Monday, 4 July 2011

Film Review: Transformers - Dark of the Moon (2011)

With a whopping $162.1m (£100.4m) in box office takings so far 'Transformers - Dark of the Moon' is defying the critical panning it's received thus far. Its Rotten Tomato rating is currently at a miserable 38%, but the audience rating is 90%, and some of the most expressed comments about it are "incoherent plot" (Chicago-Sun Times), "mind-numbing special effects" (USA Today) and "an improvement on Transformers 2, but then what isn't?" (Empire). This is in stark contrast to the public's reviews which are generally positive, and reflect that many have enjoyed, and even loved this film. So what's up? Have professional reviewers lost their sense of fun? Or have the public lost any sense of taste? With all this floating around in my head I watched the movie for myself on Saturday. And I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

First off, a confession. My boyfriend is a massive fan of Transformers (the franchise, not just the Bay movies). In fact "fan" doesn't begin to cover it, she says looking at the boxed robots lining our hallway, our living room, and I suspect upstairs soon, not to mention the "third best collection in Europe" sitting in his parent's loft... Now before anyone starts thinking I'm complaining, I'm not. I like his hobby - it's fun, interesting and much better than the average "hobbies" of drinking constantly or being obsessed with football. And I am happy to talk about Tranformers with him (or rather listen as I don't know nearly enough to add to conversations) and I find the stories and lore interesting. I also have a massive soft spot for the franchise from my childhood years and getting a few of the toys myself (which I can no longer find, much to BF's frustration). So when Michael Bay came along and put them up on the silver screen in live action I was excited. And I love the first film. I still say it's a perfect blockbuster; loud, exciting, funny and with just the right amount of cheese. The second one... well let's just pretend that never happened shall we? And with the third one you can, as it essentially makes the second film superfluous.

Sam, running away from yet another transforming robot trying to kill him.
After saving the world twice Sam Witwicky is unemployed and frustrated. Unable to join his autobot friends in their secret missions around the world, he is reduced to staying in his hot girlfriend's apartment while he looks for work, and trying to impress his hot girlfriend so she doesn't leave him for her hunky boss (Patrick "Dr. McDreamy" Dempsey). Did I mention Sam had a hot girlfriend? Anyway, just when the autobots think that all they're left with is to resolve earthly affairs, they discover that humans recovered Cybertron technology from a long lost ship that conveniently crashed on our moon in the fifties. Peeved to say the least, Optimus Prime demands that they recover the rest of the ship, particularly it's sole surviving occupant, Sentinal Prime, Optimus' predecessor. But little do they realise that the Decepticons have been waiting for them to do exactly that, and so Megatron (now with half his head missing) sees his long held plans come together...

Shockwave = big trouble.
The plot is not "incoherent", though the first half of the film feels... very... slow... especially compared to the frenetic second half. It predominantly sets up the dominos for the second half but manages to do so in a really methodical way, slowing the pace down to a crawl at times. But even so it's in no way confusing or insensible, and everyone's motivations are pretty clear throughout (something that can't be said of 'POTC: On Stranger Tides'). The acting is pretty much the same as in the others, apart from Rosie Huntingdon-Whiteley as Sam's girlfriend Carly. At the risk of sounding mean, she's awful. Truly awful - all pouts and no power. But on the other hand she doesn't have much to do other than run around looking sexy and, in the second half, scared. Yes it's a bit sexist that she doesn't do ANYTHING in the whole film other than hang on Sam's arm and get kidnapped by a Decepticon (okay she does do one thing, but I can't mention it as it would give a bit of the tale away - it isn't much though) but it didn't particularly bother me as I was watching for the robots and the action. And there are plenty of both this time around, as we finally see the kind of damage an army of transformers could do to earth with no Optimus to stop them. In 3D the spectacle is even more visually impressive and is well worth the price of admission alone. Unlike some 3D films, here it really works, and significantly adds to the experience.

"Let go of his arm already! Can't you walk by yourself!?"
Thankfully the toilet humour from 'Revenge of the Fallen' also takes a back seat, so that the jokes are welcome and generally amusing this time. Sam's parents are back and on top form as ever, and Agent Simmons makes a return. The only characters that we don't see much of, until the second half, are the soldiers, who are there more for muscle then plot purposes. Oh, and another MIA is of course Megan Fox but don't be concerned; she is not missed in the slightest, and you soon forget she was ever in it (listen out for the comments about her "character" at the start though - a dig at her personally or just an explanation of why the character's gone? I'll leave you to decide).

Oh, alright, one more picture of the useless girlfriend. She is quite hot though.
Exciting, action packed and entertaining, 'Transformers - Dark of the Moon' ticks all the summer blockbuster boxes, which is likely a big part of it's appeal and successful (thus far) box office. If you hate the first two films you will hate this one. If you like the first one, you're probably going to enjoy this. Out of all the critic's comments the one thing they got totally right is that it is much better than the second one. And if you like your action movies loud, and the idea of watching robots beat the crap out of each other makes your palm's sweat, this is the film for you. If you want a deep, meaningful film about the trials of life, it isn't. Maybe someone should have told the film critics that.

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