Monday 4 July 2011

Transformers Dark Of the Moon

Okay, so Michael Bay is not my favorite filmmaker. Let's face it, he’s a T & A man whose directing style consists of blow shit up and show some skin. However, this time was a wholly unique experience for me. As the little kid who fantasized that Godzilla would emerge from Lake Michigan and put a Tokyo-sized smack down on my town, this was a cinematic dream come true served up by Bay with giant space robots. This is Mr. Adolescence we’re talking about, so while the destruction was a dream come true, this film is by no means great.

While the plot for Dark of the Moon was a lot better than Revenge of the Fallen, darker in tone and more fleshed out, it is still woefully thin with a lot of useless scenes. Transformers is still the best of the three as far as story. The entire first hour of this film is just filler. We catch up with Sam Witwicky, eternal immature teenager, still trying to get his life together. He obviously hasn’t grown or progressed from the first film, just like Shia as an actor. He’s still short of funds, still drives a piece of crap car and yet, manages to score the hot girlfriend. Popular fanboy fantasy redux. He still whines a lot, too. Then to pound us over the head with how really pathetic he is, we get to trail along as his mommy and daddy arrive to take Sam to his job interviews. Note to Michael and Shia, it's called character growth. When one has survived the imminent destruction of the planet twice, there will be changes. Let me put it terms you both will understand: Think Luke Skywalker from Stars Wars to Jedi. Fortunately, they interspersed this crappy whoa-is-me fest with the alternate Apollo 11 history and re-introduced Optimus and crew.

Oh yeah, Bay also couldn’t help getting back at Megan Fox here. Sam talks about how he’s upgraded from his previous piece, new girlfriend comments on what a bitch previous candy cane was and not to be left out, his parents get in on the picture. It was self-satisfied ego on Bay’s part that had nothing to do with the story. Note to Megan, though you think your boss is a dick, it’s best just to keep your mouth shut. I’ve done it and so have millions of others.

On to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley aka The Replacement Doll. She is more of a lateral move, really and the most vacuous, uninteresting thing about this movie, just like her predecessor. Her character is simply a plot contrivance designed to get Sam to Chicago. I would have tempted him with the deep dish pizza, there’s more substance. Poor Rosie, there’s no doubt she was perfect as eye candy, she looks good, but alas that’s all there is to her. In her favor though, she soldiers through with perhaps the singular most impractical action film wardrobe ever. When she wasn’t posing in barely there dresses, she was wearing something white that looked too awkward to move in without flashing something. She spends the last hour in skinny jeans and needle-heeled pumps, running, jumping, climbing and falling off buildings all without breaking the heels or her ankles. Try that Bond Girls.

The rest of the cast, overall, was pretty good. It was great to see Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson in their respective roles of Lennox and Epps. I think they should have spent more camera time on these guys rather than Rosie. John Turturro returns as the maniacal Simmons while Julie White and Kevin Dunn make a hilarious appearance as Sam’s parents. The new faces include John Malkovich in a rather wasted comedic bit as Sam’s boss and Patrick Dempsey as a self-absorbed man’s man. Frances MacDormand joins the cast as the edgy Charlotte Mearing from National Security, while Alan Tudyk is absolutely brilliant as Dutch, Simmons’ assistant cum bodyguard, who has multiple secret agent talents. Ken Jeong is the other standout as the intense, nerdy, over-the-top Jerry Wang, the man who reveals the Decepticon plot to Sam.

For the Transformers, Peter Cullen returns as the voice of Optimus Prime while Hugo Weaving is back voicing Megatron. Mr. Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy joins in the fray as the voice of Sentinel Prime. This was one of my favorite things about the movie. I love Nimoy, but even as a CGI robot, he can’t get away from his Vulcan past. He delivers the oft-quoted line, co-opted from Wrath of Khan. “You forgot, Optimus. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…” Cue the groans.

The second part of the film amps up the energy. Holy Hell! The visuals were an absolute marvel to behold. Once the betrayal is revealed and the invasion begins, it is a no-holds barred action feast. I sat watching the last hour and a half of this film torn between slack-jawed awe and full-bore excitement at the apocalyptic destruction. I was rocking back and forth in my seat like an over-stimulated kid. There are plot holes galore, but that does not matter one wit. The f/x make you forget all about a little thing like logic. Bay and his team made the CGI and real-time action seamless. One of the most exciting scenes was with the wingmen who launched themselves off of the Willis Tower. Bay used actual base jumpers. They dove off the top of the tower and soared along the river. We are right there with them as Bay had them wear helmet cams. Incredible!

After spending last year watching some of the filming, this was the shit. I got to see not one, but two buildings where I used to work destroyed. The first was a job I absolutely hated and was located at 35 East Wacker, known as the Jewelers Building. This was the command center where the Decepticons rained down destruction on Chicago. It was so cool seeing the Transformers duke it out here. I gleefully watched as masonry fell and lasers exploded the windows. I fantasized that I could see my former boss in there crying and wetting himself in terror. The second was a huge, unexpected surprise. In one scene at the end when they panned back from the battle, there was 330 N. Wabash, the black building right across from Trump Tower. I gasped. Oh my God, there’s my old office on fire!

Here’s where I’ll have to stop or else you all are going to read nothing more than a personal tour. I think maybe I should do a companion piece to this review and breakdown the destruction of Chi Town. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is an adrenaline rush that starts off slow, but builds to one of the most memorable battle scenes put to film. Stunning both in look and intensity, this is pure popcorn cinema at its level best.


Unknown said...

Although this review is personal to you with Chicago at the heart of its final act, I think you also share most of my sentiments such as character growth and plotholes.

Oh yes, I've almost forgotten about Deep Throat Wang. LOL!

I've also improved my opinion of this film after watching it in IMAX 3D (for the action mostly).

Awesome review Melissa! :)

Unknown said...

@J-Son Thanks! Yeah Bay just can't seem to make a movie without those darned plot holes.

Deep Throat Wang just killed me. I wish he would have had a bigger part. LOL!

I'm afraid if I saw this on IMAX 3D, I would get a headache, but my friend is in absolute agreement with you about the improved experience action-wise.

Jamie Gibbs said...

Thanks for the review :) I watched Transformers but couldn't get into it and I didn't watch revenge of the fallen. I might wait until a DVD boxset is released, but I'm a bit iffy about the whole franchise. F/X-fest aside, there's nothing of substance to the movies for me. Maybe one day I'll give it a shot :P

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It had issues, but when you see a Michael Bay film, you know what you're getting. Glad you enjoyed the destruction of Chicago!

DEZMOND said...

oooh, love the pics you used to illustrate the post, Melsy :)

I watched just the first film and I'm not a fan of such flicks, so I gave up after that one, but I do think that the big key in the success of the third part in cinemas is the fact it was released during the holiday weekend.

Jay Bell said...

I pretty much agree with you on every point. I'd only add how pointless all the villains were. Why was Megatron hanging out in the desert? Couldn't he afford a better fitting tarp? And what was Shockwave up to? He seemed to just show up randomly. I honestly can't remember what happened to him either. The Decepticons got the shaft in all three films though, so I shouldn't be surprised.

Craig Edwards said...

I have never been enraptured by this particular pop culture phenomenon, as I think it came around a wee bit after my time. Consequently I missed both movies so far - and likely won't be seeing this one either - but I'm very glad you managed to have a good time with - and gave it an entirely fair review - warts, plot holes, and all - which is a rare thing for a reviewer to be able to do on a Summer Blockbuster like this - terrific review - and if I ever did watch, I'd like the MB commentary version - so you can keep me posted on the geographical tidbits you hinted at!

George Beremov [Nebular] said...

Although I totally disagree with you about Rosie, I have to say this is my favorite movie review of yours, Mel. It's written with such a passion and enthusiasm, it's a true joy to read. Fantastic job, hon!

The first movie is still the best of the three in my book, as I fell in love with Shia's character, and was literally blown away by the CGIs and the transformations in particular. It was like nothing I've seen before. The destruction of Chicago was one of the most spectacular things I've seen in a movie, and the action sequences in the second half were nothing short of jaw-dropping. You're truly lucky you can watch your former work place being destroyed. I bet you had a blast! :) Regarding Rosie, I reckon she did a good job despite her lack of acting experience. Plus, she's so hot, I couldn't take my eyes off of her.

FilmMattic said...

Great review, Mel! I'm impressed that you were able to set aside your general disdain for Mr. Michael Bay, and actually write a flattering review. His command of the action is superb.

The nostalgia aspect played a big part for you, and there is nothing wrong with that. I would have loved to see this scale of action in person. The filming of this movie sounds epic (the final product, in terms of visual composition, is EPIC), and I'm sure you will cherish those memories for a long time. And like my colleague, Craig, I'd love to see the companion piece :)

Unknown said...

@Jamie Try it some day. The movies are pure popcorn entertainment that are just fun to turn off your brain and enjoy.

@Alex Yeah, I have low logic expectations when watching a Bay film. I never thought I would enjoy things blowing up so much, but damn if I didn't love every explosion that rocked Chi Town.

Unknown said...

@Dez I'm so glad you loved these pics, I can't believe I found them. I agree, 4th of July sure is movie gold around these parts.

@Jay I know what you mean about Megatron. What the hell was with that drop cloth anyway? I still don't know why robots have beards. And I don't know the heck happened with Shockwave, either. I think I was distracted by all the destruction.

Unknown said...

@Craig Thank you very much. I am so happy you enjoyed my review. I will definitely keep you informed as to when I post my Chi Town breakdown.

@Nebular Awww thank you so much, sweetie. I'm so happy this was your fave review. It was such fun to write.

I knew we'd disagree on Rosie. Perhaps she'll get some acting lessons between now and her next job. :) And I do agree that the first was certainly the best. There was a magic there that has been lacking with the subsequent films.

@Matt Thanks! Somehow with the nostalgia factor, it was easy to set aside my general derision of Bay and enjoy the ride.

I'm so glad you are interested in seeing a companion piece. There is so much I'm dying to share, but i didn't want to stuff it all into this review. But then I was afraid that maybe no one but me would want to read it.

M Pax said...

Great review. The husband unit will probably thoroughly enjoy. I'll get it for him on dvd.

Arlee Bird said...

I wouldn't expect much in story from any Transformer movie. For me it's about the effects and the fun. From your review it sounds like Bay delivers. It will be on my NetFlix queue.

Tossing It Out

msmariah said...

I still haven't seen this one. I'm not sure if I'm going to. I completely agree w/ your statements about Michael Bay. All show, no substance.

Movies on my Mind said...

Who can resist a bit of "Bayhem".

I have to say that Bay's notion of what constitutes as feminism is way off. His story is robots... destruction... special effects... hot chick... cameo appearance by serious actors doing something silly... hot chick... slow motion shot of exploding civic locations... totally odd humour scene... crazy camera work... hot chick... the end, though with hint of sequel.

Unknown said...

@MPax If your husband loves total destruction, he will love this. :)

@Lee Bay delivers big time here. I am still bouncing around just thinking about this movie.

@msmariah Thanks! I'm glad you agree with me. Though this time, the style won me over. I sold out for nostalgia *hangs head*

@Movies "Bayhem" excellent word! I love your summation of his style. LOL. I agree completely.

M. Hufstader said...

Excellent review! I kept meaning to read it because I had the unique experience of walking into the Transformers movie thinking I was going to see X-Men, sitting through it for all of ten seconds, and having my friend grab me and drag me out going "IT'S TRANSFORMERS! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!" So there was that. As much as I love nonsensical violence, I'm just...the logics holes...what are cars doing in space?...really?...I can' brain. With that said...dammit. Your review of the second half of the movie is suddenly making this toy-driven franchise tempting. I may have to actually rent this one, purely for the testosterone fix.

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