Directed by: Michael Bay
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey, Frances McDormand, John Turturro, John Malkovich, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson
Running Time: 2 hr 37 mins
Release Date: June 29, 2011
This is a “Seen It” review. You’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. That means all plot points and spoilers are fair game and will be discussed. The only reason to read this review is if you have already watched the film, or never plan on seeing it, but for some reason, you’d like to know what TSR thought about it. We walk you through the key moments in the film, adding in our thoughts along the way. You’ve been warned.
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 (LaBeouf) is trying to get a job.
Movie: The origins of Sentinel Prime are shown with historical stock footage mixed with flashbacks of the Autobot/Decepticon civil war that happened fifty years ago.
Thoughts by TSR: Transformers: Dark of the Moon starts off on two goofy steps. First, the space dogfight that features Sentinel Prime scurrying away from some Decepticons, looks like something out of The Clone Wars – so it’s not even a good part of Star Wars. Then the audience is pushed further away by the movie’s stock footage, which is used with little smoothness. A transition between the real JFK and a fake JFK is squashed when the actor looks nothing like the actual president. It’s strange that in one instance, the size of the budget can be so obvious (that dogfight sure looks nice), but limited.
Movie: We are reunited with our hero, Sam Witwicky, and presented with his new love interest, Carly. Sam’s parents show up in a giant RV and wonder why he doesn’t have a job, etc.
Thoughts by TSR: Carly’s introduction is like a Victoria’s Secret commercial, which makes sense considering that’s how Bay films this character. It’s funny that the movie makes a few references to the disappearance of Megan Fox’s character, and that she even dumped him instead of the other way around. Y’know, it wasn’t like she called Sam “Hitler” or something. And, the brief flashback that shows how the two met is classic Witwicky, and just the beginning of the character starting to fly off the neurotic handle.
Movie: The history lesson of Transformers: Dark of the Moon takes the events to Chernobyl, where we get a bigger glimpse at a Decepticon named Laserbeak, along with a giant drill thing that destroys stuff as pioneered by Decepticon Shockwave.
Thoughts by TSR: Michael Bay likes to toy with history, for better or worse (Pearl Harbor). Somehow people aren’t insulted that this Transformers movie insinuates that the horrific events at Chernobyl happened because of a Decepticon. Turning that place into an action set seems like very poor taste, but the movie goes with it. It even premieres a new snake-drill like thing that destroys buildings without making much sense.
Movie: Meanwhile, post-grad Witwicky is trying to get a job. We witness his efforts through a high-paced, humor-lacking montage that ultimately ends with him getting a job under a character played by John Malkovich.
Thoughts by TSR: Even a guy who has saved the world twice can’t get a job. I think this is an amusing concept, and LaBeouf adds some good heart and humor to this quick montage that shows him in various interviews, trying to explain the FBI statement on his record. John Malkovich shows up and stands as the film’s most successful bizarre casting; he can play ridiculous, and he wears the bright tan surprisingly like a champ.
Movie: While Witwicky is working on getting a spot in the workforce, Buzz Aldrin makes an appearance and talks to some Transformers, Frances McDormand shows up, and Optimus revives Sentinel Prime.
Thoughts by TSR: Buzz Aldrin? What the hell is he doing here? Oh, well. Frances McDormand doesn’t belong here. I’m not sure why Michael Bay thought he had to re-cast a Coen Brothers movie (McDormand, Turturro, even Malkovich) but this is the least logical casting. She’s not comically intimidating, and holds little presence with her scowl and snotty attitude. Not a helpful contribution to the Transformers world at all.
Movie: Sam gets into his job, which features working with a guy with Decepticon connections (played by Ken Jeong). The office gets shot up Laserbeak,
Thoughts by TSR: Ken Jeong is this summer’s superstar. Count it – Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Hangover: Part II, and even Zookeeper. In this role, Jeong continues to dig himself into a hole of Asian stereotypes, playing into the same funky characteristics as his character in Hangover. Jeong’s character here calls himself “Deep Wang,” which allows for Michael Bay to air out some homophobia jokes before the movie really starts. Of course “Deep Wang” shares his secrets with Sam in a bathroom stall.
Movie: After getting some intel at a Russian bar, Sam and Bumblebee and friends are chased by some Decepticons back to their base.
Thoughts by TSR: Alright, some action. Thank Bay, I was starting to get a little bored. The slow motion looks cool here – Bay’s action can be so fast that it’s hard to get every detail, and slowing down the motion when people are flying out of the cars is a nice trick. This may not be the most exciting car chase Bay’s ever filmed (which might be in Bad Boys 2) but it gets the pulse going again. But wait a second … why does that highway sign say “Aurora”? I thought we were in “Washington D.C”?
Movie: After finding that Carly is in Gould’s captivity, Sam is forced by painful wristband to be a spy for the Decepticons. He gives an emotional goodbye to the Autobots as they are strapped to a giant rocket and sent into space, until Starscream supposedly blows them up.
Thoughts by TSR: I didn’t care too much for this scene, especially when Transformers: Dark of the Moon starts to have Armageddon flashbacks. When the Autobots get strapped to that giant rocket, it’s impossible to think that they’d really be leaving. This is just Michael Bay killing time, at the expense of millions of dollars. No one can get emotional about this moment because it’s so forced, and so random. Instead I was busy wondering whether the English-accented Transformers were meant to be some replacement to those racist Transformers from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Movie: Sam and some random armed forces guys roll into Chicago to stop Gould and his Decepticon friends from starting up that big portal thing Sentinel Prime has got all set up on the Jeweler’s Building. Sam and Bumblebee fly into Trump tower with a Decepticon ship, while armed forces drop from a plane into the Chicago skyline to ultimately land at Willis Tower.
Thoughts by TSR: Everyone, and I mean everyone probably breathed a sign of relief when this scene started. In the beginning of what would be an hour-long sequence, it felt like that not only would Chicago be the place where the world would be saved, but this movie also. No more of this running around trying to figure out what the Decepticons were trying to do, by participating in in boring scenes (the Russian bar is completely forgettable, despite the appearance of “Firefly’s” Alan Tudyk). This scene has some great visuals, like when the air force “bird-men” jump out of the helicopter and fly towards Willis Tower. Though it doesn’t seem to make much sense, it does look pretty nifty, and it’s something new. Watching robots fight each other is starting to get old at this point.
Movie: The fight against the Decepticons takes it to the next level when whole buildings are destroyed. Sam, Carly and some guys with guns find themselves in a giant modern skyscraper, and then it’s destroyed. Everyone slides down a building, because that’s the smart thing to do. “Shoot the glass!”
Thoughts by TSR: The action of Dark of the Moon is now in OVERDRIVE. It’s hurling everything it can at you, and blowing everything up in sight. No office chair or cubicle is spared especially in this scene, which is something I’d like to gawk at again for its spectacle quality alone. However stupid it may be that everyone is sliding down the building as it collapses (a stunt that was really done well in Jackie Chan’s First Strike), it’s still a complicated action moment to behold, especially when we get that huge wide shot of the building collapsing over. As someone pointed out to me, Michael Bay does have beautiful moments, they’re just seconds long. This is definitely one of them.
Movie: After everyone somehow gets off the building, Witwicky fights Gould and kills him, which stops the Portal. Meanwhile, some Decepticons are getting their eyes shot out by snipers in the Tribune tower.
Thoughts by TSR: I never cared for Patrick Dempsey as the villain, so I was fine with him being knocked out of the picture. Who thought that Dempsey could be a good villain anyway? Yes, I believed that he owned fancy cars, but as a sidekick in world destruction? Not so sure about that.
Movie: The Transformers have their big battle, leaving Optimus as the survivor. The portal is stopped, Cybertron is no longer hovering in the Chicago sky, and those stupid looking roach ships piloted by Decepticons have either crashed into my old apartment building or have left the building. Signaling the end of a Transformers movie, Linkin Park steps in with another identical credit song.
Thoughts by TSR: Remember when I was talking about the budget for this movie? This is clearly the moment where the budget ran out. Technically this could be the end of the franchise (at least for Bay and LaBeouf), but this movie doesn’t get sentimental here. F**k that, Optimus just says something like “We are going to protect humans again” and then the movie ends. Makes the ending of Toy Story 3 look like the five endings to Return of the King. Dark of the Moon is BOOM, SLAM, and then darts out the back door. Doesn’t even say thank you. Oh well, God bless America!
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is another big mess from mega director Michael Bay. Whether it’s as bad as the exquisite trash of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen remains to be found out with time, but this one shares a near equal amount of sloppiness. The script’s attempt at an “intelligent” route by referring to true history makes the Transformer back story even more bloated than it was in the franchise’s previous two films. In general, the whole movie can’t support its weight, and it becomes a boring lightshow until the action finally picks up in Chicago. Even then, it’s an overwhelming barrage, where even the most elaborate piece of action takes up three seconds of film time and is replaced by everything else being thrown at the audience.
Because I love to dive into trash, I would like to see this again. But for now, my head hurts.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10