Lamar Reviews: Transformers: Dark of the Moon


Transformers:  Dark of the Moon
Directed by Michael Bay
Written by Ehren KrugerCast
Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky
Josh Duhamel as Lennox
John Turturro as Simmons
Tyrese Gibson as Epps
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Carly
Patrick Dempsey as DylanRated PG-13 for for intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo

Reviewed by:  Lamar Klukuk

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, fool me three times and, well, I’m just an idiot.  We’ve clearly been to the Transformers movie well enough times now to know that the series is a deal with a certain kind of cinematic devil:  so desperate are Michael Bay’s Independence Day Hasbro epics to entertain every possible viewer that they seem specifically designed to irritate every possible viewer almost as much.  I’ve been a fan of the movies, even liked the widely despised 2nd one enough to give it a cautious thumbs-up, but I also see them for what they are, and Transformers:  Dark of the Moon is like its predecessors on steroids.  Astonishing visuals, bone-crunching action and some really terrific supporting characters vie for screen time with increasingly unlikable lead characters, grating comic relief and queasy ethnic stereotypes.  Dark adds 3D to the equation and does so with a vengeance:  this is by far the most remarkable mainstream blockbuster in the format since Avatar.  It also includes the most well-developed story of the movies, one complex enough that I’ll actually have to throw up a spoiler warning later to adequately discuss it.

Several quality supporting players are added to the mix, giving this film the most thespian heft of the franchise.  On the downside, the innocent heroics of the original are a distant memory, with Shia LaBeouf’s increasingly manic performance as the ever more unlikable Sam Witwicky paired with a spectacularly overmatched acting debut by Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as the replacement for the departed (and much-missed) Megan Fox.  And the third act, while filled with astonishing visual sound and fury and some really great moments, just goes on and on and could have done everything it does well in half the time. Dark of the Moon isn’t a great movie by any stretch and parts of it will inevitably leave you squirming in your seat.  But it’s also a hell of a thing to see.

When I saw the first few movies in the new 3D technology, I assumed it was only a matter of time before practically every major summer movie would be employing the same levels of imagination and quality to the format as Beowulf and The Final Destination, but instead blockbusters that use the third dimension as an excuse to do anything but take extra ticket money from you have been few and far between.  But say what you will about him as a filmmaker and a person, but Michael Bay is not a man given to half-measures, and at a rumored budget of 400 million dollars, with specially colored prints that projectDark of the Moon in brighter colors to compensate for the dark glasses you’re wearing to watch it, this is one amazing 3D spectacle.  Bay understands the power of reflective surfaces and textures in the format.  While anyone should marvel at the astonishing sight of a gigantic mechanical snake snapping a glass skyscraper in two, I was also struck by how much the PACE 3D cameras had captured the texture of the characters clothes, and I haven’t seen actors’ skin photographed in such a lifelike manner since Dimension.  The early sequences on the moon are a highlight, but throughout there’s a great sense of depth to the proceedings, and the filmmaker who helped to popularize the use of frantic cutting in action blockbusters keeps his camera more steady so we can actually focus on the amazing sights he’s showing us.

As I mentioned, once all the pieces are in place for a climactic humans-vs.-decepticons-vs.-autobots spectacle ten times larger than that of the original, it also seems to go on about ten times longer.  While each individual piece of it is visually breathtaking, dramatic momentum is harder to come by, and Sam keeps wussing out at moments when all signs point to him stepping up and finally putting someone else ahead of himself.  But there are still so many good characters, so many amazing sights, and so much cool action on display that I can only quibble so much with Transformers:  Dark of the Moon.  Anyone who expects the crazy tonal shifts and uncomfortable wackiness of the previous films to go away is dreaming, so if you found them unbearable before, you’ll likely do so again.  But for fans of 3D, giant fighting robots, John Turturro and Patrick Dempsey, there’s an awful lot here to like if you can make peace with the fact that nobody could possibly stand the entire freaky package.

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