Transformers 2 is a sequel that builds on its predecessor in every way; more robots, more humor, more action, more sexiness, better effects, more explosions and more characters. As a popcorn fueled blockbuster it succeeds in being fun and ridiculous, a two and a half hour escape from reality to a world of 30ft robots and insecticons.
As a fan I spent time spotting the individual robots and all the newcomers, especially the ones I’ve seen as toys — yet ultimately I left wanting more, lots more. The excitement at seeing the new characters quickly dwindles as they disappear ten seconds later, with the off chance of another appearance slightly later. Sideswipe, Arcee, Devastator, Jolt, Sideways, all constructicons, The Fallen, Grindor and Soundwave are momentary plot elements, each are a little disappointing in their own way — you could blink and miss them for the most part. However, the new characters that have plot invested in them — Jetfire, Ravage, Wheelie, Skids and Mudflap are all superb and valuable additions. Alice is an odd plot point, interesting but an idea still not fully explored.
The hype about Sideways, Arcee and Demolishor, spurred on by the superbowl teaser, make up the opening action sequence, including the NEST bonus footage. It’s all over in a flash — Arcee is seen chasing Sideways as briefly as in the TV spots, the twins — currently as an ice cream truck, attempt to help but curb badly and fall apart. The rumored scene showing the truck splitting in two and then reforming, past some bewildered kids (as read in the Bethlehem Steel call sheet) isn’t there. The motorcycles drop away and Sergeant Epps calls in Sideswipe — a kick, a slide and a flip and a huge sword slices the Audi R8 clean in two. Meanwhile Demolisher is running amok in Shanghai, taking out helicopters and generally destroying everything he comes across on those enormous great wheels. Optimus Prime drops in via parachute, speeds along the bridge and leaps onto his head, creating that spectacular explosion as seen in the teaser and filmed at Long Beach. A swift blow to the head and Prime takes him out — easy as you like, but not before he can mutter something about The Fallen returning.
Cut to Sam’s parents house and Sam Witwicky is leaving home for college, his mom, one of the pivotal comedy elements, is making a scene. Packing for college, Sam uncovers a shard of the AllSpark, it burns through the floor and sets the kitchen abuzz with little terrorizing robots — out to attack Sam. Bumblebee is called in to save the day, but his weapons destroy the house and dejected he’s sent back to the garage. Cue the “I’m so excited” ShoWest footage and Sam leaving home and Mikaela.
The ever so sinister Soundwave is the overseer, keeping watch on all human activities. He sends in Wheelie to steal the shard from Mikaela and listens in on a debate at the autobot hangar. Here a government bigwig is moaning about the operation, and over a live video feed reveals Megatron and the AllSpark’s location to the decepticons. If you’re watching this scene in the glorious full screen IMAX experience, Optimus Prime will be actual size as he stands tall — it’s spectacular to imagine.
Ravage falls to earth, his mission — to retake the AllSpark parts. Everything about Ravage is brilliant, the way he sneaks and prowls is perfectly animated, it’s mesmerizing. The ball bearing bots are released into a security bunker, where inside they form a tall slither of a robot which steals the cube, Ravage providing cover fire with his hind mounted turrets.
Back at college, Sam is moving in and his parents are helping — his mom describes the dorms as Hogwarts before getting stoned on hash brownies — hilarity shortly ensues. We also meet Ramon Rodriguez’s Leo Spitz — a spunky but cowardice conspiracy theorist. Leo points out the sultry Alice, played by Isabel Lucas, and she’s already making eyes at Sam. At the student party Alice comes onto Sam, and when Bumblebee turns up she forces her way into the car for the ride. To the car radio and lyric “your cheating heart”, Bumblebee makes a nuisance of himself, and as seen at Princeton, Alice ends up covered in green goo, storming off into the night. All the while, Mikaela sits at home, missing out on their first webcam date.
The devastating Decepticon news is broken to Sam at the cemetary by Prime, “It’s not my war”, and all that lark about leading a normal college life. Now the symbols start appearing and Witwicky Jr. can’t stop drawing them everywhere — including an episode in Astronomy 101.
With Megatron’s co-ordinates, the enormous Long Haul, Ravage and constructicons descend into the watery depths to resurrect their leader, sacrificing one of themselves so that the (German) doctor can piece him back together — in an instant it seems. With new life it’s up and away, as a jet and into space, to confront Starscream and receive orders from his master, The Fallen.
Next up, the second of the three BD Live sequences, Wheelie attempts to steal the AllSpark shard from Mikaela, and we know how that turns out. Wheelie’s character is filled with crude laddish humor and his on screen moments are always entertaining — maybe with the exception of the leg humping one which is just plain odd. With Sam having a mental breakdown (brought about by symbols), Mikaela flies out to meet him, walking in on him and Alice seemingly making out.
“That kiss tasted like diesel”, Alice transforms into a spindly Decepticon and attempts to choke Sam with her huge mechanical tongue as Mikaela fends her off. Hot wiring the Saturn Astra, the three, Leo in tow, set off with Alice on the bonnet, akin to a famous Terminator 2 scene. Her life ends prematurely as she is crushed against a lamppost — a shame as the character had potential (you could make a whole movie about a single robot disguised as a human, hunting a boy, maybe the boy would be named John). Shortly thereafter we get the third BD live sequence; Grindor swoops in and carries the trio off to Starscream and Megatron — the fall should surely kill them but they miraculously escape unharmed. “I am zee doctor!” screeches the spindly mechanoid examining/torturing Sam, beneath Megatron’s huge claw.
The next action scene shows how much the special effects have developed in just two years — Prime and the autobots flood in to save the humans, leading to an escape sequence and a forrest fight we’ve seen snippets of in the TV spots. This fight is awesome, the effects are perfect and suddenly Optimus Prime is kicking all sorts of ass (swords and all) as he takes on Megatron, Starscream and Grindor all at once, all expertly choreographed with the token Michael Bay slow-mo death scenes. This is the adrenaline kick we’d hoped for. Ultimately it’s all too much for prime and Megatron destroys him, literally stabbing him in the back and exploding his chest cavity. With their leader gone, it’s time for the Decepticons to mobilize.
From hereon the slower second half somewhat fails to match up to the first — many protoforms are seen falling to earth, destroying Paris, aircraft carriers, etc., and amidst the carrier destruction the reinvigorated Fallen arrives on earth — through a hacked satellite network he issues a global broadcast looking for Sam Witwicky, he wants what’s in his head. This apparent global Decepticon attack never materializes on film — you’d expect some montage of worldwide robot destruction. NEST gets shutdown in the process.
Instead we cut to the unfolding mystery of Sam’s symbol obsession — which for no discernible reason has implanted itself in Sam’s head; ‘it’s his fate’ is the best explanation we’ll get. There’s a short and improbable chain towards explaining the symbols — Leo happens to know the guy that runs BigEffingRobots, who happens to have seen the symbols and happens to be Agent Simmons — (now working in a Deli after the shutdown of sector 7), here he has details of ancient prophecies and Transformers on earth. Wheelie reads said details (whilst on a leash) and points the four to the Smithsonian museum, whereupon they stumble on Jetfire, a bumbling old British fool with a cane — the Blackbird SR-71 and former Decepticon.
Jetfire’s rambles are a charming nonchalant backdrop to the Transformers mythology; he quite randomly ends up teleporting all parties (Skids, Mudflap and Bumblebee included) to Egypt, via the Space Bridge — Sam happens to damage his arm in the process. Now begins the unnecessarily long ‘mystery’, with an aim to resurrect Optimus Prime — following lame clues to find the Tomb of the Primes and the Matrix of Leadership, which breaks into dust on touch. Meanwhile, Simmons has contacted the NEST crew and, with Primes’ body, Autobots and reinforcements, they set off for Egypt. All very slow and drawn out.
The action kicks in again near the pyramids, or more precisely, in White Sands, New Mexico. NEST’s arrival coincides with Starscream’s swooping attack on Bumblebee and the twins, splitting the group in two and sending Sam and Mikaela running towards NEST; leaving the twins, Simmons and Spitz to confront whatever the building site throws at them.
The next big robot battle commences, although without the choreography, urgency or adrenaline of the forrest fight. As NEST and the autobots fend off Megatron, constructicons (Scrapper, Long Haul, Scavenger), Ravage and numerous characterless repaints, the twins find themselves facing the vacuum sucking behemoth Devastator (somehow made of the same constructicon models already battling elsewhere — slightly confusing for fans).
We don’t see much of Devastator’s constituent parts (nothing more than the footage seen in the TV Spots) and there’s no explanation for their presence. Mudflap gets sucked into Devastator’s vortex before attacking him from the inside and being spat back out, and as the humans stand beneath the slow moving giant for safety, it begins its climb up the pyramid. Devastator is entirely disappointing with it’s giant demolishing balls clanging above Simmons as he sends in the order for the top secret rail gun — an attack that takes the giant out in one fell swoop. No battles, no clever autobot team up to take him down, no aggression or personality; might as well have been one giant snail with a Dyson.
Meanwhile, the tanks and guns that struggled to take out Decepticons in the first movie, take out attacking robots with relative ease. And as Sam and Mikaela desperately run from more giant robots, the Decepticons can’t catch up or shoot straight, crazy. The highlight of this segment comes in Bumblebee’s handling of Sam’s parent’s hostage situation; launching on Scrapper from above and executing him with expert style, before rumbling with Ravage and ripping his spine out in slow motion. We see Arcee for another split second before she gets destroyed by a missile, I think she utters a couple of words; no misinformation from Bay this time around. Sideswipe makes an appearance, commanding some men, whilst Ratchet and Ironhide are relegated to minor battles.
As battle draws to a close, one last gasp missile from Megatron catches Sam, knocking him down, where for a few moments we are led to believe he might be dead. “Am I dead? Where am I?” Sam asks, as the scene cuts to autobot heaven and the ghosts of the primes with their messages of fate and leadership. The Matrix of Leadership re-materializes and Sam uses it to bring Optimus Prime back to life, but not before announcing his love for Mikaela.
Without warning, The Fallen, in his brief third appearance, teleports in, steals the Matrix and teleports back out to the top of the pyramid, to begin activation of the sun harvester. In response, Jetfire sacrifices himself to heal Prime’s broken parts (as the only decent thing he’s ever done) and augment his powers — here comes Jolt’s ten seconds of stardom — his robot mode and electrical powers are called upon to facilitate. Prime now flies off to battle The Fallen and Megatron simultaneously atop the pyramids, and again he kicks all sorts of metal rear; heavily damaging Megatron (who cowardly flees to fight another day), and beheading The Fallen in a brutal attack, sadly it’s all over quite quickly. Where all the other Decepticons have gone isn’t clear, Starscream could aid but doesn’t. Optimus Prime is victorious and the movie ends shortly after with Sam and Prime standing aboard the John Stennis aircraft carrier, once again awaiting whatever the future may bring. New Divide plays us out and there’s no extra scene at the end of the credits.
Roll on Transformers 3.