…Or, Transforming a Franchise that Sucks into Something Moderately Tolerable
Do any of you remember a couple weeks ago when I reviewed Super 8 and said the train explosion was so big it would have embarrassed Micheal Bey? I rescind that statement. There isn’t an explosion big enough for Micheal Bey. If he could figure out a way to have an explosion explode he would. I am totally convinced that if he weren’t a movie director he would be a serial arsonist.
Before I get into this review, let me reiterate this point. In Transformers Dark of the Moon EVERYTHING blows up. A snake like Decepticon punches through a corrugated steel warehouse wall. The wall blows up. An Autobot punches a concrete wall. The concrete blows up. A ship filled with giant robots who have no need whatsoever for any kind of atmosphere crashes on the airless moon and in spite of the fact that there is no oxygen present and never will be still manages to blow up in flames. In the world in Micheal Beys head everything is made of plastique, TNT, and nitroglycerin.
Anyway, the movie. Was it better than Revenge of the Fallen? Yes, but that is like asking if losing one testicle in a tragic lawn mower accident is better than two. Better does not equal good. Is it exciting and fun? Yeah, kinda. Are there any problems? Oh, yeah.
The major problem the movie suffers from is the same problem the other two suffer from: too much of the humans and not enough of the Transformers. In my mind the scenes with humans are like the “acting” scenes that clutters up otherwise perfectly good porn. You are there for one thing. I liken the scenes like Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) getting bitched out by his parents for not having a job to the scene expositions you get in video games while the next stage is loading. It can be good if you are into the story, but if not it’s a great chance to use the restroom, get a snack, and return some phone calls. This movie actually has a little more Autobot character development, but like another 30 minutes of goofy Sam-trying-to-make-his-way-in-the-world crap.
Speaking of annoying humans, Megan Fox completely flushed her own career by bitching out Michael Bey and has been replaced by the slightly less hot (I really do like brunettes) but less slutty Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who plays Sam’s love interest. It first I thought she was a slightly better actor, but then I realized I was being sucked in by her English accent. The sad fact that anyone with an English non-Cockney accent always sounds better in movies than an American. As the movie progressed I thought she might actually be another human form Transformer like in the last movie as she had a really robotic delivery. Also, her character and motivations to do anything (especially date a whiny loser like Sam Witwicky) are horribly two dimensional, and Micheal Bey might as well be shooting porn with the inventive ways he finds to linger on her body in every scene. I will be the first to admit a little eye candy can add a lot to a movie, but it seems pretty obvious to me that if Micheal Bey were not a movie director or serial arsonist he would be a stalker with a laundry list of restraining orders against him.
Anyway, the story, for lack of a better term. I won’t throw in too many spoilers, but this plot (ah ha ha ha) is so dumb you won’t miss much. Autobots have joined the CIA and are doing covert missions for the USA, or as covert as a 100 foot robot painted bright yellow or red can be. Sam has graduated college and is such a spazmo he can’t find a job (here’s a tip, kids. If you are going to a job interview with a major corporation wearing jeans and a sports coat is a bad idea, even when the job market was good). Somehow he has the hottest girl on the planet in love with him who not only gives him sex but pays all his bills. Over the last couple years of collage he did a transformation of his own, from a kind of cool kid with a cool car into a uptight, whiny bitch with a self important attitude and a tendency to occasionally turn into a loud mouth jerk who thinks yelling will do more than calling ahead. He discovers that the only job an Ivy League graduate can get is in the mail room of an accounting firm (I guess he should have done more internships) in the worst go nowhere sub plot in cinima history. In the second worst go nowhere sub plot in cinema history a fellow coworker (Ken Jeong, Mr. Chow from The Hangover) stalks him and passes on some crotch notes (no joke) about humans being killed all over the world in a homophobic scene that just drags on forever. Anyway, turns out an Autobot ship crashed on the moon and the government knew about it all along. They go to the moon and find Sentinel Prime (voiced by the great Leanard Nimoy. Spock image courtesy of the Star Trek T Shirts category), Optimus’s predecessor. Robot battle hijinks ensues. Most of the world blows up. Sam’s super hot girlfriend manages to avoid the advances of her boss after he gives her a $200,000 car (isn’t love grand?). Between the Autobots, Decepticons, and human military about 14 of the all time worst battle plans are devised.
The stars. Transformers. One star. Leonard Nimoy as Sentinel Prime. One star. Lots of action (the final battle seems to go for like an hour). Two stars. The action is generally great. Two stars. Great special effects and CGI. Two stars. Super hot girl on screen. One star. Alan Tudyk (Wash from Firefly) as Dutch. One star. Megatron comes back from the dead a third time, looking cooler than ever. One star. Two of my favorite Transformers, Shockwave and Soundwave, show up, although only Shockwave gets what I consider a fair treatment. One star. As worthless as his sub plot was, I always enjoy seeing John Malcovich. One star. They didn’t pull back on the killing Transformers (or, for that matter, civilian humans) although as per usual none of the main good guys died. One star. One decent plot twist. One star. Buzz Aldrin makes a cameo. One star. Total: 16 stars.
Now the black holes. Agent Simmons is back, and twice as annoying as he ever was before. One black hole. A whole slew of unnecessary and ultimately worthless sub plots and minor characters. One black hole. I will award one black hole for every ten minutes I feel the audience was subjected to of worthless human interaction (cough cough filler cough cough). Three black holes. Alan Tudyks fake German accent and dialog made me want to stuff Junior Mints into my ears until I could either hear nothing or suffered a debilitating brain aneurysm. He really isn’t great as a straight man. One black hole. More small (even smaller) really annoying comic relief Autobots who may or may not be based on racist stereotypes. Two black holes (one each). As much as I love explosions, I have to award a hole for overuse of pyrotechnics (you know, there are some circumstances where a robot can punch something and not have it blow up). One black hole. Optimus Prime is less the wise sage and more the bloodthirsty jingoist, and at one point has a little hissy fit and sulks. One black hole. Plot holes you could transport Cybertron through (wouldn’t transporting another planet into orbit around our planet more or less destroy both planets? Why say the Autobots have no way of getting off the planet when just a few minutes ago they flew one of their own ships to the moon and found an even bigger ship? If the Decepticons have been working with humans secretly for decades why did they do nothing to help Megatron the last two times he tried to take over the planet and kill the Autobots? Could they really anticipate him coming back to life three times? If every Autobot is equipped with super advanced rockets and can assault with speed why do they need a human team to sneak in and shoot the big bad thing with a lame human rocket launcher? The list goes on). One black hole. They did that thing that annoyed me so much in Battle: LA where the aliens (or in this case, robots) are unstoppable killing machines at the start but by the end of the film are getting knocked over by human spitballs and bad breath (seriously, a few special forces guys were killing them off left and right. If their plan was to conquer the planet it would seem a well equipped army could really put a hurt in their plans. Also, why is it they can shoot down aircraft with practiced ease but are unable to do anything about a few Tomahawk missiles?). One black hole. If there is one the we all learned from 9/11 it’s that buildings with breaks in the middle have little to no structural stability whatsoever. Apparently Michael Bey and all of his writers have no idea how architecture works. One black hole. There is a decided lack of concern for Sam or his girlfriend, as it is painfully obvious that nothing bad is really going to ever happen to them. This sort of action-without-consequences writing really robs the action of any of it’s punch. I would be more excited by a less epic building collapse if I believed that there was a chance someone important or that I had identified with could die. One black hole. Total: 14 black holes.
In the irksome-but-not-black-hole-worth category I have quite a few. The main one has to do with the treatment of the Decepticon characters. One of the great things about the Transformers cartoon was it really was about the Transformers, not the Autobots with the Decepticons as only their enemies. I mean, each of the Decepticons had a distinct personality that was presented almost as much as the Autobots. Megatron as the ruthless general, Starscream as the cowardly and treacherous second-in-command, Soundwave as the loyal and worthwhile minion, etc. In the movie not only is there no attempt to present any of the Decepticons as more than just spear carriers, they all even look exactly the same (silver and spikes are in this season) and are portrayed as growling, animalistic primitives. Second, there was a pretty serious death that was never even mentioned by the good guys. In fact, there was a scene that could have really impacted the audience and eliminated a lot of the action-without-consequences issues had Michale Bey had the balls to shock the audience, but he wimped out. I’m trying to stay done bitching about 3D, but the 3D effects in this movie did not really add a lot IMO. The sound track was pretty amateurish, with all the subtlety of a frying pan to the face. Also, I should have given them a black hole for stupid title of the movie. Dark of the Moon? What the hell does that mean? It’s not even acceptable grammar. I guess they couldn’t call it Dark Side of the Moon without running into Pink Floyd, but if they had all it would have taken was a little money paid to the band. Might have even helped solved some of the soundtrack issues. Also, what is the deal with Transformers aging? Do they really grow crusty beards and wrinkles as they age or were some of them built looking twice as old as the rest of them? Finally, when did Sam’s chihuahua turn in to a St. Bernard? I guess since his character had turned into such a girly man they felt he needed a more manly pet. Either that or Michael Bey thinks we are all idiots.
So, a grand total of two stars. At least they stayed positive. Will you enjoy it when you see it? Yes, probably. The more you can turn off your thinking brain and just use the stem the more you will like it. See it in 3D on the biggest screen you can find. I just don’t see this thing doing much in repeat business. By the way, there is supposed to be something after the credits, but after 157 minutes of mass explosions I had reached my sensory saturation point and bailed. I’ll YouTube it in a month.