Review: TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Friday, 1 July 2011



Before I begin with TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON, let's recap the previous two TRANSFORMERS movie. The first movie, which shown in 2007, was a spectacular action movie extravaganza filled with gigantic shape-shifting robots and amazing special effects that pleased (most) of the fans who used to watch the '80s iconic cartoon series of the same name as well as newcomers alike. But it was notable that the first movie suffered from needlessly bloated plot, annoying characters and some poorly-edited action sequences. Two years later in 2009, the sequel, TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN fell victim again from the the first movie's flaws. What's worse, the second movie had even made bigger mistake by slamming with a nearly-unbearable overlong plot, extremely annoying characters and more epilepsy-inducing action sequences than ever before. The result was heavily reviled by critics and fans alike, but ironically the second movie still made a lot of money in the box-office, with an amazing worldwide box-office grosses of $836.2 million. Franchise director Michael Bay had certainly felt the heat for the second movie and he's even admittedly hated it as well. For the third movie, he had gone on a record promising the fans that he'll made amends to improve better as well as correcting some of the mistakes he made in the past.

The good news is TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON has marginally improved from the critically-reviled second movie, except that the plot remains as bloated as ever with an unnecessarily protracted running time (clocking at a whopping 154 minutes!) which is sometimes a butt-numbing experience to sit though.

How bloated the movie goes? Here's the plot: During a long-winded but surprisingly fascinating prologue, we learn from the voiceover of Autobot leader Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) that a race of mechanical aliens called Transformers were forced to evacuate from their own planet Cybertron as a result of an ongoing war between the Autobots and the Decepticons. These mechanical aliens ended up inhabiting the Earth in which they were gradually blending in with the human society. They were, of course, changing from their gigantic robot forms into various vehicles as part of their disguises. Then back in 1960s, we also learn from an alternate-history of the Apollo 11 space mission, in which the whole program was actually created to secretly investigate a crashed alien ship sitting in the dark of its surface moon -- the same time when NASA has conducted their first moon landing with Neil Armstrong. Apparently these astronauts has discovered a powerful old Autobot named Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy), who's been buried on the lunar surface in sleep mode ever since he crash-landed there attempting to escape a war with the Decepticons back in the Cybertron.

Cut to the present day, the Autobots are now working with the U.S. government and so far they have maintain peacekeeping by defeating the Decepticons twice in a row back in the past. However, all that about to change when Optimus Prime has decided to revive his elder leader Sentinel Prime from the sleep mode. Elsewhere, the Decepticons, with the badly-disfigured Megatron (Hugo Weaving) who was still injured previously sustained from the second movie, are actually scheming with some of the human traitors in an elaborate plan to conquer the world.

Caught in the middle, once again, is Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) who had previously helped the Autobots to save the world twice after defeating the Decepticons. Thanks to his contributions, he received a prestigious medal from President Obama and he has been long out of the Ivy League college in which his education was funded by the government. Currently situated in Washington, D.C., he has a new love interest in the form of a sexy blonde named Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) and they have been living happily together. Except that Sam is still desperately looking for a job he's been hunting all this while. Naturally, all hell breaks loose when Sam finds himself in the middle of an elaborate conspiracy theory after he lands in a particularly low-end job that one of his fellow colleagues, Jerry Wang (a very irritating Ken Jeong) happens to be a human spy working for the Decepticons.

Speaking of elaborate conspiracy theory, Ehren Kruger's screenplay is needlessly bloated and complicated. It would have been better if Kruger and Michael Bay knows how to streamline their overlong storytelling method in a straightforward manner. But then again, there are some notable improvements in this third movie -- forced jokes and some of those annoying characters (e.g. Sam's parents) in the past are significantly reduced. Too bad the characters are more of the same -- Shia LaBeouf remains as neurotic as ever and boy, he does screams a lot! Newcomer Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, previously a Victoria's Secret lingerie model, is a stunning figure. Like Megan Fox in the previous two movies, Whiteley is more of a sexual object than a committed actress. She's certainly a feast for an eye but she's hardly convincing as an actress. Other newcomers to the series are Frances McDormand, John Malkovich and Patrick Dempsey -- all of them are nothing more than strict caricatures.

Haphazard pacing and some glaring flaws aside, Michael Bay does pull all the stops once the setup has made clear and the payoff begins to make way. There is an earlier spectacular highway car chase sequence (in which one particularly showstopping moment, there is a glorious slow-motion scene where Bumblebee transforms into a robot to save Sam from the falling debris). Then comes the climactic finale: the breathlessly-paced battle scene in the war-torn Chicago is lasted nearly an hour and it is no doubt the most spectacular action set-pieces I've ever seen so far in this year's summer movie season. The CG is amazingly real and completely seamless that you just have to sit back and enjoy. At the same time Bay has also significantly reduced his trademark shaky cam and hyper-editing style to make way for holding a frame longer than usual. Thanks to Amir Mokri's fluid cinematography, each camera movements are carefully angled to ensure maximum impact for the viewers to enjoy the action sequences in full view. And what view they will get here (especially those who watch this movie in 3D!) -- the wingsuit sequence where the paratroopers made their spectacular drop through the besieged city of Chicago and the scene where the heroes are sliding down from one end to another of a 45-degree falling, all-glass office building while fighting gravity and battling against the Decepticons -- are eye-popping sights to behold. Elsewhere, there are plenty of amazing fight sequences between the Autobots and the Decepticons (notably for Optimus Prime and Bumblebee when they emerged in battle modes). There are actually more money shots in this hour-long action sequences: all the scene which involves the menacing Shockwave (Frank Welker) and his deadly tentacle-beast lifeform called Driller and a fight-to-the-death scene Sam tries to eliminate Starscream (Charles Adler).

For the final hour itself, watching TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON in 3D (as Bay has publicly urges the viewers to do so) is certainly worth the price of admission. For the record, I would say this is the best 3D movie I've ever experienced since James Cameron made a breakthrough in 2009's AVATAR. While this movie does improve by leaps and bounds from the second movie, the first TRANSFORMERS remains the best in term of its overall coherence.

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