I did not like Transformers. I have come to think, in fact, that it is Michael Bay's worst movie ever, just barely noodging out The Island, although it ought to be mentioned that I have not seen Pearl Harbor, and I'm fucking well disinclined to ever go out and see Pearl Harbor. But I was talking about Transformers, a movie that struck me as being loud and stupid and confusing to look, with all the CGI robot characters seeming to be constructed entirely out of six-inch metal shards crammed together in the semblance of a biped, and when one of those robots fought another robot, it frankly looked to me like just a whole bunch of metal bits all wobbling around onscreen at 100 miles an hour. It was a movie that give me no joy whatsoever.

It is, stacked next to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, pure cinema embodied, a work of art unparalleled.

Because, sweet baby Jesus and all the baby apostles, Revenge of the Fallen is just complete asshattery. In my darkest morbidity, I don't think I have ever imagined that a $200 million summer tent pole film could possibly be so awful. A wretched comedy about uninteresting human beings plays out, interrupted at frequent intervals by scenes of gigantic machines walloping the living crap out of one another for arbitrary reasons, while grossly busy visual effects that look far more like a cartoon than something meant to be integrated with live action footage scream across the screen with reckless, mind-numbing abandon. Meanwhile a needlessly complex and recklessly trite plot taps out, one scene after another, with the oozing slowness of the last drop of molasses creeping down the side of a jar. It is, unfathomably, a movie that is at once so chaotic that the only way to deal with it is to shrink back in the theater chair and let it roar out its guttering violence, and so boring that it almost begs you to fall asleep at the interminable passages of the two teenage protagonists making schmoopy faces at each other.

The film opens in 17,000 BC, which is a coincidence indeed, given that it is roughly 17,000 years long - although I find that all the official documentation claims that it's 149 minutes. Perhaps, but they are the longest 149 minutes that I have experienced. Sátántángo rushes by like a TV sitcom in comparison. Whatever the case, in 17,000 BC we learn that '30s-style "ooga booga" type African tribespeople have a fondness for hunting tigers (in Africa?) in a series of one-second shots that fade up from black and fade back down to black, a pointless stylistic quirk that put the film on my bad side pretty much from the second it started. We also learn that they don't have much ability to fight off the 30-foot robots who've set up some kind of giant death machine in their desert, but what exactly those robots are doing there, and how it happened that they didn't go ahead and make the whole human race extinct in a couple of days back at that time, is something that we won't learn for a while. A really long while.

The action skips back to the present, where Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), whom you perhaps recall was the savior of the human race two years ago when the evil Decepticons and the noble Autobots turned Los Angeles into a war zone. Sam is headed off to college on the east coast, eager to become a normal kid after his damaging experiences in '07, even if that means trying to do the whole long-distance thing with his ridiculously hot gear-head girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox). But things aren't so easy for him, after her accidentally activates a tiny shard of the MacGuffin Box from the last movie, and turns all of the appliances in his folks' house into teeny little Decepticons. This quickly-solved problem is only the first of many nightmares facing Sam as he becomes the center of a Decepticon quest to revive the ancient evil leader known as The Fallen (voiced by Tony Todd). This quest takes Sam from Washington, D.C. to Egypt, all along the way getting shot at by some very big anthropomorphic machines and rescued by some other anthropomorphic machines, the CGI cast of the new film more than tripling the modest 14 Transformers seen in the original.

Also along the way, Sam is followed by a litany of godawful comic moments, from when his mom (Julie White) accidentally eats a pot brownie about 30 seconds after arriving at his school, and proceeds to tell anyone who'll listen about how he lost his virginity; to the old reformed Decepticon Jetfire (Mark Ryan) who pads about with musty old man shtick and tosses plot holes out like a Pez dispenser; to the slapsticky business centered around former U.S. special operative Simmons (John Turturro, returning for what I hope to God was a hefty paycheck) and Sam's hacker roommate Leo (Ramon Rodriguez), possibly the most played-out character in the film - he'd have stunk of cliché in a 1993 episode of The X-Files. And then there's what is destined to be the most notorious moment in a film of notorious moments, when the little RC car Decepticon that Mikaela has been training to be a good guy starts humping her foot.

Although perhaps I overspeak; the Autobot twins, Mudflap (Reno Wilson) and Skids (Tom Kenny), mind-bogglingly racist stereotypes of gangsta tropes given robot car form, seem to be destined for some healthy notoriety of their own.

Careening madly to its abrupt end, the film makes a celebration out of destroying the Great Pyramid of Giza, as though it were just a tinkertoy prop; countless human lives are lost with no more acknowledgment than a warning to the Autobots that they almost got found out on their Shanghai trip. Compared to all of this, Bay's customary misogyny, present here as in the last by a series of porny, objectifying shots of Fox that make her look like the product being hawked in a tequila commercial, is downright comforting.

The film is also ugly as shit, filmed by some anonymous bloke named Ben Seresin with incomprehensible levels of film grain, and the aforementioned CGI that is so shiny it drifts right out of "realism" and into "world's costliest video game" territory. At least, thank all the pretty angels, in this film when the Transformers transform, you can sometimes tell that how it works mechanically, rather than it just looking like metallic shapes melting into car form. Small favors make the world go 'round.

If, somehow, you can get past all of this, I defy you to jump the film's last hurdle: the scenes of robot-on-robot-violence that are the film's single raison d'être, though numerous, make up a surprisingly modest proportion of the film's 917 462 149 minutes, and the rest of the movie is either horrible comedy (as a general thing, if the last film was an action movie with lots of terrible comic relief, this is more like a terrible comedy that is sometimes given over to action scenes), or the damnably bad love story drama between Sam and Mikaela, hinging on the fact that she's put out that he won't use the word "love". And thus it is that a solid hour of a 2.5 hour movie, right in the middle, when it needs to build all the momentum it can muster, is a punishing grind; and thus can 2.5 hours seem twice that.

I do not merely dislike Transformers 2. I feel like I have been betrayed - betrayed by the very same Cinema to whom I have sacrificed so much of my time and emotion and spirit, the Cinema that I treasure more dearly and passionately than ever one person felt towards another, the Cinema that has over the years become the chief joy and driving force of my life. The Cinema, my lover, permitted this atrocity to be made, and I have seen my lover in the most abysmal act of violation. This movie is heinous, shrieking and ugly and tedious and soft-headed, not even giving the thin comfort of being hilariously bad.

Here is a fact to ice over the soul: there will, of a certainty, be a Transformers 3. The end of this film and the ticket sales it will surely enjoy guarantee this. At least we can cling to the comfort that Transformers 3 will be better than Revenge of the Fallen. I had the same hopes going into this one, of course, but here's how I know that I'm right going into 2012: any film worse than Revenge of the Fallen could probably not be legally screened under the strictures of the Geneva Convention.

Reviews in this series
Transformers (Bay, 2007)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Bay, 2009)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Bay, 2011)
Transformers: Age of Extinction (Bay, 2014)
Transformers: The Last Knight (Bay, 2017)