Transformers: Dark of the Moon | Michael Bay, 2011
I still stand by my original thought that 2007’s Transformers is one of the top 100 movies of the last decade. I know you’ll probably say “watch more movies,” but I honestly believe it to be true. It was everything that I could have hoped for in a movie about giant alien robots hitting each other that’s based on a line of toys. It had great special effects, great action (that highway chase action scene is one of the best), fun human side characters, a coherent but extremely plot, Michael Bay, the perfect director to bring this to the screen, and Steven Spielberg as an executive producer. And, well, it delivered. However, as we all know, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was a huge piece of shit because it went on for two and a half hours with absolutely no plot and was filled with annoying and infantile humor. So my expectations could not have been lowered for Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I even chose to skip it in theaters. It may have been the extremely low expectations, or something, but I actually enjoyed this quite a bit.
In Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is out of college and living with his hot girlfried (Rose Huntington-Whiteley). But the thing is, he can’t find a job. He has saved the world twice and even got a medal from Obama, but he can’t find a job. Meanwhile, the autobots are in a mission in Chernobyl where they find a piece of a missing ship from Cybertron that was supposed to help the Autobots win the war. And so, they discover that the space race of the 60s was just a ploy there to get to the moon and investigate a crash that happened there before. In that ship were the remains of the transformers, including those of Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy), as well as the tools necessary to build a bridge between worlds. As expected, the Decepticons want to get their hands on this, and explosions ensue.
The first thing that stands out is the fact that the plot is once again coherent and they don’t try to pretend it’s some else than just robots hitting each other. Also, the villain, is much more menacing than in the other features, which gave the movie a much-needed darker tone. For the first time we get to see the consequences that the fight between the Autobots and the Decepticons have in the real world. We get to see people getting killed on purpose, and we even get to see that people are actually helping the Decepticons, which I did not expect at all.
Another thing that makes this an improvement over the previous movie is that the action scenes are much clearer, the clearest in Bay’s career, actually. This movie was shot in 3D, which means that to get a good 3D effect Bay had to hold his camera steady during the action, which is something that he has never done. As a result we get to finally see how great he actually is at shooting and staging action scenes. Those last 50 minutes would have been a headache had Bay shot them the way he usually does. But since he didn’t, that whole 50 minute segment is one of my favorite scenes of the year. I do wish I had gotten to see it in 3D. I bet it was quite something.
And the third thing that made me renew my faith in the franchise is that the humor is kept to a minimum and only towards the beginning of the movie. Sam’s parents only have a cameo, thank goodness. And weirdly enough, the rest of the comedic relief (the two little annoying robots, Ken Jeong, John Turturro, and Alan Tudyk) actually do things that are relevant to the plot. The only actor that’s there for the sole purpose of comedy relief if John Malkovich as Sam’s boss. It’s a very small role, but I actually felt bad for him.
Everything else is good, as expected. The returning cast (LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Turturro, etc) do their best with the thinly written characters. Alan Tudyk and Frances McDormand are actually good additions to the cast and get to do some pretty fun stuff. Huntington-Whiteley just has to stand there and be pretty, so she succeeds. She should stick to her day job, though. Production-wise, the movie is as top-notch as we have come to expect from Bay. Like I said, the effects are great, as are the sound design and the sound mix. This also may have the best cinematography in any of Bay’s movies.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is not as good as the first Transformers, mainly because I didn’t have the same memorable theatrical experience. But it is an entertaining, brainless action movie that is good to kill a Saturday afternoon.