Whether you’re a fan of Transformers or Michael Bay, there is a strong likelihood that Transformers: A Tribute to Michael Bay will not disappoint you. However, if you are a fan of quality film making, then maybe it’s time to finally skip out on the Transformers series.
Okay, so most of you probably know that the title I gave in the intro isn’t really the name of the movie, but more on that later. Transformers: Dark of the Moon takes us back to the Apollo 11 moon landing, and as films sometimes do it tells a story that doesn’t quite stick to the history book version. Don’t worry, the Transformers don’t go kill Hitler or anything (yes I do realize Apollo 11 happened after WWII, but I am more than willing to go out of my way to reference Inglourious Basterds). Anyway, during the war on the alien planet Cybertron, home of the transformers, an escaping Autobot ship crashes into the Earth’s moon, spurring the space race on. Long story short decades pass, digging up the secrets buried surrounding the US trip to the moon.
If the reimagined history lesson starting out the film feels long to you, then be warned that the rest of the film feels about as drawn out as this tiny section. In other words, I can honestly say that this is at the top of the list for the longest movie I have ever sat through (in terms of how it feels and not actual length). Here are the reasons why:
Let’s just start with the obvious. Mojo is gone. That’s right, the adorably medicated Chihuahua that pees on Ironhide in the first movie has made like Megan Fox and left the series, albeit for different reasons I’m sure. Okay, so in reality most people probably won’t notice the omission, but it is unfortunate that some other characters didn’t go MIA as well, starting with Sam Witwicky. As much as I love Shia LaBeouf, at this point his character is about as important to the Transformer films as the women are. He’s whiney, constantly suffering from mood swings, pouts, feels like an afterthought, and is pretty annoying. Which brings us to the ladies. With the exit of the previous “eye-candy” of the first two films, Fox is easily replaced (as we ladies are) with the model turned actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. When her body isn’t just being used for slow pans she is able to do a decent job in her first acting role, but at this point I wish that Bay would just pretend that females don’t exist so that we don’t get stuck with characters that are able to make Academy Award winning actresses like Frances McDormand look ridiculous.
Similarly to what I complained about less than a week ago with Bad Teacher, a major problem with Transformers is that it is all over the place in terms of tone, unable to ever create a cohesive flow throughout. It goes for outlandish humor, depressive drama, explosive action, and hints of realism, never bringing them together as it should. As anyone familiar with the franchise knows this is not necessarily a new problem and should honestly be expected at this point, but somehow this manages to be the biggest offender yet.
Following the somewhat normal intro, John Malkovich pops in, signaling the moment in which this film really turns on the caffeine intake in concern to the characters. Remember John Turturro’s Simmons (AKA the Jar Jar Binx of this franchise)? Well he’s back as yet another character that should go MIA, bringing about 3 additional characters identical to him, including Ken Jeong who plays, well, Ken Jeong. And this is the outlandish span of the film in which my hatred of one character was exploited so much that the rest of the movie was pretty much ruined for me seeing as I could never get back into it fully. The audience laughed around me, yet I sat there wishing the 3D would add a tangible level to it so that an explosion would put me out of my misery.
This brings about a pretty important question: Why should I care enough to watch a movie about saving humanity if I keep hoping for the majority of the characters to die incredibly painful deaths? Simple answer = The transformers. As much as I pray that if another film is made a new writer who actually understands human beings is brought in, the one thing that I can never fault these movies for is the special effects, both computer generated and practical. Similar to the argument for/against Ninja Assassin, the action and transformers alone are enough to make the movie worth seeing, even if the story and film structure, editing, etc make you want to nuke Hollywood. Though I will never understand why they decided to put hair on two of the characters robots to make them look like Einstein, the transformers are so amazing to see that they are way past pee your pants worthy at this point, including an awesome use of Optimus’ tractor trailer disguise to bring about plenty of opportunities for junk-in-the-trunk jokes. The fights are amazing, the scale of the action is epic, and the creativity of the character models is ridiculously detail oriented, making it clear that the special effect houses, including Industrial Light & Magic and Digital Domain, deserve the majority of the praise that this movie inspires.
Though I thought I could never get enough of the transformers, there comes a point when I was surprisingly proven wrong. Playing heavily off of the model and look of the first film, Dark of the Moon goes for a final throw down as well inside a major city’s limits. However, this time around Bay does his version of breaking out the measuring stick by trying to outdo Jonathan Liebesman’s Battle Los Angeles, creating a final act that could easily be a film on its own thanks in large part to a lot of repetitive action and cutting room floor worthy footage. The military is done justice and the transformers are shown in all of their glory, but it gets long-winded and so confusing geographically in concern to character placement, as well as in concern to the plan of action, that the excitement starts to weaken, hitting highs and lows in equal stride.
Now I don’t know the man to make an accurate assessment of the situation, but going on the films alone Transformers: Dark of the Moon definitely seems like a Michael Bay tribute more than anything. Plenty of shots seem taken straight from the previous films, including sweeping camera movements, slow-motion action pieces (including those mixing women in danger juxtaposed with fighting robots), horrible romance, and all Bay is known for, making a very strong argument towards bringing a new director in to give the franchise a breath of fresh air.
Long story short, though I cannot get behind this film and blow smoke up its butt by saying that it was amazing, it is still very hard for me to no try to find reasons to praise it. It is far from great, annoying for the easily irritated such as myself, and full of more flaws than I can count, but at the end of the day it still has Transformers, and who doesn’t want to cheer for robots in disguise?
Final Grade: D+ / C-