Posted May 3, 2011 by Matthew Looker in Films
 
 

Transformers: Dark…


With the first two Transformers films amassing well over $1 billion, a ‘threequel’ was always an inevitability. However, after the second movie received a critical mauling, with both director Michael Bay and star Shia LaBeouf subsequently apologising for it

With the first two Transformers films amassing well over $1 billion, a ‘threequel’ was always an inevitability. However, after the second movie received a critical mauling, with both director Michael Bay and star Shia LaBeouf subsequently apologising for it, and following the much-publicised firing of leading lady Megan Fox – not to mention the suggestion that Bay was apparently forced to film this new instalment in 3D (a medium for which he had previously expressed contempt) – all signs pointed to another failure. Thankfully then, despite being deeply flawed, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon somehow manages to be thoroughly enjoyable, and is certainly a vast improvement on it’s predecessor.

Shia LaBeouf returns as Sam Witwicky, fresh out of college and having difficulty finding a job befitting somebody who has saved the world twice already. At the same time, he feels neglected by the Autobots, who have been undergoing secret covert missions, and is jealous of his new girlfriend Carly’s (an unfortunately wooden Huntington-Whitely) overly friendly boss (Dempsey).

However, Decepticons soon wreak havoc on Sam’s life again as Optimus Prime (Cullen) and companions discover a familiar ship crashlanded on the moon many years ago (thus giving rise to the original moon landing in 1969) and inside they find Sentinel Prime (Nimoy), former leader of the Autobots. Once revived by Optimus, Sentinel Prime reveals that he has the technology to create a portal between earth and the Transformers’ home world of Cybertron – technology that the Decepticons are determined to get their hands on.

Being nearly two and a half hours long, it’s not surprising that a lot gets packed in to this film and audiences will surely have difficulty in keeping up with what’s happening on the screen even before we reach the hour-long climactic battle. It does, however, start off strong, with a pre-credits sequence seeing Neil Armstong’s first steps on the moon in 1969 coinciding with a top-secret mission to investigate the crashed Autobot spaceship. This is all handled particularly well, with brilliant effects and ‘cameos’ from both Presidents Kennedy and Nixon.

Other plot points, however, feel less worthwhile and sequences, such as one involving Sam wearing a Decepticon watch so as to make sure he doesn’t step out of line with the film’s villains, ultimately bears no consequence on the outcome of the movie. It almost feels as though, what seem like nice, clever ideas at the start of the writing process, have mistakenly been left in subsequent drafts of the script.

The same can be said for the seemingly endless array of supplementary characters. In addition to the returning cast, not all of whom are needed in the first place, we are introduced to John Malkovich’s eccentric office boss, Ken Jeong’s over-the-top co-worker, Alan Tudyk’s admittedly very funny right-hand man to John Turturro’s Simmons, Frances McDormand’s uptight National Defense Minister and a whole host of superfluous Transformers, either with silly accents, mind-boggling facial hair or, in some instances, no distinguishing features whatsoever. There’s even a credibility-crushing cameo for Buzz Aldrin who, for the sake of the script, has to pretend he really did see an alien spaceship on the moon. It’s a cute moment for the film but it’s difficult not to feel that this cheapens his real-life accomplishment.

Having said that, the real highlight of Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is the special effects and it doesn’t disappoint. Once again excelling in the CGI department with superb-looking giant, physical robots that actually look and feel like they are realistically interacting with their environment – an achievement few blockbusters manage – this film supplies even more glorious sparks, explosions and fast-paced, metal-crunching battle scenes than the previous two films. On top of that, the 3D technology used for the movie really works well, providing much-needed definition to what can often be a visual overload on screen and, as a result, this film has instantly become one of the best arguments for the future of 3D cinema, providing a truly immersive experience.

It’s a shame then that, come the climactic act, Michael Bay doesn’t know when to rein in his lust for OTT action and it all gets a bit too much. One truly spectacular sequence set inside, and then outside, a toppling skyscraper has to be one of the most impressive set-pieces seen in recent years, but overall the battle scenes feel far too long and drawn-out, and will no doubt desensitise a restless audience long before the final outcome.

In the end then, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is a typical fun blockbuster that has as many plot holes as robots smashing each other to bits. It could have easily been trimmed by about 45 minutes to make for a tighter, more efficient story, but fans of the first two films in the franchise certainly won’t be disappointed.


Matthew Looker