BUSAN, South Korea — ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’, the previous film in the ‘Transformers’ trilogy, is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, period. Any attempt at arguing against the fact that the film is an incomprehensible, offensive (to the point of being racist), and utterly tedious mess is an exercise in futility. It was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had in a movie theater. How could a director who is widely considered to have a deft eye for action construct such a senseless and indecipherable puddle of CGI vomit?
Regardless, ‘Revenge of the Fallen’ somehow managed to amass a gargantuan stack of cash at the box office, yet the critical backlash was evident. Even Michael Bay himself, along with cast member Shia LaBeouf, acknowledged that the end result was rather embarrassing.
Shia LeBouf as Sam Witwicky and Tyrese Gibson, former singer turned action figure
Considering the scathing opinion I have of that film, I can’t even begin to fathom why I found my legs leading me to the ticket counter, with my lips parting and the words escaping from my mouth ‘One for Transformers: Dark of the Moon, please’. I may, however, be able to provide several insights to you, the reader. One, I’m a child of the 80’s and grew up with the original ‘Transformers’ cartoon series and extensive line of toys, so by default I kind of have to see this through to the end. Two, I’m a total sucker and will plunk down cash for anything that involves a massive screen and row upon row of theater seating. Three, the trailer that sees Optimus Prime cutting his way through an army of Decepticons is pretty damn cool. Needless to say, if you’re already a fan, and if the second film didn’t manage to turn you away completely, there’s no reason not to see this one…because it’s actually the best of the three films.
‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ sees Michael Bay embracing the current 3D trend, forcing him to alter his directing approach to the action sequences, favoring wide shots that absorb the full effect of each shot. What we get are the kind of exhilarating action sequences that were only hinted at in the previous two installments. Bay dispenses with the messy, tighter shots that robbed audiences of the opportunity to see these amazing robots tussle, instead orchestrating his action methodically and even executing it with a bit of grace.
There are moments that inspire awe and can literally drop jaws, such as the freeway chase sequence which ranks among Bay’s absolute best action set-pieces. The CGI mastery of ILM is on full display here, with the 3D actually contributing to scenes that alone warrant the price of admission. If you’re looking for a visual spectacle, a summer blockbuster to blow you back in your seat and leave you with that “HOLY S#!T” feeling, look no further.
Unfortunately, Bay’s aesthetic orgasm of explosive mayhem comes at a cost, and that is having to endure a somewhat tedious screenplay. This is not, however, as appallingly bad as the previous film, and Ehren Kruger’s screenwriting actually focuses the narrative and resists the urge to indulge in ridiculous subplots. It’s absurd in that it suggests that the Apollo moon landing isn’t all that it seemed to be, and that the Autobots and Decepticons obviously had their part in a landmark moment in human history. It serves the purpose of setting the stakes and giving the plot a means to an end, but the introduction to this altered bit of history is naturally boring when all one wants is to see a bunch of giant robots duking it out with each other.
There’s also the continuing dramatic saga of Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), and his dire struggle to matter in the face of all that has happened in his life. Oh yeah, and there’s his super-model girlfriend (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) who’s there to serve no other purpose than to look perfect for the entire length of the picture. It’s still very amusing to see Bay’s chauvinistic view of women up there on the screen for everyone to scoff at. The trademark “humor” of the franchise is also here, though in smaller doses and kept to a tolerable level, even boasting a scene that is actually quite funny. Unfortunately, when comedic actor Ken Jeong makes a cringe-worthy appearance that accounts for some of the worst scenes in the film, you know you’re still doing something wrong in the “funny department”.
‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ feels like the kind of follow-up a director makes when he knows that he’s done something very, very wrong. Bay is still clearly living it up in his macho world of hot women, fast cars, and big explosions, with the humor of a frat boy to match, but this time around he’s out to make it more about the Transformers themselves and less about the retarded human antics. Of course, this is what it should have been about from the start, and it’s unfortunate that it’s taken three films to get a result that is somewhat reminiscent of the beloved source material. So I was definitely entertained, and this looks to be about as good as Bay is likely to get with this franchise, which isn’t saying much I know, but at least it delivers on the promise of outstanding action and doesn’t make the assumption that the audience is a bunch of drooling idiots. It’s the kind of absent-minded fun that summer movies are allowed to be from time to time, so long as they aren’t blatantly insulting. I guess it’s safe to give Michael Bay his “Mission Accomplished” sign this time around, and he can feel free to douche-out to his hearts content.
You can read more from Thomas Bellmore here.