Other critics have been bashing the hell out of this third film, and I can understand why. But, I am not simply a critic…I am a both a reviewer and a film fan. I see both sides of the reception, both critics’ and audiences’. With that in mind, Transformers: Dark of the Moon was good enough.
I think one of the core things going into the third film is shaking off the stench of Revenge of the Fallen. That is something that the beginning of the film definitely struggles with, and I actually feared the film could end up just like the bad predecessor. And perhaps it’s that gap of film that drags Dark of the Moon down a bit. The obvious turning point in the film that completely changes the feel, the mood, and the story is the twist of Sentinel Prime becoming a villain, and that essentially sucks up all these mundane storyline vibes that you had prior. It was a twist I didn’t see coming, and perhaps for that reason I started to actually like Dark of the Moon a bit more.
Let’s face it: Michael Bay is not a storyteller… at all. He’s more explosions and awesome effects than successful story. Half the film is actual dialogue, while the other half is battle scenes and screaming. But, when it comes to visual eye candy, it’s breathtaking.
The story itself doesn’t come without it’s own plot holes and questions, either. How does the U.S.A. spend eight years planning to explore this new alien technology that’s crashed on the moon…and just simply dust off a view pieces and call it a day? You just leave it as is for 60 years? Some people are complaining that Megatron’s motives contradict his earlier ones in the series, but I simply don’t see it because they’re strikingly similar. And Optimus Prime gets caught in cables for half an hour, even though he has a heated super-sword that can cut through numerous stories-tall robots?
Now, let’s tackle the humor of the film. Michael Bay’s humor throughout this series can be funny, but just barely. That’s what sunk Revenge of The Fallen: the constant, lewd, crude, (and even racist) humor. Most of the humor is in the beginning of the film, the part I don’t really care for. Sometimes, it works (such as Shia Labeouf’s face in his Presidental honor photo) and there are constant times where I can roll my eyes at it. Ken Jeong is one of these choices. Jeong is a funny actor, but lately I feel as if he has been doing the same schtick every film. One of my favorite roles to ever see him in is when he was a normal human being in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up. But, Jeong does the same “ha-ha” schtick here as an Asian-scientist. It wasn’t funny when he pounces on Sam Witwicky, it’s very disturbing. I was actually very thankful when he got killed off, just so his gimmick wasn’t running throughout the entire movie.
The performances this time around are some of my favorite in the series. Shia Labeouf plays Sam Witwicky well throughout the film, but as Dark of the Moon goes on it seems he puts even more of an effort into his character, who becomes a juggernaut of emotion, stunts, and action. Shia sheds quite a few tears this time around, and they’re at perfectly timed moments that actually made me feel a bit of sympathy for the first time in the Transformers movies. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley actually surprised me quite a bit. Here I was only looking for disappointment in her acting and character, but she was actually quite good. She was obviously a sight to look at, so I can’t really compare her to former-lead Megan Fox, but for some reason I found myself liking her more than Fox, at times. Josh Duhamel, unfortunately, doesn’t offer anything new, and I felt his character of Lennox didn’t have much of a growth this time around as Revenge of the Fallen gave him. But, this means it gives Tyrese Gibson’s Epps plenty of room to shine.
As for the constant others in the film, you can do completely without them. Patrick Dempsey was the dickhead/villain who won’t die until he dies in the most idiotic way possible. John Malkovich is the boss who’s odd and can be easily shrugged off once the Transformers and Decepticons come back into play. Alan Tudyk is the only new character that is borderline badass/offensive with his gay features. The two mini-robots Wheelie and Brains are awful, but not as bad as the racist twins from the last film. John Turturro, although comic-relief in the other films, is simply good for a few scenes in Dark of The Moon, and then is put on the backburner as a background character that just simply watches the rest of the events unfold. Finally, Frances McDormand playing Charlotte Mearing is a role that adds more discipline to the film, but is really just annoyning more than anything.
The length of the movie is another hinderance. 2 and 1/2 hours is way too long for this blockbuster, and it could have easily been trimmed in quite a few areas. The biggest “Fuck You” about the length though is the ending…in the fact that it seems VERY abrupt. After about an hour-long war in downtown Chicago, Optimus Prime defeats Sentinel and Megatron. The End. We get the classic Prime voiceover, but that’s barely satisfying. Chicago is in ruins, Carly and Sam are in love, and we get a pan-over shot of the entire cast. That’s it? We can’t see a “Three Months Later” epilogue that has Chicago almost repaired, Sam proposing to Carly, and all of our characters in a wonderful place? That’s not a way to end the series, hell even the movie!
Dark of The Moon‘s fun outweighs its failures in many ways. But, the failures are extremely noticeable, especially with the excruciating length. The action scenes are explosive, and some are just jaw-dropping. But, when you have a movie that doesn’t work for most of the beginning, it’s easy to say the film is dragged down. However, it’s a dazzling spectacle for anyone who simply wants a good time, which is exactly what I got. I wasn’t looking for a profound story-driven epic but an explosive war-movie with gigantic robots. In the action, the film succeeds but drags out way too long. Dark of the Moon is somewhere in between the first movie, and Revenge of the Fallen. It’s easy to get immersed in this world, but you can’t simply forget the film’s plot holes and setbacks. A true great movie should bring the same excitement that Dark of the Moon brings, but also build it on top of a well-written plot and convey some emotion, which this installment undeniable lacks. But, Dark of the Moon is simply fun and good… enough.