Transformers 3: Yep, It’s a Blockbuster

Transformers: Dark of the Moon was exactly what I expected and predicted, with one exception: the American flag was battered instead of pristine… But it was still there, waving proudly over the rubble as the heroes walked towards each other in slow motion at dusk. This movie was everything we’ve all come to expect from a Michael Bay blockbuster. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. First…

The Trailers
Cowboys & Aliens – James Bond, Han Solo, and “Thirteen” from House… And directed by Jon Favreau? I’m in.
Real Steel – A movie based on Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots… Okayyyyy…
Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Until this specific trailer, I couldn’t get past the title. Rise of the planet… of the apes. The planet is rising…?
Harry Potter Part 7.5 – Can’t wait. Cannot. Wait.
Mission Impossible 4 – Simon Pegg a part of the team, and Jeremy Renner? Sweet.
Captain America – Also on my summer list.

With the trailers finished and the 3D glasses donned, it was time for the film itself.

The Movie Itself
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the epitome of Summer Blockbuster excess. Every thing you’d expect to find in a big-budget summer action flick is here. Big explosions, lots of beautiful people, destruction of urban environments. The movie opens with an Autobot ship crash-landing on the dark side of the moon (hence the title) in the 1950s. The US and USSR observe the event, which of course gives rise to the space race. That’s the second movie of the summer that repurposed a major historical event, with X-Men having retold the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was a bigger setpiece in X-Men, so it didn’t feel like a retread here. I liked it well enough. The movie shifts to present day and the story begins to slowly unfold. I won’t go into the plot any further, but suffice it to say it’s predictable and unsurprising, as big budget summer blockbusters tend to be. There were moments of the absurd. I laughed out loud when the scene shifts and the audience is informed that we’re now at a “Secret Headquarters” of the Autobot-human alliance, centered in urban Washington, D.C. This secret base is between two buildings, behind massive concrete barriers guarded by black-clad soldiers wielding M-4 assault rifles. Nice, guys. Some secret. Equally absurd is the sequence where John Turturro’s character is being interviewed by Bill O’Reilly.

Ok, I lied, I’ll go into one plot point to demonstrate one more level of absurdity. So, SPOILER ALERT. Patrick Dempsey works for the Decepticons. He’s aware of their plans to enslave the human race, but sees it as an inevitability and remains aligned with them in the hopes of survival. What’s absurd is how blind his loyalty is. At the pinnacle of the story when it appears that the humans and Autobots are going to win, instead of realizing that he doesn’t have to align himself with the Decepticons to survive, he pushes forward blindly, continuing to fight for them. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

It was a surprising and refreshing change to see that Michael Bay choosing Chicago to destroy, rather than New York. Perhaps he felt as though showing buildings collapsing into rubble might hit a little close to home if he set it in NYC. Regardless, I’m glad to see Bay choose another city to wipe off the map. I wonder if anyone will ever choose Dallas to destroy? Seeing Reunion Tower (AKA “The Big Round Ball” in my family) toppling might be an interesting visual.

The action was over the top, as expected, with ample usage of slow-motion effects to highlight impacts and blows between the transformers. Bay makes use of new trends like wingsuit jumping, which provided more of those sweeping camera shots that he loves so much. While I enjoyed the movie for what it was, I never had any kind of feeling of suspense throughout the movie. There were several moments where one or more of the main humans or transformers seemed on the brink of destruction, but not once did I ever feel any kind of connection with the characters in peril, because I knew that at the last second something would happen that would make it all better. And it did. The ending was exactly what I expected: The victors emerging from the battle, bruised yet still managing to look fabulous. Two groups walk towards each other, lovers catch sight of each other and run towards each other in slow motion while Optimus Prime’s voice talks about freedom or something. All the while, a battered American flag waves proudly over the carnage.

The Cast
The cast is fairly solid, and mostly beautiful. LaBeouf seems to have grown up a bit; though still a little angsty, he’s less obnoxious in this one than he has been in previous roles. Instead of Megan Fox on his arm, this time it’s the newcomer Rosie Huntington-Whitely, of Victoria’s Secret fame. I’ll admit to never having seen her before in my life, and I felt like she did a better job than Megan Fox. There were a lot less squinty-eyed, I’m-hot-and-I-know-it-and-so-do-you looks coming from Ms. Huntington-Whitely, and I was thankful for it. They took a potshot or two at Ms. Fox in the script, which was a bit humorous. Other beautiful people make appearances, such as Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, and Patrick Dempsey. John Malkovich’s character is a sad waste of film space.

I thought Alan Tudyk’s Dutch was set to steal the show as John Turturro’s ambiguously homosexual personal assistant, but it seemed like the movie couldn’t quite decide what it wanted him to be. He’s comic relief as the assistant, then he’s a weapons expert, and later still he’s a world-class computer hacker. It’s like they took three characters and merged them into one. Ultimately, Ken Jeong’s turn as a creepy scientist is probably the show-stealer, but even he is somewhat overdone. Everyone in this movie is a caricature, larger than life and over the top.

Final Thoughts
Transformers: Dark of the Moon was exactly what I expected going into it, so I wasn’t disappointed. The script and acting take a backseat to impressive visuals and goofy humor. Whatever you do, don’t see it in 3D. I did, and it was a giant waste of the extra money. The 3D effects were wholly unimpressive, on many occasions the blurring effect was distracting. Thankfully I forgot about the 3D effects about a third of the way in and just enjoyed the movie. If you love summer blockbusters, it’s worth seeing. Otherwise, just Netflix it.

1 Response to “Transformers 3: Yep, It’s a Blockbuster”

  1. 1 Brian July 13, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Great review! And timely as well since I was considering seeing it. Now I can just wait for Redbox or Netflix to get it. I’m just not in the mood for “blockbuster” movies right now.

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