Review: Transformers – Dark of the Moon

Long ago, I can remember watching the cartoons following the story of the battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons, the two warring factions of the planet Cybertron. I had several of the toys, and would relish playing with these amazing ‘Robots in disguise’ as a child. Their two leaders, Optimus Prime and Megatron, locked in a battle that had now spilled onto our world, seemed a great parable for the forces of good and evil.

I remember seeing the animated ‘Transformers: The Movie’ released in 1986, loving every moment (Just thinking about it brings back memories of the rock/pop title song, and ‘The Touch’ by Stan Bush – it had a truly epic soundtrack that I must remember to dig out and give a nostalgic listen to). The Transformers have since been reborn a number of times in different guises, but each was still a hand drawn or computer generated cartoon.

Then Michael Bay brought them to life using state of the art special effects, with the first live action Transformers movie in 2007, and it was incredible. To see these icons from my childhood come to life, seeing Optimus Prime brought to the screen, and with the original voicing of Peter Cullen who voiced the character in the original cartoons, I’ll admit it sent a shiver down my spine as I first saw him transform from his Truck disguise into robot form, and almost brought a tear to my eye (in no small part to the amazing piece of music in that scene by Steve Jablonsky). It wasn’t perfect, and was a bit on the long side, running in at 2 hours and 24 minutes long, but it was amazing to experience.

Then they made the sequel – Revenge of the Fallen in 2009, a monumental disappointment that was made on a rushed schedule and with the basics of a script, loosely tying together a series of big screen action sequences with a shoestring story, written in a rush due to the writer’s strike of the year. While it made a tonne of money at the box office, it was panned, and rightly so, so much so that eventually star Shia LaBeouf and director Bay admitted that they dropped the ball – after it had made a tonne of money, obviously.

And so we come to the second sequel, Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

The movie starts with a setup that you’ll all be aware of if you’ve seen the trailer. Starting out with a voiceover, showing the last moments of the fighting on Cybertron between the two warring factions, and showing that a ship carrying a great weapon, disappeared after escaping. Years later it turns out, the Apollo moon landing missions were actually a rush to investigate the wreckage of the ship, which had crashed on the dark side of the moon.

Cut to present day, and we return to Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), looking for a job while living with his new girlfriend Carly(played by newcomer Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) while the Autobots help the NEST team on peacekeeping missions, since the Decepticons have all disappeared after their defeat at the end of the previous movie. When a conspiracy theorist tries to warn Sam that the Autobots are in danger, he is killed and the Decepticon attacks Sam. Sam tries to warn them but is turned away by National Intelligence Director Charlotte Mearing (Played by Fargo’s Frances McDormand) who calls him a messenger and not a soldier, so he is forced to enlist the help of former Sector 7 agent Simmons (thankfully dialed down a little by returning John Turturro) to investigate.

Sigh…

I went into this movie knowing it wouldn’t have much of a story, knowing that it would be largely a special effects fest, and wanted to love this movie, I would have settled for even just liking it, but there’s just too much going against it to allow me to do that.

Ok, here goes the list of everything wrong with this movie. This may take some time.

Too long – 2 hours and 37 minutes? Seriously – yes it has a fairly length opening flashback to the Apollo missions (An opening that largely works, and had me thinking ‘if it can keep this up, it might be good’), but Bay has embellished too much in lengthy action sequences, that in some cases go on and on and would have been much better with half of the action scene cut out – in particular is a chase through a falling building, which just went on for so long as to become boring – and an action scene set in the middle of a falling building should be anything but.

Sam’s parents – yes, they’re back – not as much as the other movies, but still, they’re here, I kept praying they were gonna get killed or something, to make their appearance worthwhile, but no – cut them out, altogether, the movie will have much more going for it.

Casting/Cameos – Ken Jeong (from The Hangover) has a small, though plot pivotal cameo part, which to be honest, could have been given to another character, such as – John Malkovich‘s character, who as far as I could tell, was there because, hey, we can have John Malkovich in the movie! Cult actor Alan Tudyk (of Firefly fame) in a completely pointless role that did not need to be in the movie at all. Wasted. Add to that the voice casting of the great Leonard Nimoy, who is fine, all the way up to the moment that made me, as a Star Trek fan, roll my eyes in pure cheese curdling moment when he utters the line ‘The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’ – I shit you not, I almost leapt out of my seat and screamed ‘WHY?!’. The only one of the cast who really gets any decent moments is Patrick Dempsey (of Grey’s Anatomy), playing Carly’s boss with an ulterior motive – in a sub-plot regarding humans working with Decepticons  that I actually found to be a nice addition to the movie.

Over reliance on special effects shots – completely overused on some scenes when they could have been quicker, saving time, and relieving the boredom factor. The giant worm like robot that Shockwave uses to attack the heroes is a prime example of this, something so big and powerful, yet it just didn’t seem worthy of the amount of on-screen time it was given.

Slow motion – OH MY GOD – MICHAEL BAY, DID YOU NOT LEARN AT THE VERY LEAST – CUT THE F*CKING SLOW MOTION ALREADY?! ZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Yes, when it’s necessary to show us something we might not see because the robots are fighting fast – one scene that I will admit this actually works on, is a scene where Sam is thrown out of Bumblebee as he transforms, and we follow him in slow motion as Bumblebee catches him, and transforms back into car mode around him – actually awesome, but it doesn’t justify it in EVERY action scene – I swear, if you played a drinking game through all 3 movies for each slow-mo shot, even George Best would be unconscious before the end.

Plot points – what ones there are, are poorly spaced throughout the movie – the last hour is basically all action, and as mentioned above, overly long action set pieces that REALLY needed to be trimmed.

Not enough Megatron – seriously, in this movie, which runs over two and a half hours, the main bad guy is on-screen for maybe 15 minutes. And then, most of the time, he’s a whiney bitch.

3D – The 3D, shot using the same affects technology and crew as James Cameron’s Avatar, is pointless for about 99% of the movie, a few nice atmospheric shots here and there, but nothing like Avatar 3D levels, a real disappointment. Points though for avoiding throwing things at the audience, that I really would have taken issue with.

Overall, as I said I really did want to like this movie, I even expected the lack of story, and all of the effects, and while it’s better than the last one, but damn if it hasn’t just gone the route of doing the last movie bigger, and is undeserving of the millions it will make at the box office.

Here’s hoping that now he’s done a trilogy, Michael Bay lets someone else make the next inevitable sequel.

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