Thursday, June 30, 2011

POPped Review: 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon'

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is exactly what you expect it be.  Giant robots and lots of explosions.  I know that many people are going to throw things at me for this, but I loved it.  Dark of the Moon is Michael Bay taking his style of directing in to over drive and makes no apologies for it.  

Before you get all crazy about the movie not being realistic, remember what a friend of mine said about it.  These are movies based on cartoons based on toys.  Realism doesn't belong in this discussion.

The movie opens with a great use of historical footage to explain the true reason for the space race between the United States and Russia.  Something crashed on to the moon and each country wants it.  So in a very elaborate cover-up, the moon landing had other things to accomplish besides gathering moon rocks.  It's here that we find out that certain officials have known about the Autobots and Decepticons for a long time.  They just never understood what it all was about.

From here we get a very Michael Bay introduction of Sam's new girlfriend Carly (played by the incredibly charming Rose Huntington-Whitleley).  It turns out that Sam is jobless and feels that what he has done for not only the country - but the world - should have come with a good career as well.  

After a series of interviews Sam does end up working in a company run by the over-the-top John Malkovich.  Since Sam is our main character, it turns out that he is right in the thick of a Decepticon plan to use Earth to bring Cybertron back to life.  It also turns out that the Decepticons have been using certain humans to help put this plan in to action for many years.  (I'll touch more on that later.)

This is when the action in the movie ramps up and only gives you a few moments to catch your breath.  

The action sequences in Dark of the Moon are some of the best that Michael Bay has ever done.  One of the complaints that a lot of people had about the action in the first two movies what that it was hard to tell who was fighting who.  To fix this issue many of the fights are done using slow motion.  By doing this there is a brutality that we have not seen in the other movies.  Sure, they're fake robots, but the close combat with each other is almost gladiator like.

The other technical achievement in this movie - and I can't believe I'm saying it - is the 3D.  In my opinion this really is the best use of live action 3D since Avatar.  Transformers is the type of movie that benefits from it.  The detail on the Transformers pops out and looks amazing.  

Photo credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures Wingsuit flyers in TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON, from Paramount Pictures. © 2011 Paramount Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Hasbro, TRANSFORMERS and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro. © 2011 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved.
The sequence that deserves a cinematography award is the flight suit sequence.  Yes, there are some brief moments where CGI is used, but the live action shots of these guys hurtling between, and around, buildings in Chicago is just amazing to watch. (Jump here to see how it was done.)  

I can not recommend enough that you see this movie in 3D.  

Don't think that I thought every moment of this movie was great.  Oh no.  There are some bad moments as well.  Let's start off with the character of Carly.  This is not going to be a bash the actress session.  Quite the contrary.  I actually enjoyed her performance in the movie.  It's a shame that her character was based just on being hot.  That's all anyone says about her in the movie.  We're supposed to believe that she is a great curator and assistant, but we never get to see that side of Carly in the business world.  It would have been nice to have this new female lead be capable of picking up a weapon and taking charge, while still running in slow motion for Bay. 

Something else that kind of fell flat was the idea that some humans had been planning the take over of Earth with the Decepticons for decades.  I can see what they were going for, but it just didn't flow right.  Especially seeing how very easily the Decepticons kill off humans - which I was amazed to see them do - once they start invading.  Even if a human was trying to help them, why wouldn't they kill them off just as easily once they have what they need?  

Another minus for the movie is trying to fit in way too many characters.  While they play important roles initially, they end up just being being around.  The first example of this is John Malkovich.  His role of Sam's boss is important as the plot is being established.  He then shows up a few scenes later and it doesn't make a whole lot of sense what they end up turning his character in to.  He does have a purpose, but he also just turns in to something weird.  

Plus, can we just leave out Sam's parents already?  There really was no reason for them to be in this movie at all.  There is a moment in the middle of the movie, as all the chaos is beginning to erupt, that they have a family meeting.  It made no sense at all and really slowed down the movie during this point.  

There is a great cameo in the movie by someone who isn't an actor that tries to bridge the gap between real history and the version of history in the movie.  That is played off really well.

One character I wish they did use more of was played by Alan Tudyk.  As a driver/bodyguard/assistant/hacker, he steals every scene that he is in.        

I do have to admit that there were a couple of moments in the movie where I did geek out a bit.  First, hearing Frank Welker's voice come out of Shockwave was awesome.  Then seeing Optimus Prime roll up finally having his trailer attached.  Those moments were pretty sweet.

As I said at the beginning, realism doesn't belong in this discussion.  

So what did I think overall?  Transformers: Dark of the Moon is one of the best action movies Michael Bay has ever directed.  It's fun, it's exciting, and a technical marvel.  Don't go in to this movie expecting a deep sub-plot about facing our own humanity in the face of unspeakable acts.  No.  This about us fighting back against giant robot aliens.  And maybe doing it with our hot girlfriend by our side.  In slow motion.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is rated PG-13 and is in theatres now.

What say you?

POPped by
Jungle Jesse

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