Friday, July 1, 2011

Movie Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

"Why does Michael Bay get to keep on making movies?" - Trey Parker, End of an Act, Team America: World Police
The third installment of the Transformers franchise (stuck with a goofy title of Dark of the Moon) is director Michael Bay's third crack at getting the "giant robots doing battle" formula right. While marginally better than the awful 2nd film of the series, with Dark of the Moon we get more of the same with more polished and impressive overall visual effects paired with even worse acting from a hodgepodge of Hollywood's best.

The story in this movie sucks. We're supposed to pretend a Transformer landing on the moon is the reason for the 1969 voyage to the moon surface. Buzz Aldren even makes a cameo to sell the plot. Basically an Autobot returns from the moon and goes all haywire and hooks up with the Decepticons. Meanwhile Shia Lebouf is running around the feet of these robots the entire movie. His Sam Witwicky character has become so tiresome and this may be the single worst acting performance I've seen in the past decade. From the start of the film he has this annoying cocky attitude and constantly screams and yells his lines like he's on crack. We meet his character in bed with the lovely Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (Megan Fox's replacement for this installment). Rosie towers over him and we're supposed to believe that she's in love with this little asshole of a character. (Side note: Michael Bay definitely likes him some Rosie as he gives the audience some choice camera angles of her Victoria's Secret figure throughout the movie) Lebouf has turned into a very mediocre actor. The only reason he's got such high name recognition and Q rating is that he luck-boxed his way into this cash cow of a franchise.

Besides a terrible plot and terrible human characters, we get a waste of talent with the likes of John Malcovich, Francis McDormand, Patrick Dempsey and even The Hangover / Community comedic maestro Ken Jeong throwing up all over the screen. These are Oscar nominated actors (well... not Dempsey or Jeong) and they look like clueless bit-players throughout the movie. Bay just gets no life out of the actors he directs. It's stunning to watch. Once again we're subject to small annoying pint-sized Transformers that dance around, bump into things and talk jive all the time. They all have annoying faces and hair and just completely ruin every scene they're in. There's so much forced comedy in this movie and literally NONE of the jokes work. This is how you take an hour long movie and bloat it out to 2.5 hours. Michael Bay needs to simply direct action scenes and that's it.

There are a few good parts to this piece of crap. We get a LOT more robot on robot action than we did in either of the first two movies. The 3D effects were outstanding and while not even close to the revolutionary engaging views in Avatar, Bay did a solid job in making 3D relevant in the action genre again. The battles are really immense in scope and scale. Buildings in DC and Chicago get pummeled relentlessly. Bay can't let go of the closeup action shot though. Again we see messes of metal and sparks slugging it out in such chaos that we can't tell what's going on. Thankfully he is trying to change things up and there are several well shot scenes that are set up from a further perspective. In 3D, these scenes are breathtaking and actually calmed me down a little bit towards the end of the movie.

I'm giving a meager 1.5 out of 5 JR's for Transformers: Dark of the Moon. 1 JR for the amazing 3D CGI visuals and 0.5 JR's for the visuals of Huntington-Whiteley. The last hour of this movie is truly epic. The problem is that we have to sit through the first 1.5 hours with no build-up and no characters to root for (CGI or human). This movie has no soul or pulse and is merely eye candy. I feel that Michael Bay should sell alternate half-price tickets that allow admittance to this film solely for the last hour-long fight sequence. I would probably have given 4 JRs if I had that limited experience. I wish someone would reboot this franchise and design all new Transformers that don't take 10,000 movements to transform. These robots with faces and the whole alien look and feel just don't remind me of the toys I loved as a child. I feel that sometimes an effects team should show some restraint with their design technique. Bay and company obviously feel that excess is best and restraint is for losers. The only hope I have for this franchise is if the directing reigns were given to a capable visionary action director like Zach Snyder or Jon Favreau and the ever-annoying Shia Lebouf was sent packing.

Also, bonus negative points for having a fricking transforming Jimmie Johnson car in this movie. Really!?!?

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