Jamedog Reviews Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Does the third entry in Michael Bay's Transformers series deliver the action and excitement or is it just another convoluted mess like the second film?
As I sit here writing this review, I'm still in awe of what I witnessed last night with Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and I still can't believe I'm about to write these words...
It was good. Really good.
Now, I'm not saying it's Oscar worthy or anything. Once the end of the year rolls around, I doubt that Transformers: Dark of the Moon will be on anyone's "Best of 2011" lists, but overall, Transformers delivered on what it was supposed to be: a summer popcorn flick.
It's rare when Hollywood learns from it's mistakes. As much as people hated Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, it still made a ton of money, and the Transformers series could have continued on down that path, making mediocre movies that leave people disappointed (Ahem, Pirates of the Caribbean), but Michael Bay and company seem to have taken the criticism from the last movie seriously and almost all of the flaws from Fallen are corrected in this movie.
The first thing that impressed me about Dark of the Moon is that it actually has a plot. Most of the movie is centered around the hook that the space race of the 1960's was in response to a UFO crash on the Moon, and both the Autobots and Sam Witwicky uncover this secret at the same time. The first hour or so of the movie is dedicated to story, as Sam and the Autobots uncover more about the Moon landing and what the Decepticons want with it. I was surprised because not only was I hooked, but it kept me guessing at some points. There were a few twists and turns that actually shocked me, and while the plot line isn't anything to write home about, it's fairly entertaining.
Unlike Revenge of the Fallen, there are stakes. About halfway through you get a feeling of dread and hopelessness and actually fear for the characters in parts. Gone are the subplots that lead nowhere and the pointless comic relief, in fact, every character, even the annoying little comedic relief robots, contribute to the plot at some point. So overall, the script was much tighter and more focused than the last movie by a long shot.
Much like the last two movies, this one is carried by Shia Labeouf as Sam Witwicky. I think a lot of people are too harsh on Labeouf because of his behavior outside the movies, but they forget how naturally talented and likable he is on screen. He owns most of the movie and gets his comedic timing down just right when needed, but knows when to play it serious. Francis McDormand gives solid supporting work as usual as the head of National Security, and John Malkovich has fun with his pretty pointless cameo as Sam's boss. John Turturro tones down his performance from the previous movies and lends solid comedic relief to many of the scenes he's in.
I do have to give a special shout out to fan favorite and Firefly alum Alan Tudyk, who gives yet another scene stealing performance as John Turtorro's assistant. Tudyk steals one scene in particular and I certainly hope that this movie leads to bigger things for him because he's insanely talented.
And then there's what everybody's been talking about, Rosie Huntington-Whitely. While Rosie is far more likable than Megan Fox, she really isn't anything more then window dressing. Rosie is really only there to look good and be the damsel in distress, and you can tell that neither her or Michael Bay was interested in creating a good performance. If there's one beef I have with Bay, it's how he shoots women. While yes, they do look gorgeous, their hotness seems far to forced and artificial. This is never more apparent then towards the end of the movie, where everyone is scratched, bruised, dirty, and bleeding, and yet not a hair is out of place on Rosie's head.
But while Dark of the Moon is an enjoyable movie, it's still flawed. While the comedic relief is toned down in this one, the movie still stops dead early on to get some laughs in, especially with Ken Jeong's cameo, which goes from amusing to just awkward. And like any summer movie (or Michael Bay movie), there are still some plot holes, but thankfully not gaping ones like in Revenge of the Fallen. But the biggest flaw is the ones that's been plaguing this series since the first movie: lack of character development, especially on the robot end. While all the major players (Optimus, Bumblebee, Sentinel Prime, Megatron)are well written, the rest of the robots are just background players with one or two lines each.
So to sum things up, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is summer movies personified. It's filled with excitement, especially in the last hour, which is dedicated to robot carnage. While I still think the first movie is the best of the series, this was a good way to finish up the franchise. I think a lot of people are far too hard on the Transformers movies. While I understand that these movies are many people's childhoods come to life, in the end, it's a movie about giant robots fighting each other, directed by Michael Bay, and based on a toy line. It was never meant to be Shakespeare and if you expect anything more then pure popcorn fun then you will be sorely disappointed.
It's strange to say, but Michael Bay has broken the curse of the three-quel. It took a sub-par second movie to do it, but Michael Bay showed that you can make a good third movie if you focus on a story over throwing everything and the kitchen sink in.
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