July 10, 2011

Movie Monday: Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon

Note: It's not Dark Side of the Moon. I saw that a lot online.

If you don't know, the basic premise is this: the entire human space race in the 60s was in response to a crash landing on the moon by an Autobot (transformer) spaceship. The USA got there first and salvaged much of the technology, but the Russians also got quite a bit. Once they got what they wanted, we stopped going to the moon. Since then, Autobots and Decepticons (the bad guys, in case you can't tell) have lived in secret on Earth. Now a new epic battle between them has started, with us in the middle.

If you haven't seen the previous Transformers movies, you won't have much of a learning curve for this one. I remembered little to nothing about the stories of the previous ones (which, I think, says more about their stories than my memory) and was able to follow along fine. Lots of background information is woven throughout the movie, so there's not much catch-up to do.

First off, I have to say, for a 2.5 hour movie - yes, 2.5 hours! - it was surprisingly full. Most movies can't keep the momentum going that long, and Transformers didn't feel forever-and-a-day long. But I'm sure that was primarily due to the fact that the last 30-45 minutes were high-budget CG fight scenes. If nothing else (and there may be nothing else) Michael Bay knows how to use CGI to its best potential. We didn't see the 3D version, only the 2D, but even still the visual effects were amazing.

The general storyline was also really intriguing. I like that there was a reason to go to the moon besides just beating the Russians there...and also that there was a point in going back beyond collecting rocks. The actual execution of that concept, though, left much to be desired.

And there were some good "moralizing" points toward the end of the film. There is no potential for peace negotiations or peaceful coexistence with a people (or alien race) that just wants to destroy you. Your allies may abandon you, but that doesn't change the fact that your course is the right one. Cooperating with the bad guys to try and ensure your own survival only means you'll wind up being the last one they kill. All very good, very relative points for our current conflicts around the world.

But beyond that, the movie was schlock. Now, thankfully, some of the humor has grown up since the last Transformers movie - not one mention of scrotums. But not by much. It's pretty much written at 14-year-old boy level. So, if uncomfortable quasi-homosexual encounters in male bathroom stalls aren't your thing, you might not find the movie any funnier than I did. Although, thank goodness for John Malkovich. It would have been totally worthless without him, and he's only in the first 1/3 or so.

Even worse, outside of the teaspoon-shallow military figures and a few of the "good" transformers, there aren't many appealing characters. You can go a long way with a thin story if you only have compelling, sympathetic characters. Sadly, we weren't even given that.

Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf) is every bit the self-absorbed jerk he was in the first movies, only more so. Granted, my opinion may be skewed by the recent discovery that LeBeouf is more than just a pretty face - he's also a douche. In recent interviews he's been essentially trashing everyone he's worked with, as though any success he's had has been all his own, and not the result of collaborative work. So maybe I was seeing too much of the actual person in the character...or perhaps he was letting his personality show. Either way, by the end, I was not hoping for him to survive.

Then there's Blondie - British model-turned-actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, replacing Megan Fox in the critical "skinny hot chick" role. And listen, I'm all for skinny hot chicks - I watch Chuck, after all, which is the master of slow-mo jiggle shots. The difference is, when Chuck does it, they're playing it as a joke. And it's done to characters that are there for more than jiggle shots. We're introduced to Carly (RHW) by following her semi-nude tuccus up a couple flights of stairs. Her character doesn't develop much beyond that. Now, to be fair, RHW gives the impression of a young lady who has potential for some good future acting roles - she at least improves on Megan Fox's "say-everything-in-raspy-come-hither-voice" technique - but she'll have to learn more than the two expressions we saw in Transformers.

I could go on and on about the other characters and silly subplots, but I'll finish with this slightly-spoilerish item. Leonard Nimoy, Spock from the original Star Trek, plays Sentinel Prime, the original leader of the Autobots (good bots). Actually, that's not entirely accurate. He plays evil robo-Spock, since something like half of his lines were lifted from old Star Trek episodes or movies. Now you might think, as a Trekkie, I found this amusingly nostalgic. And had it only been one or two moments, it would have been. Instead, it came across as lame and unoriginal. Especially considering the majority of the target audience most likely hasn't watched the original Star Trek series or hardly any of the movies.

Now, I will say that everyone else I know has loved this movie (a very eloquent exception here). So, it could just be me. It could also have been that my expectations were way too high after seeing post after post on facebook talking about how awesome it was.

There were some great trailers with it, which of course is half the reason I even see movies in theaters anymore. I'm now really looking forward to Captain America.

All that to say, both SoldierMan and I walked out glad we had seen it on post, so we only paid $5 a ticket. It wasn't worth more than that. In the end, I give it a C-. But most people I know gave it an A+, so you may just want to see it and decide for yourself.

And, I have to say, I'm very excited! I'm moving next week's Movie Monday to this week's Film Friday. Why?? I'm going to the midnight showing! :) I didn't think we'd be able to, but we are! So in case any of you can't go Thursday night, I'll have a review up Friday (before the evening)...although, I'm sure we'll all love it.

8 comments:

  1. I pretty much agree with you in regards to your review. But something that jumped out at me. You saw a first run movie on post. When I was a kid growing up in the USAF [dad and step-mom were both officers] the movies on base were 3 or 4 months old. I guess that has changed since then.

    Best Regards, CHOWSTL

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  2. I thought the film was fun, but I had one huge problem that probably has more to do with how our culture wants to be entertained than anything else: Optimus Prime is no longer the "good" guy he once was.

    The Autobots, and especially Optimus, are supposed to be about as close to altruistic good as any being can get. Yet the leader of the autobots has become increasingly dark over these films... going so far as to pick a fight with a non-warring "enemy" and to execute another by shooting him (while he's unarmed) in the back. I'm pretty sure we were supposed to cringe at this just a few scenes earlier when the decepticons did this to an autobot.

    It seems like all our modern heroes have to be like Punisher or Wolverine. They can't just be good guys, they have to be vigilantes and anti-heroes for our generation (or the next) to care.

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  3. I agree with the above comment that the behavior of the Autobots was a bit brutal and disturbing. I'm a fan of anti-heroes, but variety is good.

    TF3 just wasn't very good, it's a beautiful exterior with nothing underneath, just like the last two.

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  4. Gotta admit, I liked the movie. But then again, we always joke that my sense of humor is about that of a 14 year old boy.

    One thing J and I noticed is that a lot of people, both those who hated it and loved it, want to describe it as some epic film, or at least want it to live up to those expectations. And it's not. It's a movie. It's a flick. You can only get so much out of a movie based on a 1980s cartoon.

    I enjoyed the Transformers movies as a break from serious movies. Some good explosions and robot fights, some humor, a hero that screams like a girl and a couple hours that don't require much thought.

    did you catch the little Star Trek clip at the beginning? It's the one where Spock goes crazy. ;)

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  5. Well, like I said, most everyone else loved it. :) So I'm weird.

    About the above referenced scene: I didn't see that as being "anti-hero." The difference is context. In one case, bad guys were executing good guy POWs. In the second case, a good guy was executing a bad guy traitor. To me, it's not the same act. It was brutal, and I feel confident saying it would NOT have happened had it instead been two live-action human characters. But I can't say that it was wrong or anti-hero.

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  6. I liked it for the most part; but I did not go into with great expectations. My favorite part of the 3 Transformers movies is the CGI action stuff. And like you said nobody does that better than Michael Bay!

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  7. While I was one of the people who hyped it up quite a bit, I agree with many of the points you made.

    In all honesty, I have no problem with action movies and superficial "pretty things" (like actresses and cars) for the sake of an exciting movie. It's not going to make a top-ten list for me, but I did enjoy it.

    That said, I can admit that it is good for only those reasons. The humor was amateur and casting a "hot girl" who spends the entire time being rescued and running in heels is obviously pointless.

    I can't speak to the Star Trek analogy, because I am uninformed on the topic. But I definitely noticed the political references, and appreciated them.

    Finally, I thought there was about 20 minutes of dialog and "figuring things out" that could have been omitted. Mostly anything involving his family was just time-filler, IMO.

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  8. I was really disappointed with Dark of The Moon. When I first saw the trailers, I told DM we were NOT going to see a film that debases the space program (considered man's greatest achievement in this household!). I should have stuck to that, but we were looking for a good, fun flick and who doesn't love Transformers?

    To us it did feel forever and a day long. We very nearly walked out of it - and probably stayed only because we were feeling lazy.

    I'm pretty sure the film was written by two 8 year-old boys. I mean it just became plain stupid by the end.

    "Well I'M going to build a fort with my transformers!"
    "Yeah, well I have all the GI Joes and they're going to attack your stupid fort!"
    "Oh yeah? Well my alien transformer is going to blast all your planes out of the sky!"

    I could go on, but frankly it never really got any better than that. There really wasn't much of a story and CGI effects (while awesome) can't make up for that. :(

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