Welcome all to a special edition, non-wednesday edition of the wayfarer!
So it has finally come – the much awaited, much vaunted and much debated “Dark of the Moon” that completes the three movies that Micheal Bay set out to make in the Transformers franchise.
I have to admit before starting on the review that I was very entertained albiet a tad underwhelmed through most of the first movie (not always but largely) because as tends to happen the human part of the story was so in focus in an time-tight movie and there was not enough robot punching – though as a first in a series flick it was good enough.
The second movie however – Revenge of the Fallen – was a total and utter crap-fest. A story that from the first few minutes of the movie rankled and a setup that made me want to stab myself in the brain mixed with increased robotic action but even that was watered down a little in terms of quality moments in favour of cheap theatrics, bad character (those weird twin cars who appeared to somehow be every African American cliche all rolled up) and retarded ideas: I mean the movie literally has a moment where a character is looking at a giant robot – a robot! – and uses the line, “I am directly below enemy scrotum.”
Toss in the fact that Bay took his hottie-exploitation to a whole new level on this one, making pretty much ZERO-effort to creatively mask showcasing the hotness that is Megan Fox and you’ve got a crappy excuse for a movie which you cannot deal with if even a few brain cells are still active.
That said its time to be honest about this new edition to the franchise – It rocked. Plain and simple. Not on to the breakdown! (Be warned there may be spoilers ahead!)
I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that while the human story is not avoidable and needs to be shown obviously, here it seems more intelligent, more thought out and realistic in some respects. Focus is given very largely to the activities of the Transformers themselves and in much larger measure then was felt before and that alone makes this movie better then its predecessor. Overall a much, much tighter and cohesive story with far fewer significant holes in it made the experience a far more entertaining one overall.
First things first – the robot fighting and CGI sequences were excellent, even the potentially over-the-top moments did not feel as forced and cheap as some. The action was intense and very entertaining, and I think the cheers and howls in the theatre proved it wasn’t just me! And Optimus Prime and Bumblebee really got to to shine and kick metal! These guys seem to be Bay’s favourites for those ‘slow-mo’ moments. And of course having more screen time for Soundwave and Laserbeak was a big bonus though I wish there had been more. Used to love Soundwave as a kid.
The transforming sequences and the overall choreography of the action sequences is also FAR superior and really keeps you into the spectacle of it all. Oh and how could I forget! They’ve given Optimus his trailer with all its weapons and add-ons that coupled with his mega-medieval style weapons just looked frikkin awesome!!
Performance wise – for me the show was stolen by the supporting cast – John Turturro (O’brother where art thou/ Secret Window) returning as Agent Simmons was fantastic throughout and justifiably got much more screen time and Alan Tudyk (Firefly/ Tucker & Dale vs Evil) as his assistant was one of the most entertaining even with his very limited screen time plus Frances McDormand (Fargo/ Burn after reading)who is always excellent – all made the movie that much more enjoyable!
And what really made my day were the very short but truly awesome guest spots played by the inimitable John Malkovich (Empire of the Sun/ Being John Malkovich/ ConAir) and the endlessly hilarious Ken Jeong (Community/ The Hangover 1 & 2), both of whom were great but their parts were heartbreakingly brief.
In addition, Shia LeGoof’s character is far less annoying here then I found in the first two (and him in general) and we seem to see some actual character development – hell even Tyrese Gibson who annoys the hell out of me was decent in his part toward the latter half of the film.
The biggest surprise of all though was Rosie-Huntington Whiteley who replaces the smoldering Megan Fox from the first two movies. Hot? Yes, without a doubt – but not in the same way as Fox, a slightly classier demeanour. Mixed with an actual ability to act, more so then Fox for sure, made her a good fit and her part was a far better one then the previous love interest. There was a moment or two of stupidity and Bay uses her hotness when he can, but it did not feel quite as shameless and crass as his previous outing in the series. And in fact the character actually had more to contribute to the development of the plot, I cant imagine how they would have fit in the Patrick Dempsey angle among other things if car mechanic Mikaela was still in the picture.
Also, the patriotic fervour was dialed down more then a bit this time around in some of the more in-your-face ways which was a pleasant change.
What did I not like? Well I’m not even going to get into the plot-holes because though they were inevitably there, the number and importance of them in the grand scheme was not enough to warrant picking at them except one or two glaring ones. Mostly the annoyances are little moments where if you think on it after the movie you mentally roll your eyes, but again its stuff that is minor enough to not ruin the experience.
Firstly, I didnt care for the 3D (getting that out of the way first) because it largely felt unnecessary through the brunt of the movie, only shining in brief moments here and there and not really adding a whole lot to the amazing-by-itself final battle sequences. Could easily have done without since most of it felt like it was in 2D anyway and a lot of the action was 3D-ised in post production which kind of kills a lot of the feel and honestly the hype about using the ‘Avatar’ filming system was a let-down, say what you will about that movie, the 3D experience watching it was phenomenal and I have yet to watch another that hits you the way that did. And I would say unless you have a penchant for it I would say save your money and your eyes.
My next big grouse? They still haven’t gotten over the annoying designs habit completely – the rendering of Megatron as the equivalent of a desert hobo with a shotgun just looked like you’re trying too damn hard for the coolness factor – as does giving tranformers guns that are cocked like pump-action shotguns and actually drop shells? Really? I mean you and I both know that was there just to be able to have Prime stand and pump the gun and have this giant shell flying toward the screen.
In addition a moment toward the end where Rosie’s character Carly faces down Megatron and pretty much verbally bitch-slaps him and he just takes it instead of swatting her like a fly or vaporizing her was just really pointless and stupid, hands down one of the worst and least needed moments of the film.
Worth mentioning too – the final moments have Optimus in exposition mode as is the norm but this time it felt like a half-assed speech just blatantly making a point and abrupt and when it went to credit I actually wondered for few moments if there was something missing.
And the last thing that comes to mind that was not the greatest moment but I can see how it would have had to be a part of the story in some form was the Transformers “black ops” work, stopping terrorists and dictators, blah, blah… Unfortunately it was not just that, in part it felt like it was going for the “building a better world by destroying the enemies of America and by association: Freedom, and bringing truth, justice and the capitalist way to suffering billions world-wide. The saving grace was that this was not focused upon and that made it less important as anything but an excuse to showcase more Autobot butt-kicking!
Of course, I cant talk about these movies without the one thing that has bugged me since the first movie – this damned organification of the Transformers. Megatron with teeth like a troll and all the new modifications for this movie and Laserbeak having… drool? It is really illogical and just ruins otherwise great moments and visuals for me.
All-in-all it was an engrossing and satisfying action extravaganza that for a change lived up to the hype and expectation and in a case like my own it actually exceeded them a little.
Don’t expect Shakespeare and if you’re a Transformers fan then you will definitely get your money’s worth with this movie and unlike the 2nd, I would not mind seeing more if they learn the lessons of this movie and hopefully improve on it. Given the cash-cow that the franchise can be coupled with the fact that this one will most assuredly in my view reinvigorate it, I think we can expect either sequels or maybe even a reboot a-la the Spiderman movies.
Essentially a visual feast, it is a good movie that still suffers from some stupidity which one hopes that if new movies come will move a little away from the Micheal Bay hallmarks that have been both a boon and a curse on the series. I love the mans ideas for action but for anything else he seems to have no brain whatsoever.
Watch it without fear of brain-pain, enjoy the awesomeness and the spectacle – a quintessential summer blockbuster.