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TRANSFORMERS -- REVENGE OF THE FALLEN , USA , 2009 , MPAA Rating : PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, language, some crude and sexual material, and brief drug material. (also IMax version)

One day, Michael Bay will fulfill his destiny and perhaps his fondest wish and make a film that is nothing but big explosions. With TRANFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, he has come very close. This benighted cacophony is a painful blend of overproduced action and shameless exposition. The sense of fun found in the original is gone, replaced by an overweening sense of self-important myth-making. The result is what one imagines that Ed Wood might have mustered with a big budget and CGI.


Shia LeBeouf is back as Sam Witwicky, the kid with Bee, an Autobot, that would be the friendly kind of alien robot, as a combination of his car (a yellow Camero), his best buddy, and his guardian against the evil Decepticon alien robots. That last should be, but isnít of course, a moot point since at the end of the last film, the lord of the Decepticon robots was not just defeated, but also dropped into a very deep ocean trench. Also deep is how the government has chosen to deal with this alien invasion, deep as in above top secret. This leaves Sam with only the business of going off to college on the east coast, and the prospect of a long-distance relationship with girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox).  Naturally, there will be complications.  Freshman arenít allowed to have cars, so Bee will have to stay behind and sulk. Then thereís the problem of that pesky shard that Sam finds as heís packing up to leave for school and comes across the clothes he was wearing during his last climactic battle against the evil Decepticons. Itís not just any shard, itís from a mystic cube and it has the power to bring any machine to Transformer-type life. Itís also what the evil Decepticon robots are searching for in order to destroy the world, meanwhile Sam finds himself with a roommate (Ramon Rodriquez) who has dedicated his life to uncovering the government conspiracy about the aliens, and find himself in the way of temptation matriculating on a campus that only admits women who are centerfold fodder.


What follows is a serious of random episodes that clatter along like a robot in freefall. The secret of the pyramids, a prehistoric visit from strange visitors from another planet, and a trip to what may or may not be robot heaven all figure into it somehow, as Bay blows things up real good and has the chutzpah to reference another of his bombs, PEARL HARBOR, during one of the many interminable battle sequences. The best moments belong to Julie White and Kevin Dunn as Samís parents, and they involve nothing more than baby shoes, mimes, and a gratuitous exploration of escargot as an appetizer.


Even the clever way the robots rework themselves from one form to another seems tired. Sure, the thousands of tiny silver balls that build themselves into a praying mantis made of razor blades is interesting, but coming as it does as a harbinger of yet another wild chase fails to make it engaging. Similarly unengaging is the superficial attempts to engage the audience emotionally. When Bay spirals the camera around LeBoeuf and Fox, rather than the exuberance of young people in the throes of a hormonal rush, itís the upheaval of a stomach in the throes of motion sickness.  


Still worse are the superficial attempts to have any of this make any sense and thereby build a sense of tension and/or anticipation. The super secret military unit tasked with seeking out and destroying the Decepticons merely tick them off with their puny weapons. Itís the Autobots led by Optimus Prime who take the bad bots out, which makes one ponder why they donít just send in the Autobots to being with and dispense with the super secret military unit. Perhaps because Josh Duhamel, who plays the leader of said unit, had an iron-clad contract from the original. During the tender moments between Sam and Mikaela, after they have been dumped from a helicopter and otherwise mauled by evil robots, what most stands out is that Foxís startlingly prodigious false eyelashes arenít even a tiny bit askew. Thus does TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN slip from the status of a promising franchise into hopeless silliness.







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