Wednesday, June 29, 2011

'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' Review - An Unexpectedly Solid Sequel

This is everything a summer blockbuster should be. Loud, fun, and full of action that knocks you back in your seat and barely lets you breathe! This is a huge step up from Revenge of the Fallen, and in many ways, better than the first. Michael Bay and the cast pulled out all the stops in their final outing with the Autobots and the Decepticons, and have proven that this series really is more than meets the eye. It's not just a series based off toys anymore, but a series with real characters, real fun, and real stakes. And I'm pleased to see that Bay and Co. went out with a bang.

Picking up a few years after the events of Revenge of the Fallen, Sam (Shia Labeouf) is now out of college, living with his new girlfriend Carly (played by new comer Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), and looking for a job. The Autobots, working for the US Government, are off doing different missions without Sam, making him feel as if he's no longer important to them, or the world. But when a secret hidden by NASA comes to surface, the fate of the world falls into the hands of Sam and the Autobots for one final time.

When it comes to summer blockbusters and action movies, you can't get much bigger than Michael Bay. No one can stage action and explosions quite like he can, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon may be his masterpiece. And part of that falls on the fact he shot the movie in 3D. For the first time, I feel the need to say that 3D is an absolute must when watching this movie. Bay put James Cameron to shame with his use of 3D, and 3D also taught Bay how to really shoot action. With 3D, you really have to slow down your camera movements and really stage the action so you don't get blur and capture that 3D aspect. This taught Bay how to really execute action scenes in a way that was comprehensible and absolutely breathtaking, really taking his abilities to a whole new level. This is the Michael Bay I wanted to see when I first saw Bad Boys and The Rock in the early nineties, and I feel like he has finally delivered on his ultimate promise of being one of the world's greatest action directors. The set pieces this time are just incredible. The last hour is some of the most intense, over the top, and exciting action I've ever seen in any movie. Bay really went big. Autobots and Decepticons alike die, humans are incinerated, and Chicago is absolutely reduced to rubble. This is actually a fairly intense movie, and I feel the need to say some kids might find the film too intense, so parents may want to head caution with younger ones. 

After the massive backlash Revenge of the Fallen had taken, Bay and LaBeouf both publicly came out, admitting the movie wasn't what it could have been. They promised a bigger, better, and epic finish to the series they started four years ago. And I have to say, I'm very impressed with the time and care they took with this go around. For me, Dark of the Moon delivers in almost every aspect that the first movie did, and then some. Many great character moments, big action and adventure, but scaling back the globetrotting ways of Revenge of the Fallen really made this movie stronger. The small character moments and heart were really what was missing from Revenge of the Fallen, and I'm glad to see that they went back to that. Without those elements, you're left with a lifeless film with no soul, something Dark of the Moon thankfully avoids. 

Shia LaBeouf is quite good as always as Sam, the movies hero. He gets more depth this time as a bit of a forgotten and unknown hero of the world. It was nice to see his character giving some time to really breathe and show emotions between the shouting and yelling that he does later in the film. We really need to be able to connect with his character to connect with this world, and in every way they have let us connect to him. But many people will want to know about Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Megan Fox's replacement in this film. I enjoyed her much more than I enjoyed Megan Fox in the previous two films. She actually has a bit of acting quality and real emotion, other than just being eye candy as Megan Fox. She also has better chemistry with Shia than Megan did. I actually believed their relationship, and wanted them to be together. I found myself really rooting for them. Once again, Josh Duhamel and Tyrese reprise their roles of William Lennox and Robert Epps, respectively. Neither are given a lot to do this time around, but both are adequate in the confines of the movie. I wish we had gotten to see a bit more of them or they were given more to do, but the movie isn't really about them so I understand. John Turturro also returns as Seymour Simmons, and as always is played completely for comic relief. I enjoyed his role quite a bit, and wish he had a bit more to do as well. But he gets more screen time then Duhamel and Tyrese.

One of the most interesting aspects of the movie for me though was Patrick Dempsey as Dylan Gould, Carly's boss and the first human villain in the series. He plays the fast talking, good looking, sleazy bad guy very well and it's the first time in a long time I've enjoyed one of Dempsey's performances. The element of having a human villain for Sam to compete with was a nice addition to this movie and really gave Sam more to do. One of the best additions to the movie I feel, and I'm glad Sam really got time to fight someone on his level as well. It really added to Sam's character. Of course, we also have John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, and Alan Tudyk all play supporting characters as well, and all add a lot of life to the movies. Honestly, this movie might have the best supporting cast of the whole series. Adding the likes of Malkovich, McDorman, Tudyk, and Dempsey really boosts the acting element for me and how serious they took this movie.  

But of course, this is a movie about Transformers and it's about time I talked about them. What I really liked about this movie is that Bay finally gave the different Autobots personalities and really gave them time to be characters and show each of their personalities. And for the first time, Optimus Prime finally gets to be the full badass he deserves to be. One of my favorite aspects of the movies for me as well was always the relationship between Bumblebee and Sam, which is fully put to the test this go around. A scene towards the end of the film shows how much they really care about each other, and how far each is willing to go for the other. I was glad to see that really touched upon and really wish they had more time for it in the series as a whole. Leonard Nimoy is really, really good as the voice of Sentinel Prime, one of the elders and survivors of Cybertron. It was a very interesting character for Nimory, and they didn't digitize his voice very much and you can really tell it's him. And last, but certainly not least, we did have the return of Megatron, who is always trying to take over the world. But hey, at least he's consistent in his plans and never gives up. 

The film is paced rather well, as it clocks around two hours and twenty minutes. The movie moves briskly, never dragging and always entertaining. Nothing I really shook my head at this time around or thought should have been left out. The score this time seemed non existent to me, but maybe I was just so focused on the action that i didn't notice it. But many of the scenes seemed to have no background music to them. I will say that I'm glad that Bay didn't overuse the Linkin Park song in the film this time around. It's only use a few times, and at parts where it actually fits. 

With incredible action, the best use of 3D I've seen for any movie, and a straightforward story, Dark of the Moon comes as a big sigh of relief and proves to be one of the best films of the summer. It just oozes fun, excitement, and everything a summer blockbuster should be. Michael Bay has made his masterpiece in the form of one of the biggest popcorn movies of the past few years. The cast and crew really went all out in their final outing in the Transformers universe, and I for one was glad to be a part of it. I honestly don't feel the need to see another movie. This is a great conclusion for the series, and hope we don't see another for quite some time. 

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