Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Directed by: Michael Bay
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, Patrick Dempsey, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Ken Jeong
Running Time: 2 hrs 40 mins
Release Date: June 29, 2011
PLOT: The Autobots discover there is a spacecraft from their home planet located on our moon. They go after it to keep it out of the Decepticons reach. Meanwhile, Sam (LaBeauof) is trying to get a job.
WHO’S IT FOR? The action sequences are better. If that’s enough for you, I understand. Director Michael Bay still expects you to care way too much for these characters. If you haven’t seen the first two, don’t start here. The first one is still better.
EXPECTATIONS: Before Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was released, Depp apologized for the sequels and said this time they got it right. Bay said the same thing referring to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen before this one. Let’s just say I was skeptical, although adding Malkovich and McDormand does help. You know what doesn’t help? The two hour and 40 minute running time.
Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky: Man, he’s working hard. Sam now finds himself pounding the pavement, looking for work. He’s helped save the world twice, met the president, but still no respect. Well, I shouldn’t say no respect. He landed his new supermodel, er, I mean girlfriend named Carly. Apparently, Mikaela (Megan Fox) broke his heart. Sam’s passion for wanting more out of life than a desk job is apparent, and seems to take up most of the first half of the film. While LaBeouf does a good job with this, it seems to be unnecessary for the film. We get it, you saved the world now want to keep doing cool stuff. What’s odd is his rage issues. Clearly Sam flips out when he meets Carly’s boss Dylan (Patrick Dempsey). He’s perfect and a potential rival. He flips out again when the military won’t let him visit the Autobots. Again, it’s a lot of effort on LaBeouf’s part. He works hard. That’s the best thing you can say about this performance.
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Carly: Hello, Huntington-Whiteley. I get it. You’re eye candy. Bay’s first shot of her is of the ass. It’s her best quality. Carly was a diplomat, now a glorified personal assistant and has an amazing New York City loft. I get why Sam would drool over Carly. I have no clue why he would love her. She does manage to have a chat with Megatron, so you can look forward to that.
John Malkovich as Bruce Brazos: More please. Malkovich plays Sam’s eccentric boss. How do I know Bruce is eccentric? Because he does karate and is played by Malkovich. He’s never really explained beyond that, and he also disappears less than halfway through the film. It’s really too bad. This would have been my vote for the one and only comic relief.
Peter Cullen (voice) as Optimus Prime: I still love the voice, and apparently Opitmus Prime loves humans. He especially likes good humans who fight for justice, truth and the America way. Those are his favorite. The film starts with Optimus doing what he does best, narrating. He explains the war on Cybertron and how the Autobots almost had the perfect weapon. Now Autobots are peacekeepers. They don’t seem to be looking too hard for Megatron, but whatever. Once Optimus is burned in the trust department, watch out! The guy turns into a cold-blooded killer. I know it’s not the same as Papa Smurf going on a killing spree, but watching Opitums take no prisoners is kind of awkward. Others will say “it’s cool” and “I’m stupid.” Nice work others.
Rest of Cast: Leonard Nimoy (voice) is Sentinel Prime. Anything Nimoy does is enjoyable at this point, but Sentinel is a pretty basic character. He likes things the way they used to be, just like your grandpa. Josh Duhamel returns as Lennox. He serves the part of the soldier pretty well. John Turturro comes back as Simmons, but once he’s onscreen it means the departure of Malkovich, almost like they’re only allowed one crazy guy at a time. Alan Tudyk (Serenity) puts on an odd accent and tries to get laughs as Simmons’ sidekick Dutch. It did work once when he went a little crazy on the Russians. Tyrese Gibson is Epps and actually says the line, “Retirement is whack.” I feel like that’s all we need to say about Epps. It’s painful. McDormand plays Mearing, the person in charge of the National Intelligence Agency. I was hoping her inclusion would add some actual intelligence. No such luck. Kevin Dunn and Julie White are back as Ron and Judy Witwicky. In just a few minutes Judy is able to talk about her son’s penis and many other uncomfortable things meant to be jokes. They don’t work. Dear lord, I almost forgot Ken Jeong is in this film. I chuckled a few times, but not at the gay jokes. He’s the scientist who knows too much. Wow. There are way too many people in this film. Especially for the score.
TALKING: It is poor storytelling. Here’s an example of mood switch … Sam learns the fate of mankind is in trouble, then get’s stuck talking to his mom about his penis size, only for Sam to realize he loves Carly more than anything else. Yes, big leaps. Plus, the comic relief characters are all over the place. One dramatic speech, complete with slow motion, is quickly followed by a big guy (Kenneth Sheard) who “didn’t sign up for this” and is tired from the stairs.
SIGHTS: My jaw dropped once. Bumblebee has to transform, which sends Sam hurtling out of the passenger seat. Bumblebee then grabs Sam, and transformed back into a car. Beyond that, they finally figured out how to let us see the action in the Transformers movies. Bay had to slow things down. That means every kill shot, first shot, and important shot in between is slowed down to a crawl. This allows us to see the technically superior sequences. But it also means TONS of slow motion. Chicago and the destruction of the city look great. Thankfully, they keep all the action in the daylight so we can see it. There’s also a moment where LaBeouf’s stunt double jumps, slides and dives over burning cars. It’s a really cool scene, but also clearly a stunt double.
SOUNDS: Wow, in order to sell some soundtracks the movie crams in some rock ballads that are laughable moments of melodrama. In other words, they accidentally fit right in. Instead of raising the film to another level, they stand out like sore thumbs. The musical score is consistent and the classic noises of the Autobots and Decepticons are on full display. Man, I wish they didn’t try to jam U2’s “North Star” into this movie.
BEST SCENE: Since my jaw dropped, I’m going with Bumblebee transforming and holding on to Sam. I have no idea what fight sequence that was a part of, or what they were trying to save at the time. I saw this movie yesterday, that’s how much the action blends together.
ENDING: Wow, not only did a lot of things die, on a technical level it ends abruptly. I know, surprising. It seems there won’t be a new Transformers any time soon. That’s good. I feel like I need a break.
QUESTIONS: So, who knows about the aliens and the Autobots? Everyone? Only a few? I actually couldn’t tell. Also, the Autobots already had a space ship, but needed a better one? What kind of shape is Cybertron actually in? And since it’s so big, where are they going to fit it? Why did Sentinel Prime not hold on to the Matrix power source thing when he had the chance?
REWATCHABILITY: It’s two hours and 40 minutes. While I would watch this one before the second one, that’s not saying much.
It’s bloated. Most filmmaker’s truly care (I hope) about getting the “Why?” correct. Bay decides to distract instead of answer. We have an hour of supposed character development with Malkovich and Jeong involved. It goes no where important. There’s a NASA spaceship that turns out to be a waste of time. Somehow an ultimate weapon can win the war against the Decepticons, but that’s not good enough. There’s 14 comic sidekicks, instead of one good one. There are so many distractions, that this technically superior film is muted.
It actually reminded me of another part three. X-Men: The Last Stand had too many villains, a lazy love triangle, and it attempted to flip from serious to heartfelt to slapstick way too quickly. Most importantly, the core fans are going to be upset with who dies, right? Some pretty serious characters die here. X-Men also had the benefit of other good films in its franchise.
This is not simply what happens when a movie is based on a toy. Geeks of “Transformers” will tell you hundreds (OK, at least tens) of stories about Autobots and Decepticons worth sharing. But Bay can’t listen, he’s too busy trying to distract.
I’m not an old man, but my gosh these Autobots blend together. After Bumblebee and Optimus Prime they all blend together. There’s the one who dies early, the one who’s a convertible, the one with lots of guns, and the one with white hair (it’s cool, he’s the professor). I shouldn’t have this problem, but that’s what happens when a movie mashes so much together.
Gone are the racist caricatures from the sequel, and Megan Fox. But what’s not gone is the insanely long runtime. What would be wrong with a tight plot? But that’s another question, and Michael Bay probably would see the word “tight” and immediately decide we need a tighter dress on Rosie Huntington-Whiteley or a tighter shot on a detail of Optimus Prime’s wrist to show you how hard he worked.
Bay manages to showcase the awesome, but zap the cool, making Transformers: Dark of the Moon average.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10