Title: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, John Turturro, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Rosie Huntington Whiteley
Truth be told, the notion of a third Transformers film didn’t exactly excite me. The first film was an interesting trip down nostalgia lane but nothing mind blowing, the second film was sheer torture to watch, a truly horrid mess of a film with a convoluted plot and nothing new to offer visually. So when the news came that a third film began production, I expected more of the same. But I’m the kind of guy who likes to give directors second chances to improve as filmmakers or make up for previous cinematic abortions. The big question with this film for me was: would Michael Bay make the best of this opportunity to redeem himself as a filmmaker?
Michael Bay Directs
Story goes something like this: the Autobots have settled on earth. They have decided to work for the U.S. government aiding them in military operations. As a result of this, we get to see Autobots blowing up people in the Middle East and helping humans “not cause harm to themselves”. Soon, the government discovers that the Decepticons are after an old transformer that crash landed on the dark side of the moon. Its name is Sentinel Prime. This transformer is supposed to be the “Einstein” of the Transformers world. He’s invented something that could quite possibly bring forth the complete annihilation of the human race and surrender our planet to the Decepticons. Meanwhile, Sam Whitwicky is going to job interviews trying to get a regular day job so he can lead a normal life with his new and improved super hot girlfriend. Will he land a new job and manage to stop the Decepticons from taking over earth?
Something distinguishes Michael Bay ’s films. They go fast. Their pacing is frenetic, like a hyperactive child on a sugar high. He likes fast cars, fast talking characters, things blowing up and people running, and screaming…there is never a moment to just relax and kick back in a Michael Bay film. Everyone is always in a rush, even when they are not fighting giant robots, they are in a rush. So expect a film that is always running, from one scene to the next, without giving you any room to breath. I mean, even in the funny sequences, where Sam is talking with his parents, characters step on each others lines, they don’t even let other characters finish their sentences! It’s as if characters where on a race to see which one can talk faster. This has been like this since the first film, and it continues with this one, at an even more accelerated rate. So try and really listen to what characters are saying or else you’ll miss it. Dialog and exposition goes at a blink and you’ll miss it pace. Then there's the hot babes, sadly, Michael Bay still seems to think that women are only used in films as demsels in distress, because it's exactly what he has done in all of his films. On this film, Shia has a new super hot girlfriend to protect. But I will say this about Rosie Huntington Whiteley, she isnt hard on the eyes! Michael Bay really knows how to pick them! And I'm certain we'll see more of Mrs. Huntington in future films, she is after all a stunning beauty, hard to ignore by Hollywood executives. She's an upgrade from Megan Fox thats for sure!
Rosie in Deed!
The action goes at a frenetic pace as well, but thats to be expected as well. A lot happens and it happens fast! Within the first five minutes of film we go through a war in ‘Cybertron’ (the Transformers home planet) to a spaceship escaping the war and crash landing on the moon. Then we cut to the Americans sending their first manned shuttle to the moon, to them finding the alien spaceship, to the astronauts coming back to earth. I’m not kidding, this all happens in the first five minutes of film! This movie is simple in nature, but it has so many things going on, so many little distractions, so many characters, that it appears to be complex film, yet it really isn’t. At it’s core, this is your typical aliens attempting to take over earth type of film. Actually, it's a bit of an apocalyptic film, with the earth looking all barren and destroyed, humans scattering about trying to survive, not unlike a Terminator film. At one point in the film I kept thinking "so this is what a Terminator film would look like if Michael Bay took a stab at them" In terms of themes, the film touches upon Tyranny vs. Humanity, and how we shouldnt just sit back and let the greedy take over the earth.
This time around I think Bay was trying to focus more on the human side of the story, we get to see more of Sam trying to make it as an adult in the real world. It felt to me like the Transformers were secondary this time around. We don’t get to spend a lot of time with Optimus Prime (the leader of the Autobots) or even Bumble Bee, a character who ended up being an integral part of the previous two films. Bumblebee and Sam had developed a friendship over the past two films that was addressed on this one when Sam finally sees Bumble Bee and tells him “I don’t get to see you anymore”, but ultimately their friendship isnt as explored as in past films. In these films, the Transformers have never been truly developed as characters, something that is needed in a series of films where half of the characters are computer generated images. We need something to bring them to life, something like character development. But this doesn’t happen this time around either, as a result, we don’t make a connection with any of the Transformers whatsoever, they feel like what they represent, machines. In this way, the film contradicts itself because in this film the Transformers complain that they are treated as machines rather then the Gods they were on Cybertron. How can they expect to be considered more than machines when that’s all that the filmmakers let us see of them? Their machine side?
I will say this about Transformers 3, it has some show stopping action moments and really, that’s what Michael Bay is good at, action. I wonder why he hasn’t concentrated his efforts in making the quintessential good action flick instead of fooling around with toy robots. Oh yeah, the millions. I forget. But the one moment everyone will be talking about will no doubt be the scene in which the good guys are inside of a building as it is being cut in half by a giant robotic worm, you probably saw a glimpse of that scene on the trailer for the film. That scene is sheer cinematic spectacle, and I was happy to discover that the sequence is actually an extended scene, it isn’t a quicky action sequence, they really took their time with that sequence. The film still suffers from some of the same ailments that previous films suffered from: sometimes you can’t tell what the hell is happening up on screen. But I will say that thanks to the magic of slow motion, we can now appreciate things a little better. Yes my friends, the new filmmaking technique for Bay this time around is slow motion. I can hear him now: “slow things down with slow mo so they can actually see what’s happening! That’s it! By golly we’ve finally got this filmmaking thing figured out!” Story is still a big jumbled mess, with many a loophole, but they did manage to make the whole thing a bit more comprehensible than the mess that was the second film.
Bottom line? This movie is exactly what you’d expect it to be. A big budget summer spectacle. Its loud, fast, has a mega hot babe, many fast cars, lots of explosions, and lots of special effects. To top things off, this film doesn’t have one character doing comedic relief, its got about ten of them. John Malkovich, was funny on this one but I kept asking myself: “what the hell are you doing on this film?” And what about Frances McDormand? I guess you can’t blame actors for wanting to try the big budget summer movie on for size. I’m actually glad they were on this film, they make things more bearable. Malkovich had me giggling with every scene he appeared in, he had me thinking he should do more comedies. John Torturro was funny too. So we got a cast that’s beefed up by good actors, while others get lost in the shuffle. Which reminds me: what the heck happened to Sam’s parents? They appear and disappear from the film never to be seen again. And what the hell where they doing on this film anyways? They were such useless characters! Only there to offer up a couple of laughs, that’s it, like many of the characters on this film. Hell, even the Asian actor from The Hangover shows up on this one. And what’s his purpose? Comedy relief!
I guess this was supposed to be the Return of the Jedi of the Transformers franchise. By sequel laws, this one was supposed to be the biggest, the darkest, the most dramatic, and the most expensive of all the films in the series. It is a bit darker, and it’s action sequences are bigger and more complex, and truth be told, this one wasn’t as bad as the second one, but still, I couldn’t help getting that feeling that I was watching more of the same. Not a total waste of celluloid. It is what it is, a big summer blockbuster. Cant blame it for being what it's supposed to.
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5