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Gear Heads Unite!: Sequel has morphing mechanical robot aliens going turbo 

Busting out another Blockbuster.I can't recall any other big-budget movie based on action figures, but Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen again showcases the nuts and

click to enlarge Busting out another Blockbuster.
  • Busting out another Blockbuster.
Busting out another Blockbuster.I can't recall any other big-budget movie based on action figures, but Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen again showcases the nuts and bolts of machines (mainly cars and airplanes) morphing themselves into humongous metallic beasts. What were once just toys for kids and flimsy animated cartoons, have, yes, transformed, into big-boy-toys in the hands of multi-millionaires Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg. And with the funds to deliver high tech goods, they go all gear-head-turbo with this newest Transformers installment.

Beginning with a pseudo tribute to 2001: A Space Odyssey, our Transformers history lesson tells us that they have been on the planet since 17,000 BC. It quickly zooms ahead to a convoluted fight scene between the Autobots, lead by Optimus Prime, against the evil Decepticons, in which either side can change into behemoth gear-grinding monstrosities.

Fallen mirrors the plot of the original film-two years later. Sam (Shia LaBeouf) is leaving home for college after saving the human race from the invading Decepticons, but as he starts his new life at school, maintaining a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox), problems arise. He has troubling visions causing him eye-rolling episodes complete with mumbling and scribblings of alien hieroglyphics. This leads him, once again, to assist the Autobots in the war against the remaining Decepticons who have been hiding out on Earth. Together with a handful of people, including Mikaela and Robo-warrior Agent Simmons (John Turturro), they seize the opportunity to save the planet with the help of the military elite squad called NEST. They must uncover the secret history of the Transformers and thwart an ancient Decepticon named "The Fallen" (a metallic spiny alien beast) before the evildoers can burn out the sun, thus destroying all humans and rule the galaxy... I guess. That part wasn't too clear, but hey plots aside, it's all about watching these demolition derby gargoyles battle it out.

Interspersed amidst the action are wit, charm and clever dialogue. The engaging characters (from the humans to the metallic) wear their demented problems on their sleeves. LaBeouf plays it up as a smartass hero while Fox is all pouty lips in Daisy Dukes, wisecracking her way through the dialogue. Turturro supplies comic relief and Sam's parents (Kevin Dunn/Julie White) are in a constant competition to outdo each other with their bickering banter. With the exception of a jokester twin car team, the Transformers are the only ones that take themselves seriously.

Unfortunately, a lot of CGI work went into this, only to be blurred by spinning camera angles and director Michael Bay's insistence on cutting scenes too quickly. He is clearly the master of the overly long film (Armageddon, The Rock), connecting one seizure-inducing montage to another. Obviously, there's a great deal of fun to be had here: technologically sexy Transformers, thundering sounds, and grand-scale explosions. But everything is so busy that it's difficult to discern what's happening on the screen. A final shootout in Egypt has colorful robots clamoring around, but there's just too much to look at, including a gratuitous King Kong nod.

As debilitating, exhilarating and excruciating all this unrestrained CGI technological showboating may be, Transformers still retains a feeling of playing with action figures. There's only so much sappy, heroic good vs. hovering evil/ destiny/ war/ fake history/ action and witty dialogue that can fit in a movie - even one that strains your posterior at 2 1/2 hours running time. But watching the detail that goes into a morphed monster truck or incredible sand-eating, gear-grinding whirlpool machine is a sight to behold. Among the loads of soulless spectacle it seems Fallen's heart is in the right place.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ★★✩✩✩
Rated PG-13. Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, John Turturro. Director: Michael Bay


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