29 June 2011

DARK OF THE MOON- Transformers 3 Review

We're promised that this is Michael Bay's last Transformers outing, not that it's much of an ending in and of itself. But if you're braced for a massive rant, rest easy- this one isn't even in my bottom 10 films of the year so far. The time to be really angry about these films has passed, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon is actually a partial improvement upon Revenge of the Fallen. Then again, gonorrhea is preferable to that movie, so let's not assume a thumbs-up response this early in the review.

The plot, taking a cue from the alternative history antics of X-Men: First Class and Watchmen, concerns the space race of the 1960s, which transpires to have been a diplomatic hoo-hah over grabbing a crashed Cybertronian ship that landed on the dark side of the moon. The ship holds a technology of tremendous power, and its guardian, Sentinel Prime. The Transformers go to war once more over this crucial weapon, with Earth facing a greater peril than ever before.

The film has been hyped up in the marketing as the best live-action 3D movie ever. Having seen it in 3D, I'm not going to recommend you trouble yourself with surcharges and plastic glasses, but I will concede that there are some visually stunning moments to be had here. Unlike the grey clashes of previous instalments, a bit more effort has gone into character design this time, and there's a more competent marriage of practical action and CGI.

You've seen a couple of those moments in the trailers, and in their fullest form, they're good enough to make up for the shoddy and confused effects work of the first sequel. Let's not forget, however, that Michael Bay is at the helm. All of his trademarks are present and correct, and the annoying stuff is just as annoying as before. The first two thirds of the film carries on in much the same vein as Revenge of the Fallen, which we already know is one of the worst films ever made, but at the very least, parts of the climactic battle sequence in Dark of the Moon actually impressed me.

The greatest problem of the series is that Michael Bay doesn't care about characters, and so the human element has always been even less human than the parts with the 30-foot-tall robots bashing the snot out of one another. Sam Witwicky, played by shrieking idiothole Shia LaBeouf, has essentially followed the same character arc as both Peter Parker and Sidney Prescott in their respective trilogies- high school in the first movie, college in the second, and looking for a job in the real world in part 3.

It's a common adage to excuse bad films, when people say that "there's a good film in there somewhere." With Dark of the Moon, it's never more obvious which bits should be left out- they've all got humans in them. It's hard to think of a film that spends so much time with one character, with as little actual impact on the plot as Sam Witwicky. It doesn't help that LaBeouf's performance has now deteriorated into full-on screaming and shouting of every single bit of dialogue. In his head, or the head of somebody who keeps giving him work, he is meant to be a modern Michael J. Fox, but in reality, he's just an obnoxiously bad actor.

He's not the only human who troubles this film though. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is somehow an even more synthetic love interest than Megan Fox- it's not like either actress had any talent, but I'll blame at least part of their uselessness on Bay's rampant misogyny. Then there's the parade of shamelessly unfunny comic relief characters, who make the first part of the film interminable- Ken Jeong as a conspiracy nut, John Malkovich as an insane boss and the returning John Turturro as the increasingly redundant Agent Simmons.

The script, by Ehren Kruger, is just as messy as we have seen before, with calculated attempts at suspense once again failing to register amongst the dull-headed volume of it all. It's also rife with embarrassing first-draft calibre dialogue, particularly for poor Peter Cullen as the voice of Optimus Prime. It's especially cringeworthy because they're still trying so hard to make people fan-gasm with Optimus, and his dialogue just comes across as silly. The villains are also hit-and-miss, with the once powerful Megatron reduced first to running a bizarre makeshift farmstead for Decepticons, and then practically being a bum in the street at the film's climax.

In its own way, it's also strangely derivative of Doctor Who. While the similarities with this year's opening two-parter can be dismissed, seeing as how alien involvement in the moon landing is not a new idea, elements of the plot are lifted wholesale from David Tennant's swansong The End of Time. This is to such a large extent that it becomes predictable after a while, partly because if you've seen The End of Time, you've seen the bare bones of this plot. This one's more convoluted though, and, needless to say, it comes off worse despite having a much bigger budget.

Although Bay has become more adept at staging action sequences with the robot characters, he's still wrong for the material. It's designed to make you want to buy popcorn and fizzy drinks from the premium-priced concessions stand, the film itself basically being fast food for the brain. It's fruitless to tell people not to go and see it, because its audience will pardon anything, from Bay's horrid attitude to women, to its grossly over-indulgent running time. Coming after Revenge of the Fallen, this is a film built around diminished audience expectation, and on that score, people will probably go for it in droves. 

Transformers: Dark of the Moon may be a step up from the previous film, but it's par for the course as a conclusion to Michael Bay's bombastic trilogy. It's big, but never clever, packed to bursting with all of the director's old tricks. It's juvenile rubbish, packaged in such a way that it just about passes muster as a guilty pleasure for some. Whether the inevitable reboot will be any better remains to be seen, but as trashy popcorn entertainment, this one is no more and no less than what's expected. I'm glad to see the back of it, but I'm not going to waste any more time being angry about it.

Transformers- Dark of the Moon is now showing, in 2D and 3D, at cinemas nationwide.

If you've seen Transformers- Dark of the Moon, why not share your comments below? If you do insist on seeing this one, and want to know how to get the best experience, try turning up 90 minutes late.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.


John Noble said...

Aww, jeez - I was so sure this film had been commissioned just for me, and in went in soo wanting to like it too...

Oh well.

The exploding city stuff was mostly jaw dropping spectacle but when the credits started to roll, the jaws were dropped more through incredulity than in response to the special effects.

The ending was just one of the odd sudden edits/cuts - a bit like Jurassic Park 3 - the film had quite a few as I recall, not that I can remember any tonight.

Mister Prophet, I may owe you an apology for assuming that this film would be better than it was. For all the talent and money on screen... When I say 'talent', I mean the sfx crew, not particularly the writer, director, editor or actors... For all that is on screen, it just should have been better this time round.

Was it better than my favourite film of the year so far (Fast and Furious 5)? No

Will i be watching it again this week? I'm afraid so, I want to eat the visuals, they're so damned good.

Apologies to all,


Mark said...

I actually think you owe me an apology for "STICK IT UP YER CUNT", but no worries anyways.

If you're going for multiple viewings though, there's a saying- fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice, shame on you; fool me thrice, Transformers 3 is a pile of shite.

Keep commenting, sir- always a pleasure.