The truth about Transformers 2 is that it’s a BIG movie, in every sense of the word. Michael Bay likes making shit explode, and he has a field day with this film. The robots are huge, the explosions are massive, the gratuitous shots of Megan Fox’s body are frequent and the laughs are solid. Even the running time is big, running at 147 minutes. By the time you walk out of the cinema, you feel like you’re coming down from an insane Red Bull binge.
The film starts off relatively modestly with a scene from about 20,000 BC where cavemen and primitive Transformers battle it out to the tune of an Optimus Prime voiceover about how our two races have a history. Then it cuts to present day China, where the Autobots and the US military are rounding up and hunting down Decepticons. Cue massive explosions, robot-on-robot battles and other special effects eye-candy. This is where the film excels: the special effects do look magnificent – you believe every moment of the robots transforming and battling it out on the streets of Shanghai.
So far so good. We move from Shanghai to Shia LaBeouf and his move to college, and the plot starts moving forwards. There are some nice comedic moments, some Megan Fox skin, some Isabel Lucas skin and then BAM! Isabel Lucas is a Transformer! A hot, college student Transformer! Because Transformers can now transform metal into skin…
To be honest, while actually watching the film, I took this turn of events in my stride. But afterwards it stood out like a geeky tech journalist at a film premiere – a machine made of metal can’t transform into a human – that’s just stupid. At best, they’d be able to transform into a Terminator-like skeleton thing, not some hot young chick who tries to get into Shia LaBeouf’s pants before killing him or something. Fortunately, that sequence is over fairly quickly and the film moves on, but not before it leaves a salty flavour in the back of your throat that tastes like logic being overthrown by the allure of hot chicks and fire.
The film moves on with some more explosions, battles, Transformers, Megan Fox and explosions. I’m not going to spell it all out for you here. Instead we’re going to skip forward to near the end of the movie where Bay decides to throw in a (figurative) nuked fridge. Let’s put it simply: Shia LaBeouf dies, and is then visited by a bunch of Transformer angels who tell him it’s not his time to die and bring him back to life.
What. The. Fuck.
It was literally like Michael Bay was sitting behind me in the theatre with a cold bucket of water, waiting to pour it over me at that precise moment to completely rip me from any suspension of disbelief. Transformer Angels? What the hell were they thinking? Just like in the last Indiana Jones film when Lucas nuked the fridge and Shia LaBeouf became Tarzan, you end up so shocked by the absurdity of this moment – even in a film about transforming robots – that it almost completely ruins the entire film.
And that’s just the problem. Transformers 2 was never going to have the strongest plot. It was never going to have the best acting performances. It was never going to have you leaving the cinema thinking “well that was an intelligent film”. What it was going to do was give you enough action and robot porn, plus a few laughs along the way, to make you forget about the world for a couple of hours. And when a single scene in a two hour movie is so bad that you actually turn to the person next to you and ask them “What the fuck”, it’s going to taint the entire movie experience.
And that’s what that one scene did for me. On the whole I managed to ignore the gaping plot holes and cliches and enjoy the robot CGI and explosive action ride. There are a couple of things – like the Matrix of leadership and the Devastator – which reminded me of the original Transformers cartoon movie and my youth playing with the toys that I thoroughly enjoyed. But even after a couple of days trying to come to terms with it, I still find myself thinking about the absurdity of Transformer angels bringing Shia back to life. I can’t help but think it would have been much better for him to just stay dead…