Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day 187: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

PG-13, 2 hr. 34 min.  Directed by: Michael Bay.  Release Date: June 29, 2011.

Since every critic on the planet has pretty much lambasted this film as yet another installment of EXPLOSIONS! with MICHAEL BAY, there’s going to be a sort of different point to this.  Has Dark of the Moon earned every ounce of that criticism?  Is it pointless, mediocre, dominated by lame attempts at humor and bad acting (thanks Shia and Rosie), and in need of a more sophisticated revamp?  The answer to those questions is all a resounding yes.  These are fair assessments of the current box office leader. 

The suggestion for improvements should also include the script writer breaking his or her habit of taking something that should be a plot device and making it a central theme of the film, which helped stifle the first film in the series and sent the second spinning out of control.  They should hire Joss Whedon.  There’s a man who could not only create a plot device, but could allow it to safely disappear once the story didn’t need it anymore.  He's proven it time and time again, particularly while writing Buffy, when items would survive a staking and then survive until Buffy and the Scoobies were on the right path, then they'd vanish.  Those devices wouldn't (generally) become some super-important item that causes the next battle, they stuck around to generate story, not become the story.  It's an important part of the writing process that has been absent in all three installments in this franchise.

But what was done right here?  As we expect from the previous two installments, the Transformers themselves are awesome.  It would be nice if there were more Autobots, especially since it seems that someone wants to kill off at least one per film, and they’re already outnumbered on something like a 4:1 basis.  The action sequences, whether they involved the human cast or robot were slick across the board, and the battle for the city of Chicago is nothing less than epic.  And I mean, more epic than anything I've seen to date in science fiction (or fantasy, LOTR fans).   If you have any doubts about the heroism of Optimus Prime or his Autobots, this should safely put those to rest.  You won’t even miss Megan Fox, although she does radiate more sex appeal than her replacement.  Sadly, Megan Fox is the better actress by far, which is epitomized by a single scene with Ms. Huntington-Whiteley in the foreground of total chaos and I suspect the look on her face is supposed to be horror, but I thought she looked like she was about to shout, "LINE!"

Given the serious negative press, the terrorizing of Chicago that occurred because no one was notified of the filming schedule, and the highly positive public response to the film, I was pleasantly surprised.  I probably wouldn't watch this again, and I'm going to recommend AGAINST seeing the movie in IMAX or 3D... but then, I don't exactly see in 3D.  I also couldn't see anything I thought would appeal enough to spend an extra $3 on the ticket.  Has Michael Bay managed to pull this franchise from the absolute stink-hole created by Revenge of the Fallen?  Let's say that he's pulled back, but he's still on teetering on the brink.  Has he learned any lessons from the previous failure?  Not many.  I suspect his ego is getting in the way of the message he's been getting from critics and the public.  Hitler was the same way, I hear.  Will I see the next installment, which is sure to happen?  Depending on the trailers, I just might.

With the exception of the lead couple, the filmmakers brought together a virtual powerhouse of actual talent in to the film:  Frances McDormand has come a long way from Fargo, don’tcha know?  By the end of the film, you’ll love hating her.   John Malkovitch and Ken Jeong provide some nice, light-hearted cameos, and Alan Tudyk is more than a little funny.  Why that guy can't seem to land bigger roles is beyond me.  If you’re wondering who the voice of Sentinel Prime is, the “I am and always shall be, your friend” jokes are the clue.  Leonard Nimoy was an excellent choice, since his voice is so distinctive.  These folks aren’t quite enough to overcome the dull woodenness of Shia LeBeouf or Rosie Huntington-Whitely, but they were a nice distraction.