I Saw the Second Movie

Everything I disliked about the first movie, I continued to dislike about the sequel. Allow me to elaborate. [spoilers ahead]

I still HATE the designs for these Transformers. They look like Terminators, or Predators, but not Transformers. Their transformations are so ridiculously busy, they effectively "morph" from one mode to another. They are ugly, and so overly-detailed that they become a blur -- the busy-ness of the forest obstructs the trees. While I thought the CGI was very cutting edge, the designs of the robots nonetheless prevent any fight scene from actually looking good. It's just red/blue blur versus gray blur. Fail!

The humor remained entirely low-brow -- how they can fit so much "bodily function" humor into a movie about robots is beyond me. I realize this is marketed toward children, but so is every Pixar movie and they seem to entertain all ages without resorting to leg-humping.

Most of the human characters were intolerably two-dimensional. Clowns, really.

Apparently you can't have an Autobot with a personality that isn't a rank stereotype. The "twins" -- Mudflap and Skids -- are insulting caricatures of black youth, seemingly straight from Fat Albert. Though they have apparently assimilated black jive-speak, they somehow "can't really read". One of them has buck teeth -- including a gold one! Now these blackface Autobots have raised a lot of eyebrows and gotten a lot of press, though many online forum comments have instead lambasted anyone who complains as too politically correct. In my opinion, if you don't see any problem at all with the character depicted to the right, then you are probably part of the problem. Is it the end of the world? No. But could the movie-makers have gone with characters a little less pathetically, clownishly racist? Yes, I like to think so.

The other "personalities" are: the feisty little Italian Brooklynite (Wheelie); the crotchety, rambling old man (Jetfire, with a cane!); cartoon dog a la Scooby Doo (Bumblebee, who is a formidable transforming alien robot warrior, but apparently still can't get his fucking voice to work); and generic John Wayne (Optimus Prime). No other Autobot gets more than a couple lines of dialog that could have been spoken by any other Autobot.

Starscream is satisfactorily sniveling, but Megatron has been reduced to being The Fallen's whelp. The Fallen is apparently the most evil dude solely because he has the deepest voice.

The plot -- really a series of strung-together MacGuffins -- relies on some pretty amazing oversights by humanity. In the last several hundred years of Egyptology, no one discovered a goddamn alien weapon in the pyramids? Or a half-dozen aliens inside the wall of another tomb? I guess none of the archaeologists had a fucking metal detector. Along the same lines, apparently no one in the military or the Aerospace Museum ever wondered why an SR-71 Blackbird had a Decepticon symbol on it.

Two-thirds of the way through the movie, the Decepticons decide to reveal themselves very publicly to the world, perching themselves atop buildings in major cities. Would just one "world reacts to the confirmed existence of alien robots" scene have been too much to ask?

OK, was this really much worse than your average action movie? No. Most action movies are two-dimensional and dumb, but fun.

Am I being extra critical because this involves the Transformers? Yes.

Let me sum up: If the same movie was done with more traditional robot designs and some more fleshed-out non-stereotypical characters (both robot and human), I would probably have enjoyed it. As it is, like the first movie, having seen it once, I may never watch it again.

At least I am saving money by avoiding all of the corresponding toys!


Comments
hey Botch, great review again... i have yet to see it, but have had many friends calling or texting, waiting for my review as well... when the last one came out you and i had similiar points in our reviews, so im sure it will be so again. anyway, thanks for being a true fan as always.
schwab

PS...should be seeing the movie today, so ill have my review posted within the next day or so, so please check it out...thanks again
» Posted 6.29.2009 2:18:44 by schwab [Website]
A few thoughts I had after the movie:

1) I left my theater seat feeling disappointed, and yet able to recall only scenes I enjoyed. Less critical of these Bay movies as I am, I guess you could say that I very much enjoyed the movie without particularly liking it - not an unusual reaction to an action blockbuster for me.

2) Many critics have charged this film with being simply "more of the same" from the first, but I actually felt the contrary - that something was very different about this one. The "Oh my God this is really happening" factor seemed like it was missing this time. No big human reaction shots, no lingering demonstrations of scale. The "shock and awe" element that was one of the better parts of the first one was utterly absent here. Now transforming robots are just no big deal, and something was lost from the viewing experience because of it.

3) The "Alice" character at Sam's college was probably the worst part for me. Just incredibly stupid. I promptly forgot its details the moment the scene changed. I've always thought the Pretenders are just pre-school silly stuff, and the film's contribution did nothing to redeem the idea with me at all. If I had a time machine, first I'd go back and kill Hitler, then go back and erase the Pretenders from TF continuity.

4) Ultimately, I think the reason I could enjoy it while still finding it mostly dumb is because "enjoyable-but-mostly-dumb" is probably as good a description of the original cartoon as can be had. And, despite all the things Bay does that rub fans the wrong way, I have to say he managed to create a film that truly is the original cartoon writ large, much more so than the first movie. In fact, minus the character designs and epileptic camera work, I could see this very same story coming out back in Transformers glory days, had they the FX and budget to pull it off.

5) As for the racist stereotyping, I have to put the blame for that squarely with the character designers. Your Fat Albert description is spot on. Even though the vocal performances were what they were, it wouldn't have seemed nearly as bad with neutral character designs. Scatman Cruthers' Jazz would have been similarly offensive if Jazz's design was as bad as the "twins." I mean, no one was crying foul in the first movie, when Jazz introduced himself with "What's crackin', bitches?" and a Kid-n-Play pose. Similarly, Wheelie isn't drawing any bad press, presumably because he wasn't twirling a chrome mustache or firing razor pepperonis as his weapon.

» Posted 6.29.2009 9:03:09 by CharlieRabbit
We need someone with your perspective in the Allspark thread on Skids/Mudflap and racism. I've given up talking to the wall over there....
» Posted 6.29.2009 11:17:57 by Mark Baker-Wright [Website]
The thing that pisses me off about this movie most is that Hasbro is throwing everything into its merchandising, thus killing off Animated and Classics 2.0.
» Posted 6.29.2009 15:43:18 by Clownpuncher
Yeah, it is a stretch to say the movie was good.......I liked some aspects of it but overall it could have been at least half an hour shorter. I totally agree that the personalities of the Autobots were poor, they all seem to be part of a circus instead of a covert unit fighting for survival. I VERY much agree that these bots are ugly and hard to focus on or even identify. Still, I would watch a movie with nothing but giant robots fighting the whole time so I am not the best judge of what makes a "good" movie.
» Posted 6.29.2009 17:00:58 by Randombot
I found the first movie to have way more Blur Moments than the sequel. A large portion of that sequence in the forest, for example, had bird's eye view camera angles as opposed to the man-on-the-ground POV that dominated T1. So someone took that feedback, though not 100%. Also, there were a number of long range shootouts - the Egypt scenes. Ravage pelting that base with his canons were gorgeous. Now that I think of it, Ravage probably looked the most like his 80s cartoon counterpart which is probably why I liked him the most.

I had very low expectations. The movie played out like an extended version of the cartoon. That said, my biggest disappointment was the missed opportunity of not keeping Soundwave's voice. Fuck, they even had Frank Welker voice him (also did the cartoon's Soundwave), but deprived me of a great geek-out moment. Though I liked the promotion from boom box to spy satellite.
» Posted 6.29.2009 22:18:22 by Mr. Space [Website]
"Apparently you can't have an Autobot with a personality that isn't a rank stereotype."

And this is different from previous series... how?
» Posted 7.06.2009 1:02:51 by Terrorcon Blot
@Terrorcon Blot: There's a difference between personality archetypes (the old cartoon) and ethnic stereotypes.

The dark, brooding ranger with a secret past, a gruff exterior but a good heart -- that's an archetype.

The kids from Fat Albert -- those are urban African-American stereotypes.

At least, that's how it seems to me.
» Posted 7.06.2009 22:03:15 by Botch the Crab - WEBMASTER
Although disappointed with a few things(the amount of cursing and "potty humour" chief among them), I still enjoyed it, and I'll likely go see it again.

As far as the twins go, a buddy of mine who's a big fan of rap/hip hop took a couple of his nephews to see the movie (he's mid 30s, they're mid-teens). My buddy and the one nephew are black, the other nephew's white. None of them are huge Transfans, but they enjoy a good action flick, and liked the first film.

When I told him about all the talk of racism, he just rolled his eyes. The three of them loved the twins, and all viewed them as caricatures of white guys trying to be "gansta". Then I told him Tom Kenny did one of the voices. He laughed and said that proved he was right. lol

Myself, I didn't find them offensive either...merely annoying. What is with Hollywood's apparent NEED to include comic relief characters like this? If it were animated as opposed to live-action, I guess I could see it as something to appeal to kids, but this was rated PG-13, and IMO, definitely not meant for kids. My 7yr old daughter is most annoyed with me because I won't take her to see it (she loves the first one).

» Posted 7.16.2009 8:59:36 by Thumper
Great review. I watched the first Bay disaster in fast forward (x4) on an airplane, and it was still too horrible to watch. Your thoughts on the designs mirror my own. If I ever want to watch a live action Transformers, I'll stick to the fan projects and car commercials on youTube.

I think the only thing good to come out of this Hollywood train-wreck is the High Score toy. That thing is great.
» Posted 7.25.2009 17:47:38 by Ultraist Prime [Website]
I'm not gonna say you're wrong to have your opinion, but I am going to disagree partially. I came for robot battles and that's what I got, with Jetfire being an added bonus for me. It's his deadpan attitude that seals the deal for me, along with his voice. The rest of the film dragged on every now and then, though. Twins sometimes got on my nerves, not because they were stereotypes but because they did little to advance the story. I for one will probably buy the DVD, simply to skip straight to the action and not have to sit through the rest.

Oh, and I've heard that Skids and Mudflap were supposed to be skewering white people who are trying badly to be black. Poor exicution, then?

Oh, and Clownpuncher, I'm certain if another series came out that wasn't the movie, it would likely 'kill off' Animated and Universe all the same. In fact, I'm sure some people were saying the release of Animated would kill off the first Movie. And besides, are they really dead? I still hear news of upcoming Animated toys and Universe toys.
» Posted 8.28.2009 2:38:16 by Darkton
The Twins depict a parody of a certain sort of white people.
» Posted 9.29.2009 21:21:53 by Chris Arndt [Website]
"I mean, no one was crying foul in the first movie, when Jazz introduced himself with 'What's crackin', bitches?' and a Kid-n-Play pose."

I did.
» Posted 12.11.2009 11:32:36 by Chris Arndt [Website]
I need to erase TF2 from my memory. It was such a horrid movie.

"Devastator's" giant dangling balls was simply the last straw for me.
» Posted 3.14.2010 4:33:34 by heroic_decepticon [Website]



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