Review: Transformers: Dark Of The Moon
PLOT: When the Autobots learn that a long-lost Cybertronian spacecraft is being hidden on the moon, they must fight to keep it's secrets from falling into the hands of the Decepticons, who want to use it's power to enslave mankind.
REVIEW: Good news TRANSFORMERS fans. After an absolutely putrid second entry, the TRANSFORMERS franchise is once again in it's (Optimus?) prime, with a slam-bang installment that lives up to the promise of the first film. Of course, being a film about giant robots beating the shit out of each other, you shouldn't go in expecting THE KING'S SPEECH. This is pure, turn-your-brain-off, munch some popcorn, enjoy the explosions- summer fun.
As far as all-types of eye candy go, TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON is tough to beat. I always thought that TRANSFORMERS was the perfect vehicle for Michael Bay who, let's face it, is not one for subtlety. In a film like this, who needs it? This franchise seems to fit Bay's sensibilities like a glove, and unlike part two, this isn't bogged down by too much obnoxious humor (with no sign of the Twins, thank God), and instead of some shit about the Cybertronian after-life, we have a cool, alternate history plot about Decepticons threatening to take over the planet. It's silly, but it's fun, and in a film like this, that's all you can really ask for.
I'd say, as far as the franchise goes, this is the equal of part one. I guess Bay realized how much everyone hated REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, as he's dropped Sam's (Shia LaBeouf) annoying college roommate, and severely cut down on the involvement of the Witwicky parents (Kevin Dunn & Julie White), with them having little more than a cameo early in the film.
Also gone is Megan Fox, who's been replaced by the possibly even-more-gorgeous Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. While a few nasty digs are made early on explaining Fox's absence, Whiteley pretty much serves exactly the same role, and it wouldn't surprise me if it turned out that an early draft of the script featured Fox's Mikaela having the exact same character beats (with Whiteley's Carly even being into cars).
Considering it's her first film, Whiteley is fine (and FINE!), but she doesn't have to do too much in the way of acting other than running from explosions, screaming, and looking insanely hot at all times. No matter how intense the action gets (and it gets crazy, with Chicago being almost totaled by the time the credits roll), her hair and makeup are always perfect, giving Bay lots of chances to just stop the action and ogle this smokin' specimen of human hotness. Bay shoots her like she's still doing Victoria Secret videos and the first shot following the alternate history epilogue is an extreme close-up of her delectable derriere. No complaints.
As for Shia LaBeouf, while I didn't really care about the early part of his character arc, revolving around his career frustrations, he delivered in spades once we got to the action, and he's growing into a solid leading man. I also liked his rivalry with Patrick Dempsey's character, which pays off in the final stretch, giving Sam a heavier role in the action. Being a Michael Bay flick, there's also lots of humor, with John Malkovich chewing some scenery as Sam's wacky boss (and sporting a bad toupee), and John Turturro returning in a somewhat reduced function- with a hilarious Alan Tudyk in tow. Josh Duhamel, and Tyrese are also back, although both take a backseat until the final, balls-to-the-wall action sequence, which runs a good forty minutes. Heavy-hitter Frances McDormand is on-board for expositions sake (and to play foil to the amorous Turturro), and we even get the seemingly now-requisite Ken Jeong cameo, which seems to be a necessity for ninety-five percent of the movies coming out these days. That said, I like the guy and he's still pretty funny, although he could have been completely excised from the film and it wouldn't have made a lick of difference.
Which brings me to my one big complaint with DARK OF THE MOON the length. Like the other films, this runs close to 160 minutes and they really could have cut a good half-hour out without sacrificing much. That said, it never drags and the last hour of carnage is a blast.
While the action in FALLEN was indecipherable, Bay really pulls back here and makes the action easier to follow, allowing you to actually get a handle on what's happening on-screen. I suppose this was a concession to the 3D and if this device forced Bay to tone it down a bit, it's the one time this format has really benefited a film. I should also mention that the 3D (a format I honestly can't stand) is actually quite good here, and Bay, to his credit, really knows how to work with it. The film is brightly lit, meaning no eyestrain, and we're not subjected to endless scenes where things come flying at the audience.
As for the Autobots and Decepticons, I don't want to give too much away, as there are a lot of fun twists involving a new character, Sentinel Prime, as voiced by the one-and-only Leonard Nimoy (with a great Spock shout-out). Peter Cullen is back voicing Prime, as is Hugo Weaving as Megatron, despite the fact that I'm pretty sure he's been killed at least twice in the last two films (although I remember almost nothing about FALLEN). The CGI work is flawless (other than an odd-looking CGI JFK in the prologue), and the robots look even better than they did in the last two installments. The whole last hour of the film is probably the best pure eye-candy you'll see this summer, and I had a blast watching it (although it has to be said, Steve Jablonsky's score owes more than a little to Hans Zimmer's INCEPTION).
Overall, TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON gave me exactly what I wanted from a TRANSFORMERS flick. It was a solid evening of eye-candy, and a lot of fun. While I doubt it's something I'll revisit too much in the future (Bay's films, other than THE ROCK, have been mostly one-shot deals for me), I enjoyed it while it lasted, and it gives audiences their money's worth- even if they pay ridiculously high IMAX 3D prices. This is one worth seeing on the biggest screen possible. If this is indeed the final TRANSFORMERS film as Bay has repeatedly stated, it's going out on a high-note.