Mecha Monday: Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Welcome to the first edition of “Mecha Monday!”  This column will focus on–wait for it–mecha; so for those of you in need of a mecha fix, you can expect at least one weekly post involving giant robots ;).  Moving along Transformers: Dark of the Moon came out a little over a month ago.  I saw it right before I left for my 4th of July west coast vacation.  As a huge Transformers fan, I was extremely excited when I first heard that Transformers was finally making its Hollywood debut back in 2007.  Unfortunately, director Michael Bay’s interpretation of the giant robots crushed my childhood memories.  To put it bluntly, I hated what came to be known as “Bayformers.”  The first movie was just ok.  The second flat out sucked.  They say the third time is the charm.  Can the last part of the trilogy salvage anything from this disastrous attempt at bringing the iconic robots to the big screen?  To put it bluntly again, no. 

Alas Shockwave, I knew you well.

Alas, while the third movie was the best of the three, it still doesn’t change the fact that it’s a slightly “better-than-ok” movie.  The best of the trilogy came little too late; the damage had already been done.  However, I digress; let’s get down to the grading.  I usually start my movie reviews with a small summary of the plot.  However, a big knock on the film (like the other two) was its ridiculous plot.  Again humanity is on the brink of destruction.  And again the valiant Autobots who are hopelessly outmatched by a giant army of Decepticons emerge victorious.  Sigh…but to try to make it sound as if I’m interested the “plot” is as follows: the Autobot ship the Ark crashed on the moon in the 1960’s.  The U.S. moon landing was merely a cover-up to investigate the alien craft.  In present day, the Autobots discover the ship.  They revive Sentinel Prime, Optimus Prime’s mentor.  Turns out he was carrying a bunch of pillars that could create a space bridge.  Sentinel betrays the Autobots, teams up with big bad Megatron, and uses the pillars to create a space bridge to bring Cybertron to Earth.  A giant explosion filled battle ensues and the Autobots (and humans) win.  Earth is saved.  Hooray.

Carly is hot right? Not. Dempsey is cool right? Double not.

Sounds awesome right? Right? Yeah thought so.  To be honest, the biggest thing that detracted from the plot was once again the same thing which detracted from the plot in the previous two films: too much human presence.  Mainly, too much Shia LaBeouf–err Sam Witwicky.  It’s once again Sam who is at the center of the story.  Not the robots.  The same whiny Sam who some how sticks his nose in the middle of a giant robot civil war again.  The same old Sam scenes are present; it’s either Sam having mental breakdowns, Sam getting into awkward situations, or Sam’s parents (mainly mom) cracking crude jokes.  Some staple annoying cast members from the previous films also return: nonstop screamer Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel),  token thug Epps (Tyrese Gibson), and goofy Agent Simmons (John Turturro) to name a few.  Throw in a few different colored sprinkles such as new token hot (debatable) girl Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and bad guy Patrick Dempsey, and you have roughly (as I said earlier) the same predictable  plot as the previous films.  You simply can’t change the mold of these characters; they already have their established roles so little can be done to change their plot contributions.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s a few examples.  Sam is the “key” or essential cog in the machine.  In the first he saves the world with a rubix cube.  In the second he saves the world with fairy dust in dirty sock.  In the third he saves the world by bludgeoning Dempsey with a metal bar.  See?  He saves the world with some ridiculous object.

“Let’s count how many explosions Bay pulls off before we hit the ground guys!”

These humans distract the viewers from focusing entirely on the robots.  You can try to argue that the robots are still the center of attention; if you’re referring to their presence in the explosion filled battles then yes.  However, we barely see the robots interact outside of battle and develop as characters (save for a brief and I mean brief conversation between Sentinel and Optimus somewhere in a desert).  Beloved characters are once again treated to the “brief screen time” or “throw-away” roles; one may call these roles useless.  The first film had Jazz.  The second film had Arcee (ugh they fucked her up) and the Constructicons (ugh they really fucked them up).  I would have grouped Sideswipe and Soundwave in that last group except they get some moar screen time in the third movie.  Did this extra screen time exempt them from the useless category this time around?  Yes and no.  Sideswipe has a badass highway chase scene.  However, it pains me (really pains me actually) to have to put Soundwave in the useless category since he just says a few lines, laughs maniacally, kills a defenseless  prisoner and fellow “throw-away” character Que (Wheeljack…why the fuck did they call him Que?), and gets his head blown off.  You can also make a strong case that even with Sideswipe’s badass scene, he’s still useless.  Actually, he also had a badass scene in the second film so not much changed.  So ok he’s useless.  Other characters that fall victim to pathetic roles are the aforementioned Wheel–err Que, Shockwave (cry ;-;), Dino (it’s Mirage dammit!), and Starscream (he gets put here for getting blown up by Sam; it’s not his fault, it’s Bay’s fault for making him go out in such a pathetic fashion).  Oh an important thing to mention is that they got rid of those annoying gangster bots Skids and Mudflap.  Thank god.  +1 for Bay for realizing his mistake.  Too bad he gets very few other +1’s.

If the boring human part of the story is overshadowed by the whiny Sam, the robot side of the story is overshadowed by Bumblebee, Optimus, and Megatron with Sentinel entering as a major player.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing;  Optimus and Megatron are indeed the focal point of the Autobot vs. Decepticon struggle.  But I just wanted to point out that featuring the other robots moar wouldn’t have been a bad thing.  Backtracking a bit, it makes me cry on the inside upon realization that Megatron in the film isn’t really a star; he’s essentially replaced by Sentinel and reduced to a “throw-away” character.  At least in the second film the Fallen and Megatron were a somewhat equal pairing.  It’s all about Sentinel in this one.  Leonard Nimoy however, does a fantastic job voicing Sentinel.  It was nice hearing the old voice of Galvatron again.  Peter Cullen as Optimus obviously takes 1st place, but Nimoy comes in 2nd.  Optimus and Sentinel’s relationship was one of the very few strong points in the film.

Bad plot and bad characters.  Surely the action is good right?  Right…sort of.  I should have mentioned this with the plot as well but while individual some action scenes are great (the highway chase), some are bad.  This is due to pacing.  The terrible pacing makes the already bad plot suffer even moar.  Some action scenes are improperly implemented.  The highway chase was so good in part because of the excellent build up of suspense prior to it.  The giant battle in Chicago at the end was bad.  Just bad.  Like the final battle in Revenge of the Fallen, it was way too drawn out.  Too much was happening.  The giant battle featured lapses of boring dialogue and pathetic attempts to draw an emotional response from the audience (Que’s death for instance; it was supposed to be sad but I found it to be absolutely hilarious).  The special effects were good for the most part.  Lots and lots of explosions of course.  Michael Bay staple.  The designs of the robots weren’t bad minus Que’s.  And the transformation sequences are always a blast to watch.  All in all, while this certainly is the best film in the “Bayformers” trilogy, that in itself isn’t saying much.  It’s a bad film with a (again) Swiss cheese plot, dreadful acting, and not enough robots.  You need MOAR ROBOTS not MOAR EXPLOSIONS AND HUMANS.  My dream is to one day see a Transformers film that is done right; personally, I would love to see a Transformer film based on Cybertron similar to that of the surprise smash hit game War for Cybertron and the comic mini series (that sadly was never finished) the War Within.   A guy can dream right?

Rating: ★★½☆☆

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