Retrospective: From TRANSFORMERS (2007) To TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 23 June 2014

Retrospective: From TRANSFORMERS (2007) To TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (2011)

With a combined worldwide box-office gross of US$2.6 billion, the first three TRANSFORMERS movies were no doubt one of the most profitable movie franchises of all time. It was a towering achievement, even though the TRANSFORMERS movies were hardly known as critics-friendly. Still, who cares when majority of the viewers still turned out in droves across cinemas worldwide? Now, TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION -- the fourth instalment in the lucrative series -- will be invading cinemas this Thursday on June 26.

To celebrate for the upcoming release of TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION, let's take a look back at the previous three TRANSFORMERS movies that have been around since 2007.


Prior to the release of TRANSFORMERS in 2007, director Michael Bay was well known for his full-scale cinematic mayhem and also specialized on crafting a crowd-pleasing, summer-movie blockbuster for the mainstream viewers. Case in point was ARMAGEDDON back in 1998. So it came to no surprise that Bay was a perfect fit to helm blockbuster movie like TRANSFORMERS, which in turn, the first live-action movie based on Hasbro's famous toy product and the beloved animated series in the '80s.

However, critics weren't exactly kind to TRANSFORMERS and I admit this movie did suffer from unnecessarily overlong plot and some of the actors here were downright embarrassing (e.g. John Turturro's over-the-top performance as the wacky Agent Simmons).

Still, TRANSFORMERS remained a highly-entertaining summer movie blockbuster. The special effects were especially seamless, with several cool sequences such as the opening scene where a mysterious helicopter at the American base camp suddenly transformed into a giant humanoid robot (Blackout) and began to wreak havoc. But the real deal here was the final 25 minutes where we get to watch the Autobots and Decepticons battling against each other in the middle of the city. As for the voices who supplied for the Transformers robots, Peter Cullen and Hugo Weaving were top notch as Optimus Prime and Megatron respectively. Shia LaBeouf was perfectly cast here as the nerdy teenager, Sam (before he grew increasingly bad in the following two movies), while then-unknown Megan Fox was amazingly hot as Sam's foxy girlfriend, Mikaela (even though her acting was simply average).


Easily the worst movie in the series, TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN was the victim of the writers' strike that even Michael Bay himself admitted his own sequel was crap. But still, it's really ironic that the sequel managed to make more money than the first movie with an astonishing US$836.3 million at the box office worldwide. 

Likewise, the plot (written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Ehren Kruger) was a bloated mess of incoherent storyline and terribly cheesy dialogues. Even the characters development this time were relegated to stick figures. For instance, Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox (both did a good job in the first movie) were surprisingly a letdown. LaBeouf's increasingly neurotic acting was beyond belief, while Fox spent almost all the time looking hot with her revealing dresses and looked unconvincing whenever she required to emote for certain scenes. Supporting casts fared even worse with Kevin Dunn and especially Julie White, who both returned with cringe-worthy performances as Sam's annoying parents. If that's not annoying enough, Ramon Rodriguez who played Sam's highly paranoid roommate Leo Spitz seriously got into one's nerves with his terribly unfunny performance.

The sequel was also outrageously bad with too many juvenile humours all over the place. It's really baffling to see Bay included sexual and racist overtones involving a pair of ghetto-talking Autobots duo named Skids and Mudflap (both voiced by Tom Kenny, of TV's Spongebob Squarepants fame) and some out-of-place humping jokes (such as the one involved a former Decepticon spy Wheelie humping on Mikaela's leg!)

Then there's the overlong finale set in the Egypt, which was really a test of patience. The long-awaited fan favourite's appearance of the gigantic Devastator was a huge disappointment as well, considering the way the ultimate Decepticon robot got easily defeated by a mere missile fired by the U.S. Army force.

Still, TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN had its few exciting moments worth praising for. The special effects were more lifelike and seamless, while some of the huge action sequences including a memorable duel between the sword-wielding Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) battling against three Decepticons in the open forest, were top notch.


After the critically-reviled debacle of TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN in 2009, Michael Bay returned with a flawed but improved third instalment of TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON. Again, the plot (written by Ehren Kruger) was needlessly convoluted. Shia LaBeouf remained as neurotic as ever and frankly, I hardly cared about his acting anymore in this movie. Newcomer Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who was well known as Victoria's Secret lingerie model, was hardly convincing as an actress but looked stunning as a sex object. Compared to Whiteley, I would say that Megan Fox -- who was sadly absent in this movie -- at least did a better job than her. But the worst of all came from Ken Jeong in his annoying cameo appearance as Decepticons' human spy Jerry Wang.

Still, the overloaded juvenile humour and some of the annoying characters (such as Kevin Dunn and Julie White as Sam's parents) were thankfully reduced into a tolerable level. However, the biggest improvement of this third movie was the spectacular final hour where Bay pulled off all kind of tricks that delivered enough cinematic mayhem to keep you hooked on the big screen. The particular action set-piece in the war-torn Chicago was certainly worth the price of admission. Among the highlights here were the wingsuit sequence where the paratroopers jumped out of their plane and flew across the besieged city of Chicago; the vertigo-induced scene where the human heroes sliding down while fighting against gravity inside the office building, falling at 45-degree; and some of the exhilarating fight sequences between the Autobots and the Decepticons.

Although TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON wasn't as good as the first movie, it's certainly a mile better than the disappointing second chapter. The third movie was also a huge financial success, grossing at US$1.1 billion at the worldwide box office.

Check back tomorrow on June 24 for my exclusive review of TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION!

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