The Fight For Earth Has Begun
As with its predecessors, Dark Of The Moon opens with a narration by Optimus Prime explaining the turning point of the war on Cybertron. A ship carrying the autobot leader, Sentinel Prime [Leonard Nimoy] goes missing and crash lands on our moon. This event is picked up by US satellites in the early sixties and the space-race begins. Once Apollo 11 lands on the moon, Armstrong and Aldrin race to the downed ship and collect what information they can. The narrative then cuts to the present day; Sam Witwicky [LaBeouf] is living in Washington DC with his new British girlfriend, Carly [Huntington-Whiteley] but despite saving the world and receiving a medal from the President, remains unemployed. Still working alongside the NEST military group, the autobots discover part of Sentinel’s ship, hidden in a laboratory in the heart of Chernobyl. Frustrated by this lack of disclosure, Optimus demands to know everything. Following an exchange with the Secretary Of Defence [Frances McDormand] the autobots journey to the moon, retrieve Sentinel’s body and return. Then we follow a series of cryptic events for at least an hour detailing cover-ups, double crossing and executions before the story twists and an epic invasion of Earth begins.
With the ditching of the writers for the last two films, this outing feels like a bit of a backlash; almost as if Bay is taunting critics and sceptics with the overly convoluted plot and severe reduction in his characteristic trademarks. But this is still another journey to the sun-kissed cities of BayWorld and in BayWorld, there are three key priorities: firstly, the action set pieces have to be big and loud, second, there needs to be lashings of comic relief to offset the over-the-top action and thirdly, there needs to be plenty of PG-rated sex appeal – no actual nudity, of course, just a parade of talentless faces and features. Notice how plot doesn’t really factor into those heavy-hitters? No, plot’s not that important, as long as your story is convoluted – that’s doubles as ‘clever’, right? In all seriousness though, the story is a bit of a sham, leaping from one ridiculous setup to another for almost two hours and yet you seem to forgive it to a degree because the editing and pacing flow rather neatly. Then, after two hours of exposition and developments, the third act is a visual onslaught utilising the 3D element extremely well (even if I still think it’s little more than a gimmick). And after a stupidly abrupt finale, you stumble out of the cinema with the distinct impression that so much could have been pruned from the start to trim down the bloated running time.
This film is far from perfect but excluding the unnecessarily weighty first half, it’s actually quite entertaining. However, there are still plenty of Bay-isms littered throughout. As always, the cast have been hired primarily for their visual and aesthetic appeal as opposed to any acting credibility. The hideously offensive racist and homophobic stereotypings are still present but concealed in a much more subtle manner this time round – nothing nearly as ridiculous as the twins in the last instalment but really not far off. Then there’s the direction of the action which has been dramatically improved upon but still feels like you’re fighting a continuous battle to figure out just what the fuck is going on. And finally, excessive swearing; I realise there is a certain hypocrisy there as I just said ‘fuck’ in my previous sentence but almost every scene is littered with frequent instances of mild swearing. I don’t know why it bugged me but it really did.
Being a BayWorld flick, it’s genuinely hard to talk about acting. One of the biggest complaints from the fans was that Bay always made the mistake of basing the film on Sam instead of the robots, assuming audiences couldn’t relate to anything that isn’t human (see the inclusion of Agent Meyers in Hellboy). What’s worse is that they made this whiney comedic relief the main character but gave him nothing to do, bar running around screaming BUMBLEBEE and OPTIMUS repeatedly after getting into trouble. Finally, this has been addressed, acknowledging that Sam is not wanted by the military or the US government and is seen as little more than a messenger – allowing him to prove himself to his peers as both a strategist and soldier (albeit slightly haphazardly). But even then you can’t help but analyse the mystifying Witwicky appeal. What do women find so alluring about this annoying little punk? Honestly! He was dating the mother of all high school air-heads in the first two films, who subsequently dumps him (no further explanation needed, Bay didn’t deem it important), only to hook up with her blonde British twin. Now, admittedly, Rosie whatever her name is may never have acted a day in her life but she was still better than Megan Fox – having said that, she’s still horrendously wooden and unbearable to watch. And if it wasn’t insulting enough that Bay overlooks decent acting talent for nubile twenty-somethings, he routinely wastes the opportunity to use the exceptional actors at his disposal: Frances McDormand, John Malkovich and Alan Tudyk, for example, were all given remarkably shite two dimensional characters.
Bar the improvements over the second film – which this movie all but admits you don’t need to see – there are actually some genuinely positive points. First off, the last hour is stunning. As the largest action scene attempted by Michael Bay, it also feels like one of the most epic city-based action set pieces in a long time. Additionally, Steve Jablonsky’s musical score compliments the on-screen carnage without stooping to the atypical clichés one might expect. Although, just as I’ve typed that, I did remember that during one particular scene, the score felt slightly reminiscent of Hans Zimmer’s work on Inception – as most things do at present.
At this stage, I don’t think anyone’s aiming for new fans — although arguably you would only need to see the first film and this one, the events (and new characters) of the second are almost completely removed. Ultimately, if you enjoyed the first Transformers film (regardless of your opinion of the second) then you will enjoy Dark Of The Moon; if you disliked either film, for whatever reason, don’t bother with this one.
12th June 2011
The Scene To Look Out For:
**Elements of spoilers here..**
During the massive invasion of Chicago, with thousands of citizens dead and debris flying everywhere, Carly somehow focuses and approaches Megatron and then uses her amazing powers of reverse psychology to provoke the decepticon into acting. The whole exchange was a cheap, nasty and fucking shocking affair in the midst of a decently choreographed action segment.
Many people may not realise that Leonard Nimoy wasn’t solely hired because he play Spock on Star Trek. In the 1986 animated film he voiced the lead villain, Galvatron – and he played the role extremely well, for what it was. Here he gives a certain weight and credibility to Sentinel Prime, embodying the embittered old general rather well.
“I don’t care about your exotic milk, I care about respect”
In A Few Words:
“Bloated, self indulgent and almost without plot but for the last hour alone, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is the most visually interesting of the franchise”