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.
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