06 July 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon [3D]

Starring Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Leonard Nimoy
Written by Ehren Kruger
Directed by Michael Bay
Release: 29 June 2011
Paramount, 155 mins., Rated PG-13

Plot: An Autobot spacecraft landed in the moon years ago, now its contents will bring about worlds end.

July 2007, Michael Bay “wowed” and amazed me with TRANSFORMERS, the first film of the franchise based off a successful Hasboro action figure line and animated television series. That movie was so beautifully crafted, after each viewing, I wouldn’t be opposed to another. The entire movie flew past me as a young and impressive Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox ran from giant digital robots that by no means looked or felt digital; for all I knew (if I didn’t know better), Michael Bay and producer Steven Spielberg were given tips from the government about an authentic alien species that scans earthbound technology (in this case, cars) and adapts. Haters can hate all they want, but absolutely nothing will break my unabashed and boundless affection for that first movie. It was, in a world, (bloody) fantastic.

Obviously, high expectations for the sequel, TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. A great first film, and the trailers for part two promised a darker picture with a interesting scenario, loads of action, and a revenge plot (and occasional readers of this blog will recognize my love for revenge plots), I went into the midnight showing hoping to be wowed. In some cases I was, but my enjoyment was skewered by the presence of two utterly obnoxious Autobots that despite my best wishes never fell in battle, an unfortunate and unnecessary shot of John Turuto’s ass that I will never fully eviscerate from my memory, and perhaps a too convoluted script for its own good. There are still parts of ROTF that I love and watch frequently (especially the scenes with Sam’s parents, which are always priceless), but the movie itself, frankly didn’t meet the possibly momentous expectations from the first one. Although there is a definite feeling of letdown, I try not to be too hard on it; the film is, after all, a casualty of a Writer’s Strike, leaving the producers and director a detailed outline more than a script. So with a lackluster sequel, and growing public distaste of Michael Bay reaching unprecedented proportions, TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON is hitting theaters with a rather weird position.

One, Michael Bay and company had to redeem themselves for a lackluster and misguided sequel, providing a movie that maintained the same fun and humorous vibe of the first one and insane action sequences from both while creating a good enough, uncomplicated story. Second, audiences are (or rather now, were) rather skeptical about venturing into a third after the dismal second, and with the eye-candy of Ms. Fox gone, would the power of robots battling each other still be appealing to a wide demographic? Third, this is more than likely the last film for its big name stars – Shia, Josh, Bay – so DOTM had to deliver a satisfying enough conclusion to their character arcs and say adieu to the visual aesthetic Michael has cemented in the cinematic TRANSFORMERS world.It delights me to grin-fully say that TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON is a worthy sequel. There’s intense, insane, awesome action scenes that only Mr. Bay could realize so beautifully; there’s the perfect balance of comedy, drama, action, and story; and above all, DOTM was enormously fun. ROTF had plenty of fun, but its problems were quite apparent and ultimately sucked one out of the viewing experience; DOTM has no such problems [although I was petrified by John Malkovich’s orange-looking face, like something out of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3]. The movie fulfills the Autobots vs. Decepticons expectations by giving us an epic, Apocalyptic storyline where it truly is a lethal, kill-or-be-killed environment. It gives our characters plots that make them absolutely integral to the story, and ultimately integral to the success or failure of saving the planet. Even Sam’s sexy galfriend Carly eventually becomes more than eye candy, making a choice that has some predictable and surprising consequences. Point is, if this is Bay and Shia’s last film, and maybe even the final TRANSFORMERS production (unlikely that may be), they couldn’t have closed the series better.

Well, sure, they could. Maybe something more conclusive than this, but, um, what should be taken away from this is that they did good.

Now, by this point I’ve seen DARK OF THE MOON twice, and its 155 minute running time had diverse effects both times. The very first midnight screening last week, every second was spectacular and the film flowed very well. I wasn’t antsy, I wasn’t disinterested, and I felt no compulsion to find out what’s going on in the world of Facebook. In a word, I had a blast. Weirdly, my second time wasn’t as fun. Perhaps it was the circumstances: a sore throat, sucky back, there/not there headache, but DOTM sure as hell felt as long as it was. Sure, the jokes were still funny, and the visuals are possibly the best in the business – no denying that – but the film seemed to drag. Thing is, though, reviewing the scenes and events of the film, what on earth could Bay have cut? Yes, there were lots of comic scenes that, in theory, could be cut without losing necessities of plot, but it wouldn’t be a TRANSFORMERS movie without those comedic scenes/elements; it’s half the charm of the trilogy. So part of me wants to complain about the movies length, but in retrospect, I honestly don’t know what to cut. They could condense the plot down to the bare minimum, but it also wouldn’t be a TRANSFORMERS flick without all those obstacles Sam and the girlfriend face.

Anyway, running time aside, DARK OF THE MOON works. It nearly redeems the mistakes of REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, and it’s an absolute joyful time at the theater.Perhaps excited for his last adventure as Sam Witwicky, Shia LaBeouf is very much having a blast. He gets to make out with a Victoria Secret lingerie model, which I’m sure involves some hard acting, run fast through obliterated Chicago streets, get the crap beat out of him and dish it out as much as its thrown at him, and enjoy another verbal jest with his parents (or is it all ad-lib?). Whether he actually cares about the franchise or not, Shia has always delivered strong performances, I feel, and this is no exception. Furthermore, he is given a nice arc this time around, wanting to matter in the world again, not just be a regular Joe. After all, heReplacing Megan Fox after a heated quarrel shortly before or after the release of FALLEN where the actress was let go, Rose Huntington-Whiteley isn’t bad at all. Its obvious acting isn’t her strong suit – and indeed her beautiful British accent is heart-melting enough to nearly overshadow her flaws – but she fulfills the requirements of the role, and she does it well. Moreover, her character is stronger than Mikayela, more mature, confidant, and (occasionally) has some balls. As for the Megan Vs. Rose duel that’s been around since Whiteley’s casting, well, I guess I would favor Fox. Just got a thing for brunettes.
Patrick Dempsey stunned me with a far more complex character than I expected (though my expectations were targeting something near a MADE OF HONOR 2-quality), easily becoming one of the films acting highlights. Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson are obviously having a blast spouting off funny one-liners and shooting really big guns, and I love ‘em for it. The franchise, if it continues, won’t be the same without them…

<…nor would it be the same without Michael Bay, for that matter. His visual style, color timing, tone, and personality are all over these three films. Just imagine how utterly different the next flick would be under someone new, even if it’s Spielberg himself. Love the guy or hate him, the TRANSFORMERS trilogy is Bay’s directorial crowning achievement, I’d say (and this is without having seen THE ROCK), and it will/would be a odd experience watching TRANSFORMERS 4 without the Man Who Made it Possible. Just respect what the guy accomplished, is all.>

As for the special effects…well, what is there to say? Damn well perfect. The best of the business. Flawless. Detailed. Gorgeous. The special effects are to a point where those digital creations are no longer simply human generated Autobots or Decepticons, and the city destruction isn't manufactured from the mouse clicks of a pressed-down finger, but those Autobots and Decepticons and city destruction scenes are real and authentic feeling. It's amazing, really. The 3-D wasn’t bad, either.

[For those wondering how I’d rate the 3D flicks I’ve seen, here they be:

1. My Bloody Valentine
2. Avatar
3. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
4. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
5. The Final Destination

Bet you didn’t expect seeing a horror flick there, first (and last), eh?]
DARK OF THE MOON also features one of my favorite set pieces/scenes in any movie ever: the crumbling building scene. It’s not a spoiler, cos it’s featured in the trailer. I love, love, love, love, LOVE it when our heroes are trapped in a building that is about to go down, and Michael Bay did not disappoint at all in delivering an intense action piece. Lives are lost, crazy shit must be done to survive, and a collapsing building has never been more visually beautiful onscreen. It’s just so fun to watch the heroes figure out what to do next, and when they are sliding on the outside glass: holy freaking crap intensity, man! Basically, one of the best scenes of the series.

Maybe this being the last of the Bay TRANSFORMERS films he thought it best to go out with a bang, actor-wise, but there are so many people that make appearances that it became a fun game and surprise every time. Of course there’s Leonard Nimoy voicing Sentinel Prime, and at one point near the climax, a long-loved STAR TREK line is even freakin’ used. At the midnight theater I think only one other person laughed; it was depressing. Scott Krinsky, “Jeff” from the TV series CHUCK, shows up for one very memorable shot; mega extra Jesse Heiman (who you can also see near Jesse Eisenberg in THE SOCIAL NETWORK) walks behind Shia, looks at the camera, pauses for two seconds, and continues walking (!). It was the ultimate extra moment, man [if you want to know more, check out this brilliant video); Ken Jeong continues to seize his current famousness by showing up for a scene; and the awesome Alan Tudyk is given the opportunity to show off his unbelievable hilarious talent as John Turturro's bodyguard. Seeing who was in the movie was almost as fun as the film itself!

All in all, DARK OF THE MOON was a fun experience. Epic in scope, a lot happens in those 155 minutes which you’ll either be completely engaged in or a tad bit bored. This is the end of the world, giant robots style, and Sam Witwicky is the only one who has the balls to stop it. Next to Lennox, of course. The TRANSFORMERS films don’t desire the spite they’re given, and Bay deserves kudos for how far he pushes the envelope with action pieces and really freaking awesome cinematography. If this is the last of Bay and Shia, adios, sirs, you did great. Thanks for giving us three memorable action-packed movies that made me go “wow” again. Good luck on your next projects

For those few still deciding whether or not to see DARK OF THE MOON still, I say take the plunge. It’ll be worth it.

Rating: 9/10 = Redeems REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, and is a kickass, adrenaline-filled experience that will not disappoint.


Anonymous said...

It’s an improvement over the second one, which isn’t saying much, but still is a very fun blockbuster filled with action, destruction, romance, robots, and Michael Bay once again letting loose on all the special effects and action there is to let loose. Good Review!

Alan said...

I'm in agreement with dtmmr for the most part. I kinda sorta missed the frontal slo-mo shots of Megan Fox running, but otherwise I enjoyed this, too.

Castor said...

Refreshing to actually see someone rave about a Transformers movie. All the negativity is tiring! I won't see this in theater but I look forward to it in DVD

Time Lord said...

Castor - Yeah, I don't get the overwhelming negativity, either. Not a single review can be published without seemingly ripping apart Michael Bay for being a hack or something. It's kind of frustrating. So I hope I was diverse enough with my pros and cons and wasn't repetitious.

Though, I think DARK OF THE MOON should be viewed in theaters, mate. City destruction on the big screen ain't something that can easily be replicated on the tele. Maybe a uber-cheap matinee?

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