Transformers – Dark of the Moon. Review

The 2007 Transformers film was Michael Bay’s first venture into the vast, imaginative universe of the Autobots and Decepticons and with it came a putrid film, focusing more on the premise of a teenager getting laid by the fairly average looking Megan Fox.  The Transformers were devoid of any personality and the film was rife with continuity errors, awkward humour and action that needed be analysed thoroughly to be understood.  To put it simply, the first Transformers film was a mess.  It ended up being an unpleasant view of the franchise, handed down to fans by the talentless Michael Bay.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen then came around, promising better choreographed action, less toilet humour and more depth towards the personalities throughout.  It was what fans and critics desired, but oddly enough, Bay delivered moviegoers a Decepticon with gigantic testicles, wooden characters, racist robots and even worse action than the first.  It was amazing how Bay had accomplished such a travesty, which was unsurprisingly slammed by critics all over.

Finally, mention of a third film came about.  Michael Bay promised a much better film this time round, again.  Fans were skeptical.  Megan Fox had left the franchise over some directorial issues.  Soon enough all hope was lost for a faithful adaption.  News of the next film started to pour through.  Bearing a close resemblance to a name of a Pink Floyd album, the third film was entitled The Dark of the Moon and it hit cinemas on the 29th July.

New Autobots and Decepticons were to be introduced and less appealing robots were ditched for another opportunity to get it right finally.  So that meant the cringe worthy Skids and Mudflap were out, disregarding the awful banter which somehow made it into the second film’s script.  Sentinel Prime was introduced to the film franchise with the legendary Leonard Nimoy providing the voice work.  Perhaps this was going to be a faithful addition to the series.

The Dark of the Moon takes place three years after the brain-aching event of Revenge of the Fallen.  Sam Witwicky has now broken up with Mikeala and is currently living with his new partner Carly, played by Rosie Huntington-Whitely.  All seems well for Sam, apart from his job prospects.  Having saved the whole world twice, he is without a job and his trustworthy friends.

Meanwhile, the Autobots are now working publicly for NEST on a regular basis.  A particular secret has been kept from the Autobots, which eventually leads to them to a hidden spacecraft on the moon.  They have to get there before the Decepticons get their hands on the invaluable materials within, as its contents may be too powerful in the wrong hands. It’s a typical, unsurprising Transformers tale, involving a race between to the two warring factions.

Familiar faces turn up throughout, as betrayal and secrecy proves to ultimately be the Autobots’ downfall.  It is then up to Sam and the Autobots to overpower the evil plans of Megatron and his forces, ending up in a massive war to save planet Earth.  Again.

So, what did Dark of the Moon accomplish what the others so failed to do? Surprisingly enough, a lot.  The first two films struggled with the severe lack of character development and depth.  The Autobots were always sidelined for the miserable romance sub-plot, taking away the importance of their presence.  The Decepticons were without a spark of personality and somehow Megatron appeared in the final quarter, losing all importance for the final bout in the film.  Thankfully though, Bay seems to learn from these past mistakes, providing fans and moviegoers with Transformers who surprisingly have their own personality and motives.  Starscream now fully embodies his cowardly, cowering personality, thankfully enough.  It only took Bay three films to get that right.

This isn’t to say that all the focus is shifted towards the robots this time round.  Yes, unfortunately the film is still rife with needless, pointless characters.  Bay doesn’t disappoint the big companies, by adding in shameless product placement throughout.  There is no need for Sam’s parents to be sporting an overly disgusting Adidas tracksuit.  Certain shots showcasing big brands do appear throughout the first quarter of the film, but seem to wither away when the action gets started.  Nonetheless, that makes this film a horrid, despicable example of why product placement should be abolished.

Thankfully, the toilet humour has been flushed away too.  Bay has learnt from his past mistakes, as toilet humour does not benefit towards a story about towering robots.  Neither does banal racism, which is stripped away from most of the characters.  There’s still some, but not as much as this time round.  Different languages are not hilarious just because they’re inherently different than American-English.

Whilst Witwicky’s parents sport the vile product placement, there’s solace thanks to the the other characters.  Lester Speight, known as The Cole Train\Terry Tate, makes for an amusing soldier throughout.  He is a worthy addition to the franchise, as he works well beside Tyrese Gibson.  Patrick Dempsey’s role is also an inspired one, which may not truly be appreciated throughout the film.  However, his part in the story at least adds importance to the pathetic romance subplot.  The departure of Megan Fox works quite well for the film, as Rosie Huntington-Whitely fills the role of the helpless girlfriend nicely.  She’s hardly a good actress, but she’s ahead of Megan Fox in terms of being Sam’s other half.

Frances McDormand, Ken Jeong and even John Malkovich appear throughout as well.  Unfortunately, it seems like Jeong’s shtick is getting old.  His behaviour leads to an unsurprising turn of events, whilst Malkovich’s strange character comes off as being nothing more than an added weight in terms of needless humour,  McDormand works well as the head of the CIA but only to a certain extent.  All in all, they were roles which were forgotten about well into the second half of the film, as they hold no importance towards the end of the film.

Obviously, Carly gets into some sticky situations.  So it’s up to Sam’s keen sense of love and devotion to rescue her from the evil clutches of the Decepticons.  It’s the kind of romance that ends up in big blockbuster films, catering perhaps to the average female moviegoer.  However, it’s still pointless as this of course, departs from the real focus of the film.  The brawling, magnificent Transformers.

Whilst moviegoers may consider the star of the show to be Shia Lebeouf, they may need to remind themselves of the seamless CGI throughout.  ILM manage to finish off scenes with flawless effects, perfecting the portrayal of the Transformers as real-life counterparts.  Most of the credit falls on them, for sequences which greatly maintain the vision of large, mechanical behemoths brawling over a destroyed cityscape.

Now, this is where Bay puts all of his past experience into one explosive package.  Vast set pieces portray the complete decimation of the drones in the ending brawl, followed up with numerous fight scenes resulting in brutal, significant deaths.  Finally, these scenes are choreographed with precision, resulting in impressive scraps which should have been showcased in the earlier films.  Prime’s unnecessary murderous side still crops up throughout, but in some way it’s actually understandable given the reasons.  All in all, Bay leaves us with a spectacular set of scenes which finally showcases his abilities perfectly.

Sentinel Prime is easily the stand-out Transformer of the film, as the respective voice actor Leonard Nimoy helps boost the performance of the legendary Autobot.  Leonard Nimoy is perfect for Sentinel Prime, fitting along nicely amongst the great Peter Cullen and Hugo Weaving.  Unfortunately, Bumblebee still converses in an awful, uninspired radio voice.  But you can’t have it all with Michael Bay’s films.

At least he gets it somewhat right this time round.  This is his best Transformers film to date, as he finally irons out a straight-forward story with some credibility.  Sure, the humans still stick around as cannon fodder but this time round, the importance of the Transformers takes charge.  Cityscapes are beautifully destroyed, as ILM’s talent shines throughout.  Whilst some may not take too kindly the hour-long rampage towards the second half of the film, fans of mindless action will rate the set of sequences with high regard.  The fight scenes are finally constructed and edited well, leaving fans with the strange desire to see more.  Characters are memorable for once, as the toilet humour has long gone and the product placement disappears with time.

Before leaving the film with praise, there are still elements which hold the film back from being the perfect Transformers film.  The first half of the film dabbles with history too much, adding in forgettable characters alongside the shameful product placement.  The wooden acting does distract from the film quite often too.

The first scene is something fans may want to see more of, so perhaps Bay may take note.  Obviously it won’t be long until Shia Lebeouf will turn up to save the world again, but as long as Michael Bay improves on his formula even more so then he may even become a credible director.

Transformers – Dark of the Moon surprisingly manages to pull off a convincing, impressive sequel which almost makes you forget about the abomination which was Revenge of the Fallen.

Whether or not Dark of the Moon manages to save the crippling 3D box-office numbers remains to be seen, but news has been positive of it’s reception.

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