Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
A lot of things went wrong with Revenge of the Fallen. So much, in fact, that everybody from Shia LaBeouf to the executives of Hasboro were apologizing for it. The plot went all over the place. The juvenile humor of the first movie was taken to a new level. Then, of course there were the jive-talking Autobots that everybody involved with the production would probably like to forget. The producers listened to fan complaints and although Dark of the Moon and came back with something on par with the original Transformers.
The premise this time around is that the Apollo missons were really a front to research an alien ship that crashed on the moon. The film kicks off with a strong start, mixing actual footage of the Apollo 11 mission in with scripted scenes, calling to mind parts of Michael Bay's Armageddon. From there, it moves into a conspiracy story where we find out that for years the American and Russian governments have been keeping the crashed ship a secret from everybody, including the Transformers themselves. It's a strong enough premise that it would have worked outside of a Transformers movie, and using it for this movie shows that the producers had more in mind than "big robots fighting for 2 1/2 hours" this time around.
They also came up with a good storyline for Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), albeit a rather topical one. This time around he's a college graduate unable to find a job, driving a beat up old Datsun because his car is out saving the world. On the plus side he has a new girlfriend, played by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and yes, she can act. Of course, once he does manage to land a nice, stable 9-5 job, he still manages to work his way to the front lines of the inevitable Autobot-Decepticon battle.
When you watch a Michael Bay movie, you can usually expect it to be about 2 1/2 hours long, and for that last hour to be one big action scene, and Dark of the Moon doesn't buck the trend. Unlike the finale of Revenge of the Fallen, which just felt like they were trying to cram as many explosions and robots into every minute, the climax of Dark of the Moon felt like something along the lines of Saving Private Ryan (you know... with robots). No, Michael Bay won't surprise you with an Oscar-worthy finale, but he does lock you into the battle and keeps the tension high.
There's still a fair amount of juvenile humor in Dark of the Moon, but it's toned down compared to the previous two movies. The overt racial stereotyping is gone, but there are still a few inappropriate sexual references. You'd think somebody at Hasboro would remind Michael Bay that PG-13 rating aside, it's still a movie based on a line of children's toys. The special effects also feel much cleaner than the other movies, so when the robots transform, it doesn't look as much like a big jumbled mechanical mess. However, the Transformers' designs could still use a bit of simplifying, at least for the Decepticons. They still look too complicated and alien, so it's a bit hard to tell the bad guys apart from each other.
Now, I didn't have any intention of seeing this in 3D, but I attended a free showing and didn't find out it was going to be in 3D until they were handing out glasses at the door. This almost prompted me to walk away and pay for a 2D showing, but I decided to stick around anyway.
I know it's a tired out complaint about 3D movies, but it's worth reiterating. It was just way too dim. When you watch a Michael Bay movie, you expect the sound and visuals to be cranked up past 11, but with the 3D glasses on, Bay's bright and brash visuals get seriously undercut. This might be alright if there was some big payoff to having everything in 3D, but there isn't. Aside from a spaceship flying about in the opening scene, there wasn't really any part where it felt like anything was added by seeing it in 3D. The effect was actually hardly noticeable for much of the middle of the movie. In fact, I was actually able to take the glasses off and enjoy parts of the movie without them perfectly fine, which i needed to do because my eyes were wearing out from the dimness. On the plus side, at least it wasn't headache inducing.
Overall, Dark of the Moon was a solid popcorn flick that delivers everything you should expect for a movie coming out for the July 4th weekend. It's fun, ostentatious and is the kind of movie you have to see in theaters at least twice, if only because your home theater system can't give you the fully audio-visual assault this movie calls for. I may not rate it as highly as the original Transformers, but it's definitely up there. If the producers can keep this up, hopefully we'll be seeing more Transformers movies in the future.