the circle is now complete with transformers: dark of the moon. that is until they make a fourth one, which by then would be a rectangle or a square (probably a rectangle, since they like to take the long way). it is by no means a good movie, but to put things in perspective, it’s probably the best out of the three. the three movies add up to seven and a half hours of my life, excluding the time spent on thinking and writing about them, time i probably should have spent on getting more sleep, or doing volunteer work, or watching better movies. i guess at least i got some blog posts out of them.
though trans2mers is the highest grossing entry of the series, everyone seems to hate it. this doesn’t escape the attention of director michael bay and star shia the beef. bay blames the failure of episode ii on the writers strike and the mythical elements, while the beef blames michael bay for trying to make part deux too big. the beef also didn’t think much of indy 4. i’m looking forward to the excuses for armageddon, pearl harbor, and the island.
i don’t know when these kind of things started, badmouthing your own work after they are long gone from theatres. probably started when sandra bullock started making fun of speed 2 every chance she gets, and clooney did the same to batman and robin. while batman and robin is indeed one of clooney’s worst movies, there are way worse sandra bullock movies than speed 2.
of course, all the bay and the beef psuedo-regrets and apologies came when they were shooting/pimping t3: the pink floyd years. so it’s more like an abusive spouse promising that this time it’ll be different. quite an apt analogy actually, for those of us who pay to keep going back every time. “he swore he’ll change this time.”
and by changes, what they really meant is that episode iii is not like episode ii but get back to the glory days of episode i. it’s admirable and all but it doesn’t really mean much to those of us who didn’t like the first one to begin with, or those of us who didn’t think the second one is exceedingly worse than the first one (it’s only a tad bit worse). i hate to break it to you, but mr. bay and mr. the beef, there are people who dislike both episode i and ii. trust me, no one is holding up the first transformers movie as any kind of gold standard, not even in the dumb summer popcorn blockbuster/it’s not supposed to be shakespeare/win awards kind of way.
what this means is that the screenplay is structured more like the first movie than the second, not that things like “screenplay” or “structure” would occur to anyone making or watching the movie. and what that means is that instead of the action sequence every fifteen minutes or so, this time we get an hour and a half of mostly exposition scenes with an hour or so robot orgy at the end.
as the title suggests, dark of the moon begins in space with cybertron technology buried in our moon. turns out the whole space race thing had more to do with robots than us. apollo 11 is just a cover up so neil armstrong and buzz aldrin could do undercover work for the government. there are some adequate blending of real and recreated footages here, with actors playing the astronauts and former presidents kennedy and nixon that would make oliver stone proud. except, you know, stone wasn’t making scifi popcorn movies based on toy robots. but anyway, this piece of technology, we’re told, can transport robots through time and space. amongst the ruins, they also recover sentinel prime, voiced by leonard nimoy. it may not make much sense since in the last movie we’re told that optimus prime is the only prime still alive, but it’s probably best not to question logic in a michael bay movie based on 80s toys, or remember the last movie at all. let’s just say that the excuse of bringing nimoy into the movie is just about as sound as it was in the j.j. abrams’ star trek year zero.
back in present day, the autobots from the previous movies are now working for the government. there is some kind of worm/tremors type robot in chernobyl whose specialty is drilling through earth, whenever and wherever the plot requires and the main characters are. . too bad he wasn’t around during the last movie, it would have saved them (and us) some time when they were trying to get into the pyramid. but then they couldn’t even get bruce willis and his drill team from armageddon for the last movie, so nevermind.
one funny thing about this part is that at one point during the montage, the helpful words “middle east, illegal nuclear site” appears on screen. we may not have found one in iraq but don’t worry, there’s one in the movie. maybe all colin powell needed were robots. i don’t know what it is about these disaster porn filmmakers but they love to inject real life elements into their movies and at the same time cater to the truthers/ufo-ers/conspiracy theorists/tea partiers. obama shows up once again, along with kennedy and nixon have cameos in this one. there’s the area 51 in independence day. there are shades of obama and condoleezza rice in 2012. for a bunch of people who always seem to stress “hey it’s only a movie” or “it’s not supposed to be realistic,” they sure love reality in their movies. and this “middle east, illegal nuclear site” is subtle considering what’s coming up later in the movie.
following the formula of the last two movie, we finally get to sam, played by mr. the beef. though you may not know it at first since it’s a porno-ish pov shot of a female ass walking up stairs. you may also not recognize said ass since the beef’s girlfriend is played by rosie huntington-whiteley (the victoria secret fashion show) instead of megan fox. sam is now a college graudate who cannot find a job (the only reality-based element in the movie that’s not offensive). he is living with his employed girlfriend, carly. fox was fired for calling michael bay hitler, though according to bay, it was producer steven spielberg’s decision. based on what’s on screen, they should have kept fox. but then she’s not supposed to be a character, all they needed was a scantily clad damsel in distress who loves cars. but at least in the last two movies, fox’s character seemed older and wiser, and they didn’t make her carry a stuffed bunny around. it’s also more pathetic than funny that they have every character in the movie voicing their preferences of sam’s new girlfriend over fox.
other than fox, most of the characters from the previous movies, human and robots alike, are back. sam’s parents played by kevin dunn and julie white, have significantly less screen time, and therefore less painful “comedy.” mr. fergie and tyrese gibson remain the lead military guys. john turturro, who was pissed on and had to show his ass in the last two movies, has now written a book about his adventures from the first two movies. though he has to share a scene with bill o’reilly, so maybe not everyone can escape embarrassment.
there are a few new characters: frances mcdormand as a hilary clinton-ish secretary of defense, john malkovich (acting like he’s still in burn after reading, in a part that possibly inspired those iphone ads) as sam’s boss at a telecom corporation. i guess they need something to do while the coen brothers were remaking true grit. i also like alan tudyk (tv’s suburgatory, i, robot, tucker and dale vs evil, wonder boys) as turturro’s assistant. the four of them elevated the movie instead of being dragged down to the usual bay supporting characters. more forgettable is ken jean, who’s usually the worst part of any given episode of tv’s community, thankfully, he’s killed rather quickly (oh loops spoiler). jeong is asian, so of course he plays a character with the last name wang. less fortunate is mcdreamy (patrick dempsey from scream 3, can’t buy me love, loverboy, and coupe de ville) as a wealthy car collector who may be trying to steal the beef’s girlfriend. you don’t think they would cast a name actor as a mere romantic rival in a robot movie do you?
the much talked about racist twins, mudflap and skids, are not in the movie, or at least they don’t have any lines. one may think that it’s because of the racial fallout from the last movie, but they seem to be replaced by another set of robot twins with less controversial accent.
the final hour of assault begins with a highway chase sequence not unlike bad boys ii, though it’s mercifully shorter, yet still not as well done as the one in the matrix reloaded. the unlucky city to be destroyed this time is chicago, though it’s mostly confined to a few city blocks. there are more varieties and therefore not as mind numbing as previous bay movies. it’s closest to popcorn escapism as anything bay has ever done. your level of enjoyment depends on your ability to stay detached from reality.
and this is not an issue of suspension of disbelief, or how scientifically or logically sound the scenes are. though it’s not done in bad taste, the black hawk down-esque climax needlessly evokes 9/11, with skyscrapers falling down, buildings half destroyed, smokes coming out windows, and people trapped in falling buildings. at one point some of the human characters are dangling out windows of a skyscraper. the robots also define freedom a couple of times, and the under sieged chicago is referred to as “ground zero” a few times. i have to honestly say that i was never quite able to disconnect the images on screen from our history to fully enjoy it as pure popcorn escapism. it’s also somewhat disconcerting that there are people who can. good movies can be made out of the terrorist attack from a mere decade ago and perhaps they have (still never quite in the mood to see either united 93 nor world trade center, as much as i like oliver stone and nicolas cage). considering the result of the last bay movie to be based on historical event, there will never be demand for another one. and then there is this: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-05-23/entertainment/chi-185-million-settlement-in-transformers-3-accident-20120523_1_gabriela-cedillo-cable-extras
i don’t think i am finally getting used to bay (at least i hope not), whose best movie is still the rock, his second movie as a director. he is more restrained, both in “humor” and spectacle in dark of the moon than his previous movies. at first i thought maybe the imax/3d cameras forced him to be less a.d.d. in shooting and editing but according to imdb, they didn’t film the whole movie with 3d cameras. there is also, for the first time in the series, a scifi feel to it. it took them three movies, and no doubt helped by dependable character actors, there is finally a somewhat passable transformers movie that more or less pull off balancing between human and robots. they finally seem to understand that the robot vs. robot fight scenes are what people want to see. they even finally notice the bond between sam and optimus prime and bumblebee. unlike the first two movies, i would not hesitate to recommend the last hour or so of this movie. i also wouldn’t recommend watching any two of these movies back-to-back as i did.
like the resident evil movies, it’s best to have a year or more in between (if you want to watch them at all). that way, by the time you watch one, you will have forgotten all about the previous ones. there are talks of a 4th tranformers movie but there is already a 3D ride based on the movies by bay. they probably should have just skipped the movies and went straight to the theme park ride.
p.s. another possible explanation/example: in part 2, i complained about optimus prime with two guns in slowmo and spouting off one liners as he’s in bad boys ii. well, there are still robot one liners but there are fewer this time, along with the two guns camera-rotating slowmo . i was also going to suggest that they go all the way and have a full on john woo type two guns with robots or a reservoir dogs type mexican standoff. i guess great minds think alike cause there is indeed such standoff in dark of the moon. optimus prime or maybe some other robot even said “looks like we got ourselves a mexican standoff,” a line that i’m sure has been in a few tarantino-related movies. with that thought in mind, i was less disgusted this time, perhaps because i was more or less expecting it. of course, no one’s giving me $200 million to make a summer tentpole movie based on a popular toy franchise.
p.p.s. there’s no words yet on how this play if you sync it to pink floyd’s dark side of the moon, or the wizard of oz soundtrack.
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