Saturday 28 June 2014

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

I review 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the third instalment in the Michael Bay directed franchise, starring Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whitley, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel & Patrick Dempsey.

Michael Bay’s Transformers movies have received much criticism from all sides and it’s easy to see why. In fact, Revenge of the Fallen – the sequel, remains one of the worst movies that I’ve ever seen (right down there with City of Bones: The Mortal Instruments and Spider-Man 3 to name a few) and was one of the reasons why I’d put off watching the third movie in the franchise for so long. The first film is probably the strongest – and arguably, Michael Bay’s best directed film to date – however, even then that isn’t saying much.

In 1961, the Ark – a Cybertronian Spaceship capable of ending the war between the Autobots and Decepticons, crash lands on the dark sides of Earth’s Moon, signalling the start of the Space Race between the Americans and the Russians, with the Moon Landings in 1969 being a cover for the crew of Apollo 11 to investigate the spaceship. This takes up the first ten minutes-ish of the film before we jump forward to the present, and a focus on the human storyline – giving Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) a new girlfriend in the form of Carly Spencer (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) and a few job interviews to deal with. This is used as an opportunity to create friction between Sam and Carly – with Dylan Gold (Patrick Dempsey), a wealthy car collector – and Carly’s boss, becoming the main human antagonist of the film.

Taking place three years after the events of the 2009 movie, Dark of the Moon sees the Autobots trying to prevent the Decepticons from using technology salvaged from the Ark in an attempt to create a space bridge between Earth and Cybertron, bringing Cybertron to Earth with Chicago as their main base of operations. And to make matters worse, humanity is starting to turn against the Autobots – deciding that they are no longer needed.

There are many problems with Dark of the Moon but first we’re going to start with the characters and their actors. Megan Fox may be gone, but it’s quite possible that Bay managed to find somebody who was actually worse than Fox at acting in the first place – with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley playing a character who I’m presuming was purely cast on the basis of her looks. It’s fair to say that she delivers one of the worst performances in this movie, which is saying something. It’s also thankfully Shia LaBeouf’s last outing as Sam Witwicky – and whilst LaBeouf isn’t as bad as others – his character doesn’t leave a lasting impression mainly because he’s constantly thrown into situations which would have killed any normal human – but somehow he survives. How are we supposed to care for this character when he can survive pretty much anything, including being tossed around by a Decepticon like a ragdoll? We know he’s going to get through it so why should we bother?

 The performances of the military characters in the movie are always entertaining to watch like they have been in the first two. Obviously there won’t be any groundbreaking acting displays – but it’s always welcome to see the likes of Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson and they’re one of the few actors who I wouldn’t mind showing up in Age of Extinction. There’s also an appearance from the always-awesome Alan Tudyk – aka Wash from Firefly, and it was great to see him there even if his role was only brief.

Now however, I’m going to turn my attention to the plot. It sucks. There are several logic gaps and plot holes – and twists so predictable you saw them coming long before they did, it takes some of the oomph away from the movie and even when a Transformer is killed you don’t really care. If you want a good blockbuster movie where Earth is threatened by the approach of another planet – try Man of Steel. It’s actually enjoyable – and whilst Dark of the Moon has its moments, they’re not enough to salvage this trainwreck.

Speaking of moments, there are a few scenes that work. The grand spectacle of the Battle of Chicago is one of the film’s highlights and is probably the only thing about the movie that I enjoyed. (Well, apart from Alan Tudyk, but that was a given – any time a Firefly cast member pops up they’re going to be awesome). And like always with these Transformers movies, the special effects are amazing. If only Bay put as much effort as he did into the plot and the casting choices – we could have a much better movie on our hands.

So on the whole, whilst not completely a waste of time, Transformers: Dark of the Moon isn’t exactly a must-see movie either. There are better (and smarter) action blockbusters out there – I’ve already mentioned Man of Steel – but there’s also Avengers Assemble, Star Trek: Into Darkness and others (There are even better films featuring giant robots – Pacific Rim for starters) – and on the whole, it’s safe to say that even the most die-hard of Transformers fans can avoid this one and not really miss much.


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