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Transformers: Dark of the Moon IMAX 3D (2011)

June 30, 2011

 
written by: Ehren Kruger
produced by: Don Murphy, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, & Ian Bryce
directed by: Michael Bay
rated PG-13 (for intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo)
157 min.
U.S. release date: June 29, 2011
 
 
Having completely (and deliberately) skipped “Revenge of the Fallen”, the last “Transformers” movie that came out two years ago, I approached “Dark of the Moon”, with a combination of trepidation and anticipation. Apparently, I missed out on more annoying parents, twin jive-talkin’ robots, robot testicles, and blatant racial stereotypes that plagued that first sequel. But once I learned that the city I live in would be destroyed in this new movie, my curiosity had rejuvenated. It’s not that I was a huge fan of the first movie, it’s just that I must admit, seeing giant intergalactic robots obliterate Chicago could be awesome. 

In fact, director Michael Bay, the reigning king of mindless excess and bombastic craziness, does deliver the awesome in “Dark of the Moon”. It’s just that with a running time of over two and a half hours, there’s only a little over an hour of awesomeness.
 
The rest of the movie we are subjected to blatant sexism, painfully one-dimensional characters, inane humor, and laughable attempts at emotional drama. He may have toned down a bit since the last film, but Bay can’t resist replacing offensive elements with annoying ones. It’s up to you to determine if slogging through painful silliness is worth immersing yourself in some of the most explosive and dizzying visuals of the year. 

The movie opens in 1961, as we witness the epic Cybertron War between the Autobots and the Decepticons out in space. In a desperate move, a damaged ship escapes and manages to crash-land on our moon. NASA detects this and President John F. Kennedy proclaims to the world that the United States will commit themselves to putting a man on the moon. 1969 comes around and Apollo 11 does just that, and when the world thought transmission was lost, it was really a secret investigation of the dark side of the moon. 

Ah ha, pretty clever.  I bought in to how the story was incorporating itself into our history. It reminded me of another recent movie, “X-Men: First Class”, and how events were directly linked to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Even with the silly Kennedy impersonator and stock news reel footage, I found all this surprisingly interesting.  It’s the only time I’ll give credit to screenwriter Ehren Kruger, for attempting to inject a history between humans and robots.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Unfortunately, the script lazily aligns itself with full-on Michael Bay silliness as we make our way to the present day. Reunited with Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), we find him whining about how he’s not able to get a job out of college, despite having secretly saved the world (hint hint, the last two movies!). But what does he really have to complain about? He’s got Carly (Rose Huntington-Whitely), the new token hottie girlfriend (to be fair, she used to work for the White House. uh huh), complete with permanent pout and a British accent. The guy even has two little mini-robots that hang around for comic relief (hardly), yet Sam still has to wallow in frustration and insecurity. 
 
That’s not enough though. Let’s add jealousy, as Sam meets race-car enthusiast Dylan (a game Patrick Dempsey), Carly’s McDreamy boss who really appreciates a good body. Ugh. Just as we long for the robots, one are bombarded cartoonish and cardboard humans. Sam’s obnoxious parents (Kevin Dunn and Julie White) are back, this time wearing matching sweatsuits and living out of a luxury RV. Ugh. 
 
As if that’s not enough, more redundant, stupid, and silly humans are added to the mix. It’s as if Bay felt like there needed to be as many humans as there are Autobots. Sam eventually gets hired by the head (John Malkovich, almost as bizarre as his character in “Red”) of some software corporation, working as a mail room clerk. There he meets a paranoid programmer (Ken Jeong, playing another over-the-top Asian guy), who clues Sam in on a Decepticon plot. Of course, Sam has to figure all this out, because, you know, he wants to “matter”.  
Inevitably, the supporting cast is rounded out by some recurring characters that I could’ve done without. John Turturro gets to reprise his unfunny role as the eccentric Agent Simmons, who’s accompanied by a bodyguard (Alan Tudyk) with an obnoxious accent. Serving expositional and beefcake purposes, we must not forget Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and Epps (Tyrese Gibson), back from the previous two movies, bringing their guns and blammo. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
By now, I was desperately wishing to be saved by these intolerable humans. Where are the robots, already? 
 
Well, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and his Autobots are working with the U.S. to maintain freedom and thwart any potential enemies, like those in the Middle East, of course. Megatron (Hugo Weaving) is off licking his wounds, playing Lawrence of Arabia somewhere in Africa. It’s okay, he’s got a robotic condor to do errands for him. Optimus learns from the Secretary of Defense (Frances McDormand, say it isn’t so) that revered Autobot leader, Sentinel Prime (a stoic Leonard Nimoy), once thought dead, has been found on the moon (guess which side?) after a failed attempt to escape the Cybertron War. When Optimus and his team return Sentinel to Earth, reawakening the legend, they learn the Decepticons have plans to gather a secret teleportation device that would enable them to transform (I had to) Earth into their home world, destroying the world as we know it. 
 
Isn’t “the world as we know it” always at stake in these movies?
 
Okay, so it’s not the most creative plot, but I must say, I did welcome a different take on Optimus. He actually has an interesting character arc, as we see him come to terms with how his relationship to Sentinel, who was his mentor, has changed. I can’t believe I just mentioned that, but this is a Michael Bay film, where we seldom can see anything compelling for humans to do. So, why not take note when the robots are actually doing something? It is called “Transformers” after all. The result is a more proactive, more ruthless Optimus Prime, who is willing to shed robot blood in the name of freedom.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
The final hour brings relentless action and breathtaking visuals, as the robot smackdown in the Windy City comes full force. Although, it’s a tiresome wait, it’s worth it.  Some of the action may be confusing (a staple for these films) and quite harsh, as humans are flippantly vaporized by Decepticons (possibly too harsh for kids?), but by that time I had a hard time finding any human to like anyway. So, who cares? It may be somewhat confusing at times, but this “Battle: Chicago” is where the movie really shines. That’s not just praise coming from a Chicagoan, because after putting up with LaBeouf, running around like he’s high on Red Bull, contorting his face and screaming like Homer Simpson, I was so eager to embrace every action frame flung at me.
 
“Dark of the Moon” is best when the chaos of swirling, razor-sharp robots are taking down Midwest skyscrapers. New York and Los Angeles have had their doomsdays, so it’s about time Chicago gets theirs. Bay knows that’s why viewers come to a movie like this. What Bay doesn’t know is that he has no clue what to do with humans here (some may say, he never has, but I don’t subscribe to that). That’s a shame considering the impressive pedigree some of these actors bring. Overlong, insufferable, and full of nonsense, Bay’s final film (hopefully) is the best of the three and an intentionally silly sci-fi summer schlock fest.  
 
The screening I attended was in 3D, at Navy Pier’s IMAX, and I can’t imagine seeing it any other way. It was huge, it was immense, and it was often quite exhilarating. The lighting was just right and at no time did it ever feel like a hack job or a gimmick. For a change, this overused fad, was excellently employed and I found myself checking the city’s skyline as a left the theater.

 
 

RATING: **1/2
 
 
 

8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 2, 2011 9:35 pm

    I thought Sam might marry Bumblebee at the end of the movie. He certainly cried enough for him.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      July 2, 2011 9:55 pm

      I think my favorite LaBeouf (it takes writing a review to know how to spell his name) is in Chicago when Optimus goes flying over his head and he just squeals, “Op-tuh-MUS!!!” What’s he gonna do, stop and say hullo to Sam? Give him a lift? It was just one of the many contorted faces of LaBeouf in this flick. Utter craziness.

  2. windi noel permalink
    July 15, 2011 8:49 pm

    Calvin wants to go see this, and I don’t think I’m going to let him. Too adult. I think he saw the other ones though, when I didn’t realize he was watching them (netflix). I’m sure most of it went over his head—he really only wants to watch the Transformers fight! LOL But still…..I saw the first one, and Ugh…I really did not care for it, although the special effects were good. I completely skipped the second one though.

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