PG Cooper: Transformers: Dark of the Moon Review

Posted: December 27, 2011 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: July 1st, 2011

Running time: 154 minutes

Written by: Ehren Kruger

Based on: Toys created by Hasbro

Directed by: Michael Bay

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

It’s interesting how reception to Bay’s Transformers series has changed over the years. When the first one came out in 2007, it was generally liked by people and considered a fun action flick. But when the sequel came out in 2009, it was panned and universally hated. Now the series resembles the Twilight saga. Eaten up by it’s target audience (in this case, teenage boys) and loathed by everyone else. Now personally, I never saw the second one, nor do I intend to. I did see the first film, and while I didn’t like it, I didn’t hate it either. Overall, I thought it was okay. With that said, let’s dive into Dark of the Moon.

The film opens in 1961, when a spacecraft crashes on the dark side of the moon, holding an autobot (good robot) named Sentinel Prime. The audience is told that Sentinel was carrying some device that would help their planet. The Americans discover the strange crash, it inspires their space program and eight years later, they finally make it to the moon. Cut to modern times, and the decepticons (evil robots) are trying to gain the tech that the ship was carrying so they can bring back their planet and destroy the earth. Meanwhile, Sam (Shia LaBeouf) has graduated college and is trying to get a job, and has a new girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley).

Alright, where do I begin with this flick? Well for one, this plot is an absolute mess. Characters make stupid decisions and things don’t make a lot of sense. Story in general is glossed over so the film can get to unfunny comedy or mindless action. Because of this, the action means nothing. There’s also scenes where the film tries to have dramatic moments that just don’t work at all. The film also glosses over most of the characters motivations. For example, I think the film’s main villain had an interesting motivation in theory. But they never explore it at all. The film also has a run time of 2 and a half hours. I don’t mind long films, but this flick has so little plot that it’s just rammed with filler. I’m not just talking about the action scenes either. I’m talking about lame subplots like Sam trying to find a job. Who gives a shit about Sam getting a job? And then there’s the comedy. There’s so many attempts at humor and not one joke actually works. And all this I’m talking about is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much wrong with the script I can’t begin to properly explain.

Then there’s the cast. The cast falls into two categories: actors who I don’t care about giving bad performances, and actors I do care about giving bad performances. The former includes actors like Shia LaBeouf and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Now I thought LaBeouf was solid in the first film, but he pissed me off to no end here. His basic goal in every scene is to complain the whole time. Megan Fox’s replacement is pretty bad, and their love story here failed miserably. But even worse is the actors I do like here. John Turturro has been in this series from the beginning and he’s been horrible in all of them. It just angers me because Turturro created one of my favourite characters of all time; the Jesus from The Big Lebowski.  Speaking of the Coen brothers, Oscar winning actress Frances McDormand appears as a government agent. Like Turturro, she’s horrible here and it frustrates me seeing such a great actress acting in such bullshit. But for me, the biggest insult of all was seeing John Malkovich here. Not only is Malkovich bad here, but his subplot serves no purpose at all. And I love John Malkovich. It’s just irritating to see actors of his caliber here.

Before I continue with the film, I want to talk about action films. When it comes to action films, and these films in particular, a common defense people use when these films fall under criticism is that there just action movies, they shouldn’t be judged on story, character, etc. Personally, I think this is a bullshit excuse and I want to explain why. Action films can have great stories with deeper themes. Look at Terminator 2, a film about robots killing people. Yet the film has a great story, and at it’s core is actually about relationships between people, violence, and free-will versus fate. It was about more than just robots. T2 isn’t a rare exception either. Numerous action flicks study deeper themes from The Matrix, to Minority Report, to The Dark Knight.

And that’s not to say all action films need to study deep themes to be called classics either. A lot of action films are classic because of their fun characters and excellent storytelling. The best examples probably being Die Hard and Raiders of the Lost Ark. These films aren’t overly deep or complex, but they are still great films. There’s also a lot of films that, while severely flawed, are still fun action films with solid stories and fun characters. Recent examples include Star Trek (09) and Iron Man. These films have their share of problems, but they’re still solid and don’t throw away story and character for mindless effects.

Then there’s the lowest form of action films; guilty pleasures. Movies that you recognize aren’t good, but you enjoy anyway. If the Transformers films fall into that category for you, I can’t really argue with you. If you like them, you like them. I’m just gonna explain why they don’t even work as guilty pleasures for me. For starters, I wanna mention some of my “guilty pleasures”. Two favourites include Heavy Metal and Commando. But these films work in several areas where Dark of the Moon fails. For starters, both films are only an hour and a half long. Both are also full of memorable moments and memorable characters, which Transformers certainly lacks. Finally, the action in Heavy Metal and Commando is genuinely violent. There are bloody, brutal, uncomfortable kills that you can feel. In Transformers, the action is a wimpy PG-13. It’s mostly just random explosions.

Now why did I spend three paragraphs talking about action films? To prove a point. That action films can be genuinely fantastic films, or at the very least solid films. So the whole “it’s just an action film” excuse holds absolutely no weight with me. Now with that said, I do wanna talk about the few things I like about this film. The action scenes are well done. They don’t mean anything since you don’t care about the characters, but they’re still aesthetically well done. The CGI is also impressive. Now I will say it doesn’t blow me away like it did in the first film. For one, the CGI hasn’t advanced that fair since the first film and it’s also easier to render mechanical things in CG than organic things. Hence why the effects in films like Avatar and Rise of the Planet of the Apes are far more impressive. Even so, the CGI is done well here.

So does a few fun action scenes and good CGI redeem Dark of the Moon? No, but it prevents me from dismissing this film as a complete failure. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very bad film. The acting is horrible, the story is a convoluted mess, and there are times where the film just feels like a lame music video. If these films are you’re thing, than I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one too. Personally, I think Dark of the Moon is a horrid film and a prime example of why people don’t take action films seriously.

Rating: D-

Comments
  1. I take it that you’re catching up with this on home video of some kind? If thats the case, a D- is spot on.

    In the theatres, with the power of the special effects and the 3d working in full force I think I gave it a B. Maybe even B+. Like an amusement park ride… pay your money, see the show, hear the sounds at full volume, etc etc. It was an impressive spectacle, and in terms of buying a ticket, watching something and feeling entertained, the special effects and CGI DID carry the day for me.

    But if you take away all the bombast youre literally left with nothing. The characters suck, the humor is horrible, the acting is terrible, the action sequences aren’t very creative… Bay has messed up this franchise so badly.

  2. ianthecool says:

    Now you have to see the second one and compare. It will be painful, yes, but you can do it.

  3. The third transformers was definitely better than the second one, but I’m not a huge fan of the series overall.

  4. Ipodman says:

    Dark of the Moon is my fav movie of the year O.O (Not kidding)

    And the Transformers trilogy is one of me fav trilogies of all time… I love it! :D

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