‘Transformers: DOTM’ Review – Bay Redeems Himself

TRANSFORMERS is a film I’ll defend til I die. It’s overly long, and the action at the end is just metal hitting metal with sparks flying off, but I love all of it. Okay, so I don’t love the generally bad attempts at humor, but overall, I’m a big fan. Of course then we get to the disaster that was TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. It took everything bad in the first film and multiplied it to an undesirable amount, including the runtime. The humor was worse, the plot dumber, and the action even more indecipherable. It’s a terrible film that Michael Bay and his crew aren’t proud of, and deservedly so. Well, luckily for them, and us, all is (almost) forgiven with TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON.

DARK OF THE MOON picks up with Sam after he’s moved on from whatever Megan Fox’s character name was, he can’t find a job, and he feels left out because the Autobots get to go on cool missions. The real crux of the story revolves around NASA’s coverup about why they really sent a man to the Moon. The real reason they went was to explore an alien (READ: Autobot) ship that crashed on the shadowed side of the Moon (Get it? Dark of the Moon?). Also, there’s something about this guy Sentinel Prime that can control some pillars, or I don’t know, it’s all dumb really. Even though it hits a lot of the same story beats as REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, it’s not as bad.

The acting is what it is, I suppose. Nobody in the film is particularly bad, but don’t expect to see the film pick up some acting Oscars. Actually, I take back what I said. This movie has put me on the side of anti-Ken Jeong. While THE HANGOVER: PART II already had me on that path, this film set it in stone when they had him be “crazy Ken Jeong” for a good 10 minutes. Much like the humor in general in this movie, it fails, horribly. Luckily, they toned down John Turturro from the last two movies. He’s not nearly as agitating. Now for the life of me, I can’t figure out why John Malkovich or Frances McDormand took a role in this film ($$$), but they’re both entertaining when on-screen. And also, I must say that Rosie Huntington-Whiteley isn’t as bad as the trailers would have you believe. She actually can speak, I swear.

I’ve got one more major complaint besides the plot, acting, and other assorted varieties of problems this movie has, and that’s the pacing. The film is about 2 hours and 34 minutes. That’s WAY too long for this story, although it fits with everything being stuffed beyond need. The film could lose 30 minutes easily, and it’d be much better for it. There’s a few small action beats, with one highway scene actually being pretty good. However, in the end it’s worth sitting through the first hour and a half to get to what might very well be the motherload of Michael Bay’s career.

It’s not a spoiler to sat Chicago is the center of destruction here, and it certainly gets blown up. For an hour. Yeah, the entire 3rd act is the fight for Chicago, and this is where the film redeems itself and the franchise’s prior sins. Upon hitting Chicago, the lag is patched, and it’s full steam ahead.

It would be fair to argue that the 3rd act is just a series of connected setpieces and that’s a flaw; however, there’s a problem with that logic as every one of them is exciting and well-staged. I think it’s the well-staged part that makes them exciting as these aren’t character’s we really have emotional investments in. Bay creates these bombastic situations that demand, and deserve, your attention. You’ve no choice but to sit with a child like grin on your face.

It helps that this movie is considerably darker than any Transformers film prior. There’s more destruction than ever, more dead robots than ever, a sense of possible defeat, and a whole lot of people getting blown up. Come the end of the film, everything gets meaner. And I feel like they made Optimus Prime the badass he was always supposed to be. With the last two films, I feel like they had him play it safe, almost like Superman. He tried not to hurt anything human related in the last two films. In this film though, he just becomes a walking death machine, specifically at the end. He has a very take no prisoners approach.

Something else that needs to be pointed out is the clarity of each setpiece. DARK OF THE MOON was planned to be in 3D from the start. With 3D, the human eye takes at least three seconds to process each shot. If you’ve seen a Michael Bay film before, you know he’s a fan of a lot of quick jumps. He was forced to slow down, and it makes a large difference. He still makes quick cuts, but never at his usual pace, and you’re actually able to tell where things are located and who is who.

That brings me to the 3D, which I hate to admit, but it adds something to the movie. I should clarify, it adds something to the last hour. The 3D helps to add another sense of clarity to the chaos. That’s weird for me to say as I’m well past the 3D craze. Most of the time it hasn’t added much to my experience, but in this case, it worked as advertised.

I’ve spent way too much time dissecting this film. 2/3rds of the film are just not good, but the last act has enough greatness to redeem this film and REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. It’s hard to judge a film that’s pure Summer movie spectacle, and that’s what this is. So no, this film isn’t “good,” but I wouldn’t trade the last hour for anything.

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