By far the best film in Michael Bay’s trilogy of mechanical, explosive action extravaganzas, Transformers: Dark of the Moon succeeds on delivering the visual style and spectacle fans have been waiting for, and a legitimately worthy 3D experience to go along with it.
Gone are the close-up shaky shots and inexplicable action sequences, and in are the perfected CGI-animated Cybertronian warriors and slow-motion, high-detailed wide shots which leave nothing hidden to the viewers’ eyes. The cinematography change, thanks in large part to adding Amir M. Mokri (Fast & Furious, Vantage Point) as the new director of photography, was necessary to take advantage of the added 3D depth which works to enhance the explosive and debris-heavy scenery.
Michael Bay and writer Ehren Kruger bring a much more competent and sensible story with the third live-action Transformers installment, but the film – and its overly long running length – are again weighed down by plot holes and unnecessary, over-the-top scenes featuring human characters, who become bewilderingly less believable than their alien robot counterparts.
The story of Transformers: Dark of the Moon follows the long-term plan of the Decepticons finally culminating. The Autobots, still working with N.E.S.T. human forces, have been spending their time putting an end to human “conflicts,” and training military forces in how to combat Decepticons. That training is put to the test in the most brutal way possible to the delight of moviegoers.
Outside of Megatron’s head wound, fans can thankfully pretend Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen never existed and delve straight into the intriguing history of the Cybertronian conflict and how they have involved themselves in major geo-political happenings on Earth ever since mankind first set out the land on the Moon. It is this tie-in to real-world historical events which makes the intro to Transformers 3 arguably the most interesting bit of the franchise to date.
Star Shia LaBeouf returns as a much less patient and much more intense young adult version of Sam Witwicky, desperate to have a greater and more meaningful purpose in life after his first two adventures (having a supermodel super-rich girlfriend isn’t enough). While he does well as the human lead, he’s forced into several almost-painful-to-watch scenes with his parents and new characters played by Ken Jeong, John Malkovich and others which are too forced and unnecessary for comic relief.
Fortunately, John Turturro returns in a much more likable fashion as (ex)Agent Simmons to bring some balance to the human element of the film, made better by his new sidekick – and easily the best character of the film – Dutch (Alan Tudyk). We also of course see the return of fan-favorite soldier boys Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and Epps (Tyrese Gibson) who are given prime screen time to kick ass with their teams.
The biggest question mark for the film came in the form of first-time-actor Rosie Huntington-Whiteley but she plays her role adequately and is an easy replacement for Megan Fox. Whiteley shares many of her scenes with franchise newcomer Patrick Dempsey who plays a rather integral role in the story and does so very well.
Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy) are the real stars of the show and get the majority shares of the dialogue allocated to the Transformers. The rest of the bots are given little to no time to speak, wasting the opportunity yet again to develop the Autobots and their relationships with one another. Is it really too much to ask for Optimus to have a little meeting or a conversation with his team?
Transformers fans and moviegoers with keen eyes will also note that the Bay’s favorite Twins surprisingly do not return, despite their large role in Transformers 2 and even though their cars were photographed on set (they could have just thrown them in and killed them off in the intro). Also, a motorcycle Autobot (Arcee?) is shown early in the film but never shown again. For the main Autobots who do stick around, they are usually regulated to simple background appearances, with maybe a line or two each during combat.
Dark of the Moon is defined by its action sequences which take up the majority of the film’s extended run length, notably in the last hour which is chock full of inner-city downtown mayhem. The logistics of what occurs from scene to scene do not make sense at times, but Michael Bay continues to express his mastery of creating epic and often, emotional moments in each set piece. Enhanced by the best 3D we’ve seen all year in a live-action film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon delivers the best action and visual experience available in cinemas.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon represents Michael Bay and Shia LaBeouf’s apparent last go at the Paramount Pictures summer blockbuster franchise and they made sure to go out with a bang. Some of the issues fans may have had with the previous films return, but some were also rectified. All of that is trumped by the visual spectacle we all know is the film’s primary function. That and Optimus Prime becoming the biggest bad-ass in film. Bay or not, a fourth Transformers film will be greenlit soon and it’ll be interesting to see how they continue the series after the conclusion of Dark of the Moon.
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