Warning: In the following review, I will go over some plot points briefly that may or may not affect your enjoyment of the overall story (i.e. “spoilers”). After the review, I will share some thoughts and concerns that will undoubtedly contain spoilers in a separate post. Read at your own risk.

Well they did it. It seems like every property since the Star Wars prequels and Jackson’s LotR flicks double-teamed us in the early oughts has received a trilogy at the very least. And here we are already at the third installment in the Transformers franchise from director Michael Bay. I watched it last Saturday and have given it some time to sink in. So with the last piece of the current vision of Transformers behind us, does the new film make up for the lackluster reviews of Revenge of the Fallen? Come, friends. Rap with me.


Writing/Plot:
Okay, I’m one of the people who really hated on Revenge of the Fallen. I don’t really like to yell out my opinions much on boards like TFW2005 or anything, but if any of my friends were to ask me, I would have said it was pretty, about 30 minutes too long, and some of the characters were pretty annoying.

Well, Dark of the Moon definitely reflects some of those same qualities. It’s still far too long, with unnecessary characters that seemed to not do a whole heckuva lot and were just there for the sake of a cameo or selling a toy. While they weren’t really annoying this time around (thank you Wheelie), they really just stretched out what was otherwise a very straightforward plot of good versus evil.

I won’t go into too much detail here (see the thoughts section below); I will say that the plot borrows heavily from the G1 cartoon in both subject matter and feel, hinging on the Decepticons being nasty and tricksy and the Autobots having to suffer the stupidity of humans for the sake of peace. You may recognize some plot elements you’ve seen before, but it’s solid enough to get you to the action, which is really what you go to a Michael Bay movie for anyway.

It’s funny at the appropriate times, no Bumblebee “lubricating” on Agent Simmons this time around. Which is a good thing, mind. What little dialogue the Autobots do have seems true to the characters. I was hoping in vain (again) that the robots would get some more personality and at the very least have some strategic input or at least witty banter to help personify them at least a little more than Kitt from Knight Rider, but alas this is still a Bayformers project and it’s not to be found.

The only other thing I have to say about the writing is that this is the first time I really felt like the Decepticons were a true threat to humanity. The public locations, the speech, the wanton destruction and violence really drive home the brutality of the Decepticons and in my opinion shows exactly the sort of villains you’ve been waiting to see in this series.

Megatron actually comes off a bit too soft, if you ask me. Compared to his minions, he’s kind of a lightweight in the “BA” department. It works okay, but I think he’s portrayed a little too desperate without good reason. Megatron isn’t above groveling for mercy or being weak at important moments, but usually it’s because he’s disabled or wounded in some way. Here he seems like kind of a background character compared to the other Decepticons.

Starscream is much more interesting this time around, coming off as a second-in-command who reminds the audience why Megatron bothers keeping him around. Fast, cruel, and a capable fighter, he is given quite a bit more personality in DotM.

Acting:
Shia Labeouf gets the job done as Sam again. You’ll notice from the get-go that Sam seems a lot more grown up in this installment, which ranges from him acting a bit less scared to coming off as an entitled dickhead. I really didn’t like him toward the beginning of the movie because of that attitude, but as his relationship with Carly is explored more he becomes much more bearable and even likeable and heroic toward the end. Much less a kid who gets stuck in the action and more of a hero in his own right.

Speaking of Carly, I really didn’t think Rosie Huntington-Whiteley did all that bad a job on her first movie set. She screamed at the right times, said sexy things when she needed to and left the audience wondering what the hell she was doing dating a loser like Sam. Pretty much standard fare for a Bay film, and I actually liked her character a lot more than Megan Fox’s Mikaela Banes. She’s smarter, relies less on her clothing to be sexy and more on her performance, and generally seems like a much better fit for Sam, which is also true to the OG Carly.

Of the new human characters, I had no use for John Malkovich, who seemed like an add-on for the sake of adding on. He shows up, acts weird like John Malkovich and disappears for about 20 minutes only to show up for a nice Deus Ex Machina. Sadly, as much as I hate to say it, the character Dutch (despite being played by the immensely under-rated and talented Alan Tudyk) didn’t really need to be there either, mostly just to seem a little funny. Frances McDormand is excellent as always and also felt like a necessary addition to the cast. She brings such an air of professionalism to the cast that she really steals every scene she’s in, no matter how trivial. In fact, she pulls off her limited dialogue so well that I would have traded most of the human characters for a little more backstory on her. She’s got more to her than meets the eye.

Yeah. I said it. Kinda threw up in my mouth a bit for being that guy, but hey. I have no defense.

Agent Simmons. Sigh. I love me some John Turturro, but this character is done. I think they just really needed somebody to say that line in the trailer about where you were when the Decepticons blah blah blah.

Sam’s Mom and Dad show up again for their little one-liners, then apparently sit in a mobile home for a week outside of Sam’s apartment waiting for their next lines of dialogue. Not bad or anything, just kind of not there.

Peter Cullen pulls off the same Optimus Prime he has for the last few years, which I think sometimes comes off as a bit sillier than his G1 counterpart. He’s still cool and that voice is as killer as it ever is. You might see him in a slightly darker role this time around in the waning hours of the human race. It’s an interesting evolution of the character, and they definitely gave him the appropriate reverence for Sentinel Prime.

Sentinel Prime is old as hell and acts like a crazy old war vet does, perhaps lacking some of the conviction of the heroes you see in documentaries about WWI and beyond. To be honest though, it’s not fair to judge his demeanor or actions the same way. He hasn’t had the benefit of hindsight, to him the war has been waged for millennia and he’s woken up still smack-dab in the middle of it. An interesting character at first, I did kind of lose interest in him later. More on that in a bit.

I loved Patrick Dempsey’s character Dylan. Very classic, in my opinion.

Action:
The action is insane and awesome, with most of the characters doing the cool things you expect and with the versatility of an entire metropolitan city’s landscape for the final battle.

As I said, the Decepticons are brutal this time around and are not afraid to show it. Blood or motor oil or whatever you want to call it does show up this time around, so be prepared for some CG violence for smaller kids. But hey, don’t forget that your favorite movies when you were a kid were Robocop, Aliens, and Predator. Don’t be a prude, dude.

The only negative I have is in the design department. The Decepticons for whatever reason are all still dirty grey or black and as John made mention all look like they’re made of scissors. PS, I told my brother that and he ROFLed.

Anyway, it does sometimes still get a little confusing as to which villain is which, but there are only so many you really need to keep track of. I’m pretty sure most of the battles were fought in the day, which does help.

If you think overcoming the action of the first two flicks is a tall order, I have to say that Bay filled it in my opinion. Everything was smooth, cool, and in your face.

Finally, they do address the age-old Transformers question: What happens to human passengers when Transformers transform?

Loved it.

Final:
I gotta say, all things considered I loved it. I think I did that thing again where I bag on something for a half-hour only to tell you it’s good. Sorry ‘bout that, but there’s just still something about giant transforming robots that appeals to the kid in me.

The acting is well-done for a Bay picture and each character accomplishes their roles however silly they may be. We get some interesting new characters and the action is insane.

While this doesn’t really end with a true sense of finality (in fact it feels eerily similar to the first one’s ending), it does feel like some things have changed for the Autobots and Decepticons and I’ll be interested to see where they go if the series continues.

As the new world record of being the fastest to gross 500 million dollars, I don’t think we’ll have to wait too long for word on another sequel.

Thanks for reading and as always, it’s just a movie. Watch the darned thing.

Are they gone? Like seriously, cuz we gotta talk here.

Spoilers!!!!11!ONE!

And now for my SPOILER thoughts and opinions. Click the box to open:

Spoiler:

Let’s just hit it quick and nasty, like Shia would if Brian Austin Green were on set.

Liked: How badass the Decepticons are. Seeing them blast through humans like insects was awesome, seeing an Autobot execution site in the middle of the city was a whole other thing altogether. Am I seriously the only person who thought for just a second that Bumblebee was gonna get one in the dome?

Disliked: The G1 story about the Autobots leaving Earth. Sure it worked for the progression of the plot and I’m sure there are a lot of people who appreciated the nod. My problem is the flipside. What if the Decepticons were totally true to their word and only wanted the resources they needed and were going to leave? If the Autobots were wrong, how pissed off would the human race be that they lied about leaving the Earth, risking every human life on the planet in the process? It’s not like they have another spaceship sitting around to take them off-world in case they made a mistake, they’ll have to let somebody know they’re here.

Liked: Human bad guys. One of the things I loved about this flick was how much it felt like a grown-up Saturday morning cartoon. There was no depth to Dylan. He never repents and tries to help the Autobots; in fact he yells out in the street that the Autobots are coming. That’s old-school Cobra Commander type evil there and I love it. Facing off against Sam, mano a mano? Classic.

Disliked: The lack of Wreckers action. I had fully prepared myself for some redneck fun with a bunch of good ol’ boys blowin up everything they see. Instead they’re barely in it and have British accents. The accents don’t bother me so much, they just seem like an odd decision. But how exactly are NASCAR racecars supposed to be “Robots in Disguise” at effin NASA?

Liked: Shockwave. Totally awesome looking, if a bit bland color-wise.

Disliked: Shockwave. Muthatrucka doesn’t transform? Not even a little?

Disliked: Seibertron.com for posting a call sheet for Ultra Magnus, showing that’s who Sentinel Prime was originally intended to be. Kudos to Seibertron for the scoop, but it took board members exactly five posts for someone to spill the beans about Sentinel Prime being a turncoat. The movie had been out two days. I can’t comment about whether I liked Sentinel Prime’s betrayal or not because it got ruined on a news post that had nothing to do with the plot of the movie.

Liked: The humans stepping up and heading into Chicago. My brother and I both agreed that we hoped that this would be a shining moment for humanity, with like grocery store clerks and bank tellers alongside soldiers trying to take their city back. Unfortunately I had to listen to ColeTrain prattle on some stupid dialogue that did not befit his look at all for the sake of comic relief. Still, the idea of the humans fighting back was pretty cool. Not Independence Day cool, but not bad.

WTF? : They spent the better part of the last two movies trying to convince the government and others that the Transformers were people too and needed to be treated as such. So is Optimus Prime going to face a tribunal for murdering Megatron and Sentinel Prime? Megatron is having a conversation when Prime straight Predators the guy. Sentinel Prime begs for his life, prostrate and defeated and Prime blows his head off with a shotgun? That’s seems a bit of a stretch for the character in any continuity, but I can’t get over that not being murder in anyone’s eyes. That was not self-defense; he shot a helpless old man in the face while he begged for his life. WTF.

Disliked/Liked: Ironhide goes out like a bitch. I can’t decide if I should praise the balls it took to kick thousands of fans in the nuts while counting their money or hate the fact that he killed the only Autobot outside of Prime and Bee who has had any characterization since the first flick. Either way, it was pretty shocking. I never did hear whether that was an ode to the ’86 movie or not.

Disliked: While I was lamenting the loss of Ironhide in the car on the way home, Katastrophik brought up a good point.

Wesitron: I just wish he didn’t go out like such a bitch.

Katastrophik: Well didn’t Optimus Prime bring back Sentinel with the Matrix of Leadership? Couldn’t he just do that for all the Autobots?

Wesitron: Uhhh….

Maybe we’re oversimplifying the abilities of the Matrix, but what does it do exactly? The Allspark can heal Transformers as long as it’s not their voicebox that’s busted but if you put it in your chest you die. The Matrix can bring you back from the dead if you’re a Prime but not a warrior? Who knows, man. Either way, it doesn’t add a whole lot of weight to the death of a major character to have something so ill-defined.

Liked: Megatron got tricked by the equivalent of a cartoon teenager to save the day. OMG. Loved it. Silly as it is, I loved the fact that Carly calls Megatron Sentinel’s bitch and gets him to go back on his deal with him. This is such a classic Saturday morning cartoon move that it makes my side hurt. I love that they were able to make that work without seeming too cheesy. Megatron’s facial reaction was perfect.

Disliked: Sentinel Prime. He was okay as a villain, but perhaps was a bit under-written and (dare I say it) under-acted. If he emoted a bit more I think I could have bought the whole trying to kill your friends for the good of robot-kind thing. As it is, I was so underwhelmed with the character that I returned the Leader Class figure. I think I’ll just wait for the Voyager on this one. And +1 to awesome for my fiancée Katastrophik for remembering that the episode of Star Trek they were watching at the beginning of the movie where Wheelie says, “This is the one where Spock turns bad.” I totally didn’t notice that the first time through. It might be silly, but I think that’s a fun little touch that again adds to that feeling of the classic Saturday morning cartoon.

Disliked/Liked: 3D. What I loved about it was the subtlety of it. When the movie started it was like watching Avatar again. It didn’t try to blow you away throughout the whole film; it just added a nice depth to everything. What I didn’t like as much is that it felt a bit underutilized in battle scenes. I expected propellers to come flying at the screen and what-not, but by the time it was over I forgot I was watching it in 3D.

Liked: Megatron’s design for the movie. Finally, he looks great in both robot and alt mode. That truck was menacing as hell, I would have loved to have seen a car chase with him and a few of the smaller Autobots. Where Ironhide getting shot in the back kinda sucked, seeing a Mack truck ram Honda Civics off the road at high speeds sounds like just my kind of mayhem. Speaking of Megatron…

WTF? : Is it just me, or was Megatron relaxing in the shade like frickin Huck Finn for the entire final fight? The first time I remember seeing him after his lover’s spat with Sentinel was when Carly finds him chillin next to that building. I get that he’s a leader and lets his Lieutenants take care of stuff for him, but this is kinda it. This is the big battle that could define the future of your race. Shouldn’t you at least be watching on a monitor or something somewhere?

Overall, there’s a lot to rip on, but there’s also a ton to love. Transformers is just such a wealth of character, design, and backstory. You could literally make ten more films of this caliber and make just as much money on them. I didn’t like every call they made, but Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a great summer popcorn movie and if you can make it through the boring and over-written middle, you’re in for a helluva fight.

Once again, this is Wesitron saying it’s just an epic retelling of the story of your childhood heroes. It’s okay to hate on it. Just a little.

2 Responses to Movie Review: Transformers – Dark of the Moon

  • wesitron says:

    Be warned there may also be spoiler content in the comments as well!

  • Cloud says:

    I felt the same way. I watched it in 3D hoping to be amazed like I did in Green Lantern but like you said most of the time I forgot it was in 3D.
    I really felt the WTF moment with Optimus Prime acting that way at the end.
    Make it seem like Megatron was actually a good guy with motives that seem bad.

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