TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON
***1/2 (out of 5)
June 29, 2011
Shia LaBeouf as SAM WITWICKY
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as CARLY
Josh Duhamel as LENNOX
John Turturro as SIMMONS
Tyrese Gibson as EPPS
Patrick Dempsey as DYLAN
Frances McDormand as MEARING
John Malkovich as BRUCE BRAZOS
Directed by: Michael Bay
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
It seems that the summer of 2011 is not going to be remembered (so far, at least) as a banner summer for through-provoking and touching films. The Pixar film won’t make you cry, and I don’t see a movie like “Inception” coming down the pike to thoroughly confuse the short-attention-span creatures in the cineplex.
Still, I’ve had a pretty fun summer in the movie theater so far. There hasn’t been anything brilliant or groundbreaking, but with a steady stream of enjoyable event movies like “Thor,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” “X-Men: First Class,” “Super 8,” “Cars 2” and even “Green Lantern,” it’s good for someone who likes popcorn as much as I do.
Since I have given favorable reviews to all the aforementioned films, I’d be a hell of a hypocrite if I trashed “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”
Does this mean it’s a perfect film? Far from it. But does it mean that you’re likely to enjoy yourself in the theater for this one? Absolutely.
I could chew through the plot at this point, but really who cares? Let’s just say that this installment is better than that of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” and it makes more sense. Though it is, as you might expect, completely void of any coherency or organic flow. That’s Michael Bay unleashed for you. The man has pretty much abandoned any sort of character presentation in lieu of flashy, nausea-inducing introductions of characters via sound bytes.
Even though it feels like Michael Bay takes himself way too seriously in almost anything he does, the overall feel of this movie was more lighthearted and fun than the previous one. I got the sense with “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” that Bay thought he was making a form of cinematic genius. And as silly and stupid as some of that film was, it seemed deadly serious in its silliness and stupidity.
However, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” felt like the party that everyone in Hollywood wanted to get into. Spielberg was more involved. James Cameron showed up with his entourage to help with the 3D. The cameos got bigger than cameos, with respectable actors like Frances McDormand and John Malkovich joining in and looking like they had a blast filming. Even smarmy TV star Patrick Dempsey looked positively giddy at a chance to be in the film.
Sadly, the most developed characters are the ones from the previous films. And even then, leading man Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is really pretty pointless. Perhaps this is why the supporting cast works so well. They’re gags and one-note jokes. Taken as punctuation between action sequences, they all work.
The foil for Sam is Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), who has made the most news by replacing Mikaela (Megan Fox). She has the easiest job in the whole thing because when she shows up with her British accent, sounding all smart-like, it can’t help but be an improvement over Fox’s stink-face delivery and grating voice.
And as much as Bay molests the sports cars and robots with his eyes, he does it ten times as much for Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (probably because he’s aiming to get into – or already is in – her pants off camera). Yes, she’s easy on the eyes. Yes, she’s better than Megan Fox. Yes, she can manage to sort of, kind of act. Yes, her opening scene is awesome because it features her panties-clad caboose in the audience’s face in glorious 3D. But she’s as forgettable as Sam is in the story, probably as forgettable as she will be when she hits 30 and begins the losing battle of natural aging versus cosmetic surgery.
There are plenty of awkward moments in the film. The acting isn’t great, and the dialogue is only slightly better than that in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” The movie runs a bloated 154 minutes (which can approach three hours in the theater, if you account for trailers), and there’s no excuse for this. But even with all the extra, unnecessary scenes in the first two-thirds, the pacing is choppy and erratic.
Still, no one is seeing this movie for those reasons. They’re seeing this movie to watch robots blow shit up.
And this is what Bay does best. There are robots. Lots of robots. And things get blowed up. Lots of things. In fact, the last 45 minutes of the film is a breakneck action sequence that spans the entirety of downtown Chicago and features some of the best battle moments I’ve seen in a “Transformers” flick.
Then there’s the 3D. Ninety-five percent of this is awesome. Bay, who has been a visual director his entire career, delivers some of the best 3D moments since “Avatar.” And his eye for composition adds some real depth to the 3D scenes. Unlike some post-converted clunkers, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” isn’t going to make you regret paying the premium 3D ticket price.
With that said, there are a handful of 3D shots that look terrible. Some are post-converted stock footage. Others get muddled with the ever-present Michael Bay reflective surfaces. These shots wouldn’t be noticeable in something like “The Green Hornet” or “Clash of the Titans.” But when you make your 3D as good as it is in this film, the flaws are that much more apparent.
But in the end, if you want spectacle, and a great popcorn movie, you’ll get it with “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” If you were expecting anything else… well, you’re an idiot.
You have to understand that Michael Bay treats his movies like a scientific equation. Insane action + hot chicks + nostalgic property + loud noises + lots of explosions = Michael Bay summer movie.
He does nothing worse in this film than he did in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” and in many ways, he improves upon by simply leaving the more offending elements out. In response, let me offer this equation to quantify “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”… No Megan Fox + no racist autobots + no pot brownies + no dangling steel testicles = better movie all around.