...I'll be honest, the way my brain is spinning right now with thoughts of images I've just seen and the sheer destruction I've just experienced, sleep ain't happening. You see, I've just come from seeing TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON, the third and easily best entry in the Michael Bay-directed franchise, and all I wanted to do when I left the theater was gaze upon my beautiful city, just to make sure it was in one piece.
Make no mistake, D.C. takes a hell of a beating in DARK OF THE MOON, but it was in the final hour of this TRANSFORMERS chapter that I simply forgot to breathe; there isn't a spare second to do so. For a solid hour, Bay and his CGI-created robot buddies decimate Chicago. And I won't lie: seeing it so realistically and utterly leveled was almost more than I could handle. Granted, people outside of Chicago probably won't have the same reaction I did ...but our city has never been the victim of an alien hate crime like this before. And as much as it hurt to see, I also loved watching it happen.
When the war on Cybertron between the Autobots and Decepticons appeared lost to the Autobots, their leader, Sentinal Prime, attempted to launch a craft from the planet, loaded with technology that would have saved their people. Instead, it crashed on earth's moon and the Autobots were forced to flee to earth. Coincidentally, this moon crash happened when John F. Kennedy was president, and he immediately made his famous promise to the nation to put a man on the moon (specifically, an American man, so that we would beat the Russians to investigate the crash; see how that works?). In fact, according to this film, every NASA moon landing was actually an investigation of this wrecked spacecraft.
The first hour and a half of DARK OF THE MOON focuses primarily on story (with brief fight and chase sequences pepperd in), but it's actually a cool story about the Autobots finding out that the technology that was supposed to save their race and planet has been sitting on the moon the entire time they've been on earth and nobody bothered to tell them; Optimus Prime is not amused.
The clever script manages to find new ways to place Transformers into world events, including one particularly nasty "accident" at the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl, which was actually the result of some of the moon technology being experimented on. And I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying that Optimus finds a way to retrieve Sentinal Prime's body from the moon wreckage and revive him (voiced to perfection by Leonard Nimoy).
Let's talk characters and performances. LaBeouf is LaBeouf; you either dig him or you don't. I happen to dig the guy a great deal, and he seems especially focused in DARK OF THE MOON, as well as broader in the shoulders. Huntington-Whiteley is actually pretty good here and certainly miles better than Megan Fox, if only because she's actually got something to do here beyond just looking like a million bucks. I wouldn't say Carly has a major players in this movie, but at least she's allowed to contribute. Also returning are Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson as Nest team leaders Lennox and Epps, an shockingly enough there's little attention paid to personal growth in either of their cases.
And let's not forget John Turturro as former agent Simmons, who has written a book about aliens on earth and become a rich eccentric, trying desperately not to get sucked back into the alien game. Many of his scenes are with a fellow Coen Brothers regular, Frances McDormand, as Charlotte Mearing, the defense department commander in charge of missions involving the Autobots. She's kind of hard ass who couldn't care less that Sam wants to keep playing with his robots. "You're not a soldier; you're a messenger," she rightfully reminds him.
New to the cast are such dignitaries as John Malkovich, largely wasted (but still funny) as Sam's boss at a tech company where he eventually gets hired; Ken Jeong as co-worker with much-needed information on the moon project; Alan Tudyk, very good as Simmons right-hand man; and Patrick Dempsey, as Dylan, Carly's boss and perhaps competition for her affections. Oh, and he also harbors a desire for world domination. I'll thank whatever movie gods I have to that Sam's annoying parents are barely in this TRANSFORMERS installment. Without fail, they take us out of the action on the drop of a dime, they aren't funny, and we don't need comic relief like this anyway when we've got street-smart little robots to entertain us. Yes, they're back too, but let's just say they're toned down.
So what about the scenes of Chicago's destruction? These sequences are cool for a few reasons, but let me talk about them purely from a purely action standpoint. Because the Decepticons (who have taken over the city for reasons that involve restoring their planet) can detect machines coming into their airspace, the military can't send planes to bomb them. As a result, small teams of Nest soldiers much base jump into the city using suits that effectively make them able to fly.
...I have to admit, I'm genuinely surprised what a strong effort this film is, not just in terms of its scope, but also in its pacing, performances, and ideas. This one dares to go dark from time to time, and that helped me find the often-lacking component of many Bay films: emotion. You probably won't shed any tears watching DARK OF THE MOON, but you will care when certain lives are lost or in peril. This one might actually rock you a little to your foundation; get excited about that.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
First Transformers: Dark of the Moon Review
Some people just have all the luck and it seems that Capone over at Ain't It Cool News is one of them. He was able to view a sneak preview of Transformers: Dark of the Moon that was held in Chicago. He saw a non 3D version that was not quite finished final product but close enough to get an excellent review. HE calls DOTM, "...the third and easily best entry in the Michael Bay-directed franchise." About the only "bad" part of the review is he seems to indicate that the Twins do appear, at least briefly, in the movie. Below are large segments (was hard to trim down) but it is worth reading the whole review here.