The issues with the second film are all but corrected here in Dark of the Moon. The too confusing plot that bogged down Revenge of the Fallen is much more simplified this time around. From the opening frame, the audience knows that this is not only going to be a better film, but a much easier to follow one as well. Michael Bay basically rewrites history here, and even though it seems a bit silly to do so, the way he handles it is quite impressive. I enjoyed the mix of real footage with the look alike footage Bay shot. We get a re-creation of the 1969 moon landing, complete with the historic footage of Walter Cronkite announcing the event and the few minutes of no communication with the astronauts. In the film, what happens during those few minutes sets in motion the events that happen in the remainder of the film. We get footage of the real JFK…re-created JFK…the real Richard Nixon…and the re-created Richard Nixon. Not soon thereafter, once Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) hits the screen, we also get a real Obama…and a re-created one. Lots of presidents in this film! Oh, and we get another surprise guest later in the film…none other than one of the original astronauts from the 1969 landing…Buzz Aldrin. The premise of the film is rather simple…the Autobots learn of a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the Moon, and race against the Decepticons to reach it and to learn its secrets. Of course, the Decepticons get their hands on it first and threaten to re-create Cybertron on Earth, basically wiping out our planet. The Autobots do everything they can to prevent it…even if our government loses faith in them.
Bay assembles quite a few top notch actors for these otherwise action heavy, CGI heavy films. In this one, we get John Malkovich, Patrick Dempsey, John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, Frances McDormand, Alan Tudyk, Ken Jeong, and Tyrese Gibson…who join LaBeouf and Huntington-Whiteley. I particularly enjoyed Jeong and Dempsey. Jeong, best known for The Hangover films, is hilarious in a brief role as Sam’s coworker, who has been taken over by a Decepticon. He’s more serious-funny, rather than slapstick funny, but it works. Dempsey, best known for the Grey’s Anatomy tv show, does sleazy quite well and you really hate this guy mid-way through the picture. He portrays Dylan, Carly’s (Huntington-Whiteley) boss, who ends up being much more than just that. And no, I don’t mean in a ‘relationship’ kind of way. I like how Bay managed to give us a human villain in a film that’s full of the robot kind. Malkovich, who plays Sam’s boss Bruce, gets a few nice lines here and provides some much needed humor. That is also another major difference this time around…the humor doesn’t feel as forced as it did in ROTF. Dark of the Moon has a different kind of humor…one that resembles the first film more than the second. Turturro can always be counted on to add his own humor to the mix, and once again, he doesn’t disappoint. As far as unnecessary characters go, well, I will say that I could have done without Sam’s parents being in the film at all. More than annoying in the last film, they get far less to do here, but still manage to disrupt the flow of the film every time they appear. They would have been better just having phone conversations in this one…but I guess Bay felt like they needed to be there.
Now, on to the GREAT! The film features some of the most incredible action sequences ever filmed. The final hour of this film is nothing short of spectacular in that department. Bay’s attention to detail rivals that of James Cameron. Although, Bay isn’t nearly as good of a storyteller as some other big name directors out there, you can’t deny that the man knows how to create rousing action sequences. He takes what he learned on the first two films and multiplies it by about a hundred this time around. The entire film is full of solid sequences, but the finale which basically destroys all of Chicago and it’s people is something to watch. Another positive aspect of the film is the inclusion of so many Transformer characters. We get the return of the Autobots – Bumblebee (my personal favorite!), Optimus Prime (who kicks some major ass in the film…even with one arm), Ironhide, Silverbolt, Ratchet, Sideswipe, and The Wreckers. The Decepticons this time around include – a beaten, but not broken Megatron, Soundwave, Shockwave (wreaks the most havoc), and The Dreads. The best surprise visitor to this round of mayhem is Sentinel Prime (voiced marvelously by Leonard Nimoy, who fits the character well). We don’t know too much about him, only that he was Optimus’ mentor and friend. As the film goes on, odd things begin to happen and it’s tough to tell if Sentinel is a good guy or a bad guy. See the film to find out.
Bay does a fine job backing the camera up for his supposed final entry of the franchise. One issue I had with both of the first two films was the fact that the camera angle was so close to the Transformers when they were in action…they were almost too big. We still get a bit of that here, but not nearly as much as expected. This may be because of Bay’s decision to shoot the film in 3D. If you think about it. the Transformers films are the type of productions that 3D is made for. Dark of the Moon not only makes quality use of the format, but rivals Avatar for the best use of it thus far. It really is a sight to see in 3D. In fact, I can’t imagine watching it in 2D after seeing it in 3D. The experience would definitely NOT be the same.
There were a couple of issues I had with the movie. One, as mentioned above, Huntington-Whiteley’s Carly and LaBeouf’s Sam, have absolutely no chemistry and definitely don’t look like they would ever be together in the real world. It’s a minor issue though considering that their ‘chemistry’ is not essential to the plot or enjoyment of the rest of the film. Both give good stand alone performances but fail to ignite any sparks when together. The biggest problem with Dark of the Moon is that it’s about 25-30 minutes too long. I had the same issue with Revenge of the Fallen and even though DOTM doesn’t feel quite as long as that film, there were several moments that could have been cut out. The run time is 2 hour 37 minutes and honestly, that’s just too long for an action heavy film. I know that Bay wanted to wrap up his trilogy in grand style and that’s probably why he had a hard time trimming the fat, but a 2 hour film would have made this a much more enjoyable ride.
The series, as a whole, has been an enjoyable one. I appreciate what Michael Bay has done here and I don’t think another director could have brought the action the way he has with this series. Yes, the man does need a few courses in making his films a bit more ‘epic’ than they are. This is where he can learn from Steven Spielberg (who did executive produce the series) and James Cameron. Not only do these top notch directors give you incredible action sequences, but they also know how to add and build the drama within the action. Bay is not yet capable of doing so…at least, not to their level. We get flashes of it in Dark of the Moon, especially toward the end, but there is so much room for more of it. If Bay could somehow figure out how to effectively add heartfelt drama to his high octane action pictures, he could create more memorable motion pictures. Having said that, there is one scene in this film that gives an example of what I’m talking about. There is a sequence where Bumblebee, Sam’s friend and protector, is about to be destroyed by a Decepticon right in front of him. Sam wants to help his friend but realizes that he can do nothing for him. It is probably the most heartfelt moment of the entire series, simply because we know how much these two have been through together. I won’t say what happens next, but the entire sequence is an effective display of both drama and action. It’s the stuff we need more of.
If this is the final Transformers film, then it does go out on a positive note. The film succeeds on many levels, even if it does fall short on a few others. DOTM is a nice bookend to the series…with much better humor than the second film, incredibly shot 3D action pieces, and an easy to follow plot-line. Thirty minutes less and the absence of Sam’s parents would have helped the film out tremendously, but those are really my only complaints. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed with the film if you go in expecting a solid, well developed action film. Now, one warning…the film is darker than the previous two installments. Lots of human lives are lost this time around, and the city of Chicago is basically destroyed. The human death scenes are reminiscent of Spielberg’s War of the Worlds remake a few years back. I highly recommend seeing Transformers: Dark of the Moon simply because it will entertain you. I saw the film with a packed house and there were several scenes that actually received cheers from the audience. The 3D is amazing…see it in this format, if you can.
TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON Rating:
For the record, here are my ratings of the previous two films
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN Rating: