, I take your point: Michael Bay is probably an idiot. But maybe an idiot savant?

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