Saturday, July 02, 2011

Transformers Dark of the Moon Review


A lot of people out there really despise Michael Bay. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that filmgoers are maturing a bit and have forgotten what a popcorn movie is. I have never had a problem with the director. I like the Rock and the first Bad Boys. Sure Armageddon, Bad Boys 2, Pearl Harbor and The Island kind of suck, but the Transformers movies have all been fun rides. Sometimes it’s not about telling a good story, but having a good time.

As a child of the 80’s, I enjoyed the ever loving hell out of Transformers. It was fun, exciting and entertaining. The story (usually something Michael forgets to put in with all the mega Bayhem) was actually pretty good. It wasn’t great, but it was good. Couple that with a sense of sci-fi wonder, giant robot action, an astounding soundtrack and a healthy dose of 80’s nostalgia and you have an instant winner. Transformers 2 was a bit of a mess. The action was a little too human centric, leaving our Autobots twiddling their thumbs somewhere and the Fallen was a badly executed villain. The story was everything but consistent and the climactic battle at the end was rushed. Oh and that whole “racist robot” garbage. Despite all of that, I was still entertained by Transformers 2. Transformers 3 made some hefty promises about a better story, more emotion, more Autobots, and a deeper look into the mythology of Cybertron. Bay delivered on those promises, but does that make a good movie? Let’s find out.

Normally I like to start out my reviews by offering a brief description of the plot. In this particular case, I don’t think I can. It’s not because the story is bad. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The story is surprisingly complex and develops so granularly that describing it without getting carried away and spoiling the whole damn movie would be difficult. Suffice to say, this movie is the main event. The final crescendo in the trilogy of Transformers movies and, if you liked even one of the previous two films, this installment won’t disappoint you. In fact, you may actually like this movie if you hated the last two. I will say that the plot gets rolling after the Autobots discover that an ancient Autobot space craft had been discovered and holds a weapon so powerful, it would have changed the tide of the Cybertronian War had it not been lost. It turns into a race against the Decepticons to retrieve the weapon (or device). Needless to say, things don’t go according to plan. The stakes are higher, the gravitas is darker, and the conflict is much more desperate. At the end of the day, the movie is essentially about survival. But what is more important, the survival of your race, or its soul? One of the things I love about the story is how they manage to bring everything full circle. How and in what ways would be spoiling, so I won’t say.

Transformer Dark of the Moon is epic beyond words. The action is, as always in Bay movies, intense, booming and completely chaotic. Transformers 2 disappointed me when they threw the Autobots out of the picture and focused way too much on the humans. Transformers 3 brings our favorite bots back and they’re better than ever. After the departure of the first two films’ writers, Orci and Kurtzman, Ehren Kruger stepped in as the main writer. It’s clear to me who the weakest links of Transformers 2 were, and surprisingly, it wasn’t Bay. Our new writer has a deeper understanding of the lore of Transformers, but beyond that Kruger brings something into the script we really haven’t seen in a Transformers film: emotion. The destruction of Chicago is surprisingly disturbing. The Decepticons attack and they aren’t screwing around this time. Shit just got real. Thousands of humans are slaughtered in the onslaught. The discarded clothing of thousands of vaporized pedestrians litters the streets of an apocalyptic Chicago. This is the darkest hour in the franchise, and the death certain Autobots solidify that fact. Death is not handled like it was in Transformers 1. Remember when Jazz was torn in two and tossed aside like he literally was a toy? This time, when your favorite Autobot dies on screen, the filmmakers make sure you feel it, for better or worse.

There’s a lot of returning favorites. The Autobots bring back mainstays like Optimus Prime, Bumble Bee, Ironhide and Ratchet, as well as the villainous Megatron, Star Scream, and even Barricade. Sideswipe, Soundwave, and good ol’ Wheelie (a less obnoxious Wheelie mind you) return as well. Arcee and the Twins are meanwhile inexplicably absent. New Transformers include Brain (the squirrelly side kick to Wheelie), Wheel Jack (though there has been some confusion as to whether this is Wheel Jack or a new bot named Que), Sentinel Prime, Shockwave and Lazer Beak just to name a few. In fact, this movie is jammed packed full of Transformers, it’s easy to get nervous that everyone will be once again reduced to cameos. This is not the case, as most of the fan favorites, and some of the new guys each get some spotlight. Megatron doesn’t get the due he deserves in this movie, which is weird to me. Everyone else gets some screen time though. The voice acting from everyone is as top notch as always. I personally feel that the voice actors do a better job in this franchise than the human actors, but maybe that’s just me.

On the human side, we meet back up with Sam, his parents, Agent Simmons and the NEST members Lennox and Epps. Megan Fox’s replacement is one of the many new characters, and I’ll admit, I like her better than Fox. She’s not much better acting wise, but her character is sweeter than the overly bitchy Mikayla Banes. The great Alan Tudyk has an awesome supporting role and Fargo’s Frances McDormand serves as the movies human foil. Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey aslo has a role in the film. In fact, Dempsey is my favorite human character. He takes the story and elevates above being a simple robot rampage blockbuster. Shia LaBeouf is as energetic as ever, and his performance here is much more serious than in either of the last two installments. Most of his funny antics take place solely in the first 20 some minutes. Most of the human actors vary from being decent to awesome. LaBeouf, Dempsey, Turturo, Tudyk and McDormand all give great performances, while the new girl represents the weakest link. Duhamel, Tyrese, and Lester Speight of Gears of War fame each give good performances, though their characters are underutilized. Strangely, John Di Maggio aka Marcus Fenix voices a new Autobot based on a demo derby car. It’s some sort of Gears of War reunion here.

One drawback with the characters is that there isn’t any growth. Everyone is pretty much the same throughout all three films. We see Sam at different stages of his life, but at the end of the day, he’s still the same goof-ass kid he was in high school. The only character that has even an inkling of an arc is Epps. We run into him here working for NEST in a support position. He’s grown weary of the robot war and wants nothing more than a quiet retirement. Soon, he is inspired to pick up his gear one more time to avenge his fallen brothers. Of course Epps isn’t reintroduced until halfway through the movie and almost immediately decides to pick up his gun, so it serves more as a plot device than an actual arc. Optimus Prime on the other hand goes through an interesting transition. Events force him to finally take a final and brutal stand against the Decpetiocns. Its blood for blood and by the gallons. He gives up on the idea of peace and freedom and truns his gaze solely to revenge. His personality changes halfway through the film noticeably. It’s not a betrayal of character either. His transition works perfectly within the story.

Steve Jablonsky also returns as the composer of the movie, and once again the man delivers a brilliant score. This time, we have a darker more desperate sound, matching the themes of the film itself. In fact, Jablonsky deserves some kind of award for his magnificent notes here. One scene in particular featuring Optimus Prime sliding through downtown Chicago, swinging his sword and cutting down rows upon rows of Decepticons has the most flawlessly executed music I’ve seen in a long time. Chills, man. Chills.

Michael Bay pulled out all the stops for DOTM. Though the movie has a slow first act and some weird editing at times, it doesn’t stop Transformers 3 from being a thrilling and explosive summer blockbuster that hits the ball out of the park, in my opinion. It seems that most people let their Bay-hate get in the way and disagree with my point of view, or maybe they genuinely didn’t like the movie. As far as the summer movies go, I believe this is the best so far. Captain America could be better, but if you want a recommendation, this summer belongs to Transformers Dark of the Moon.

I give Transformers Dark of the Moon a 9 out of 10. In the words of Ironhide, "Class dismissed."


PROS

Intense, exciting, thrilling and awe inspiring action

Robot mayhem at its finest

Good story with a surprising amount of depth and complexity (not a lot, but enough to surprise you)

Darker and more desperate than ever before

Effects are utterly brilliant

3D actually enhances the experience

Great performances from most of the cast, Rosie Something-Something does pretty good.

Voice cast is Grade A as usual (special props to Peter Cullen)

Emotional and moving

Genuinely shocking twist and turns. Plot is usually unpredictable (for the most part)

Fantastic score

Patrick’s Dempsey’s Character is awesome

Buzz Aldrin makes a cool cameo


CONS

A little too much goofball humor (not as bad as ROTF, but still a little much sometimes)

Occasional weird editing

Final confrontation is a little rushed

I was traumatized by one death in particular. This may be a pro for some people as it demonstrates an emotional side to the movie.

Megatron has a minor role at best, a little too pathetic considering this is the final act

Most characters are one dimensional and never experience real arcs

1 comment:

taz alter said...

Its a great movie and also great review shared by you. Really interesting to read.

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