Early warning! This review may contain spoilers!
This week I have watched 4 Transformers movies of varying quality. It’s pretty clear from my reviews, if you’ve read them, that the animated movie is my favorite and Revenge Of The Fallen can go die in a fire. So where does Dark Of The Moon sit? Well obviously you’ll have to click the jump and read the review to find out…
The noise has gone. That’s the first thing I have to say. Micheal Bay has managed to show restraint and for the first time in this film series every scene isn’t taken up with loads of characters making a load of annoying noise just to fill the time between the explosions. I start with this because my god that crap dragged the first two films down and the fact it’s nearly entirely gone from this film is your first sign that you’re headed for something quite a bit better.
The plot goes a little something like this. Back in the 60s the space race was really pushed forward to search a crashed Autobot vessel on the moon. They found all sorts of alien tech but they missed something else. On board the ship was a vault containing devices that could have saved the war for the Autobots back on Cybertron. Now the Decepticons and the Autobots are both after them and, for Optimus, there’s the added bonus of his former leader Sentinel Prime being on board. Meanwhile Sam no longer talks bollocks non-stop and has shacked up with new girl Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Posh name that) and is in search of a job. Also get this, he now has some sort of character arc. He’s frustrated that he’s saved the world twice and all he got for it was a medal, which he is proud of, but what he wants is a job helping the Autobots. He wants to be somebody and he feels as though the world is stopping him from being who he could be.
It’s amazing but Sam Witwicky is finally a character and not a caricature. He has a goal and a desire to achieve something. And not only is he determined to prove to the world that he can be of use he is also out to prove to you, the audience, that he can be too. To add to that he has an issue with his girlfriends boss being way better than him, really he is, and that gives him a genuine source of conflict for him to focus on over the course of the film. I was shocked. As the film rolls on Sam develops into an actual hero character who wants to save the world. There’s even a little of the old warrior who misses battle about him. He seems to want to be in the danger because he can’t get used to not being there after the events of the first two films.
Megan Fox’s character of Mikaela is barely mentioned barring a few throw away lines and new girl Rosie is, in my opinion, a much more likable character. Honestly this has nothing to do with one of the earliest moments of in your face 3D being the sight of her arse as she walks up some stairs. Although that was what 3D was invented for. She’s not a particularly good actress but I’d honestly pick her over Fox any day. For a start I actually believe she’s a human because, though limited, she can emote. On top of that I don’t feel like I’d catch something from just being in her presence. Whilst it’s a little hard to believe she’d go anywhere near Sam she does get in a fair bit of peril giving Sam a chance to stand up and be a man. She even plays a decisive role in the final battle when she confronts Megatron face to half face.
All the issues that plagued the previous two films like the worst kind of cancer are either gone or toned down to acceptable levels. The humour is still there but it’s much less painful. there’s no lubricating, no really offensive stereotypes, no twins and most importantly no Transformers have big swinging balls on display. Sam’s parents are back but they actually engage Sam in conversation rather than just talking over each other constantly saying really unfunny crap. Wheelie is back too but he’s much more toned down and has a little robot buddy called Brains. Those two even play a role towards the end of the film that validates their existence.
Talking of the finale, it’s a 45-50 minute long action fest the likes of which have never been seen. It’s set piece after set piece and each one is unique in it’s own way. There’s toppling buildings, Sam Vs Starscream and one of the most spectacular uses of 3D on film yet with the wingsuit sequence. That wingsuit sequence is damn impressive. A few of the shots were done by strapping a 3D camera onto one of the divers heads and filming his decent. It’s near vertigo inducing and I can’t think of a film that has ever had a similar shot. The action towards the end doesn’t get too tiring or confusing but there is still a lot of big metal scrap looking robots rolling around. There’s also a couple of moments where you’ll feel as though you missed something like how did Optimus get back to the flight gear in his trailer? And when did those Autobots get captured?
There’s a few new bots in the film. The only one that get’s real screentime is Sentinel Prime (Voiced by former Galvatron voice Leonard Nimoy) and he’s an interesting addition to the film. He resembles Alpha Trion from the cartoons in some ways and his character has a big part to play in the events that unfold. Also, in a small nod to Star Trek 2, he repeats a classic line from Spock. Geek moment! Other new bots include Wheeljack, Shockwave and Laserbeak. They’re really just there to provide a little variety really. Shockwave has this giant Kraken/serpent robot pet that does a load of damage during the film but Shockwave himself doesn’t really do that much. Soundwave plays a bigger roll this time around actually getting to fight rather than spend the whole film dry humping a satellite.
One thing that is an improvement for sure is the amount of time the Transformers actually get to be involved. They aren’t just there to say a line every now and then while the humans do stuff. There’s a goal for Prime who blames himself for the invasion that comes halfway through the film and there’s also plenty of scenes where the Transformers actually get to progress the plot by themselves. Something that barely happened in the last two films. The final fight is even focused on Optimus being the full blown ass kicking leader of the Autobots he should always be. He even has his energy axe from the G1 series.
Cinematically this is also a step up. Whilst Bay still doesn’t know how to keep a camera locked in place there is a lot less shaky cam. There’s also fewer shots that involve the Transformers rolling about in the background while humans run around in camera. A lot more care has been taken to make sure the action is clearer and more dynamic than before. One show stopping sequence has Bumblebee transforming as a truck rolls into him launching Sam into the air out of the passenger seat. He then grabs Sam in mid air whilst knocking debris out of his way and transforms back into car mode ending with the camera on a screaming Sam back in the passenger seat. It’s all one shot and there hasn’t been anything like it in the previous films.
Special effects are just as top notch as in before and there’s a hell of a lot of them. The invasion, though contained to one city, is a spectacular one of Decepticon domination over the humans. They pretty much waltz in and start blowing up buildings and people at will. The 3D is also impressive, mostly thanks to how the majority of the film was shot with 3D cameras. According to Bay the only stuff that wasn’t was the close ups and quite rightly so. 3D cameras aren’t great for close ups and certain other shots and it appears bay really did his homework on these. This definitely not a hack job like approximately 90% of 3D films.
Overall this is easily the best of the 3 Bay films. It’s more focused, has an actual story with some basic character arcs and it manages to keep topping it’s action as it goes along. The dodgy humour is still there but it’s been toned down enough to not be detrimental to the proceedings. As long as you’re not expecting a summer blockbuster with the character complexities of say The Dark Knight you’re likely to really enjoy the action and maybe even Shia LaBeoufs character of Sam. It does drag on a little, yet again it’s 2 and a half hours long, but the pacing is a hell of a lot better and it really does have that feel of a final chapter. It may not be as eminently enjoyable as the animated film is but it’s an above the average actioner which is really the best you can hope for from a director like Micheal Bay who’s craft, which he does very well, is to blow shit up in increasingly exciting ways. He actually has redeemed himself, in my eyes, after Revenge Of The Fallen.