Michael Bay is the mad hatter. Truly bizarre visions and creatures rule the screen for nearly two and a half hours. Also on display; epic scope, true summer blockbuster scale; Transformers 2 has everything, and delivers everything in a steady and rapid flash. Transformers’ commitment to portraying the U.S. Military as unerring heroes allows the movie to get exclusive Department of Defense access to state-of-the-art equipment. Similarly, large bribes to the Egyptian government give unprecedented access to the Pyramids as a principal set. This is the summer movie to hate, with a majority of reviews eviscerating the film. However, I feel a viewer should focus on what the film (uniquely) is, instead of what it isn’t.
Many critics claim the story is impossible to follow, but the proceedings are actually fairly straightforward. Surprisingly, the movie picks up where the intervening comics series (Transformers: Alliance, Defiance, and Movie Prequel) left off. Sector 7 has been disbanded in favor of the military run NEST (Networked Elements: Supporters and Transformers), headed up by Major Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and second fiddle Robert Epps (Tyrese Gibson). Optimus explains the team up in an opening credits voice over, setting up a huge Shanghai action set. Hidden Decepticon Demolishor is found out and creams soldiers and cars. Optimus parachutes in to put a quick end to the visually impressive (but easily defeated) villain, who gives a token warning about The Fallen.
Meanwhile, Sam Witwicky (Shia Labeouf, carrying the movie with John Turturro) deals with girlfriend Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox, who shows interest in her part exactly once) and his fairly funny family (ain’t they crazy?). Movie rules declare that an old piece of the AllSpark shows up to download some nonsensical alien glyphs into his head and turn his kitchen appliances into phallus toting, farting Decepticons. This is a harbinger of all that’s to come. I sensed that Michael Bay was able to include any insane idea that fancied him, with no resistance from any studio handlers. Granted, in Transformers 1, an X-BOX 360, a Mountain Dew machine, and an Escalade turned into robots; however, that seemed strictly commercial, and none of those errant bots passed gas or shot energy blasts out of their penis.
On the military side, National Security Advisor Galloway (John Hickey) raises hell about the Autobots, not appreciating getting a helping hand from a giant Peterbilt truck against aliens that singlehandedly destroyed a Military base in Qatar a few years ago. Galloway bitches about not getting Autobot weaponry and claims that, “in matters of national security, the President thinks no one is above reproach.” This is an insult for Obama, but at least he isn’t portrayed as a Ding Dong eating slouch like last time. He also takes the time to singlehandedly give the Decepticon satellite Soundwave (best of the new bots, and true to his action figure roots, right down to the dog show out of his chest) every piece of relevant information needed to (A) find the remaining sliver of the AllSpark, (B) steal it, and (C) resurrect Megatron.
Witwicky in college, roommate Leo Spitz (Ramon Rodriguez, providing some goofy comic relief that sticks), and an aggressive sexpot Decepticon is good juvenile entertainment. Rain Wilson’s cameo is on the money too. The pacing is like the schizophrenic convulsions Witwicky keeps having, random and intense. Soon Sam is meeting up with Optimus Prime in (foreshadowing) a graveyard. The hot human Decepticon Pretender Alice (Isabel Lucas) breaks cover with a wicked set of graphics and abilities. The Pretender is another example of the eccentric design in this movie, an updated T-X from Terminator 3. Sam is kidnapped in short order, leading to the midpoint woodland confrontation.
In IMAX, the three on one battle is great. The environment is fresh, with some natural textures for a change. For people of a certain age, Optimus dying was a pretty intense childhood experience, but this didn’t capture any of the nostalgia. The inclusion of the Matrix was also a nice throwback to the original animated movie. The military nonchalantly drops Optimus’ corpse on the tarmac at Diego Garcia. Soon, Decepticons are on their way.
The sinking of the aircraft carrier is awesome. This is what captivated me in the trailer, being a first for movies. The military is reticent about films depicting the destruction of a carrier (it was not allowed in The Sum of All Fears) and since you can’t film a carrier without their say so, that’s that. Things have changed though, because that aircraft carrier gets blown the hell up. Bravo. This was depicted brilliantly in the Akira manga, and I’ve been eager to see it on film ever since. Man oh man. We also get a replay of Armageddon, world landmarks blown up in very similar shots.
Things move forward to Egypt. Seymour Simmons (John Turturro, way better this time around) provides assistance and spot comedy. Sam Witwicky just happens to burn his hand during teleport (conveniently hiding Shia’s hand, crushed in a drunken truck roll) and the group explores truly magnificent Egyptian sites.
Again, critics lambast the final fight, but I loved it. The Pyramids! What could be more epic than that? You get all kinds of military machinery. You get a rail gun, for the first time in a movie. You get Devastator, who isn’t that devastating. The Fallen uses his levitation powers to toss tanks down the sides of a Pyramid and project a halo of rocks to destroy fighter jets. This was all great stuff, the fevered dream of a psychotic technophile.
I could not ask for more.