Long, loud and silly – ‘Dark of the Moon’ is fun to look at, but that’s about itMovie Review Thursday, July 7th, 2011
MOVIE REVIEW: I’m not sure why anyone needs to watch, let along make, 157 minutes of a third movie based on Hasbro’s popular toys known as Transformers. But Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the latest in the series of action movies about morphing robots from outer space, is more than two and a half hours long. With a reported budget of $195 million, director Michael Bay and executive producer Steven Spielberg have spent $805,000 for each minute of computer generated robots attacking each other, chunks of the Chicago skyline and the various humans unlucky or dumb enough to get in the way.
If you are the kind of moviegoer who is happy, even gleeful, about paying $16 to see Michael Bay’s special effects bonanzas in 3-D, then you will need to see, and may love, Dark of the Moon. It is by far the best of the three movies, and yes, that is damning it with faint praise. If you don’t compare it to other Bay movies, but rather to the work of his genre-mates like James Cameron, Peter Jackson and Spielberg, Dark of the Moon is a bombastic, occasionally fun to look at, but still craven piece of schlock.
Here’s a brief primer on titular robots: On the distant, entirely-made-of-metal planet Cybertron, a race of robots can transform from mundane human objects like GM cars and gigantic hand guns into bipedal steel giants. The evil Decepticons waged war against the good Autobots. After the Autobots lost, they fled to Earth, and the Decepticons followed. The Autobots befriended humanity, represented almost entirely by the young Sam Witwicky (a spastic Shia LaBeouf) and various American military officials, and they’ve decided to protect their new home from the Decepticons.
In the third movie, we discover that the space race of the 1960s was started because both the Americans and Soviets wanted to investigate a giant spaceship that had crashed into the dark side of the moon. It turns out this was an Autobot ship called the Ark, and it was piloted by the Autobot’s original leader, Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy). His successor, Optimus, is annoyed that this information was kept from the Autobots, but, in one of the many logical inconsistencies in the intricate but messy script by Ehren Kruger, he gets over it in less than 15 seconds. He travels to the moon and retrieves Sentinel, and wakes him.
This turns out to be a big mistake.
What made the first two movies so extraordinarily successful were not the stories, which were as thin as the movies were loud, nor the presence of some great actors like John Turturro and some good movie stars like LaBeouf and Josh Duhamel, all of whom were woefully, almost embarrassingly underused. Rather, it was the truly astonishing special effects that were wielded expertly by Bay. These robots were brilliantly designed and animated, and what Bay made them do, even if it made little sense in the realms of physics, was awesome.
Dark of the Moon retains the visual excitement of the first two films, along with Bay’s trademark sunsets and slow motion, and it adds a plot that features human beings, and some robots, being human. Some of the emotions we get to see are jealousy, pride, duty, sadness, sarcasm, shame, love and anger; this is six more than in the previous two films. There’s also some comedy, with Ken Jeong, John Malkovich, and, of all people, indie hero and Oscar-winner Frances McDormand hamming it up as they help propel the story.
That said, despite some improvements, Dark of the Moon is still just a vehicle for fighting robots, explosions and enormously cheap thrills; things like bloodless but still extreme violence and a scantily clad former Victoria’s Secret model (Rosie Huntington-Whitely, who replaces Megan Fox as LaBeouf’s love interest).
So, I guess it’s pretty clear why Bay and Spielberg bothered to make this cynical consumer product that is mostly an advertisement for more consumer products: a zillion dollars. At least Spielberg will use his profits to make movies like Munich or TV shows like The United States of Tara. Bay will just make another Transformers.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Directed by Michael Bay
Written by Ehren Kruger
Starring Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whitely and Frances McDormand
At your local multiplex
Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=12173