Review – Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Posted June 30th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

The original Transformers is one of my favorite movies and I feel no shame in admitting that. The nostalgia factor of seeing the adaptation of a show I loved growing up captured me completely and the visuals and action scenes were stunning to witness. Expectation levels were different then, when it exceeded them, compared to the sequel which was primed for a let down. Revenge of the Fallen lost everything that made the first so great as even the action sequences were too convoluted to follow accompanied by a story that was was completely incomprehensible.

Dark of the Moon falls somewhere between the two. The story makes a lot more sense than that of the sequel but its tone doesn’t completely mesh with the other two. It is a visual spectacle but the imagination and magic of the original has been lost for good. 

The story nicely ties in an event in history – in this case the Apollo 11 moon landing – and uses the discovery of a crashed spacecraft as the motivation for the ‘Space Race’ between the US and Russia. This is something other films have started doing as of late to provide more gravity to a story. Incorporating past events and putting a conspiratorial spin on them. X-Men: First Class as a recent example used the Cuban Missile Crisis in a similar fashion.

That all works for the film at the start but it loses steam for a stretch as it reintroduces Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), his hunt to find a job, and his new girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). Losing Megan Fox is a positive for the acting category and Huntington-Whiteley holds her own better than expected for a newcomer chosen primarily due to her looks. That doesn’t help though that her relationship with Sam felt manufactured. There is never the sense that they are a true couple and there is no getting around it being somewhat awkward to have switched at this point in the trilogy. Reference is made to Sam having been dumped but after all they had been through that is just difficult to believe and overlook.

While Dark of the Moon attempts to remove some of the toilet level humor of the first two director Michael Bay still tried to shoehorn in some laughs. The forced humor fails – not only does it mess with the pacing and tone but the jokes simply didn’t work. The characters played by Ken Jeong (what you’d expect) and John Malkovich (as an eccentric boss) are completely unnecessary. In the case of Malkovich he pretty much disappears after a pointless interaction with Bumblebee and is never heard from again.

One thing that did bother me were leaps in time that happened seemingly between scenes. There are several instances where characters (human or Transformer) go from a situation in one scene to something completely different in the next. There is no real sense of passage of time between those scenes or explanations of how events may have transpired. It’s almost as though there are scenes missing that may have been removed due to time constraints.

I did not see Dark of the Moon in 3D but most reports are that it uses the technology really well and actually adds to the experience. That being said with a run-time of 157 minutes it is tough to expect an audience to actively seek out wearing glasses and being bombarded by the 3D imagery. The hope in Hollywood is that Transformers will save 3D but I doubt it’ll achieve much other than to prove it can be presented effectively when the proper work goes into it.

Filming with a 3D camera did seem to provide a good influence on Bay’s style as the camera lingered longer during action scenes making them easier to follow. The special effects are tremendous as a whole and the action provided some tense and exciting moments. Pretty much what anyone would look for out of a Transformers film but it goes even beyond that with the final hour comprised of practically non-stop action sequences.

In addition to the villainous Decepticons the series introduces humans who have been conspiring with them. That adds an interesting element into the mix and a big twist along the way changes the course of the battle. It actually is explained well  – and the brutal nature of what happens from that is a departure from the generally emotionless fighting between the Autobots and Decepticons.

Considering the film is intended to complete the trilogy I walked away feeling somewhat unsatisfied by the ending however which was quite abrupt. I had hoped for more closure. The action goes hard right until the end with no cool-down period to contemplate the events that had just occurred or where things would go from there.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is an intense ride with a story that makes some sense and delivers more character to the actual Transformers. The darker tone is welcome but feels off at times and despite the sense of being rushed through the movie drags on a bit too long. As a fan of Transformers or impressive visual effects if expectations are reasonable it makes for an enjoyable but flawed film.

Rating: ★★½☆☆