Friday, July 1, 2011
Transformers: Dark of the Moon: 6/10
The "D" in the report card full of "F"s
1 July 2011
We are now up to the third installment of the action-packed franchise. Is this Transformers also stupid? Yes. Does it still have stupid characters doing idiotic things? Yes. Does it still have Optimus Prime disappearing throughout most the film and still not being quite as bad-arse as his cartoon 80s days? Yes. Is Michael Bay still dropping the ball as director? Yes. Does the franchise still not know how to have a decent ending? Yes. And finally, does it still have this overgrossing obsession about the military? Yes. Despite all this, we have clearly found our best entry in the trilogy, as Dark of the Moon mixes the humor and heart of the first, with the utter carnage of the second, while jacking up the ante in terms of conflict and suspense. That being said, it is freakin’ frustrating to watch sometimes.
With Dark of the Moon, we follow Sam with a new girlfriend but no job and a frustration of now advancing far in life despite saving the world….twice. In the meantime, the Autobots and the Decepticons race to discover the secrets of a spacecraft that had crashed on the moon many decades ago. This discovery will lead to the most haunting conflicts in the franchise as well as a multitude of surprises and twists and turns. Unlike the first two scripts, which didn’t really pack anything juicy other than action scenes, Ehren Kruger’s script actually does a great job fixing the Megan Fox dilemma while adding a dosage of much-needed heart with a much more likable cast of characters and less of the embarrassing stereotypes that we had to suffer through in Revenge of the Fallen. The stakes are much higher and the film never really drags along with unnecessary scenes. That final battle did take a while though….
The special effects have always propelled this franchise during the dullest of moments, and they shine once again with Dark of the Moon. If this doesn’t get at least an Academy Award nomination, I will be extremely disappointing. Action junkies, you will definitely get your money’s worth as a major city becomes a massive battlefield full of nasty destruction and pure mayhem everywhere. In the meantime the Transformer fights, while (once again) minimal, deliver in the visual department. That being said, it was odd to change the blood of the robots from a dark color in the second to a clear red. Not quite sure what they were trying to pull off there. That little note can be pushed aside as we see a gigantic building get torn in half literally and fall on top of another building.
The cast in the third was the strongest, and it’s mostly because of the small roles. While Shia LaBeouf actually disappointed a bit, the Megan Fox replacement (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) didn’t do half-bad with the minimal material she was given. In the meantime, check out the talent in the small roles department: John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Ken Jeong, Leonard Nimoy, John Turturro, Patrick Dempsey (okay, so the last one might be pushing it, but he did well. Honest..even though his character was indeed stupid). Of course, the parents once again weren’t in the movie enough (Kevin Dunn, Julie White) and pretty much disappear way before the climax.
Here is where the ball is dropped: Transformers 3 is a pretty stupid movie. There is some heart, some soul maybe, but no smarts. Without spoiling too much, some of our characters (heroes and even villains) just make some dumbfounded moves and utterly questionable decisions that defy logic. And then, Michael Bay, once again, falters as a director. He does indeed have a knack for explosions and military-based scenes, but the robots fighting each other (yet again) are sometimes hard to distinguish. And then he does some very questionable things lake fading the screen to black far too many times (in one instance three times in a small scene that wasn’t even necessary). I miss 90s Michael Bay, when he kept the action close and crisp, but never too close to a point of getting a headache. He got the carnage and destruction scenes right, but once the action picks up amongst those robots, it becomes a frustrating game of Where’s Waldo.
Bottom Line: Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the best of the three films, but that’s still not saying too much as the direction is still shoddy, I still don’t care about Shia LeBeouf’s character, there is plenty of stupidity sprinkled throughout, and it still just doesn’t have the quality factor of the better summer blockbusters we’ve seen over the decades. While the casting, writing, and special effects improved, we are still treated to strong potential not being met. The main villains (and coolest robots) are still idiotic and reduced to cameos, as Optimus Prime once again does his I-am-going-to-disappear-for-a-while-and-then-re-appear-later-to-kick-some-arse-once-the-chips-are-down routine. If you are a Transformer fan, you will probably appreciate this much more, as the transformers (while some reduced to cameos) visually look amazing, and the chaos they create is incredible on the big screen. But if you are looking for quality, you may want to peek elsewhere. For some mindless fun, look no further.
And be happy that this is far better than Revenge of the Fallen.