Transformers: Rise of the Fallen (2009)

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, language, some crude and sexual material, and brief drug material.
Length: 150 minutes
Grade: BDBD=C
Budget: $200 million
Box Office: $1.004 BILLION (402 U.S., 431 Intl., 171 DVD)

Written by: Ehren Kruger (Brothers Grimm, Skeleton Key, Ring 1+2, Reindeer Games, Scream 3, Arlington Road), Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Transformers, Star Trek, Mission Impossible 3, and Legend of Zorro)
Directed by: Michael Bay (Transformers, Island, Bad Boys 1+2, Pearl Harbor, Armageddon, The Rock)
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro, and the voices of Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving, Tom Kenney, and Michael York.

Just when Sam thinks he can be normal in college, the Decepticons launch a worldwide assault in search of a lost device which will give them tremendous power by destroying our sun. Humans and Autobots must cooperate to fight them off.

Entertainment Value: B...
...with real words of caution. First, no kids should be watching this, as you’ll see shortly. Second, you have to watch this movie as if it’s really two different movies. Movie 1 is the science fiction over-the-top action movie with huge effects that everyone expects from Michael Bay. This movie is very entertaining despite having a tremendously weak plot. And, unlike the first Transformers, I found it much easier to tell what was going on in the robot fight sequences in this version. Movie 2 is the completely silly and often offensively stupid human stories thrown in along with Movie 1 for reasons that pass understanding. Movie 2 involves gangbanger-sounding Autobots, a crazy mother, an irritating roommate, and a completely implausible Presidential advisor. Try to imagine if someone made Star Wars 1: The Phantom Menace again, only this time there were five more characters in an effort to multiply the Jar-Jar Binks contribution.

Superficial Content: D
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity D, Violence D, Language D
This is clearly pushing the limits of the PG-13 rating. Teens are drinking at a college party, and a woman gets high on a marijuana brownie unintentionally. There are abundant sexual scenes, although no nudity, and one scene with a massive Decepticon depicted with wrecking balls as dangling genitals. I wish the worst of these were the human ones, but there are several with dogs as well that were simply disturbing. The violence is nonstop, although it’s mostly involving machines and doesn’t show people getting killed, though it’s implied. The language might be the worst part, with constant F, B, S, and A-based profanity. Seriously. Constant. This is PG-15 at the very least. And the worst part is that it could easily have been PG-13 for violence only, making it probably okay for even 10-year-olds or younger if they had just left all the nonsense out of it.

Significant Content: B
Sacrificing yourself for the greater good or for someone else is the definition of nobility. Destiny is never convenient. Humans are warlike and can’t be trusted with destructive weapons. Sex is fine as long as it’s your girlfriend. Parents are flakes. Politicians are stupid. A good girlfriend will continue to look like a supermodel after evading alien robots by running in slow motion for three minutes straight.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
There really isn’t any thought value here or great art, other than some wicked, cool effects. “Look what 200 million dollars can buy, mom.” The plot is so weak that it doesn’t even seem like they tried to come up with a good one. The one thing worth discussing here is probably the issue of racism and whether Skids and Mudflap were a racist inclusion.

Discussion Questions:
~Was there anything in this movie that offended you or you wished hadn’t been there?
~At one point, someone asks, “If God made us in His image, so who made [Optimus Prime]?” What is the implication of this question? Would the existence of aliens or alien robots affect your ideas about God?
~Why does Sam try so hard to resurrect Optimus Prime? Is it because Prime will save the planet or because he loves him?
~In the Transformers universe, Decepticons are always bad and Autobots are always good. Why do we so badly desire people to fall into such simple categories? Why do you think God allows a world where human nature is so much more complex than this?
~One of the key beliefs for Optimus is that humans’ free will must be respected, whereas the Decepticons clearly are willing to do anything to humans they want. In what ways are the Autobots like angels and the Decepticons like demons?
~Does Sam have faith? What is his faith in? Are things true simply because we believe strongly in them?
~How did you react to Skids and Mudflap? Would you say this movie is racist? Is it always racist to depict racial stereotypes? What if they are depicted negatively? Do you think black people would be offended by this movie? Are white people overprotective of black people and overly concerned about them being offended?
Overall Grade: C
I liked it as an action movie, but I certainly can’t recommend it for the kids, which is sad. If you don’t mind all the vulgarity and you can ignore the unentertaining elements of Movie 2, this is good fun. I would never call it good, clean fun. I did love the opening Dreamworks sequence.

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