Stuff Blows Up Real Good–Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Welcome to yet another ongoing series. Really, I could’ve put this under the Droid Premiere title, but I’ve been meaning to start this series which will celebrate the classics and not so classics of one of my favourite sub-genres, the Dumbhouse action movie.
I was never a fan of ‘Transformers’ growing up. I didn’t really play with action figure toys. I became familiar with the main characters by watching some of the cartoon series that ran on Saturday morning. But even then I only knew that there were goodies (Autobots) and baddies (Decepticons), and the main protagonists were Optimus Prime and Megatron. I seem to remember another robot that turned into a gun for Optimus Prime, but I might be mistaken on that one. So when the first ‘Transformers’ film came out, I wasn’t expecting anything. Aside from some juvenile humour and an overstuffed cast, the story itself was solid, with the central theme being about a kid and his first car. With the Transformers brought to life by outstanding special effects and a director that excels at blowing stuff up real good, it wasn’t great, but it did prove a fun time at the cinema. The second film however, was a loud, unpleasant, confusing, crass, obnoxious waste of resources that should really have been the death of the franchise. And it would have been, if ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ hadn’t inexplicably grossed north of $800 million at the box office. Michael Bay has since been quoted as calling the second film “crap”. While that’s all well and good to say now, what we really want Bay to do is to make a truly great ‘Transformers’ movie. Has he made one with ‘Dark of the Moon’?
A word of warning before I go on. I’m going to reveal plot points that may be considered as spoilers. If you would rather your film experience unspoiled, look away now. But to be quite honest with you, it really won’t matter. No plot twist or turn is a surprise. There is nothing you can’t see coming a mile away. And when all is said and done, it’s all about the Giant Robots Hitting Each OtherTM isn’t it?
So, you’re still with me? Good. Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBouf) is now a college graduate who can’t (or won’t) get a job. No surprise since in job interviews he motormouths annoying anecdotes for comedic effect. After having his heart broken by “the ex-girlfriend” (for some reason they refuse to use her name. Probably because, like me, they can’t remember what it is), Sam has landed himself a British supermodel type (Rosie Huntington-Something) to look after him. Because motormouth dweebs with no money, a rust bucket car, pet robots (small ones) and no prospects often land supermodel types that are willing to financially support them. Also, most women don’t go for guys shorter than them, unless they have money or power, or both, which Sam doesn’t. But I digress. The space race really started when an alien spaceship crash landed on the moon. So in the late 60’s, the USA landed on the moon, and Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong went to investigate. They discover Sentinel Prime (Spock), the “Einstein of the Autobots”, who was shot down escaping the doomed planet Cybertron. Which from the evidence supplied by the flashbacks, is situated about 150 metres west of the moon. I wonder why no one with a telescope had seen that before. The reason why this matters, is because the ships cargo was a macguffin. And how to operate the macguffin is a mystery known only to Sentinel Prime. It’s actually some sort of teleportation/wormhole/space time continuum doohicky device. More on that later. After much ballyhoo, in which Sam gets a job for a nutcase (John Malkovich), gets jealous over his girlfriends rich boss (the Greys Anatomy bloke), and Sam’s parents turn up to provide the crassest, most inappropriate joke of the series (and I’m lenient on the jokes in this series) the actual story starts when the Autobots, who have now discovered the secret of the moon, rescue Sentinel Prime and the macguffin.
This is the first hour. There’s only so much set-up I can take. But wait, there’s more (here’s where I get spoilery). Bear with me here. This gets a bit convoluted. Megatron has seemingly been exiled to Africa where he bigs himself up by intimidating locals of the four legged, wooshy tailed variety. For reasons not that mysterious, Megatron is deliriously happy to learn that the Autobots have located Sentinel Prime and the
All Spark… Matrix of Leadership… macguffin bollocks. It seems that it’s all part of the master plan! You see, prior leaving Cybertron after it was destroyed and crash landing in the Arctic sometime prior to 1897 while looking for the All Spark (according to the first film when Great Grandaddy Whitwicky found him frozen in the ice cave), Megatron and the Decepticons made a deal with Sentinal Prime. Remember, Sentinel’s a smart cookie, and he could see the writing on the wall. He made a secret deal and pledged his allegience to the Decepticon flag, with the plan to use the macguffin to save the planet. Even though Megatron started the war over the All Spark that destroyed the planet. Still with me? So S-Dizzle departs Cybertron (which seems to be right next door to the moon, remember) with the macguffin, but is attacked by Decepticons. His ship is dama… Hang on a second… Aren’t Sentinel Prime and the Decepticons in cahoots? If Sentipops is escaping Cybertron with the device (that only he knows how to operate, by the way) in league with the Decepticons, why are the Decepticons trying to shoot him down? I know it’s in a Decepticons very nature to be deceptive, but honestly, this deception seems a little self-defeating. The timeline is also murky on when this deal was made. Megatron was in on it, but he left when the Autobots jettisoned the All Spark because Cybertron was about to be destroyed. So if he was found as an ice cube in 1897, you’d reasonably assume he was there for a while. But Sentinel ‘Puffy’ Prime crash landed on the moon in 1961. This timeline is like the bastard child of VBA and SQL. Nothing makes sense.
So when the master plan is revealed, more questions arise. Spock Prime’s Einsteinesque scheme is to use the McMuffin to teleport Cybertron to Earth. As Cybertron is substantially large, the issue of where to put it and what effect putting a planet in touching distance of Earths atmosphere will have on this planet. And since it’s only a couple of hundred metres from the moon in the first place, why bother anyway? The next phase of the Decepticons plan is to enslave humanity as a workforce to rebuild Cybertron. This is flawed two fold. Firstly, transporting humanity to Cybertron seems like a precious waste of resources considering Cybertron looks as though it’s a ball of pieced together scaffolding that doesn’t appear to have a breathable atmosphere. So slave life expectancy is minimal. Secondly, since hundreds of giant Decepticon robots appear out of the woodwork, and one giant robot that doesn’t need oxygen is worth a hundred million human slaves who can hold their breath for sixty seconds apiece while trying to shift huge steel girders before keeling over in elaborate, morale taxing histrionics, wouldn’t it be better if the Decepticons just rolled up their sleeves and put in some hard yakka? This strikes me as just plain lazy on the Decepticons part. A solid couple of weeks and they’d be back on track. “We have six billion slaves!” cries S-Diddy at one point. Minus the countless humans that the Decepticons murder of course. I half expected Symbol, the robot formerly known as Prime, to re-evaluate later in the movie. “We, um, have 5 billion slaves! No, make that 4 billion! Guys, stop murdering the slaves for crying out loud!”
What this all amounts to is an hour and a half of rushed set up, choppy, stop start pacing, needless diversions, half baked twists, and a plot with more gaping holes than a pornstar convention. But does this matter? There are a large number of reviews on the interweb that embrace the “who cares? It’s a Michael Bay movie.” or “What were you expecting?” rationalisation when it comes to ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’. I do concede that in times past I have let things slide because of the Bayhem. And there are times during this film that I was almost ready to do the same. But no excuses. This is a bad film. The last hour is ear-splittingly loud, with a seemingly endless series of randomly edited shots haphazardly pieced together. It’s like the editor hit shuffle and went out for a smoke. Single shots or sequences are sometimes impressive. The skyscraper collapsing, Optimus Prime going apeshit with a laser sword, the gliders and the two slow motion shots of Bumblebee rescuing Sam are all terrific and exhilarating shots. But they fall in the middle of a movie that has no flow. An action scene is almost a movie in itself. It needs to build a narrative. A beginning, a middle and an end. Michael Bay’s ‘Dark of the Moon’ is all middle. It’s an obnoxious, relentless discharge of sound and fury. So ambivalent is the film towards real emotion, that it completely betrays it’s main character. Late in the film, the Autobots are being herded onto a spaceship, banished from Earth. The ship goes up, a Decepticon is waiting in the early reaches of the atmosphere and dives down and blows the ship up. Autobots are assumed deceased. Since the theme of the ‘Transformers’ films have been the bond between a boy and his first car, I would fully expect at least a reaction from Sam when he saw what became of his best friend, Bumblebee. No, not a single shot, and his loss is never mentioned again (until Bumblebee and Co. magically show up at the right time to help save the day). Sam trots off to ground zero to save his damsel in distress. This illustrates for me the deepest flaws of the ‘Transformers’ sequels. While the first film was overcast and unfocused, it did have a strong central theme and allowed time for a friendship to develop. Now that friendship has made way for a kid doing everything he can to get his end away. That’s character development for you. Even at over two and a half hours long, ‘Dark of the Moon’ only has time for spectacle. Empty, loud, braindead spectacle.
Take it easy,
Tags: Dark of the Moon, Droid, Explosions, Film, Giant Robots Hitting Each Other, I can't be bothered coming up with any more tags for this crappy movie, John Malkovich, Lingerie Model, Megatron, Michael Bay, Movie, Optimus Prime, Review, Robots, Shia LeBouf, Stuff Blows Up Real Good, Toys, Transformers
About Judge DroidIn between refining my procrastination skills I talk a lot of shit about movies and such.
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