Review: Transformers Dark Of The Moon

So many questions, so little time. The third instalment of Michael Bay’s super-budgeted, special effects-laden blockbuster franchise hit the screens this week.

I really enjoyed the first ‘Transformers’ as the human and the robot stories, and the interplay between the two, worked really well. The second one (‘Revenge Of The Fallen’) was rubbish as the whole movie seemed to be shot from the human perspective and the battle scenes were too big and fast paced to focus on, plus there seemed to be far too many plot points going on at once, competing for the main thread.

I did, however, feel that ‘Revenge of the Fallen’ worked slightly better on the small screen. But there seemed to be quite a lot of blatant sexual exploitation of Mikaela (Megan Fox) and a few characters that possessed some questionable racial traits. Also Wheelie, the small spy Decepticon who defected to the Autobots and became Sam Witwiky’s (Shia LeBeouf) pet, was annoying. And a pervert.

Fox, LeBeouf and Bay have all said since that they failed the fans of Transformers in making these films. Fox was so outspoken about the project that she was fired, which is referenced in ‘Dark of the Moon’. Bay has said that all the mistakes from the past have been rectified this time round  – so, on with the review.

The film starts off with a shot of the new girl’s bum as she walks up a flight of stairs; she’s wearing just a shirt and knickers and tiptoes towards the bed where Sam is getting up. Yes, once more we have the geekiest hero in action films with a girl who is way out of his league and still finds it difficult to express his feelings while the camera gets into increasing ‘gutter-press-up-skirt’ territory.

This happens many times during the film and is most blatant in a scene where her wealthy boss Dylan (Patrick Dempsey) is describing a car in his collection to Sam. He keeps mentioning the curves and how the sensuality of the design mirrors that of a woman; all the while you are watching an upward tilt of Carly’s (Rosie Huntington-Whitley) body.

This leering voyeurism is used throughout because she can’t act. She’s a Victoria’s Secret model who came to public consciousness in ‘Britain’s Next Top Model’. In fact she even manages to make Shia LeBeouf look like a top class emoter. Her big scene involves a stand-off with Megatron which I will come to later.

Enough about her; this time there is a central storyline and it involves an Autobot ship crashing on the Moon in the 1960s. There’s a big montage about the sending up of astronauts in the Apollo missions with the secret objective of bringing back artefacts to study. There is a dodgy CG President Kennedy and a less-bad Nixon and finally, in a later scene, a cameo by Obama giving Sam a medal which, incidentally, is where he meets Carly.

As if to add credibility to their improved storyline there are cameos aplenty from such heavyweights as John Turturro, who returns as former Agent Simmons (now an author), Francis McDormand as the Head of Sector 7, Alan Tudyk as Simmons’ publicist who has a shady past and because he’s European (accent unidentifiable) he is more than slightly camp. To a lesser degree Ken Jeong plays a paranoid co-worker of Sam’s who knows about Sam’s involvement with the Autobots and about some secret documents about the lunar missions and what the astronauts brought back…which was apparently a secret to the agents in the first and second films. You can’t help but feel he’s trying to steal the limelight from LeBeouf here by attempting an over-the-top performance akin to the one he plays in ‘The Hangover’ films. He fails to be funny. In fact the
biggest laugh he got was when he was pushed out of a window by Lazerbeak, which seemed a strange choice for a joke moment. The most inexplicable cameo of all comes from John Malkovich who plays Sam’s boss. He is genuinely funny in the interview scene, but turns up for no discernible reason later on to play with Bumblebee after delivering some papers to Sam.

There’s tension between the government and the Autobots because of the withheld information, but the Autobots go to the Moon to retrieve their old leader Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nemoy). When he gets to Earth he refuses to take leadership back from Optimus Prime as he is a stranger to Earth.

His actual motive becomes clear when he teams up with Megatron, who has been hiding in the desert with Starscream and some animalistic/parasitic robots and has apparently become a tramp with a canvas scarf covering a wound on his head. Together Sentinel and Megatron pool the Moon artefacts together to form a portal which transports waiting Decepticons to Earth. This pisses McDormand’s character off and she banishes the Autobots back into space in a shuttle which is shot down by Starscream. Thus ensues an invasion of Chicago by the Decepticons. Apparently they are doing this across the world to plant artefacts which act as a portal to reconstruct Cybertron in the Earth’s atmosphere and enslave the human race, though there is no evidence of war being waged on any of the other cities we are shown.

In the meantime Dylan has kidnapped Carly and bribes Sam into deceiving the Autobots as he is in league with the Decepticons, hence the attack from Starscream on the shuttle. He quickly realises that the robots will not keep him alive after the siege of Chicago. Sam rounds up the old team of soldiers from the last film, led by Epps (Tyrese Gibson), and goes on a mission to save Carly while there is an infiltration into the city by Lennox’s (Josh Duhamel) team. They bump into each other and go to take on the Decepticons joined by the Autobots who reappear like the cavalry – never truly explaining how they managed not to be in the shuttle explosion.

The last hour of the film is the final battle, which is just as hard to follow as the storyline I’ve just explained in the last two paragraphs. Sam manages to save Carly from Dylan with the help of Bumblebee. The humans then split up with one group drawing fire for another group to get in position to blow up one of the artefacts and stop the impending destruction of Earth. To do this they have to climb a half knocked over skyscraper; they get detected by new villain Shockwave who attacks the building with his gigantic snake-like drill. Cue lots of screaming as they slide down the outside of a falling office block and, once inside, they slide back the width of the building on what must be the most highly polished floor in history. But somehow, they mostly survive thanks to Optimus Prime cleaving the monstrous robot’s head (?) off.

This, after 20 minutes of no Autobot action, kicks off lots of fighting between Decepticons and their captured Autobots where a couple of the new characters who you haven’t been properly introduced to get knocked off. And this is where the film comes into its own. There have only been small skirmishes between the robots up until this point but these large set pieces are what Bay does well. This time the action is shot mainly from far away so as to get a lot of the action on screen, as opposed to the last film where a lot of the action was shot from the perspective of a human meaning that you couldn’t see a lot of what was happening.

Plenty of Bay’s signature super slow-motion shots take you right into the action and highlight the minute detail that is put into the design of these films. And that’s all I want to see: I’d rather see an entirely CG film about robots beating ten bells out of each other than watch an hour and a half of bad acting and 40 minutes of fighting robots.

As Sentinel is beating Optimus into the ground Carly finds Megatron and delivers the longest set of lines that she’s had ‘til now: convincing Megatron that he’s a failure and that he’ll be Sentinel’s “bitch” if he wins. (It is almost as if Huntington-Whitley’s agent asked for her to have more lines to showcase some amount of acting flare in one last powerful scene, it just goes to compound the lack of talent this girl from Devon possesses.) After this tour-de-force Megatron gets up and rips Sentinel to pieces and looks like he could go on a rampage before being felled by a now one-armed Optimus in a rather anti-climactic fight.

Of course there seems to be room for another film to extend the franchise, but there is surely no one else left to fight now. Please Michael, leave it alone. You haven’t learnt from your mistakes, impressive though the special effects are; you didn’t get rid of any of the sexploitation of the central female character – instead she was boiled down to an object to ogle. You didn’t get rid of dodgy racially stereotyped characterisation; there were even more! Alan Tudyk playing the flamboyant European with a crazy accent, a robot who turns into a Ferrari with a comedy Italian accent, a robot with a Scottish accent who is gruff and stand-offish, a robot with an Irish accent who sounds a bit drunk as well as the black slang using, swear-y robots. Need I say more? Oh, I didn’t even start on the plot holes and bad acting. Watch 1986’s ‘Transformers The Movie’ instead.

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2 Responses to “Review: Transformers Dark Of The Moon”

  1. Jo Williams Says:

    One word: shabby. (The film, not your review.)

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