At the Movies: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Would someone please, for the love of God, get Michael Bay an editor?

The director’s first Transformers movie clocked in at an unreasonable 2 hours, 23 minutes; the second took up 2 hours, 30 minutes of my life. “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” runs 2 hours, 34 minutes.

Even if I liked Transformers, these movies are just too long. And wearing 3D glasses for 2.5 hours does not enhance the experience.

But length isn’t the only problem. There’s also the multiple failed attempts at humor and a plot riddled with holes. On the plus side, there’s plenty of impressive action sequences and eye-popping special effects.

In other words, your typical Transformers movie.

This third outing opens with the revelation that the space race of the 1960s was actually caused by a spaceship from Cybertron (home planet of transforming robots) that crash landed on the moon. The U.S. went to the moon, examined the space craft, and managed to keep it a secret all these years.

The secret gets out, which upsets Autobot leader Optimus Prime (the good transforming robots) because he doesn’t appreciate the humans keeping something like this a secret. It turns out the ship was carrying something that could have helped the Autobots win their never-ending war with the Decepticons (the bad transforming robots). The ship also contains the body of Optimus’ mentor — Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy).

Elsewhere, Autobot ally Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has graduated from college and can’t find a job. Helping to ease his pain is new girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). Carly has a decent job, working for a sleazy businessman named Dylan (Patrick Dempsey).

Sam eventually gets a job working for the eccentric Bruce Brazos (John Malkovich), but since none of this has anything to do with transforming robots, the whole Sam-gets-a-job subplot is dropped halfway through the film and Malkovich is never seen again.

My point? Bay could have easily dropped the entire Sam’s job story and it wouldn’t have mattered — and it would have made the film blessedly shorter. (Granted, it’s at the job where Sam meets the guy who clues him into the Decepticon plot, but they could just as easily have run into each other at a bar or something.)

Something else that could have gone on the cutting room floor: Every scene with Sam’s parents. I realize they’re still hanging around because they probably signed a 3-picture deal, but they’re not funny and they add nothing.

Anyway, the main story deals with the Decepticons plan to transport their home planet to Earth and make humans their slaves and the Autobots battle to stop them. In fact, the entire last hour of the film is an extended battle sequence with the Autobots and humans fighting the Deceptions on the streets of Chicago.

By now you should know if you’re a fan of the Transformers movies. If you enjoyed the first two, you’ll probably enjoy this one as it’s just more and more of the same. There are two dumb, comedy robots that aren’t funny. John Turturro continues this dark stain on his career and this time Francis McDormand has joined him, playing a stereotypical government stooge.

Once again it’s sometimes hard to tell the good robots from the bad. It’s especially notable in a scene where four robots are in a Mexican standoff and I can’t tell which ones I’m supposed to be rooting for.

If you were only going for Megan Fox, you may want to reconsider since she’s gone, although Huntington-Whiteley and her amazing lips are a suitable substitute.

As always, it’s the special effects and action sequences that make these movies worth seeing, especially on a big screen. The latest jumps on the 3D craze and I will admit, this is one of the better live-action 3D films out there. It’s not “Avatar” level, but there are a few nifty 3D moments. If you want to save money or have joined the anti-3D bandwagon, it’s probably just as good in 2D.

Did it work for me? I admired the audacity of that last hour of nonstop action, but that’s about it. Worth watching once for the crazy action bits. You could probably skip the first half and it would be better.

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