2011 finds more and more movies following the trend that places some of the plot in the 60s and why not? It adds a level of depth and intrigue to the story right? In the case of X-Men First Class, yes. In Cars 2, not so much. Here, it’s an inspired move but the idea of using the Space Race and Moon landing as a way of covering up the arrival of the Autobots didn’t quite come around as impacting as it led on in those trailers. But it does make for a lead in to one helluva great action piece delivering the “Bayhem” and overly over-the-top style you’d expect from Michael Bay.
In this this final leg of the Transformers trilogy we continue following Sam Witwicky after he’s saved the world not once, but twice. Although for all his achievements he still has trouble finding a job and getting his life in order. Bumblebee is off elsewhere working with NEST leaving Sam alone to look after some rag tag appliance sized Decepticons who’ve defected (one you’ll remember from Revenge of the Fallen) and are now political prisoners. But while NEST, the human/Autobot co-op group, has stepped up and expanded their efforts of Decepticon detection and eradication a recent mission brings the secrets surronding the cover-up out of the woodwork.
In the beginning of the film we learn that during the Autobot/Decepticon civil war, the great Sentinel Prime tried to flee Cyberton, was shot down on our Moon. The technology he was carrying holds great power and he was charged with keeping it from the Decepticons. But he crashed landed and depleted of enegrgon has been in a sort of stasis for half a century. After rescuing him from the wreck Optimus and the team learn that the technology (“Pillars”) retrieved from the wreck are but a few remains of Sentinel’s sizable cargo and the Decepticons are in possession of the rest of it.
As far as story, posing the biggest threat to Earth Dark of the Moon brings Shockwave (who was hinted at ever so briefly in a newspaper clipping in Fallen) forward as an overwhelming threat. Still reeling from the hurt Optimus put on him in the second film Megatron is a shadow of his former self. So while he’s waiting in the wings (recovering, being a Red Herring who knows) Shockwave is running diversion as something more sinister and life threatening is going on behind the scenes. It’s kind of complex and a decent reveal but I don’t want to ruin anything.
I really have to credit Bay for the cohesion of scenes in Dark of the Moon. While Bay’s been know to throw in explosions for the sake of explosions they’re not always used to drive the story; more like punctuations between boring or exposition heavy scenes. This time, though a little long, it feels like a well-rounded film and not just an excuse to blow things up. But while a director is responsible for shooting the film, someone has to write it. In Revenge of the Fallen I thought it was Ehren Kruger holding back Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman but after seeing Dark of the Moon, maybe it was the other way around (although if you look at her filmography you could see how I came to my previous conclusion).
There’s a lot more characters this time around. Some would argue unnecessary (but not annoying) and most are in the form of some high quality levels of comic relief from John Malkovich, Ken Jeong, Alan Tudyk and more as well as every one’s favorite Sector 7 Agent John Turturro. Also, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is an improvement from Megan Fox who despite a non-existent acting history does surprisingly fair, or maybe its just because of her accent. However, after the eye candy wears off, she’s relegated to role of damsel in distress and ultimately as useless as Keira Knightly in the later ‘Pirates’ films.
Visually Dark of the Moon is beyond astounding with the 3D adding incredible depth of field and that’s hands down going the biggest praise-worthy element. The problems with the previous Transformers films (story aside) was that the action, while eye-popping, was just too much to take in. Either the cameras were placed too close or the camera moved too fast but you never got a good look at what was going on so to appreciate and absorb it all. Here slow-motion sequences are used to allow you to take in the mechanical mayhem unfolding before you and trust me you’ll be thankful for Bay doing so. Still a bit too rushed in some parts but overall a much better viewing experienced especially in the hour long finale. It’s a full on invasion (think ID4 meets District 9) that keeps pouring it on and just when you think Bay’s done he’ll pile more on you with 30 minutes still to go.
Dark the Moon easily makes up for Revenge of the Fallen (had they crafted/edited it better could have made it like Fallen never happened) and in short it’s very nearly the best of the franchise. However for as much eye popping action it still manages to stumble due to moronic sidekicks and pretentious plodding. To give credit where it’s due Bay’s third at bat for the Transformers franchise is very exciting and comes close to the level of full on action and immersion in Avatar but manages to come up short. Still it goes a lot further than any other film out there as it delivers the goods as promised that other film makers only hint at. Compared to the full on annihilation and carnage in Dark of the Moon, 2007’s Transformers downtown showdown was like someone skinning their knee on Sesame Street and that skirmish in the desert of Revenge of the Fallen was like some kids having a shoving match in a sand box. In this movie Captain KaBoom (read: Michael Bay) somehow out-Bays Michael Bay. Full of over the top action and spectacular visual 3D sequences Dark of the Moon is the popcorn movie experience of 2011 and the upcharge for 3D will be some of the best money you’ll spend at the cinema this Summer, trust me.