Movie Review | Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen (And On Filming In Jordan)

This isn’t one of those normal drawn-out movie reviews. A movie like Transformers doesn’t need it really. It’s a summer blockbuster that costs a lot to make in hopes of making a lot of money, which it probably will. Director Micheal Bay packs in a whole bunch of action sequences, enough to blow you away at what technology can do these days. The storyline and even a lot of the dialog that tried to go for the constant big laugh was at best unreliable and at worst, just didn’t add up. But again, it’s a blockbuster. It doesn’t have to make sense. As long as the cars, the girls and robot fights all look great, no one in the audience will notice. And indeed, it’s packed with all of that to the point where it feels like junk food: you know it’s bad for you but it tastes pretty damn good. Also, Micheal Bay’s trademark spin-the-camera-around-the-protagonist will make you dizzy till you drop in this movie. It’s much more racy than it’s predecessor so it’s not exactly a family-friendly film with all the profanity and sexuality. In the end, you walk out two and a half hours later high as a kite, believing you just had a great movie-going experience, only to wake up the next day and wonder what you were thinking. You start thinking strange things like, why did some of the robots speak like Rastafarians?

The rest of this review is dedicated to the issue of the movie being shot in Jordan and may contain some spoilers.

So what makes this film remotely unique is that a decent portion of it is filmed right here in Jordan. At one point the plot has the heroes going back and forth between Jordan and Egypt to the point where foreign audiences can’t tell where they are any more and local movie-goers are confused: ok, so where are they now? Ah, yes. That looks like Al-Salt. No. Wait a minute. We’re in Cairo.

No one will tell the difference except for Egyptians and Jordanians.

The audience in Amman applauded when the heroes were suddenly transported through time and space to find themselves in Wadi Rum, which the story passes off as Egypt. They then head to the pyramids, only to find themselves back to Petra, which they thankfully credit as being Jordanian. It’s a new world wonder you know. Megan Fox then hides out briefly with her co-stars in Al-Salt, dressed as one character puts it “like a ninja”. And you can probably figure out what that’s referring to.

Back in the white desert of Egypt, American troops are busy fighting about 40 Decepticons at once, and while the robots are about 100 times bigger, stronger and technologically advanced, the Americans survive. At one point it seems they might be in a tough spot, and suddenly, out of the pale blue sky, two Jordanian helicopters come to the rescue, with one of the Americans on the ground yelling: “The Jordanians are here!”

About three seconds later those helicopters come crashing down due to a single Decepticon.

It was indeed a deception. Just when you think that a Hollywood film might let an Arab be a hero by saving American troops, you realize that wasn’t the point of the scene. The point was to create a contrast by showing how weak everyone else in the world is. Because the scene that follows is basically a two-minute montage of American military might coming to the rescue. From jets, to aircraft carriers, tanks, hovercrafts, and heck, even a top-secret ray gun that you can apparently have launched simply by making an anonymous call to the ship’s captain like one character did.

The movie tends to highlight my main problem with American action movies, especially these science-fiction/comic book blockbusters.

Since 9/11 these movies have been over-loaded with pro-American sentiments. From flags to American military prowess to the only-we-can-save-the-world ideals. The American military goes in to any country it wants to in a moment’s notice, shooting their guns wildly in a desert while Egyptians either flee for cover or are no where to be seen.

Enough already. We get it.

American filmmakers should also get it. These blockbuster movies are now more international than ever before. Most of a movie’s money is made in international markets than in the US. And in case they haven’t noticed, America isn’t exactly the most loved country throughout the majority of the world. Shoving “USA #1” sentiments down our throats isn’t appreciated.

Lastly, if you’re going to film in Jordan or any other Arab country for that matter, at least credit the locations. I hate movies that film elsewhere and pretend that it’s another country. Audiences are not stupid. Stop treating them as such.

“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” reminds of a lot of the things wrong with American blockbusters these days. Then again, last year’s “Dark Knight” seemed to get it right, proving you can make a blockbuster with an interesting plot, interesting actors, interesting action sequences, without following the pro-America path down in to the dark abyss from which it emerged.


  • Unique critique, suppose the transformers should land next on Karak castle and destroy it for fun, as every thing in the movie is destructible, funny how Hollywood movies shifted in the 90’s to desert warfare games versus ice and snow scenes of the cold war era. It seems we are now on the spot light as the deserts have become the stage, Harems, camels and tents is all what they want to see from our civilization…………..

  • Just got back from the movie and your review is spot on.

    I think even the average American will get confused. For example, in the scene where they decode the message of the three kings, you can obviously tell that they’re going to a place that’s very far from where they are (ie. to Petra from the Pyramids). Then, for some reason, they decide to make the drop point the pyramids themselves, and all of a sudden it only takes a few miles to get from Petra back.

    But of course there’s an explanation in the filmmakers’ minds; these pyramids are different. They’re some pyramids near Aqaba, not the ones in Giza.

    But then why would they show the Sphinx in the last scene in the movie, suggesting that they are indeed in Giza?

    And I echo your sentiment regarding the Jordanian helicopters scene. As if we don’t have American F-16s!

    I loved the action, but the way this movie was made was more than irritating, it was downright insulting!

  • hey there :
    well i cant wait to see the movie cuz i really loved the first one !!
    mostly you are right about everything you said here !
    but can we think it the other way ? i mean its american after all ,and i belive that something like hidden messages and so are there in most american movies ! but again they are americans and they have to be “the only-we-can-save-the-world ideals.” its their own ! …..another example to clear up what am saying…did you ever see an indian hero die in an indian movie!
    so sometimes i dont blame them ,,,,good for them ! its us !why cant we in any how produce something that we are heros in and we can save the world sometimes !!!!!

    anyway love your post and cant wait to see the movie 😀

  • Thanks for this. Our senior film writer, Mark Farnsworth, totally trashed this movie.

    I want to see it so I can glimpse Wadi Rum and Petra on the big screen, but honestly, it just seems like so much schlock. Foxy Megan Fox or not.

    Michael Bay’s style in particular is nauseatingly “America America über alles,” if you know what I mean. It got old years ago. I thought “Armageddon” was a lot of fun, but come on. A director needs to know when to move on.

  • Fully agree. The Jordan-Egypt thing was just stupid. They probably just wanted to have two photogenic backdrops for their fight scenes, but still! Americans themselves laugh at their lack of knowledge about world geography, and this movie will only make them more confused.

    And re: the Jordanian helicopter. Having people from two countries fighting together against an alien menace would have made the movie better; they did that (to a point) in Independence Day, and it heightened the drama there.

    In the end, the movie felt like a combination of a recruiting ad for the US military (the must have shown every bit of cool hardware they have), an ad for GM cars (I don’t recall seeing a single non-GM car or pickup in the whole movie), and an ad for transformers toys themselves.

    Which is not surprising, given the original tv show was just a marketing gimmick for the original transformers toys.

  • Yep, the sequel is not as good as the previous one, but is still worth watching. Any movie with Robots, Camaros and Megan Fox is never a waste of time and money.Hell, They have gone the extra mile and introduced a new hybrid hot chick transformer, which was the deal sweetner of the new sequel.

    I could not agree more with you guys that the attention was not given to the very last details, which is somehow disappointing for comic and cartoon movies hardliners.There was an obviuos link missing between fiction and reality and i think that most of the thrill in watching fictional movies comes from bridging that gap as much as possible,giving you a make believe sensation that what you are watching could be taken for real.

    It was great seeing Salt, Wadi Rum, Petra, Aqaba appear or get mentioned in the movie, do you think that this would be an advantage for Jordan, somehow….? I hope!!

    and at last, Hats off to our beloved Jordanian military forces for their guest appearance while fighting the evil decepticons.

  • “Since 9/11 these movies have been over-loaded with pro-American sentiments. From flags to American military prowess to the only-we-can-save-the-world ideals.”

    I promise you, this has been a theme in American movies WAAAAYYYY before 9/11. Case in point: Independence Day. The evil aliens are going to take over the world, and just when all hope is lost, the Americans figure out how to get through the alien’s technology and start alerting the rest of the world via Morse code. And everyone is like, “Oh, boo-hoo, we were just going to sit around and wait for the aliens to get us, but THANK GOD the Americans are here to save the day!” I laughed at that part even when I was an American student in an American in high school (when the movie came out), incredulous that we were so egocentric.

  • You bring up some very good points. I’d never really noticed all the American propaganda present in many Hollywood action films, but when I think about it, it’s quite abundant. I’ll have to keep a close eye out for it in future.

    I’ve yet to actually see the film, but I glimpsed Petra very briefly in the trailer on TV. Having been there recently I was quite excited to see it. (I’m from New Zealand). But admittedly, had I not been there I’d otherwise have no clue on where it was.

  • ahmad: sorry bro. wasn’t my idea to go 😛

    Natalia: one of the most interesting america-shits-on-the-world scenes i’ve ever seen in a micheal bay movie is in Bad Boys II, when, what are essentially american police (no, not military or navy, but police)…tare up the cuban country side with a bunch of big hummers, crushing homes and people as they chase the villain all the way to Guantanamo, reaching safety on “american soil”. oh, and this comes moments before they pretty much blow up havana just to get one girl back.

    Umm Daoud: while i agree that these sentiments were alive and well in american blockbuster flicks in the past, what i’m pointing to here is there abundance in the post 9/11 era, and era that should actually see them toning it down as opposed to going in to overdrive.

    movies, as silly as it may seem, are a modern way to bridge cultural gaps and address real-life issues. millions and millions of people are watching them all over the globe and they have a far greater reach than anything else I can think of at the moment.

    these movies that involve plots where there is an enemy common to the entire human race, should be an opportunity to bring nations together instead of apart.

  • An interesting film critic review:

    “I’m certain that someday it will be acknowledged that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is like the most totally awesome artifact ever of the end of the American empire. It’s so us, a preposterously perfect reflection of who we are: loud, obnoxious, sexist, racist, juvenile, unthinking, visceral, and violent… and in love with ourselves for it. […] What we have right here is the Easter Island statue of our legacy.” — MaryAnn Johanson, FlickFilosopher

  • There’s no doubt that recent action movies have displayed an annoying and somewhat ridiculous trend of overt “America saves the world” themes.

    That being said, these movies are made for American audiences, produced with American money, and played by American actors. Most Americans don’t notice the themes, since they are so prevalent in action movies that have came out in the past 20 years.

    I’m not advocating the ridiculousness, but I wouldn’t at all say that they’re shoving “USA # 1” sentiment down anyone’s throats. No one forces Jordanians to go to Hamudeh’s, buy an illegally produced rip-off of an American funded production, and watch the DVD.

  • Micheal: you’re absolutely right. however, a different perspective would suggest that hollywood studios fund the making of these movies, and those studios are all about making money. With the majority of a movie’s revenue now coming in from international sales, there should be an inclination to appeal to a broader audience, one that is less enthusiastic about americanism in all its shapes and forms.

    Secondly, this film is playing in cinemas. I’m sure Hammudeh will have it in a bit, but if that’s the argument then I would argue there is more movie piracy happening within america’s borders than in downtown amman. 😉

  • When has an Arab producer made an American a hero? Or even decent? Wait, even part of any story period?


  • Be glad the country is even appreciated enough for Hollywood to go to it instead of just overlaying it digitally, which they can very well do. They obviously respect and love a location if they think of it first.

  • Ok…Ok…Ok First the movie was great and nothing less than perfection. So what the movie jumped from place to place. I was in the US Army and I have been to most of the named locations in this movie(Not much to see)! Everyone here seems to forget that a movies purpose is to entertain. Giant Robots, hot women, and fast cars…its the American way!!! Get over it!! The Pro-American sentiment is right were it needs to be, our military is one of the strongest in the world, also if you will watch the movie closer you will notice that we are teamed up with both British and Australian forces in this movie. Oh and The Dark Night was a great movie that got even more attention due to an untimely death, but its first week of sales put it at $203.1 million dollars, Transformer’s came in at a cool $200.1 million not to bad for a “Horrible Movie”! So please Micheal Bay keep making Horrible, Entertaining, Action Packed, Foreign Military hating, American Sentiment filled, and Confusing, films that make millions and break records!!!!!! And yes you know you will go and watch it don’t lie to yourself!

  • you said that last year’s Dark Knight “seemed to get it right, proving you can make a blockbuster with an interesting plot, interesting actors, interesting action sequences, without following the pro-America path down in to the dark abyss from which it emerged.”

    Dark Knight was smart, sophisticated, with the closest thing to a plotline we have seen in a number of summers., and als very entertaining. but it also followed a pro-America path much like in any other summer blockbuster made in Hollywood. look at the plot:

    A terror wreaks havoc in civilization (the Joker), and we cannot understand what drives it. law and order was not able to tackle it (Harvey dent) and it thus requires the righteous vengeance of the Dark Knight to really bring it down. nothing else but righteousness and violence. sounds like a movie financed by W Bush’s adminstration.

    Loved the movie though.

  • I wouldn’t get too offended by this movie’s ignorance of mid-east geography (or any other aspect of this poorly written special effects movie). It even failed badly to get US geography correct. Maybe it went unnoticed, but they went to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space museum, in Washington DC, and walked out to a field of planes surrounded by grassland and desert mountains. I wouldn’t have been too shocked simply by the desert mountains in the background, since a lot of movies are filmed in California and those elements … for some reason … often seem to get overlooked. But, the museum is in the middle of the heavily urbanized city of Washington DC … even stated in the movie … which is at least 2000 miles from any desert mountains!

  • Ken you are halfway right. The Air and Space museum that they showed in the movie is not in downtown D.C. But it is actually by Dulles Airport. There wasn’t enough room downtown to put all of these planes. The one at Dulles is where the SR-71, shuttle etc are held.

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