Saturday, July 2, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

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


BRENT said...

Totally agree with you as it as that feeling of watching the same movie part 3 doesn't it?!
I'm am neutral on this as it wasn't the torture of the second one and yet nothing special either. I found the script mediocre and don't get me started on some of the acting and dialogue!
I will agree with you again because Brit Miss Whitely is streets ahead of the awful Megan Fox!

Franco Macabro said...

BRENT, all I kept thinking was that Rosie Huntington was like a younger hotter looking Angelina Jolie, I can bet she'll be appearing in movies for a while, but of course, she still has to prove her acting abilities, she didnt do much acting on this one, on this one she functioned more as window dressing, nice to look at, but ultimately did nothing in terms of acting, which is also typical of a female in a Michael Bay film.

Thanks for commenting BRENT!

Manuel Marrero said...

Never did like these movies...I think i'll stick to the cartoons better. Plus I cant stand Shia La butt- face.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, the cartoons suck just as much, I had a chance to see the animated film Transformers The Movie, what a stinker!

Anonymous said...

This movie was a cluster fuck of cg visuals , same recycled action scenes from the last two, example how many times can you see a tramsformer jump in the air and shoot at a bad guy come on! Acting in this movie is at exciting as watching a toaster oven toasting bread I feel bad for john malcovich drowning his career in this shit this movie deserves a 1 out of 5,

Unknown said...

Actually, I really like the animated TRANSFORMERS film but it's probably more from a nostalgic point of view as I have fond memories of seeing it when it first came out in theaters and being absolutely traumatized when all my fave Transformers were killed off in the the first 10-15 minutes! I dunno, I still prefer it over any of the Michael Bay abominations.

LLJ said...

The Transformers Animated Movie probably is a pretty bad movie by itself, as it depends on prior fan knowledge of the TV series and objectively it is, in fact, a giant animated toy commercial.

That said, there are scenes in it that are technically quite impressive. The amount of detail involved in animating Unicron's various destructive escapades, as well as his final transformation, display considerably animation expertise, as well as being just, well, pretty kick-ass looking.

It's also a robot fetishist's dream come true. There are big robots, small robots, combining robots, planet sized robots, fembots, humans in robot's really got all the bases covered. One might say it is the definitive robot movie if robots are your fetish.

So yeah, I think the animated movie still has relevance.

Franco Macabro said...

@Anonymous:Agree about the repetitiveness of the imagery, for example, why do the transformers always have to fight in the middle of the city? I would have staged the final confrontation in space, which would have at least offered up something different visually speaking. I just cant see myself giving it a 1, there is a lot of artistry involved in making a film like this, some of the fx sequence where very well achieved and it did manage to entertain me, so it gets points for all these things. But a perfect film it aint I'll tell you that!

J.D.: But see, you like it for nostalgic reasons, I re-watched it as an adult and found it atrocious, but I did see where a lot of the ideas for Michael Bay movies came from.

LLJ: I hear ya LLJ, I do remember some moments being impressive, mainly the death of so many of the Autobots, but to me the animation wasnt all that impressive, neither was the story or the dialog...or anything. It just didnt do it for me at all, maybe when I was a kid, but not anymore.

To be honest, I enjoyed the G.I. Joe Animated film (G.I. Joe: The Movie) a whole lot more. I thought the animation was way better on that one. At least I remember it being better. Even the story was better.

Thanks to everyone for commenting.

LLJ said...

Well, the G.I. Joe animated movie kinda loses marks in my book for shunting Cobra Commander off the franchise. I mean, he was one of the main reasons why the TV show was so entertaining!

All that said, Transformers the Animated Movie really does have some nice animation. When you're in the mood, check out the sequence when Unicron is transforming. Keep an eye out for the all the little transformers scurrying about onscreen while he's transforming. The attention to detail during this sequence is quite impressive to behold.

There are also various scenes featuring transformers and other scrap parts being thrown about in various spatial areas...almost every nut and bolt was drawn in and animated in many of those sequences. I really think this film is underrated in terms of animated details. I would even go as far as saying that in terms of animating pure destruction, Transformers was one of the best until Akira came along. Even Nausicaa, Galaxy Express 999 and many notable anime from the same decade-ish didn't feature destruction scenes as elaborate or as detailed as Transformers the animated movie. It may be a brain dead film, but it makes some beautifully destroyed scrap metal at times.

Franco Macabro said...

The shunned Cobra Commander but brought in a whole new villain, and the Cobra La! That Cobra La storyline took the series in a whole new level, I remember loving it. They had bio weapons, I remember everything being organic.

I'll give Transformers The Movie a watch again some time, I'll keep an eye out for that sequence.

You know LLJ, Im a huge fan of good animation, so when it comes to setting standards for what is good or not, I set the bar pretty high. I remember the Transformers Animated movie dissapointing me in this area. It was slightly superior to the Saturday Morning Cartoon, but not all that much.

I do remember the animation in the G.I. Joe movie being better. Now I need to check out that G.I. Joe movie, I havent seen it in ages!

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Films like "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" provide movie-goers with two vitally important commoditys, namely: getting their moneys worth, and giving them two and-a-half hours of truly breathtaking entertain-girl-t. A raucaus, rollicking, riotous good time and a visual roller-coaster of cinematic magnificence of the highest calibre and quality. These kinds of movies represent what cinema at its very best should be all about, thats why i dont understand it when people say bad things about them.

Mr. Fiendish said...

I didn't like the two previous movies, so I doubt I'll go see it since I'm sure I'll hate it as well

Unknown said...

Yeah, I'm with LLJ on the merits of the TRANSFORMERS animated film. The animation at certain points is quite impressive. Plus, the film gets points for using a Weird Al song! heh.

I also agree with LLJ on the GI JOE animated film:

"Well, the G.I. Joe animated movie kinda loses marks in my book for shunting Cobra Commander off the franchise. I mean, he was one of the main reasons why the TV show was so entertaining!"

Amen, my brother! Didn't like or care for the new Cobra baddie. But it is still waaaay better than that live action atrocity even if they did Joseph Gordon-Levitt to play Cobra Commander!

Franco Macabro said...

Whoa, looks like we got a lot of fans of Transformers: The Movie out there!

Unknown said...

Yeah, you opened a can of worms on that one! ; )

Anonymous said...

get a life people!!! the REAL world needs you!!

Anonymous said...

I totally fucking hate fucking Hollywood, Their bloodsucking companies, and the mediocre directors, writers and actors who lend themselves for this type of forgetable,disposable, nausea inducing experience. These minor productions, i say minor beacuse i will not say "mega" to describe these "so called" films, as they require absolutely no type of creative effort and just follow some corporate formula for "succes". Something along the lines of market research+advertising+visual efects+female explotation= a lot of money. This is a typical capitalist, neo liberal, brain washing un-watchable poor excuse for a film.

judging this film on script, acting or directing criteria is useless. This is total garbage, and is a insult to any true hardcore Transformers fan.

"film" events like these, make one question the true nature of free will, i bet you all knew what you were gonna get before you wasted youre hard earned cash on pop corn and a soda and you just HAD to see this, just so you can make this sorry excuse for a film review.

Franco Macabro said...

Hey Anonymous, you might not have liked this film (or my review for it) and thats fine because we are all entitled to our opinions in this world, but if your going to voice your opinions I'd appreciate it if you do so with some respect, otherwise I'll simply delete your comments.

As for Dark of the Moon, it's no secret that this is a commercial film, obviously they are aiming to please the masses, and obviously they are following a formula to make their money back. What were you expecting?

I do think their is lots of energy and creativity involved in making a film like this one. I mean, the special effects are astounding in some sequences, especially the scene where the building is topling down. And the action sequences are very entertaining, which is what Bay is good at.

But I guess you dont know anything about that, since you consider this film so bad you probably havent even seen it, in which case you cannot have an opinion of it.

I knew exactly what I was going to get when I paid my hard earned cash to go see this, and its exactly what I got, and actually, a bit more since I didnt find this one to be a total dissapointment. It was a fun film, and I think there is space for mindless summer movies out there, for those who enjoy that sort of thing. Like myself.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely awful film and why do we have to have a super model who can't act in the film. She just gave me and probably most of the female population the right 'ump.

Franco Macabro said...

Agree, it aint a masterpiece, but it had it's moments in terms of action and effects. Mrs. Rosey looks great though, which Im sure was the reason she was chosen. I mean, it's the reason any girl is chosen on a Michael Bay film.


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