Transformers: Dark of the Moon – Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on June 28, 2011 in / No Comments


(Originally published at The Rogers Revue on June 28, 2011.)

(Originally published at The Rogers Revue on June 28, 2011.)

Grand excitement, beautiful slow-motion shots of explosions, bodies flying around, an orgy of crunching metal and bone, hopelessly absurd physics, theater speakers being pushed beyond their maximum decibel levels, and more action than the human eyes can possibly handle?  Yep.  Sounds like a Michael Bay film to me.  And Transformers: Dark of the Moon is no exception to this ideal he has constantly strived for since 1995’s Bad Boys, featuring all of the above and more.  This time, in closing out the trilogy he began in 2007, he ends it with the type of bang that he made famous – the biggest you could ever hope to imagine.

And when I say big, I mean FRICKIN’ HUGE.  Bay has taken the best things about the first two Transformers films and made them even better.  There’s actually a plot worth following this time around, and the action is the best I’ve seen him make.  Given the large scale and scope of Bay’s Transformers movies, he gives himself a gigantic palette to play with – which means demolishing entire cities, countless vehicles, buildings, and even spare characters that just happened to come along for the ride.  And quite a ride it is – at 2 hours and 35 minutes, Dark of the Moon is the longest of the trilogy.  It is also the loudest, most action-packed of the series, standing atop the previous two films to be the best of the lot.  And while it isn’t without flaws or negatives, it’s a fairly easily-digestible piece of fun cinema that may not change the world, but it is sure to entertain and captivate audiences with its high-wire action and effects.

By now, in the world of the film, the Autobot Transformers have become staples of Americana – they fight ordinarily unwinnable battles with our military in hopes of making the world a safer place.  However, there’s a new wrinkle to their existence on Earth, as a twist is put on the Apollo 11 moon landing in the opening scenes of the film.  Using cleverly-edited pieces of actual news coverage, 8mm film shot in 1969, and newly-shot period footage (complete with a digital insertion of John F. Kennedy!), Bay posits that the space race was spurred on by an alien spaceship crashing into the moon.  And using a period of “lost contact” with NASA, the Apollo 11 crew secretly investigates the ship, which turns out to be a Cybertronian ship called The Ark; within its bowels is its pilot, Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy), leader of the Autobots in the civil war that destroyed Cybertron.  And with Optimus Prime’s (Peter Cullen) discovery of this, he and Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) find that there is a deeper conspiracy among the Decepticons that also involves human sympathizers.

Once more into action our heroes must go, and it’s a hell of a fun time as the seemingly-patented Michael Bay tactic of assaulting your senses ensues, with nonstop bombardments of explosions, pounding music, and the battle for humanity.  Bay’s two best films (in my opinion) are Bad Boys and The Rock; Transformers: Dark of the Moon is right up there with them, effectively balancing a decent story and its over-the-top action.  As I said earlier, the film definitely has flaws – one of them being Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.  Doing little more than running, screaming and just standing around with her mouth open, her scenes threaten to drag this movie into unbearable fits and starts; fortunately, the pluckiness of LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky more than makes up for it.

Back again are familiar faces from the previous two movies, most notably Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson and John Turturro; they are joined by series newcomers Frances McDormand and Alan Tudyk (most known as Hoban “Wash” Washburne from “Firefly” and Serenity – Browncoats rule).  Tudyk, in playing an assistant named Dutch, steals every scene he’s in and makes the proceedings more enjoyable, even though he’s not in the majority of the movie.  Another surprise was the voice talent of Leonard Nimoy, who previously voiced Galvatron in the animated The Transformers: The Movie in 1986.  Sonorous and rich, his voicing of Sentinel Prime contains all the pathos and command that Nimoy is known for – in addition to a few “other things” he’s known for as well.

The responsibility of shouldering Dark of the Moon falls not to LaBeouf, but rather to the teams responsible for every last digital effect in this movie.  From the way mechanical body parts move to making the machines seamless and photorealistic, these people are given the lion’s share of the burden of this movie and they don’t waste a minute of it.  Likewise, the stuntwork involved with this movie is jaw-dropping; I don’t know exactly what was computer-animated and what wasn’t, because it looked absolutely great.  The effort put into making this film a grand spectacle is not wasted, serving to make a memorable and worthy summer movie.

Be warned: two events in this movie recall shades of the Challenger tragedy and 9/11, for those of you sensitive to that kind of thing.  However, this shouldn’t stop you from enjoying Transformers: Dark of the Moon.  This movie was 70% shot using 3D technology instead of being simply shot in 2D and converted just to make an extra few dollars with the 3D upcharge.  It’s worth the fee, however, to watch the grandeur unfold before your eyes.  And at the end of the movie, your brain, eyes, and ears may hurt, but it’s a small price to pay for watching Bay’s Transformers trilogy come to a dramatic, explosive, and thrilling conclusion.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on 4k or Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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