Transformers: Dark of the Moon Netflix | Amazon | Epix | Google Play | iTunes | Redbox Instant | SEN | Vudu | Xbox | YouTube DVD | Blu-ray
Directed by Michael Bay
Starring Shia LaBeouf, Peter Cullen, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Hugo Weaving, Tyrese Gibson, Leonard Nimoy, Josh Duhamel, John Malkovich, Frank Welker, Alan Tudyk, Glenn Morshower, Buzz Aldrin, Bill O’Reilly
Originally Released: June 23, 2011
Dark of the Moon, the third installment of the Transformers motion picture series, is full of attention-grabbing action, with magnificent special effects that show major improvements on the previous two films. And despite a plot with logic gaps and other wanting elements, the consequence is a fun romp. Hey, it’s a popcorn movie after all!
Dark of the Moon picks up where Revenge of the Fallen left off. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has moved on in life – now graduated from university, he lives with new girlfriend Carly Spencer (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) while looking for his first major job. Despite the progress forward, he suffers an inner turmoil after having been central to the trials of the battles between the Autobots and Decepticons, feeling that his future is substandard and matters less than his efforts fighting the good fight with allies Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and Bumblebee.
Meanwhile, a secret is revealed to the Autobots, who are maintaining their alliance with the United States (ostensibly representing the rest of the world, I guess). It is learned that an Autobot ship from the Cybertron War carrying a precious cargo crashed on the dark side of our lunar satellite during the Sixties, precipitating the Space Race between the USA and Russia, in which both countries endeavored to collect samples of the ship and learn its secrets.
Concealed deep within the vault of the ship, lies Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy), the previous leader of the Autobots – who flew the ship to protect the McGuffin(s) of the movie known as the pillars: physics-defying pieces of equipment that when working in tandem open a teleportation field spanning space and time. While the discovery brings hope to Optimus and his army, Sentinel Prime’s reawakening is just but the beginning of a Decepticon stratagem that spans the world, a long-term conspiracy involving numerous humans also, as Megatron (Hugo Weaving) plans his dominating desires. And the pillars signify a deeper threat – a war like none other is imminent to Earth.
The storyline and writing of Dark of the Moon is fairly basic. The surface plot is relatively good, with a standard set of complications and resolutions that work well in tandem with the awesome visual effects fight scenes, action, and some of the comedic elements. The scriptwriting, however, is plagued by logic gaps – particular with regards to elements regarding the Apollo moon missions and Chernobyl, in which these two examples are one of many in which director Michael Bay has taken liberties with both history and physics.
The military science is correspondingly a bit off at times, with a little accuracy in places – but other scenes just defy logic altogether in exchange for it to "just look cool". The gliding of the flight suits by members of the NEST team, led by William Lennox (Josh Duhamel), is somewhat ridiculous – actually so ridiculous I could actually picture the US military experimenting with these things in real life. Additionally, the love interest thing is incredibly overplayed by this chapter of the Transformers film series, with Huntington-Whiteley fulfilling a meaningless role that serves nothing more than to provide eye candy for the testosterone-laden viewing audience. Don’t get me wrong, I rarely complain about said eye candy, being a red-blooded male myself; but her character is absent of substance, has very little significance on the plot. It’s a great pity that Bay and writer Ehren Kruger did not provide her with some strength and meaning in her role.
Which in and of itself is ironic, for the Witwicky plot in Transformers 3 actually has a small piece of depth to it. Shia’s character is essentially Bay projecting himself into Sam Witwicky – providing a metaphorical context for his background battles in making films. I know many who criticize Bay for his films, but with Witwicky’s tale in Dark of the Moon, we find an added depth that acts as a colloquialism for his own experiences in the film industry.
Along with this, it is forever important to remember that while multigenerational, Transformers is essentially aimed at younger audiences. There’s another deeper subtext in the story that focuses on the typical elements of freedom, justice, choice, liberty that we are often seeing in these films – but along with this, there’s an undercurrent subplot of "Never Let Yourself Down". While most of us beyond our teenage years will pick up on this immediately, it’s craftily planted within the story to be an element in the movie that the younger kids will pick up on gradually as they get older.
As with the previous two Transformers films, both LaBeouf and Cullen are fantastic. Frank Welker similarly continues his contributions in voicing Soundwave and Shockwave, like Cullen having provided his talents to the classic animated series as well; so those familiar with the good ol’ days will "nostalgia" big time. Glenn Morshower also returns, and it’s always great catching him in a movie, whatever it may be; and Tyrese Gibson and Josh Duhamel are also enjoyable in the flick.
Of the new cast, perhaps the most considerable is Leonard Nimoy. Voicing Sentinel Prime, Nimoy provides a command presence throughout the film, conveying much turmoil and emotion behind the character; but also providing an interesting tone that muddies and greys the protagonist/antagonist complexion of Sentinel. He adds a little bit more weight to the movie, and while younger viewers will identify him as being on one side of the battle, the older viewers will appreciate the nuances from Nimoy that generates an element of ambiguity of motives – and if not, they will at least get a kick out of the Star Trek references throughout.
John Malkovich was an amusing inclusion in the movie also, and surprisingly is added as an element of comedic fodder. His appearances only last throughout the first half of the movie, but I would have liked to have seen more of him. Alan Tudyk, of Firefly/Serenity legend, also appears in Dark of the Moon, with another amusing character that would deserve more attention, in my mind, should he appear in the 4th installment.
The visual effects stand out big time in Dark of the Moon. They outclass above and beyond the efforts of the first two movies. With Transformers and Revenge of the Fallen, there was a static pace of speed during scenes that were hard to view because of the rapidity in which they emerge and are rendered. With Dark of the Moon, key VFX scenes are slowed down in moments for the audience to savor the intensity and excitement.
The animations of the Autobots and Decepticons are of major improvement as well. Optimus Prime is the most noticeable, with more attention paid to his dialogue sequences with enriched lip-syncing and motion. Sentinel Prime, as a new character, benefits immensely too, with much attention paid also to his facial imagery and speaking motions.
In addition to the VFX, the action in this movie is stellar. It’s magnetic and commands your concentration. Where my complaints about plot deficiencies hurt the movie, Bay’s direction makes up for in the action sequences. They are bigger and badder than the previous movies, turning Chicago into a complete battleground beyond any expectations you may have. The fight sequences between Transformers are cleverly crafted and integrated seamlessly with the camerawork and lighting – indeed, the technical nature of this monster of a movie with demand your focus and keep your eyes glued to the screen.
The violence is also amped up more for this chapter too. Optimus becomes a warrior, not only prepared to defend his Autobots, human companions, and the Earth; but also ready to kill – and says so in the movie too. The Decepticons purging of the humans from the city of Chicago is markedly violent and gruesome, and while relatively bloodless and gore-free, there are several ‘disintegrations’ that result in flying body parts and bones.
While some may find issue with this, it heightens the tension and enjoyment of the movie, and additionally compensates for the aging of the young people who were captivated (or introduced to these robotic superheroes) with the first movie.
While the score is mostly good for the film (it does fall down with the Inception impersonations though), the music soundtrack incorporated into the movie is nothing more than utter fucking shit. The songs are terrible, they feel off-balance with the visual aspects on-screen when they play, and just don’t seem to fit with the soundtrack approaches made with the previous movies. While I was disappointed in the lacking plot, I was perhaps much more disappointed with these shit songs that scalded my eardrums. It’s a shame because some of the bands selected are actually quite good, it’s just that the songs really suck and tarnish the scenes – they will take you out of the moment.
So where does that leave us? Well, on the good side, you’ll be dazzled by the special effects and the action and the violence, and combined with the surface plot, you’ll enjoy the ride and have your eyes glued to the screen. On the bad side, there is little substance to the plot, only a little gravity of subtext, with many historical and scientific inaccuracies, with a love interest subplot that is vomit-worthy. Funnily enough, despite these conflicting factors, Dark of the Moon is a fun and enjoyable flick – providing you’re not looking for depth. Visually, it’s a little better than the first two, and I’m sure most of our readers (if you haven’t already seen this) will enjoy it.
Add it to your queue and consider it for some mindless popcorn-munching fun.