The movie is like the play date from hell, the kind where a crew of children reduce your home to rubble and conduct endless bouts of loud war on the living-room floor while you ponder the propriety of opening a bottle of wine.
If it sounds as though the script (credited to Ehren Kruger, Robert Orci, and Alex Kurtzman) was written in serial-novel form during an all-night mescaline bender, well, I have no evidence that it was not.
The right notes are struck over and over for the target demo but there's not much for the rest of us. The special effects are no longer quite so special. A fact that doesn't stop Bay from committing more-is-less excesses.
The simplest thing Bay could have done to clarify the stakes of the robot wars would be to visually distinguish the robots from one another in some way. Armbands? Shirts and skins? "Hello, My Name Is" stickers?
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a bewildering, noisy, sloppy, cynical piece of work, a movie that sneers at the audience for 147 minutes and expects us to lap it up as entertainment -- and be grateful.
What's wrong here is that there's so much swirling, relentless action, indistinct robot characterizations and over-caffeinated techies loose on the special-effects machines that the movie, in mere seconds, achieves incoherence.
The best thing about "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is that it's perhaps the funniest movie of the year ... "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is not as bad as "Transformers"; somehow, in the face of long odds, it is actually worse.
The magic isn't in the plot (no disrespect to returning screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, joined by Ehren Kruger), but in the obvious delight Bay takes in boyish fantasies of battles, cars, aliens and babes.
If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination.
While it would be hard to make a case for 'Revenge of the Fallen' as 'good' in any normal sense of the word, it possesses such brute force that the viewer is left with two options: surrender, or suffer in silence.
With machines that are impressively more lifelike, and characters that are more and more like machines, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen takes the franchise to a vastly superior level of artificial intelligence.