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Review : Transformers 3: Dark Of The Moon (2011)

"Earth's last stand"

Released (UK) 29th June 2011, Rated 12A. Runtime: 157 minutes (2 hours, 37 minutes).

Transformers 3 - Dark of the Moon: Optimus Prime

Official Synopsis: The Autobots learn of a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the Moon, and race against the Decepticons to reach it and to learn its secrets.

Director: Michael Bay, Produced By: Steven Spielber, Don Murphy, Written By: Ehren Kruger

Primary Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey, Frances McDormand, Alan Tudyk, Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving, Frank Welker, Leonard Nimoy

The Blue Corner - Pete

Blue Corner Review, by Pete

Added July 16th, 2011

To start I should probably make it clear that I’m somewhat biased when it comes to Transformers, having loved them as a kid. Being a geek, I still do.

Transformers 3 - CarlyThe movie started off with promise, suggesting a suitably dark tone for the third and supposedly final outing for Michael Bay and his interpretation of the Transformers universe. Sadly that level of hope was quickly extinguished when the first of many ‘quirky’ human character scenes then played out. The Witwicky parents really are unnecessary at this stage, and I’m not convinced that the time put into selling the audience on Rosie Huntington-Whiteley‘s character Carly was justified or well served – particularly with more than one pot shot taken at Sam’s former love interest, presumably solely due to the rather public falling out with actress Megan Fox. The fact that Carly’s played by a lingerie model with no previous acting experience perhaps says enough about her role, although that’s one aspect that does fits in with the way she’s shot on film (as was Megan Fox in the previous two movies). With a runtime of a shade under two & a half hours, cutting much of the superfluous fluff and leaving us with the action and primary plot points really would have improved matters. Whilst this would be a fair criticism of any of the ‘Bayformer’ movies, at least this one did have some form of semi-coherent plot to save (I’m especially looking at you, Revenge of the Fallen).

Set two years after the last, the Autobots are still part of the human NEST team, albeit under increasing scrutiny and cynicism from the powers that be on Earth. Knowledge of the existence of the Cybertronians seems to be public at this stage, but the Autobots still live in secrecy. Following his defeat by Optimus in Revenge of the Fallen, Megatron is still licking his wounds and is in hiding, controlling operations from afar and through his minions.

Transformers 3 - Sentinel PrimeThose in charge of marketing have done a stellar job in that they’ve successfully managed to lead the market into believing that G1 favourite Shockwave was going to be the key antagonist of the piece. Whilst certainly looking suitably menacing, Shockwave doesn’t actually get too much screen time (nor do many of the new faces), appearing to fall into the role of some sort of ground commander to the new Decepticon troops later in the movie. Instead, the films revolves around the ‘return’ of Sentinel Prime – the teacher and former leader of Optimus.

The movie reveals that humans have been working with the Decepticons over the years, with Megatron & Sentinel having forged a plan during the final days of the Cybertronian war to work together and strip Earth of its natural resources in order to rebuild and restore their home world. Ignoring how this fits in with the plot of the second movie, Bay manages to handle the betrayal of Optimus by Sentinel Prime surprisingly effectively, and I’m not ashamed to add that I was suitably gutted when one of my favourite characters was killed when this played out – Leonard Nimoy did what I considered to be an excellent job in voicing the role on Sentinel, with his aged vocals adding real gravitas.

Transformers 3 - DeceptionsA number of Decepticons are brought to earth using ‘Space Bridge’ technology developed by Sentinel, laying waste to Washington D.C. in the process – it also provides Bay with a chance to shoot Megatron replacing Abraham Lincoln on his seat at the Lincoln Memorial. Mankind is essentially given the ultimatum to vanquish the Autobots and agree to the Decepticons taking the planet’s resources – something quickly accepted by the powers that be. The last hour reveals the true nature of the plan, with mankind due to be enslaved and used to help with the rebuilding of Cybertron – the dead planet due to be dragged through using a larger scale Space Bridge.

Transformers 3 - ChicagoThe final third of the movie plays out akin to Battle: Los Angeles, albeit set in Chicago and with less effect. Saying that, the movie did a good job in portraying the apparent futility of the defence made, with little sign of human life left in the city outside of the few soldiers and NEST operatives who make it there. Many of the usual heroic one liners, coupled with some unbridled patriotism, ensue, although more footage of the role of the Autobot wreakers during this section would have been nice. Bay handles the action well, as to be expected, and despite my personal disdain for 3D I actually found myself partly wishing that we had seen the IMAX release – some of the scenes (particularly the NEST soldiers skydiving whilst Chicago explodes around them) would have been fairly striking.

Transformers 3 - SamAfter being essentially humbled in the first movie, Optimus is now something of a badass, laying waste to pretty much everything in his path. Needing him for later, the writers take a lazy route out and literally have him tied up for much of this part of the movie (tangled in construction lines following his destruction of the Driller and, inexplicably, apparently unable to free himself), allowing the focus to be on the human and remaining Autobots. When released, he’s allowed to mop up the remaining Decepticons and finish off Shockwave before confronting Sentinel for the finale.

Traditionally, Megatron’s Achilles heel was his pride, with this being played on in the final scenes to bring him into battle against Sentinel, essentially alongside Optimus. Although this plot point worked, even if it felt a little shoehorned (perhaps to justify Carly having featured throughout the entire film), the reality is that Megatron would have also popped Carly’s head like an oddly shaped grape following her taunt before turning to the task in hand. Having had no love or empathy for her character, I’d have been quite happy with this – especially in 3D. Even with Megatron being shown throughout to be a shadow of his former self, both physically and mentally, I’m also not convinced that having him sit around dazed in a side street as the battle raged fits in with his character.

Transformers 3 - Optimus PrimeUnlike the second movie the final battle is fairly well handled – these’s also certainly nothing being left to the imagination as to who’s dead and who’s not. With the aim seeming to have been to wrap up the trilogy, it certainly does it’s job, although the door’s still left open for the inevitable (given the sales) future instalments. Then again, ‘rebooting’ the franchise is equally likely given the current Hollywood love for this practice. Overall, it should have been shorter and more concise, with a bit more development given to the machine rather than human characters. Lots of things blew up, as to be expected in a Bay movie, and with the well handled twist and a reasonable story, I was entertained. For a Transformers geek like myself, I left satisfied with what I’d witnessed, although there’s still a sense of regret as to what could have been over the three movies. A extra point alone for Optimus Prime and the four unashamedly gratuitous Trek references.

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