"Revenge of the Fallen" is huge, loud, and meaningless. After an entirely overlong and comparatively jokey first act, the endless string of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot level fight sequences will beat your consciousness within an inch of its tolerance. Your eyes will glaze over, unfocus. Is director Michael Bay an artist, a con artist, or a hypnotist? Is there some deeper creative implication behind the trivialization of human (and I guess robot) worth? It's unclear how many people die in the film, but there is a clear lack of sympathy, or even fetishistic pathos to the destruction. What transpires enters and leaves the frame leaving no impression on its viewer whatsoever.
The film is in turns harmlessly dumb summer action fare, and more troublingly numbing and nonsensical. It's an impenetrable spectacle, a two and a half hour kaleidoscope shifting every permutation of guns, metal, and girls. Bay is a hypnotist, but not akin to, say, Godfrey Reggio, the director of the non-narrative documentary "Koyaanisqatsi," but rather a figure unparalleled in filmmaking for his ability to induce a disconnected vegetative state amidst flying iron fist fights, interplanetary espionage, and rippling firestorms.
The film feels in many ways as though it takes place during one continuous explosion. There are maybe fifteen minutes of hard plot that get stretched, slow-moed, doubled back, and reiterated over the course of the film, and still come out making something less than sense because our protagonists, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox) are being hurried from set piece to set piece faster than the speed of logic.
Worst of all, "Transformers" is not only desensitizing, but is a dangerous template for future "family" action films. The colorful characters and the innocent source material make it seem a safe bet for little Joey, but the film earns its PG-13 rating and then some. There's an unspoken sexual frustration behind the joke writing, explicitly of the most juvenile variety, which I suppose, when examined, fits well with the overall aesthetic, given that the film is little more than a 200 million dollar realization of a thirteen year old's classroom doodles.
There's nothing remotely resembling substance in the picture, and the mind-meltingly repetitive action choreography coupled with the ludicrous running time (its biggest fault) prevent the film from passing even as pure fluff.
But ultimately, these criticisms can be applied generally to the modern blockbuster, and perhaps it's somewhat unfair that "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" happens to be the vehicle to weather the brunt of them. It's just as intellectually flaccid as last month's "Terminator Salvation," but if the box office numbers are any indication, it has much broader commercial appeal. It's an easy punching bag because it exemplifies so many of problems with films of its kind, and after a retrospectively decent first installment, there's no justification for how stupid and stupefying the film is.
So when the credits finally roll and you pinch your temples as you stand up to leave, just be sure not to slip on your brain on the way out.