Robot fisticuffs aplenty in the jam packed Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Blu-ray

The original Transformers was an enigma – there was no possible reason why it should have been even remotely entertaining. Yet, despite its many, many flaws, it sort of was. I just wish I could say the same for the sequel.

It’s almost maddening, sitting here just two years later, reviewing the sequel and wondering where it all went wrong. Maybe it was doomed from the start.

That’s not to say it’s all bad. As a film, Revenge of the Fallen is a jumbled mess – but as a home theater demo, it’s pretty exceptional. Michael Bay can take pride knowing he sure can make a pretty film.

(And to hell if Paramount doesn’t know how to market one.)

But does an outstanding audio and video presentation, along with some pretty nifty supplemental material, outweigh 150 minutes of being assaulted with dull, metal objects?

Read on to find out.

Storytelling: 2/5

This is usually where I try to recap the story of a film, and give you some insight on the production, but I was so exhausted by the end of Revenge of the Fallen that just thinking about writing a detailed synopsis made me fatigued.

Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBouf) and his ridiculously hot girlfriend (Megan Fox) are in love. Or at least, I think they’re in love. Yet, despite the fact that his girlfriend is Megan Fox and his townie friends are talking, robotic aliens that can transform into cars, Sam decides to go to college.

Why?

I don’t know. Apparently so Dwight from The Office can mock him, some oversexed Decepticon Terminator broad can flirt with him and Michael Bay can ripoff a plot device directly from “Chuck”.

It pretty much goes all downhill from there. An evil, Giger-inspired Transformer named the Fallen resuscitates Megatron and they go searching for a deus ex machina in a desert somewhere.

Michael Bay uses his filmmaking prowess to command a bloated exercise in storytelling that sends Shia LeBouf, Megan Fox, John Turtorro, Bumblebee and two racial stereotypes to find some ancient artifact that we – as the audience – can only hope will just end the film.

The military is also in the film again, but somehow forgot to use whatever ammunition they invented the last go around that could destroy the Decepticons, and engage in some of the most blatant (albeit badass) army propaganda ever put on celluloid.

The film’s climax is equally entertaining and ridiculously stupid, but ultimately fails to make up for the fact that Michael Bay forces us to watch a bunch of B-list actors and three obnoxious Transformers walk around a desert for hours.

In the end, the film is insipid and too long, which is a definite deal breaker when your film is about robots that fight other robots, and based off a children’s animated television show.

The oddest part about Revenge of the Fallen is that it was credited to Orci and Kurtzman, the same tandem responsible for the much more entertaining Star Trek reboot earlier this year (as well as the original Transformers flick). And while I have grievances with their writing style, Revenge of the Fallen is way below their usual quality of work.

A quick look into production shows that the WGA strike might be to blame, as Orci and Kurtzman were unable to work on the screenplay during pre-production. Instead, Bay and some pre-visualiation guys at ILM mapped out most of the film’s action sequences – and then asked the two screenwriters to connect the dots once the strike was over.

Which is pretty much how I was always taught how to never make a film.

Michael Bay, unrestrained and given the GDP of a small country for a budget, falls back into his old, bad habits. If Spielberg had a guiding hand with the original, it is noticeably absent in the sequel, because Bay throws every genre convention in the book at the screen and then some.

I wish I could say there was more to like about this film, but there really it isn’t. Not only does it fail at basic storytelling, it fails to deliver on the core promise of robots fighting robots – which only occur infrequently and in small bursts.

And that’s the real travesty here.

Video: 5/5

Revenge of the Fallen’s 1080p, 2.39:1-framed transfer is a reference track; something everyone and anyone should pop in their decks to show off their home theater system.

It looks that good.

Although both Transformer films credit different directors of photography (Ben Seresin lends his talents to this one), both films share an identical look – complete with that slick sheen that adorns every Michael Bay flick.

The Blu-ray release is just about perfect; there are really no flaws to speak of. Color is spot on, black levels are ace, zero artifacting, clarity is astonishing and the degree of texture is unparalled. The production design team, armed with a gargantuan budget, puts little touches -such as dirt and ancillary props – in every scene. Coupled with organic sets, Revenge of the Fallen is a beautiful looking and lively film.

Yet, it is ILM who are the real heroes, with astonishing and lifelike renderings of the Autobots and Decepticons that blow away their fellow computer animated peers.

Bay has caught a lot of flak for the realistic depiction of the classic children’s show characters, but that design philosophy lends itself well to live action. The only fault lies in poorly framed action sequences, wherein the similar robot designs blur together into a scrap heap of indistinguishable metal.

Still, Revenge of the Fallen is a looker, and combined with a flawless transfer – in addition to ILM’s admirable computer wizardry – the Blu-ray is a stunner.

Boasting a lossless Dolby DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, Revenge of the Fallen is dynamite on Blu-ray – and it’s easy to hear why.

Audio: 5/5

Michael Bay’s design philosophy is explosions, explosions and more explosions – and when in doubt, add more explosions. And that plays well to the ears.

From the sounds of shrapnel, gunfire, falling debris, explosions, helicopters, car crashes, explosions and robot fisticuffs (and explosions), the sound design is both startling realistic and energetic.

It can be a little loud; these Autobots will shake the foundation of your house, and the intensity of metal-on-metal action might give neighbors headaches.

Still, it sounds awesome.

Frequent Bay collaborator, Steve Jablonsky returns to give another equally bombastic score to this clash of the robot titans and is seamlessly interwoven in the sound design – never overpowering the dialogue (although there would be no complaints if that was the case).

This is the type of release that makes you want to kick the tires and light the fire on your surround sound setup. It’s loud and brash and utterly awesome.

Package: 4/5

Arriving on a two-disc, BD-50 set, Revenge of the Fallen has enough supplemental material for fans and enthusiasts.

While the first disc is reserved just for the film and an audio commentary track with director Michael Bay and screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the second disc is filled to the brim with additional content.

The centerpiece is easily the seven-part documentary, nearly as long as the film itself, intimately detailing the film’s production – everything pre-production, the screenplay, working with the military, shooting abroad, etc. It’s an extensive, behind-the-scenes look at a Michael Bay production, the scale of which will impress any aspiring filmmaker.

Also included are several deleted and alternate scenes, the Linkin Park music video (yuck), footage from the Tokyo premiere, storyboards and promotional material.

But perhaps the nerdiest inclusion of all is the Transformers Data-Hub, an interactive database allowing users to browse extremely detailed background information on their favorite Transformers. We’re talking everything from animated television history, comics history, still galleries, concept art and even information on the toy lines.

And deep inside this well of information is an even nerdier easter egg – The Allspark Experiment, which allows users to create their very own Transformers using an interactive template.

It all adds up to create a compelling package for fans, and while the film might have been a disappointment, the supplemental material is anything but.

Bias:

Like I said, I enjoyed the original Transformers.

Buoyed by Shia LeBouf’s likable personality, some well placed humor, the sheer adrenaline created from seeing robots fighting robots, and Megan Fox, the film’s strengths offset its many deficiencies and a sequel proved inevitable.

And there was certainly potential; the original was just a few tweaks from being a legitimately entertaining blockbuster. With a halfway decent script and a more reserved Michael Bay, a sequel could really address the failures from the first outing.

Unfortunately, Bay largely ignores the groundwork set by the original, opting in favor of an expensive, bloated retread that manages to both physically and emotionally exhaust his audience – within the first hour.

This Blu-ray release of Revenge of the Fallen doesn’t address the numerous complaints that made it so divisive, yet successful, during its theatrical run, but does boast an impressive audio and video presentation complimented with an handsome set of supplemental material.

And while that won’t win any new fans, Paramount’s outstanding Blu-ray set will please existing fans, Transformers junkies and enthusiasts for the low, low price of your artistic integrity.

Verdict: 4/5 – “BUY”

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