Saturday, July 2, 2011
Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon (2011) review
Overall verdict: 7/10
The Good: Flawless special effects, intense action, witty comedy, lovable main character, numerous sci/fi fan references, clearer than usual shot angles (for a Michael Bay Film),
The Bad: contradicts backstory established in previous 2 Transformers films, numerous plot holes, unlikable female lead, superficial thrills, bloated story,
Current Availability Status: in theaters 1 July
Long, loud and proud of that fact, Transformers 3: Dark of The Moon is the ultimate testament to everything good and bad about a Michael Bay film. Superficial thrills, cheap spills and wham bam action abound in the supposed final chapter in the Transformers film franchise. Forget the coherent story, thought provoking themes or even any hint of human drama. Also forget the previous two films since this one tries to pretend they do not exist.
It is never a good thing to alienate one's core audience of devoted fans by literally screwing with both the continuity and the characters, but now Bay alienates even the fans of previous Transformers movies. The concept of two warring races of intelligent machines is kept but much has changed. The all powerful "allspark", the artifact of contention among the Autobot and Decepticon factions, is never mentioned and the war is now fought over a miraculous invention and its inventor stowed aboard a lost starship "The Ark". Where the first movie established that knowledge of the Transformers came from discovering a frozen Megatron in the arctic, this movie claims that Transformers were discovered on the moon by the Apollo 11 lunar landing. It also contradicts the second movie by revealing the lost inventor to be a "Prime" when it was established that all Primes other than Optimus died to defeat the Fallen.
So continuity be damned as the story opens with human protagonist Sam Witcicky, now hooked up with his rich new blond girlfriend Carly. Despite being recognised as a nation hero, Sam is down on his luck, unemployed and missing his days with the Autobots. But conflict soon comes a-calling when the Autobots discover the aforementioned lost spacecraft and its cargo. Cue the needlessly complex yet convenient series of events that includes human-decepticon collaborators, hidden conspiracies, illogical allegiance switching and more. What are the chances that Sam gets a job at the one place where his colleague is a target of assassination by the decepticons because he worked on the moon mission that first discovered the ark? What are the chances that Sam's girlfriend works for a dude who is working for the decepticons? The entire progression of events is way too convenient.
Then the story makes another critical error by not just failing to address unanswered questions from the previous films, but making new questions to be answered. This might not have been so bad with well written characters, but the main leads are as shallow as ever. The only highlight is the witty banter and jokes courtesy of Shia Le Beouf. Shia's timely lines and comedic nature makes for a rather endearing character. Yes the entire movie is funny, you will laugh, but no it is not "well written" from a character development standpoint. Characters are one dimensional and either intentionally or unintentionally funny, from the token muscular black dudes to the sneering haughty decepticon collaborator to the comic relief parents. In true Michael Bay fashion, the new female lead is less of a character and more of a boob and butt display whose only role is stand there posing and looking pretty.
Speaking of camera, here is the one improvement this film has and that is "less erratic camera movements". There are many scenes of Michael Bay's trademark jitter-cam and weird shot angles but thanks to the bulky stereoscopic 3D cameras used, such instances are reduced greatly from previous Bay movies. Bot on bot action could never have been any clearer. The many slow motion scenes allow the intricately designed robots and top notch special effects, possibly the strongest selling point of this film, to shine.
Long time transformers fans might sit on the fence with this one. On one hand, the whole movie combines elements from fan favorite episodes of the classic cartoon series (Ultimate Doom and Megatron's Master Plan) as well as plot points from 2008's "All Hail Megatron" comic story. Numerous shout outs to the cartoons, the comics and other science fiction shows like Star Trek are more than enough for the geeks to go gaga over. On the other hand, Autobots and decepticons get their characterisations screwed over again. The scheming backstabber Starscream is reduced to a snivelling lackey, the powerful and logic driven strategist Shockwave is reduced to a mere miniboss and the typically benevolent and peace loving Optimus Prime now has no qualms about massacring bots en masse and carrying out public executions.
By now, Transformers 3 would not be changing any one's opinion of the film franchise. The stuff that people hate about it are taken to whole new levels but so is the stuff that people love about it. It is shallow but fun, superficial but entertaining; The only intellectual talking point of the film would be the implications of a big metal planet entering into earth's orbit. Physics says that such an occurrence is supposed to cause widespread disaster and wanton destruction. But who needs a metal planet when you have Michael Bay's Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon.
Go For it: if cheap comedy, visceral thrills and loud action is enough to make your day
Avoid it: if you have any appreciation for elements of films that actually matter (like a good story, well developed characters etc)
Replay value: B+