Movie Review – Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

by HELEN GEIB

The third film in the box office juggernaut, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is my first experience with the series. I had no trouble picking up the thread.

DotM is to all intents and purposes review proof. Obviously and for starters, it’s an event movie with a built-in audience opening over a holiday weekend that people like to spend at the movies; boffo commercial success guaranteed. Add to that the manifest self-satisfaction. Michael Bay has made the movie he wanted to make and he doesn’t care what the critics think of it.

Instead of a traditional review then, here are seven more or less connected observations.

1) The movie had a lot more entertainment value than I expected. It would have had a lot more entertainment value if it had been a half hour or so shorter. (Including trailers the experience clocked in around two and a half hours.) A movie can go on hitting the same two notes for only so long before the audience starts to crave a little variety.

2) One of those notes is comedy and the other is action. The first act of the movie is a comedy. I don’t mean it’s unintentionally funny or so bad it’s funny or anything like that. I mean it’s a comedy. John Turturro, Alan Tudyk, and Frances McDormand were supposed to make me laugh and they did.

3) Shia LaBeouf’s hero is a comic character too; not especially funny and not endearing, but unequivocally a comic character. DotM reminded me of the Hong Kong and Indian cinemas for a couple of reasons. One of them was the annoying comic hero bluffing, blustering, and blundering his way through life and the plot.

4) Another was the abrupt shifts in tone, namely the shift from comedy to tragiaction (yes, I made that word up) after the first act and the interspersed comedy bits thereafter. After all the make ’em laugh stuff, it’s disconcerting when fleeing civilians start getting vaporized in bulk in the third act. Granted this is a movie that defies any attempt to take it seriously, but it is a bit disconcerting nonetheless.

5) The fact that Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is a professional model presumably explains how she is able to run through devastated urban streets, jump from tall buildings, and dodge falling rubble while wearing stilettos. Why her completely and totally useless in a fight character is doing all of that instead of cowering in a sturdy-looking building on the periphery of the war zone is anybody’s guess.

6) The special effects are really impressive. Really impressive. The Autobot and Decepticon transformations especially are something to behold. There’s too much sameness to all the Chicago skyscrapers and streetscapes getting blown up, but the effects there are impressive too.

7) The movie’s unabashed patriotism is endearing, especially when seen on the eve of Independence Day.

1 star

**********

Possibly Related Posts: (Commentary Track generated)

Review of Transformers (2007)

11 responses to “Movie Review – Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

  1. Reading this review I expected to see a 3 star rating but am glad that you ended up with the appropriate one. 0_<

    When I watched the first Michael Bay Transformers movie (thankfully on video) I was shocked as to how awful it was from every perspective that makes up a movie; but I watched all of it regardless. Then I watched the second film, on video also, for 40 minutes before turning it off. It was THAT terrible of a movie (note that I didn't write the word film). Now I hear that this third and, happily, final installment is as bad as the second movie was so you Helen, not having seen the previous two movies tells me that it's probably worse than you claim it to be. I think you know what I mean. :O)

    I don't even believe that I could be paid to watch this movie…
    …so I'm glad that you took one for the team! :OD

    • A three star review where I call the hero annoying, the heroine useless on stilettos, and the movie a half hour too long? Even I don’t enjoy special effects and explosions that much.

      DotM does have its good points and it didn’t make me angry. That right there puts it clean out of the running for worst movie I’ve seen in the theater this year.

  2. 2 stars. Purely based on the fact that it was entertaining, but there should be about 30-40 minutes of this movie on the cutting room floor. Then it would be very entertaining and would be 21/2 stars. I guess its hard to justifiy leaving all that money spent on effects for the DVD release. And whats up with Michael Bay and women? I think in every movie hes made the female lead is weak. Its saddens me that he is going to be involved with the reboot of TMNT. Hes really going to ruin my fond memories of those films.

  3. I thought the Transformers were pretty boring when my son was watching the TV cartoons, so I can’t imagine that making them bigger and noisier would make much improvement. But I’m glad you found some fun in it, Helen, and I enjoyed your comments. The comparison to the foreign cinemas is interesting. I love a lot of Hong Kong cinema but the comedies are much harder to watch for the reasons you cite as well as the loss of most of the word play that native speakers can enjoy.

    BTW, it took me a little while but I’m feeling pretty proud of myself for figuring out TMNT without asking. My somewhat tenuous connection to popular culture still holds.

  4. I loved the final reveal of your rating! Anyways, this isn’t a movie I’m interested in seeing.

  5. By the way Miriam, I believe that your son watches one of the many incarnations of the Transformers cartoons. The original series isn’t anywhere on TV, as far as I know, and there are, at least, 5 different variations of the original anime series. Yes, it was originally an anime which is why it was good.

    The main reason that the live-action movie adaptations weren’t ever going to be good is the simplest: the original anime series took place in the future and had only 2 human characters in it; a man and his son. All of the robots, sorry aliens, which didn’t have tremendously ugly and superfluous detalis had emotions and eyes. We were able to watch a robots fighting each other for an energy source called energon Japanese animated series and actually care for the outcome because it didn’t have human interferance.

    The 1986 animated film is epic and needs to be seen, even if one is not a Transformers fan. Helen, dig it out and watch it. It featured Orson Welles in his last performance as the voice of Unicron, an alien robot that was almost planet sized. There are many deaths, yes deaths, and emotions abound.

    I recommend the 1986 film over all three live-action movies put together.

    • The anime origin shouldn’t surprise me and it does sound more interesting. My son was watching the original US TV show in the early 80’s and the big appeal, I think, was the cool tie-in toys.

      • Mecha (the fighting robot genre) has never been my thing. The movie devotes much more screen time to people than bots but the human element is still lacking.

        @Nir: Someday I will watch the ’80s movie if only for Welles. Now there’s a voice with planet-sized gravitas!

        • lol
          You’re right about mechs but these mechs aren’t piloted by humans, though. That’s the main difference. And yes, it was a show and a movie based on a series of toys (girls had their barbies) but it was action packed in a good way. This coming from a 29 year old…

Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s