I dismantled my dishwasher a few days ago – it wasn’t really washing dishes much anymore – and as the parts accumulated on the kitchen floor, I looked around and realized there was a very good chance I wouldn’t be able to put the thing back together.
I thought of that dishwasher while watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, director Michael Bay’s sequel to his 2007 vehicular robotslaughter blockbuster. It, too, is like a scattered array of mechanical parts. And though those parts assemble themselves into race cars and jet planes and all sorts of things that go vroom, the movie itself never comes together.
Anybody familiar with Bay’s films won’t be surprised. The man behind the likes of Bad Boys, Armageddon and Pearl Harbor has rarely staged an action sequence that makes sense (The Island is a puzzling, entertaining exception). Audiences have since divided into two camps: those who bemoan his lack of competence and those who don’t care as long as the explosions are big and loud.
In Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the explosions are BIG and LOUD. And they’re largely incomprehensible. If you’re lucky – and this is rare – you can figure out which robots are fighting and, eventually, who won.
Once again along for the ride are Shia LaBeouf as college-bound Sam Witwicky and Megan Fox as his gear-head girlfriend Mikaela. LaBeouf manages to maintain an appropriate state of panic throughout the film, while Fox is posed in enough positions to fill up all 12 months on a mechanic’s tool calendar. (Bay, showing his sexism also has a dose of misogyny, insults his pin-up girl by having a Transformer observe, “You’re hot but you’re not too bright.”)
The couple flee hand-in-hand across the globe, in search of an extraterrestrial energy source that at first appears to be in a shard of metal, then an alien key, then a pile of dust and then in Sam’s head. At least I think that’s what was happening. Never mind the explosions – the plot is what gave me a headache.
Computer-generated imagery abounds, but the sound effects are the movie’s real technical achievement. They’re layered, inventive and – most importantly – much cleaner than the visual action, even if most of the noises sound like a garbage disposal with intestinal issues.
Which brings me back to kitchen appliances. I was able to get my dishwasher back together and so far it’s working a bit better. As for Transformers? I think Bay left out a part or two.