Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
After the release of the first Transformers movie, fellow CC2K Staff writer Lance Carmichael argued that it was Michael Bay's best film since The Rock, in large part because he managed to mix all of the requisite ingredients for a successful summer blockbuster in just the right proportions, those being (in order of importance):
1. Mind-blowing, state of the art special effects.
2. A big, dumb storyline where the Fate of the World hangs in the balance.
3. Characters just interesting enough to make us care, but nowhere near interesting enough to make us think.
4. A certain self-knowing attitude that acknowledges that the filmmakers know this is a big dumb movie, usually manifested every couple of minutes with a good joke.
It worked. Transformers did HUGE business. But that's SO 2007. What have you done for us lately Mike? It's sequel time, and as we all know that doesn't mean advancing story and plot so much as it means giving audiences more of what they liked so much the first time around. Audiences don't just want Transformers, they want it bigger and better. So does Bay deliver the goods? Let's look at those four ingredients again, in a slightly different order.
Characters just interesting enough to make us care
Check. All of the major characters from the first film that we spent so much time getting to know while we were waiting for GIANT FUCKING ROBOTS to fight each other are back in the sequel. Insecure Sam Witwicky and his awkward parents return, going through that commonly shared right of passage called GOING OFF TO COLLEGE. Mikaela is back and is still hot. Those Army guys (Josh Duhamel & Tyrese Gibson) are back and still fighting Decepticons. John Turturo is even back, and he's still playing it way over the top. They're all just as we left them, which is great because we don't need to spend too much time getting to know new characters, because really we're all waiting for Bay to give us more GIANT FUCKING ROBOTS. Which leads directly to…
Mind-blowing, state of the art special effects
Check and check. Here Bay knocks it out of the park, pretty much from start to finish. There are more Autobots on Earth, and they've formed an alliance with a joint military task force to hunt down remaining Decepticons. Good thing for us, there's more of them too, which means lots and lots of GIANT FUCKING ROBOTS fighting each other. It's incredibly impressive, especially when you consider that there are battles with multiple transformers, humans, and explosions all onscreen at the same time, and there are lots of these. And they all look awesome. More transformers, more battles, more explosions, there's so much eye-candy in this film there's really nothing to complain about here. That's 2 out of 4, so far so good. How about…
A big, dumb storyline where the Fate of the World hangs in the balance
Oh don't think for a second this was going to be left out. The short version is there's a source of Energon on Earth (for you non-geeks out there, Energon is the primary energy source for the Transformers). The Decepticons want it, but to exploit it means the destruction of Earth. The Autobots are determined to stop them. That's really it. Oh sure there's lots more to it than that; I really haven't spoiled anything for you, but part of what makes this ingredient work is that it doesn't really matter what the storyline is. Do you really care what motivates the transformers to fight each other, as long as there's some reason for you to get to see GIANT FUCKING ROBOTS fighting each other? I thought not. So what's left? Oh right. The "certain self-knowing attitude that acknowledges that the filmmakers know this is a big dumb movie, usually manifested every couple of minutes with a good joke" thing. Here's where my reaction may diverge from the masses.
The self-knowing attitude manifested by lots of good jokes
Remember those awkward interactions between Sam and his parents? Remember that wacky, zany John Tuturo as the Sector 7 chief? Remember Bumblebee "leaking fluids" on John Turturo? All pretty funny. Transformers mixed a lot of effective humor into the proceedings to keep the tone light. A wink and a nod to the audience that this was just a big dumb summer movie, and they shouldn't take the whole thing TOO seriously. That element is definitely included in the sequel, but IMHO they went a tad too far and overdid it a bit.
There's more of the awkward, humorous interplay between Sam and his parents, even more so as they help him settle into his new dorm room and fledgling life as a college student. But do we really need Sam's patently oblivious mom to eat a few "green" brownies, and the "wacky" hijinks that ensued? Was that really funny? Or more (and even more revealing) undressing from John Turturo? More transformer toilet humor? It's probably just me thinking they were trying a little too hard, because the packed theater I saw this in erupted in laughter at pretty much all of these gimmicks. Though there was one attempt at humor that I not only didn't find funny, but thought went WAY over the line. I'll save commenting on that for the forums.
My issues with the attempts at humor aside, this movie largely does exactly what it's supposed to do as a sequel to a summer blockbuster. All the ingredients that made the first film are there, and Bay has been very generous in offering audiences more of what they clamored for in the first film. This isn't the best film of the summer (that honor goes to Star Trek), but it's definitely a success.