First off, a disclosure about my history with Transfomers. I grew up obsessed with them, not as crazy obsessive like some people, but I was a pretty big fan. That said I can recognize that the original series probably doesn’t stand up well at all, but I’d probably still enjoy them for one reason or another. I didn’t even know about the existence original (animated) movie until my college years but enjoyed it…even if it was essentially a vehicle for new toys (boo, Rodimus Prime).
As for the modern movies, I kind of liked the first one even if it was mostly Autobots hiding from everything (including humans), a few scenes of awesomeness, then Autobots getting beat down with the US military and a human coming to save the day by doing exactly what everyone was trying to prevent in the first place1. Revenge of the Fallen was better in the sense that they threw all sense out the window and was basically “screw logic, TRANSFORMERS!“ Unfortunately it also had way too much forced comedy and as action packed as it was, it didn’t mean much because it was confusing as hell visually.
Now with that out of the way, on to Transformers: Dark of the Moon (in 3D! I’ll get back to that later). The best way I can describe it is less ridiculous than Revenge of the Fallen, but still satisfactorily crazy, while shot and cut better so you can actually tell what the hell is going on in action scenes. There’s still random comedy bits spread throughout but it’s not shoved down your throat like in Fallen.
Basic summary of the movie (light spoilers ahead) is that the moon landing way back was all to check out some alien ship that crashed into the moon. Turns out that this was an Autobot ship that was thought to have failed when attempting to escape Cybertron. On board was another Prime, Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy!2), who apparently has some powers or knowledge to control rod thingys that can open space/time bridges which would transport all the bots and/or planet all over the place. Some tightwad government woman says this is bad, Sentinel says it’s a way to get off the planet. Decepticons want this power for obvious reasons, and chaos ensues.
As for the humans, Sam (Shia LaBeouf) is job hunting and has a new girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) that Michael Bay exploits of course, while his parents have two or three short scenes (while visiting Sam during their road trip). Simmons (John Turturro) is now rich off exploiting alien bot stories/conspiracies and has a badass/comic relief assistant in Dutch (Alan Tudyk). Lennox (Josh Duhamel) is still doing the fight with Autobots thing, while Epps (Tyrese Gibson) left and is doing shuttle maintenance with some “asshole” Autobots. There are also a crapload more, including John Malkovich as Sam’s wacky department boss, Patrick Dempsey as the douchey company boss (who Carly is an assistant to), Ken Jeong as a crazy coworker, and Terry Tate: Office Linebacker Lester Speight as one of Epps’ buddies.
Put it all together and it’s just as ridiculous as Fallen’s plot but I think it was handled well and turned out ok (this is all on a relative scale of course). I don’t want to get into too much detail with it, god knows it’s wacky enough, I’d just prefer to focus on the really stupid details here and there:
- Transformer hair. I think Fallen may have had this too, regardless even if it did it’s still ridiculous here. Sentinel has some thick strands that are somewhat metallic at least, but there’s also bots with really thin human like hair (one of which seems to be balding).
- Transformer blood. Fallen may have had this too, but if it did I don’t think it was as overt. Blood just spews out in many scenes. I guess you could argue that it’s oil…but it has a red tint and just looks like regular blood.
- Scottish and Italian Transformers. I forget what car the Scot was but the Italian was (drumroll) the Ferrari3, and had an Italian accent. The Scot had an accent too of course, but the real atrocity/triumph was that in robot form he appeared to have somehow formed a robot kilt. I think he was a NASCAR car which just makes it all even more confusing.
- Hobo Megatron. This is a good thing and I don’t have to explain why beyond “Hobo Megatron.”
- Optimus trapped by some cables. This is during the main battle of the film, he flies through a building and gets caught in some crane cabling. And he’s stuck. A multi ton giant robot with glowing laser sword and axe and jet engines. Stuck enough that the movie goes off to other fights for a while and comes back to him still tangled in there, and only gets out when some other bots come to cut him free.
Back to earth, some basic cool points:
- Laserbeak is pretty awesome.
- If you’ve ever seen that web comic where a Transformer crushes the guy inside on accident after transforming, well they handle that situation pretty nicely.
- Continuing from Fallen, Prime is still a ridiculous badass. Other than that whole stuck in cables thing.
- All the effects are as crazy/good as ever, particularly now that you can see them.
- The 3D is done mostly well and provides noticeable depth.
And not so cool:
- Soundwave doesn’t seem to have much of a part, would’ve been cool to hear his voice more often, particularly considering Laserbeak was featured so much.
- One of the things Fallen really got right was Starscream, like his high pitched screechy voice and hilarious sycophancy to Megatron. Moon sort of keeps the latter, but changed the voice so he wasn’t as recognizable.
- Decepticons still have the samey look going on…but on the plus side it’s handled better so there’s not much confusion based on it (unlike Fallen).
- While the 3D and depth were mostly good, there were still things here and there that just felt weird like the depth was exaggerated too much at times, and/or the depth of focus felt wrong.
- It was pretty damn long, mostly due to the action scenes. If you like crazy spectacle and don’t tire of it, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
All in all if you like wild movie spectacle and can forgive incredible stupidity, it’s pretty good. Or at least better than the previous two.
- Giving Megatron the Matrix.
- Who voiced Galvatron in the original animated movie.
- If you’re a car nut and curious, it was a 458 Italia.