INT. AMERICAN MILITARY BASE
A gruff American colonel, probably someone we've seen in 24, shouts at an underling.
GRUFF AMERICAN COLONEL
Get me the Egyptian state defense. Tell them there's a Michael Bay film on its way in, and to evacuate everyone, stat!
Sir, they've only cleaned up from filming Iron Man.
GRUFF AMERICAN COLONEL
Tell them we're sorry but Michael Bay's coming their way. And there's nothing anyone can do to stop him.
That's how I imagined the production process on Transformers 2 might have gone. Sadly, as Michael Bay confirmed in a press conference in London today, there was a long arduous process of negotiation with the Egyptian government, part of which would change their mind regarding filming permission overnight. It was worth it for the pyramid-set fight scene thought, which genuinely provided some unique footage of those marvellous monuments obsessed over by archaeologists.
Who, from the evidence of this film, have been doing a really bad job in Egypt over the years. Possibly relaxing in the sun, it isn't made clear. But they missed a lot.
Anyway, Transformers 2 is a brash, fast, energetic, constantly moving movie that will give some people headaches, some erections, some an adrenaline rush and some the giggles. And I think it's all very deliberate.
There's a lot to love in this film among the Bayhem and Bayos. Possibly my favourite scene from the first film is when a small mobile phone is given the Allspark and turned into a tiny baby Transformer, rapidly evolving, firing mini-machine guns and launching mini-missiles before being dispatched.
Well, we see all the gadgets in an average everyday kitchen come alive in this fashion. Some burping, some farting and all reminding me of technological Mogwais. It was bloody brilliant. There are skyscraper-sized Transformers, there are tiny insect-sized Transformers, there are Transformers who are so thin they disappear when they stand on one side, there are Transformers who say "bollocks". Oh and there are also goofy teeth and rubber lipped Transformers for comedy effect. Hmm.
And yes, there is far more scatological content than you would imagine in a film about robots. Tongues, vomit, sex, and testicles, giving John Torturro one of the greatest lines in any of his films to date, though he may not realise it. Oh you'll know it when you hear it, no spoilers here. He has some very fine lines throughout, and makes the most of them, stealing scene after scene, with one specific recurring monologuing moment that had me hooting. After all, in the press conference he said he based his ex-secret agent character on Bay…
Many people mock Bay for his over the top madness. The invasion of Cuba by the police in Bad Boys II is often cited. But I loved that. Not so much taking ideas to their logical conclusion, but more the conclusion of a bunch of guys sitting in the bar trying to outdo each other.
Such as Jetfire, an old school Transformers complete with walking cane, British accent and a most refreshing attitude to life – or the lack of it. I'd watch a Transformers film just about him.
The beginning of the film kind of threw me. Basically the US army (mostly, kinda, there's a British guy in there with a Union flag emblem, to tick the box that says "make this appeal to the international market") have teamed up with Autobots to hunt down Decepticons hiding on Earth. But what it looks like is this Decepticon is minding its own business on some kind of construction site only to get attacked without provocation and blown up when it tries to flee, causing huge amounts of damage to life and limb in the process.
But it is pleasant to see the Army actually working for the common good. Of overcoming extraxenophobia and working with Autobots as fellow soldiers, with the same kind of camaraderie that comes with two years working together. They simply can't see the difference between them. If the armed forces can handle serving alongside thirty foot robots, then openly gay people shouldn't cause any problems at all.
But in amongst all this might makes right, America Fuck Yeah! chest thumping rationale, there are also army types trying to subvert things, to breed suspicion amongst the ranks, to force these robots to go "back where they came from". Politically, it's incredibly inconsistent and… heaven help me for typing this… realistic. Americans basically go where they want to go, but harm a fibre on their robots heads and you'll have missiles launched at you from sea-bound vessels.
Neither Shia LaBeaouf and Megan Fox seemed to be happy at being at the press conference. They walked in with harsh faces, although the relaxed over time. Even when Megan was attacked for promoting the legalisation of marijuana in GQ as a role model for children. "How many 12 year old girls read British GQ?" she asked. Megan seems to have had a touch time at the hands of the press, and I can see why. Though the conference she was repeatedly being asked about things she'd said in other interviews years ago. I find it hard to remember what I had for breakfast.
Shia managed to get into it a little quicker, passing on anecdotes about scaring Navy Seals at the extent of his on-set injury in a previous film, and a shit eating grin when Megan complimented his kissing ability.
The most unintentionally hilarious moment, which I only realised after the conference had ended was when Bay talked about using traditional animation techiniques over motion capture, and how animators captured the essence of character and humanity for their CGI characters in order to find a way relate to the audience. And Bay said that animators would film themselves falling down in order to do that.
That's Bay characterisation folks. Revenge Of The Fallen.
But what the film lacks in that regard, it makes up for in the most over the top spectacle that offers genuine thrills, wonderful scenery (including a very Giger-ish spaceship) and a heady mix of realistic army warfare footage combined with the cartoonishly stylised play of ten year old boys and their toys.
Oh and a horny one foot Decepticon. Nice.
This review was based on a screening of a not-quite-final cut of the movie. Thanks to Brendon Connelly of SlashFilm and Marc Foley Cromer of Way To Blue. Photo by me, from the London UK Premiere.