Sunday, July 3, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Theatrical Review


Release Date: June 29, 2011

Transformers Revenge of the Fallen was a film travesty like no other. Somehow the Bay had turned a once promising film franchise of gigantic robots fighting an intergalactic war into a movie about a kid who goes to college. That film insulted everyone that bore witness to it's horribleness and threatened to ruin the art of film in general with the abominations that it committed to screen two summers ago. But it made money, despite an aggressive and unrelenting amount of backlash it was a financial hit. Now we have to deal with this thing...

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: AMC Glendora 12
Time: 9:20 pm July 1, 2011
Projector Type: Digital 2D

Loves: Transformers (the animated series), Bad Boys 2
Likes: Giant robots, things exploding, hot women, funny stuff
Neutral: Paying to see this movie, Shia LeBouf
Hates: Michael Bay and everything he stands for
Amazing: That my audience actually seemed to enjoy this

Many claimed that Michael Bay raped their childhood with the first Transformers movie despite the mostly positive things said about it at the time. He delivered what just about anyone could hope for in a live action recreation of the old (and horribly dated) 1980's kids cartoon series. We had giant robots that could transform into all kinds of vehicles, intergalactic battles between good and evil and we even got some pretty decent action when it was all said and done. But he also gave us Sam (Shia LeBeouf) who many believed to be a re-imagining of Spike from the old television series, a human that worked along side the Autobots in their never ending struggle to stop the Decepticons. While many still hold true that the first film was a pretty fun popcorn flick, and I agree there were some neat moments, the Sam character and all the baggage that came with him was probably the worst part of that film but I don't think anyone truly understood how Michael Bay would use him to destroy the next two films. I understand the need to have a human character for the audience to relate to and it sort of worked with the boy and his car storyline but then the Bay went ahead and made Revenge of the Fallen.

I don't know about you but when I had dreams about a sequel I would often imagine how it could finally give us more of what we wanted from the first film, giant robots at war and us stuck in the middle. The first Transformers was not a guaranteed hit, it was a movie based off a near thirty year old toy franchise so I understood why there had to be some sacrifices when it came to the budget. Making the transformers more like secondary characters made perfect sense at the time. But with a sequel to a smash hit film I was hoping that the true stars, the transformers, would come into the lime light and take center stage. Then I saw the sequel...and I was in awe. Not because of how amazing it was but by just how many completely bat shit insane decisions were made for that sequel. Instead of giving us more transformers we got to see Sam going to college, his mother getting high on hash brownies, his girlfriend troubles, his goofy roommate, a pair of racist robots, John Tuturro's naked ass, a horny robot that wanted to screw Megan Fox and of course a giant pair of robot balls. That film then concluded with one of the most incomprehensible action sequences I had ever had the displeasure of seeing.

Hopefully we won't have to see this again for a very long time.
Now we have the third installment and some much lowered expectations. This time around I was no longer hoping for all those things I wanted before, I didn't care if the transformers were front and center, I didn't care about how the series mythology had been totally screwed with. Actually I found myself just hoping that it would at least be as good as the first film which I was never really a fan of to begin with. I wanted all the Sam stuff to be shoved away, hell before the film was even announced I had hoped that the Sam character would just be chucked out the window and that we would get someone else instead. Most of all though I had hoped that Michael Bay would learn from his awful mistakes on the last film. That he understood now that people don't go to these movies to see a kid frantically run around town to find a job or stress over losing his hot super model girlfriend that wouldn't be caught dead with a person like him in the real world. That we don't need comic relief robots, that we don't need two whole hours of screen time to figure out the story and then dedicate the entire last forty minutes to a never ending battle that makes zero sense. Well, I was wrong.

At this point I will no longer refer to this film or the ones that came before it as Transformers, this series is hereby to be known as Samformers because this entire trilogy has been about the trials and tribulations he has gone through from high school, to college and now the real world as a college graduate, giant transforming robots are secondary to Sam's journey at best. Think about it for a second, what is the most consistent storyline that has been in all three films? It certainly isn't the transformers, it seems like in each new film their situation is the catalyst for having Sam come in and save the day. All three films have been about Sam and how he has transformed from a insecure young boy into an extremely bitchy and self confident man...he has Samformed into a real adult male.

I bet you that the camera will swing to the left while positioned at an upward angle.

So, what is Dark of the Moon about anyways? We start things off in a mostly positive direction with an opening that shows us the first flight to the moon (and a really bad CGI President Kennedy) where the crew of that mission had been sent up to not only be the first men on the moon but also on a secret mission to locate a crashed alien spacecraft. Two guesses as to who this spacecraft belongs to...? This was a fairly engaging start to the film, I have always been a fan of revisionist history. At this point I was getting a little optimistic that maybe the atrocities committed by the last film had been rectified, that maybe we were going to get some kick ass transformers action. Then we get a close up shot of a perfectly shaped ass complete with Bay's trademark spray-on tan going up some stairs.

I never thought I would find myself saying this but this is the first time ever when the sight of such a glorious and perfect female ass graced a gigantic movie screen and I felt completely saddened by it. That shot just led into one disappointing scene after another, Sam in bed holding a rabbit explaining how hard it is to find a job, how he met this super model girlfriend played by Megan Fox's replacement Rosie Huntington-Whitney while accepting an award from the President and acting like a complete goofball (she likes him cause he makes her laugh I guess), the reveal that the small horny robot and some Igor looking pal of his are living with them as pets and finally that we will once again be graced by the presence of Sam's parents. I mean what would a transformers movie be without Sam's parents right?

OK, this time the camera will swing to the right at an upward angle.

Is this what we came to see? How Sam is trying to get by in life (which by the way is so horrible that he has to deal with a beautiful girlfriend and living in a rent free penthouse). No, we came to see giant robots beating the crap out of each other and soon enough we get some glimpses of Optimus Prime and the other Autobots but only glimpses. We get to see them take down an illegal Nuclear facility in the Middle East and ride on into Chernobyl to locate something that some guy said that they need but he was actually working for the Decepticons because they need the Autobots to locate this thing that they found five decades ago that only they can activate but they need it to enslave humanity in order to rebuild Cybertron and live happily ever after...whew. Did you get all that...? Clearly I have a deep love for the intricate story the Bay has constructed here.

You see this is basically two films, you have all the Sam stuff that isn't related to anything going on with the transformers at all until about an hour into the film and some scattered scenes with the transformers doing some top secret stuff. We get to see Sam struggle at his new job with his quirky boss (John Malkovich) who doesn't like to see red cups on the yellow floor and has an affinity towards the transformers whom are supposed to be a secret (despite destroying a major city in the first film and engaging in an all out war in Egypt at the end of the second film), deal with the possibility that his girlfriend may be swept off her feet by her dashing boss (Patrick Dempsey) and a creepy Asian guy that is stalking him all over the place because he knows that Sam has had dealings with the transformers in the past...huh? Oh and we can't forget the parents, they give him a lift around town to all his job interviews as well because it is funny to see Sam argue with them.

Senseless destruction at it's most senseless.

In the mean time we get quick scenes of a battle scarred Megatron hiding out in Africa disguised as a truck straight out of Road Warrior complete with a tattered cloak...cause ya know...he's in the desert. We also get probably the worst montage of assassination attempts ever conceived where we see a raven looking transformer turn into...a cute pink robot that plays with the daughter of one of it's targets in order to get in close for the kill....whaaa? Ahhh, but those assassinations are key to getting Sam back into the bigger picture because low and behold one of the people targeted just so happens to work at Sam's new job...and Sam even knows the guy...gasp! So here we are, an hour or so into the movie and we finally have Sam rejoining the ranks of the Autobots because he has valuable information that nobody else has.

Queue the amazingly ignorant government official (poor Frances McDormand) who gives Sam someone new to be bitchy at and what we end up with is a complete and utter mess of a movie. The tone of the film is so all over the place that it goes beyond schizophrenic and turns into a whole new beast (funny comedic moments are often punctuated by a death of some sort). The stark contrast between the serious(?) part of the film involving the transformers and all the comedic stuff with Sam is jarring and none of it compliments each other. Even better is that if the Bay had actually gone ahead and picked only one tone or plot line to follow it still wouldn't be any good because the individual pieces in each of those parts of the film are littered with inconsistencies and major plot holes. This film fails on so many levels that it just boggles the mind.

Alright, this time let's swing the camera right and come in for a close up while things blow up around her.

The entire story structure on the transformers side of things revolves around the discovery of the crashed spacecraft on the moon and the resurrection of it's pilot Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy). Nothing makes any sense though, everything we are told completely contradicts itself (SPOILER WARNING from this point forward for anyone that actually cares). Apparently he crashed landed on Earth's moon while carrying precious cargo during the war on Cybertron. First off, how far away is Cybertron from Earth exactly...? Far enough that they need to transport the entire friggin planet to our planet via a space bridge, that has to be one of the longest crashes in film history if it was damaged and flew that far across the galaxy to reach our moon. Secondly, why was it being shot at anyways...? We find out later that Sentinel was actually working with Megatron and bringing him these devices that would save Cybertron. So why would Megatron fire upon his ship if he is bringing him what he wanted willingly? Thirdly, how the hell were these floating core things supposed to save their world again? It looked to me like all they did was make a space bridge to transport something from one place to another.

God help you if you get smart enough to question the logic of how this all works out when compared to what went down in the previous films. Correct me if I'm wrong (and I might be since it has been so long since I have seen either of the previous movies) but didn't Megatron crash land on Earth years before we landed on the moon? So how was he able to strike a deal with Sentinel Prime if he wasn't there at the time? Furthermore if Megatron did know about the crashed spacecraft (which we find out that he did because he had all his little Decepticon buddies fly up there and bury everything under the dirt and then hide out for the next few decades) why did he wait until the third film to set this master plan in motion? I suppose he didn't have much time to get things in motion in the first film because he was killed pretty quickly but in the second film you would think he would had told the Fallen about all this crap he had buried on the moon.


So, even if you could explain away all that then I challenge you with this...if Sentinel had been planning on betraying Optimus and the Autobots the entire time then why the hell would he refuse to take the matrix of leadership!?! Optimus offers the shit to him and he turns it down...don't you think he would have had an easier time taking down the Autobots if he accepted it? That scene was clearly constructed to trick us into getting rid of any thoughts that he might be a bad guy and you know worked. When he refused to take it I knew for a fact that he was not a bad guy. Why would I fall into such a trap you ask? Because it doesn't make any f@#*ing sense that somebody planning to wipe out their enemy would pass on an opportunity to take away their most powerful asset! This is akin to a soldier being offered the key to victory against their enemy, refusing to take it and then later having to fight them with even odds. If you are evil you don't care how you win, you take the easy route and be done with it.

I could go on all day about how lazily the film attempted to make us think Sentinel was good (that freeway battle makes less and less sense every time I think about it) but there are much more important things to tackle, such as the final battle. Now up to this point we (the audience) have been subjugated to all manner of crap. We had to watch Sam be assaulted by an Asian man in a restroom stall, watch a budding romance between John Turturro and Frances McDormand that was stupid as all f@*#, witness a laborious amount of investigating by Sam that leads to a revelation that we already knew hours ago, see Sam try to save his girlfriend from the sleazy rich boss who just so happens to be working for the Decepticons who puts a killer transforming watch on Sam's wrist that apparently only functions to make him act funny and bounce around the room when it tickles him and we also get the privilege of hearing Sam's parents give him a lesson on love and why he shouldn't let his girlfriend break up with him (uh no shit, she is freaking hot).

Apparently Pink Floyd holds the rights to the name Dark(side) of the Moon...

In other words we had to bare insurmountable amounts of pain to get to the big pay off...the battle to end all battles where Autobots and Decepticons throw down unlike never before...and it is boring as all hell. Now Michael Bay is well known for how poorly he handles romances (Pearl Harbor), how bad he is at constructing a film that resonates with it's audience (The Island) and just how damn horrible he is at keeping the camera still while filming action (Every Michael Bay movie). But most people would agree that the imagery he cooks up is still exciting on a purely visceral level. In other words it may not make a whole lot of sense but it sure does look cool. Somehow he has lost his ability to make shit look cool and instead makes it tedious to the point of actually making me wish for more Sam hi jinks.

Another film early this year (Sucker Punch) also had some serious narrative issues but many forgave it, myself included, because it at the very least presented us with some truly spectacular visuals. Anyone hoping for something along those lines with Dark of the Moon is in for some bitter disappointment. The film is already unnecessarily long at two hours and thirty four minutes but you really start to feel the bloated run time when this grand finale shifts into gear. The main question you should be asking yourself is just how exactly a skilled filmmaker (yes I think he is good behind the camera, his decision making process leaves much to be desired though) can take such a rich universe filled with giant transforming robots and all kinds of Sci-Fi geekery and make it dull. The answer to that is a slightly complicated one but let me break down for you exactly how this climatic battle blows harder than your local whore.

At some point this ceased being a transformers movie and became a generic giant robot movie.

The main goal for everyone involved in this final sequence is to stop the space bridge from transporting Cybertron into Earth's orbit (nevermind the fact that another planet that close to ours would rip Earth apart). If you are already lost by that sentence alone then don't worry, it only gets worse. Megatron with the help of Sentinel Prime have transported all their moon buddies down to Earth and placed them all over the globe in order to disperse all the core thingys that make the space bridge work. Megatron and Sentinel felt the need to kill off most of their slave labor though and decimate Chicago while waiting for their people to get in place so that the final battle could take place in a war zone. There are multiple groups at work here. You have Sam, his good buddy Epps (Tyrese Gibson) and a bunch of soldiers they pick up at truck stops along the way to Chicago to help rescue his girlfriend who is being held captive by the evil Patrick Dempsey. Lennox (Josh Duhamel) has an elite force of soldiers all dressed up like flying squirrels ready to drop into Chicago as well. The Autobots show up just in time after fooling the Decepticons into thinking they all got blown up (yeah, that was believable). And they all must penetrate Megatron's defenses to get into the city and destroy the main core thingy (Patrick Dempsey kindly explains to us how they work just in case we didn't know) which is placed on top of a random building in the middle of the city.

Let's start with something simple shall we, logistics. With their target being a fairly sizable building it isn't exactly a hard target. They all must get near it any way they can and blow it up...simple right? Sam and his group must first rescue his girlfriend though because she is apparently more important than the world. By doing this they ruin any chance of a surprise attack and the battle is set into motion. Sam, Carly, Epps and all their army buddies head off for high ground to blow up the target. In the mean time we see Optimus and the other Autobots get attacked which leads to Optimus losing his rig that has all his high tech goodies on it, so he must attempt to retrieve it. Then we see Lennox prep his team to go flying into Chicago using their special squirrel suits (because everything else that flies in there is shot down immediately by Megatron's forces). We then cut back to Sam and his group to find them up in a building overlooking the target. But before they can get their shot off the building is cut in half...and is still standing...huh?

It sometimes feels as though Optimus and the others are in a completely different movie.

Yes, you read that right. The top of a building is hanging at a angle that defies all laws of gravity so that we may see some supposedly neat action scenes with all the characters falling all over the place. Optimus shows up using his jets but gets tangled up in some wires at this time as well. Meanwhile Lennox is heading into the city and it is important to remember here that their objective is a building with the main core thingy on top of it. So their helicopters bring them in low to avoid detection and decide to rise up so that they can jump out safely. The problem here is that the helicopters decide to rise about a few miles away from their target and get shot down. The squirrel soldiers jump out though and go flying through the city while being chased. After we pass the point where they would have already slammed into the ground due to how low they jumped we see them hit their parachutes and land what seems to be miles off course. Many questions began running through my head at this point such as why didn't they just jump from a high altitude above the city where the Decepticons couldn't see them or perhaps the helicopters should have just flown them all the way to their target before rising upwards like idiots.

Now try to keep up because it gets really complex from here on out. By this time Sam and Carly are now separated from Epps because somebody wasn't watching them...OK then. They get into some trouble where Lennox magically appears and helps out along with Bumblebee who had been MIA since they rescued Carly.
Then we see that the Decepticons have captured some of the Autobots including Bumblebee....whaaaa? Wasn't Bumblebee just with Sam and why would the Decepticons take prisoners just after trying to blow them up? Now Lennox and Epps meet up and find some Navy Seals that swam into the city (where the hell did they come from?) while Sam and Carly are now on their own again (despite just being with Lennox) and they move in on the area that the Autobots are being held captive at. Lennox and Epps decide that they cannot move forward unless a bridge is lowered and they use the force to communicate back to headquarters via a traffic camera that they need them to help. They must take out a group of Decepticons first though and proceed to send Lennox and his squirrels to the 50th floor of some building so that they can parachute down on top of them.

Flying squirrel men!

Problem is that when they parachute down we see Epps and his people destroy all the Decepticons on their own and by the time Lennox lands it is all what was their plan again? We soon see that the Decepticons want to kill the Autobots all of a sudden which leads us into a deeply emotional scene where I could really give two craps about anyone that dies. There is this moment when Sam looks at Bumblebee and all seems lost but just then a giant ship crashes down on them. Oh, did I forget to mention that the two comic relief robots are running around and getting into mischief...those silly robots. They mess up the controls on the Decepticon mothership and bring it down on top of just the bad guys to save the day. But wait, there's more! WE STILL HAVEN'T GOTTEN TO THE PART WHERE TRANSFORMERS FIGHT EACH OTHER!

So Sentinel is hanging out with his power cores and Megatron is down on the street level laying against a wall covered in a shroud begging for change or this point I just didn't care any more. Michael Bay had taken logic and made it his bitch, he may not know how to make a movie any more but he sure knows how to kill our brain cells. Optimus finally shows up again (it took him about 10 to 15 minutes of screen time to get untangled) and kicks some Decepticon ass. He finally faces off with Sentinel and instead of watching that fight the Bay shows us Carly who is staring off into space as things explode in slow motion all around her. She has an Epiphany...she will go tell Megatron that he should go kill Sentinel! That isn't even the crazy part, the crazy part is that it works, she actually convinces Megatron to betray the guy about to kill Optimus (his long time nemesis) and save the day...whaaaaa? Optimus of course shows his gratitude by ripping him apart though. During that whole sequence we got to see Sam fight Patrick Dempsey, Epps and Lennox finally shot a missile at the building and well....yeah...sigh.

Optimus tells Sam that he must Samform and roll out.

We then get to see Sam and Carly get engaged (on the battlefield) and everyone start to cheer or something. They do know that there are Decepticons still all over the planet right? I mean they only saved one city. Now I mentioned how this was all boring before I started and I can imagine that some people reading this may wonder how all that action could ever be considered boring. Well the simple fact of the matter is that it was too much. Forty minutes of non-stop action does not a good movie make. It certainly doesn't help that none of it makes any sort of logical sense. How come it took so damn long to reach their target, it honestly felt like they were going in circles after a while. Less is more has never been more apt than here but unfortunately Michael Bay doesn't understand that mentality. His philosophy has been and always shall be "If you blow it up they will come".

I usually don't succumb to a play by play in my reviews because quite honestly it is lazy. It is very easy for someone to just recite what they saw and pick it apart but this film I think deserved it. I would even go as far as to say that it compliments the style of the film itself. But the real issue that needs to be resolved here is the one of director Michael Bay and what the future holds for him and the transformers franchise. As a filmmaker Michael Bay might still have some life in him but this franchise needs to die. It should have died with the second installment but it made money and they wanted to make some more. I usually am against a reboot but at this point I think that is the only answer. I like transformers (the property) and think that there is much to be learned from these films for future filmmakers that may take on the task of breathing new life into the series.

I wonder if that giant ship will crash and save everyone...hmmm.

This is one of the very few films that I found absolutely no redeeming values to it. There were probably one or two moments where I thought it was slightly clever and I cannot deny the power of Peter Cullen's voice as Optimus and how crazy cool it was to hear Leonard Nimoy (who did the voice for Galvatron in the 1980's animated Transformers movie) as the voice of Sentinel Prime. But those moments were fleeting at best, I cannot even in good conscience say that if there were about forty to fifty minutes trimmed off that it would have helped. I guess it would have helped in the fact that I wouldn't have suffered for as long but beyond that this is one ship that missed it's port by miles. I don't think Michael Bay is guilty of raping any one's childhood, I think he is guilty of ruining the art of film in general and stealing nearly three hours of my life from me.

Dark of the Moon is the worst film of the year without a doubt and it had some steep competition up to this point. My expectations for it couldn't have been lower but in some strange way it met those horribly low expectations. Will we get another Transformers movie from Michael Bay...I hope not. I know there are people out there that like these movies (what the f#*@ is wrong with you!) but this franchise just needs to die out. For the good of mankind and the future of film this needs to end now before it is too late.




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