James Helsby

WPR goes to the Movies; Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon

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I would start by saying that it has been a long time coming, but the truth is we knew a third Transformers film was in the works before the second was finished. And it shows.

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon was released to a lack luster crowd, last week. Just in time for the US Fourth of July holiday. The hope was that the extended theatrical holiday weekend would amount to larger box office totals.

They were right. By the time that Monday rolled around, Transformers 3 (T3 from here on in) had amassed some $116M in ticket sales, representing a new box office record for the 4th of July holiday. Globally, T3 has gathered some $300M+ in total ticket sales. And while that seems all fine and dandy, it is actually down some 30% from the sales totals for Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen (T2).

But lets not get consumed in the in’s and out’s of ticket sales, lets talk about the film. Well, in short… it was anything but short. With a run time of 2 hours and 37 minutes, by the time that T3 was finished, your ass is aching, your head is throbbing, and your eyes are yearning for sunshine. At least that was my opinion of things.

I CHOSE to see T3 in a standard screen DTS theater, with 3d. I did not option for the available IMAX 3d, knowing what previous incarnations of the film series have brought to the screen. Namely large explosions, and complex mechanical animation sequences. Which, experience has told me, do not look good on a screen as large as IMAX.

So down I sit, in a regularly large theater, with approximately 500 seats. And considering that this was 2:20pm on a Sunday, I was extremely surprised to find that it was a near sell out crowd. As the movie starts, we find out the back story in traditional Micheal Bay style. Large sets, explosive action, digital orgies of robot carnage. We begin with the war on Cybertron, which in and of itself was a very interesting sequence. We find that a very special ship was trying to escape from Cybertron. That ship held the key to the Autobots winning the war, no matter how defeated they were at the time. But the ship didn’t make it out.

Instead, it somehow managed to crash land on the moon in the early 1960’s. We also come to find out that the Space Race of the time, truly was a race. A race to the moon to investigate and retrieve what ever it was that had crashed. Given that this year (2011) is the 41st anniversary of man landing on the moon, I thought the association was a little forced. But understandable.

We cut forward to present day, to find out hero, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) slumbering. His uber-hot supermodel girlfriend wakes him, and wishes him luck in his day… asking if he needs lunch money. Sam, who lives in an apartment in Washington DC with Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) along with 2 mini Autobots, spends his days looking for employment. The job hunt becomes a running gag through the first half of the film.

Sam, a hero in his own right, looks high and low for a job before finally landing one as a mail-room clerk under they employ of Bruce Brazos (John Malkovich), an aggressive businessmen who is completely obsessed with the color yellow. Carly is in a position of trust and power, working for an industrial mogul. No one understands Sam and Carly’s relationship; someone who is so exceptionally attractive with someone who is rather gruff, dim witted, and unemployed. Again, this becomes a running theme through the film.

By the time we have actually advanced the plot away from Sam and Carly, low and behold, 1 hour and 30 minutes have elapsed in the film. From this point on, the words “Rollercoaster” “Gratuitous Explosions” and “needless” all come to mind. If you like Michael Bay’s directorial style, then the second half of the film is for you. Otherwise, you are out of luck. Basically, once that half way point is reached, you are not even left with a chance to take a pee break, without missing something action packed and exploding.

That isn’t to say that the movie is bad, but it is definitely not deep. There are no subtexts here, aside from “protect what you love.” And if nothing else, the film is more than a little in your face. Overall, it got to be a little annoying just how many nods the screen writers seemed to be inserting into the film. LeBeouf is his usual self; fast talking and never seems to have a coherent thought about him. Huntington-Whiteley seems more like a Rolls Royce emblem than an actress, half the time she is just standing there so that the camera has something to focus on.

And the robots. Autobots and generic-never-transform-Decepticons. I believe I only counted 8 Decepticons who actually transformed in this film. Megatron, Starscream, Soundwave, Laserbeak, Shockwave, and 3 generic suburban-robots. Otherwise, none of the others transform. Fine, I will accept that the invading hordes are non-transforming. But there were so many other things that had me rolling my eyes.

They bleed. Seriously, the Transformers in T3 bleed red blood. They spit, and in the most annoying fashion, spit on the lens of the camera. I WISH I could impart something on future directors, which is just blatantly disregarded in films… the fourth wall. If you cgi-animate spittle splashing on the camera lens, just for effect… you are a dumbass. Watching it, it adds NOTHING to the sequence, and will break your perception of film. You suddenly become aware that there is a camera there, filming the sequences.

But… There was one thing which above ALL others bugged me to the point of infuriation. If you don’t know by now, the voice of one of the main characters, Sentinel Prime, was performed by Leonard Nimoy. And if it took you all the way to the ending credits to realize that, then I will understand. HOWEVER, if you could not recognize his voice; don’t worry. Micheal Bay inserted at least 6 sound bytes from Star Trek, PLUS had Sentinel repeat some of Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy’s character in the original Star Trek TV series) most iconic lines from the series and films.

Including; I … always shall be your friend, The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and Engage transport. The last one, really bugged the shit out of me, because it is essentially a bastardization.. And he is not saying it to anyone. He is standing all by himself, on screen.

Ok. Yes. The film pissed me off. Yes, it left me with rage and headaches. Yes, it was long and drawn out. But unfortunately, it was still better than the second. The robot testicles were either not present, or smaller. The characters were predictable, but were put into situations that supported their personalities. The fight sequences were awesome. The sound, and action was above average.

Overall, the film gets a pass. I wouldn’t give it a 10/10, but I also wouldn’t give it a 0/10. I think, it was better than average, but still not as good as the first Transformers. If you haven’t cast your money’s into the Michael Bay pool yet, then perhaps go ahead. I hear he just had an Olympic sized pool installed, just for those left over quarters.

6.5/10 with a conditional -1 for overusing sound bytes from Star Trek.

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