Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with some thoughts on Michael Bay’s newest giant fucking robots movie, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Like anybody with more than one working sense I thought the last Transformers film was a giant trainwreck of bad ideas, trillions of pixels and a script so nonsensical that it’s amazing they were able to cut any two scenes together.
So, it may sound like faint praise to say that Dark of the Moon is a big step up from Transformers 2 and, to be honest, it kind of is… but the big difference is that I feel the second Transformers film didn’t succeed at what it was trying to do and Transformers 3 does. And that’s a big difference.
The plot is full of all kinds of character and story convenience… things happen just because, especially towards the end, when the Autobots disappear for huge stretches of time to give Sam Witwicky time to get into trouble just so they can come in at the last second and save the day.
Is it bad of me to acknowledge these conveniences and plot holes and still enjoy the movie? I suppose I should be tougher on this movie, but from beginning to end it feels like everybody involved was just having fun and trying to give you a fun time. None of that Autobots ghost shit from the second movie with the Optimus death fake-out… this is a pretty straightforward war story told on an epic scale in the way only Michael Bay can do it.
One thing that Bay did that really impressed me was he threw in a crazy amount of batshit weird characters, taking his casting of John Turturro in the first movie and multiplying it by four. Remember how Turturro seemed to be in another movie entirely in that first Transformers and how much fun that added to the experience? Now we have Ken Jeong, Alan Tudyk, Frances McDormand and John Malkovich on top of his bizarre character. All of them act like freaks, all of them play their parts like deranged inmates on PCP (with the exception of McDormand, who isn’t as nutso as the rest, but is still very odd in the film) and all of them make any scene not involving explosions, a million dollars worth of CGI or metal on metal robot fight scenes worth sitting through.
Oddly enough, the returning human characters are given little to nothing to do. I think Shia LaBeouf is a strong actor when he’s used well and is charming enough to coast through these bigger action films, but Sam isn’t given a lot to do other than look for a job and try to keep his new hot supermodel girlfriend from being crushed by alien robots. But next to Josh Duhamel’s Lennox Sam Witwicky is Hamlet. Duhamel is there to shout orders and run around and get dirty. All that stuff from the first movie about having a family that he only sees via webcam is just gone. He’s somehow both a Washington insider and a boots-on-the-ground active military man here and that’s it. That’s his character.
The plot is once again little more than an excuse for big action, which isn’t all that important to me since the action is good. Decepticons are on the run or in hiding, a new big super threat becomes apparent and the Autobots have to protect all of the earth from being destroyed in the process.
Coasting on these crazy character performances and some truly spectacular action, the new Transformers is a hard movie for me to really feel down on. More than anything it’s the sincere fun tone. I didn’t feel the authenticity in the second movie, but here it feels like Michael Bay tries a bit of restraint (from most accounts this was due to him filming in 3-D which slowed down his action a bit, giving it more geography and “Holy shit!” moments) and that really gives the film a balance I wasn’t expecting.
Now if only Ehren Kruger had spent a little more time on the characters this could be a movie that I could easily recommend as something more than just “better than the last two Transformers movies.” But the movie is what it is and me falling into the mixed positive on this kind of surprised me since I’m a grumpy old man about 3-D and thought Transformers 2 was a dull trainwreck.
The stupid shit is minimized, the cool-ass action shit is maximized, the 3-D is perhaps the best I’ve seen in this new explosion of the format, there’s a bizarre supporting character roster that I just loved and the rest was either inoffensive or a missed opportunity, not a slap in the face with giant Constructicon wrecking ball nuts like the last one.
Put that on the poster, Paramount. I double dog dare you!
But seriously, for all the weak characterization, plot holes and lazy convenience one thing you can not say about this film is that the money isn’t up on the screen. The scope on this is epic. The entire city of Chicago isn’t just the setting for the finale, but is pretty much a wrecked apocalyptic hellhole by the time the robots finish their brawl. The stakes are higher than ever and there was a real sense of a team working together to stop the baddies.
One of my favorite parts shows what a properly trained US army outfit could do to combat the robots without the aid of the Autobots. The human troops have one great moment to fight for their own world instead of just point lasers at the bad guys. In fact, I loved this aspect so much I’d love to see another Transformers movie where a badass Seal-like team are the main characters fighting in this war and we only see the Autobots come in and out every once in a while.
So there are my jumbled, super tired and probably incoherent thoughts. The flick’s certainly a big summer tentpole that cost the same (or less) than Green Lantern and has a scope about 300 times bigger. I ended up digging it and was pleasantly surprised to do so. Could it be super low expectations? Certainly. Could I be delirious from lots of travel and tons of work? Absolutely. Could the movie actually just be a good fun popcorn sci-fi action movie? Very well could be. Whatever the reasons, I had fun with it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to crash for a bit before putting the finishing touches on my epic Captain America set report. I leave you with a little bit of YouTube fun.