Friday, July 1, 2011

Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Directed By: Michael Bay
Produced By: Don Murphy, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura
Written By: Ehren Kruger
Starring: Shia LeBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey
Edited By: Roger Barton, William Goldenberg, Joel Negron
Music By: Steve Jablonsky

Distributed By: Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures
Runtime: 153 minutes
Budget: $195 million

Transformers: Dark of the Moon falls into the controversial summer movie category, with films like The Hangover: Part II and X-Men: First Class. It's a highly profitable franchise riddled with criticism, especially over Revenge of the Fallen, meaning Michael Bay and company were expected to deliver a product completely different and better. We have two different reviews of the same screening: Hunter B, very critical of the first two, and Hunter F, a fan of the series. Read on to see how they compared!


By Hunter Bishop

Rating: 7.3/10

I like a Transformers movie. Put a bullet in my head already.

I don’t like Michael Bay. At all. I think of him as a stereotypical male: blows his load early and then forgets how to communicate afterwards.


Oddly, my biggest problem is that I enjoy Michael Bay movies. Aw, shit. Did I really just write that? It’s true, though. I love me some explosive action and explosive...explosions. I’m a man. I love those kind of things, no matter how much I cling to my Vonnegut and Socrates. Philosophy is great for deep thinking, but I’ll be damned if a building blowing doesn't beat the hell out of ‘I think, therefore I am’.

I loved Transformers 3. Yeah, that's right. I loved it. I loved the non-subtle jarring score, I loved the birthday inducing battle scenes, and I loved the fact that Megan Fox wasn’t playing the lead female. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is a superior talent to Megan Fox, and actually interested me in her as a person, instead of as a sex symbol. Shia LeBouf also did fantastically in his lead role. I thought the script was about fifty times better than the other two are combined.

As I mentioned above, the score was jarring, but not in a bad way. It was done in a way that it told several stories within the overall framework of the movie. When the Transformers w
ere involved, it was much more movie score-esque. When the humans were involved it was much more pop music like. I thought it was a very clever way of showing the true lines between the Transformers and the humans. As the movie progressed, the scores began to mix together, and in the Battle for Chicago they ran to the same score. But even then, the humans only worked with the Transformers tangentially. They fought their own battle, which, while aiding each other, fought their own battles. That was something I thought was a really clever.

Another thing was Shia LeBouf’s character development. His was a character that was continually knocked around and pissed on and beaten down. Always made fun of and treated like an incompetent dick. I, personally, thought it was a representation of Michael Bay’s persona. He is constantly made fun of for fucking everything he does, and I’m sure that it wears on him. He makes tons of cash for his employers and brings joy (loosely used here) to people, and yet is regarded as an intellectual leper. Regardless of what I think of him as a director (and my above comments make my feelings pretty clear) nobody deserves to be critically raped every time he shows his face.

Dammit. Now I’m defending the bastard. What is this world coming to when I begin defending Michael Bay four paragraphs after I called him a premature ejaculator? Ugh. I swear. Makes me want to light up a cigarette and burn my eyes out.

By Hunter Furnish

Rating: 7/10

DotM (guess what it stands for) is better than RotF, there's little question there. How it compares against the original Transformers from 2007 is still up in the air, and really depends on what you expect from a Transformers movie. The original was awesome. It was funny and had enough of a story to satisfy with some kick-ass battle sequences. The second was funny and had kick-ass battle sequences, but the story was so weak people couldn't get past it. DotM tries to solve both of these problems by giving us a richer story and longer battle sequence, for better and worse.

Hunter B commented that it seemed as if there were two stories being told, and I agree. He based it on the division in score/soundtrack styling, but for me the different stories were told through tone. First, for the first half, you have your typical Transformers movie. There's robots; there's Sam Witwicky. Both are being what you expect them to be: awesome and clumsy/immature. The parents are there for their level of comedy, which works, and Rosie is there as the beauty. Enter John Malkovich, providing the wacky older character who's a little creepy, along with a strange but funny appearance by Ken Jeong. It's everything you loved about the first two without the racist robots.

Then the Decepticons invade Chicago, and this tale gets dark. Fast. The entire second half of the film is multiple action sequences within the Decepticon-controlled Chicago as humans and Autobots try to stop the bad guys from destroying Earth. It's intense, and Bay makes no qualms with killing thousands of people. These are the two different stories: the expected of Transformers, and the mature Transformers. There's the PG Transformers, and the PG-13 Transformers. It's not a bad distinction. Both sides are done well and are very entertaining, and there are still moments of light-hearted comedy during the second half (though they sometimes feel forced to keep things from getting too heavy). It's just surprising.

The cast did a great job with it. Shia was impressive and Huntington-Whitely is magnitudes better than Megan Fox. The military guys are cool as always, the parents, the crazy characters. Probably the only weakness is Jon Turtorro's character. The problem is that the part of us that needs that crazy character is already satisfied by Malkovich. By the time Turtorro comes on screen, he just seems redundant and annoying.

Of course, we also get action, and boy do we get action. I hope the Battle of Hogwarts is as long as the Battle of Chicago. It's a good thing, I guess, since so often films rush their third acts, but then it's also a little too long, maybe. For example, the sequence shown off in the trailer of the giant worm-thing toppling a glass skyscraper is really cool, but there isn't any point to it. They go up in the building to try to take down the bad guy's plan, but they end up having to take it down elsewhere because...well...the building isn't stable. It's a cool sequence with some awesome action from Optimus Prime, but I found myself thinking I had just wasted ten minutes.

The only other big problem is the relevance of Shockwave. The character is billed as the main antagonist, but he's only there for what seems like fifteen minutes, and I think he only says one line: "Optimus..." His giant snake is cooler then he is, and Megatron and Sentinel Prime end up serving a much bigger purpose for the story and the action. Maybe his character had a bigger role in early drafts but was cut down over time, I don't know. If Shockwave is something you look forward to, though, don't let yourself be disappointed when his role proves minimal.

If I wanted to show my future kids a Transformers movie, I would still show them the first one. It's funny, fun, with awesome battle sequences. Once they've matured a bit into the teenage range, I might add DotM, since for all its fun it also has very dark moments. I give props to Michael Bay, as odd as that sounds, for doing such a good job of balancing the elements of comedy and maturity. There's only so much I expect out of a Transformers movie, and Dark of the Moon delivered all of that plus a little bit of the unexpected. It was a great ride, made even better by the IMAX 3D. Medical conditions aside, 3D is the way to go as the third and, for now, final Transformers installment proves to earn its keep as the summer blockbuster it without a doubt will prove to be.

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