2011-07-01

Transformers: Dark of the Moon – The Sequel We Always Wanted

by Yo Snyder

Michael Bay has been promising for months that his third and
supposedly final Transformers film would make up for the mess and
disappointment that was Revenge of the Fallen. While I don’t
think that movie was quite as bad as most feel, it was still a big let-
down for me and not at all what I was hoping for in a sequel to Transformers. Fortunately, Dark of the Moon
is. It’s not a perfect movie by any means, but it gets far more right
than it does wrong, provides a satisfactorily epic conclusion to this
trilogy, and definitely redeems any sour feelings I had left from the
last movie. More importantly, this is the epitome of what a summer movie
should be; exciting, action packed, occasionally funny, often epic and
not requiring me to think about it all that much. Just sit back and
enjoy the ride; and what a ride it is.

First, let’s get the negative stuff out of the way. This movie is way
too long. It clocks in at just over two and half hours. Yeah, not
kidding. It would have been fairly simple to trim about twenty minutes
out of this movie and it would have been even better for it. There are a
couple sub-plots introduced early on that don’t really lead anywhere
and just aren’t necessary. There’s actually a pretty good story in here,
so just cut to the chase and don’t waste any time beating around the
bush. Also, I think this movie lacks a key element that the first had; a
carefree attitude that allowed it to have more fun. Of course, the
first movie didn’t have any expectations to live up to, which made it
easier to do that. The second movie was trying to live up to the first,
and this third movie is trying to make up for the second. It does, but
at times it just tries too hard and tries to force what really doesn’t
need forcing. Seeing transforming robots battle is fun and exciting, you
don’t need to force any of that, we already like it. Then there’s Megan
Fox’s replacement. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley isn’t any worse than Fox,
but she isn’t much better. However, her character does at least have
more character this time, which helps. Speaking of characters, there are
a few that could have been cut that would have helped the movie seem a
little less overstuffed; they didn’t really need to bring everyone
back while at the same time introducing new people. And of course, this
being a Michael Bay film, there is still some ogling (not nearly as
much or as foul as the last movie) and some language (again, not as much
as last time), and the violence is much grittier and more brutal this
time; which I think actually helped raise the stakes and made for a
better movie, but still makes it less suitable for younger kids (and yet
there were plenty at our screening). This is a movie for grown-ups who
still remember what it’s like to be a 12 year-old kid; not one for
actual 12 year-olds.

On the bright side, however, it seems to me that Bay has listened to
the fans. He’s done a lot of small things in this movie that make a big
difference for those of us who have loved the Transformers since
childhood. For instance, Optimus Prime has his trailer. I know, I know,
you’re thinking “so what?”. Well, it’s a big deal for dorky fans like
me. It’s just cool. It’s just the way Optimus is supposed to be. And
speaking of supposed to be, Soundwave finally has his voice the way it’s
supposed to be after a very disappointing showing in the last movie.
Then there’s the complete lack of the twins from the last movie; it’s
like they never were. Thank you for that. Also, no robot peeing jokes or
robot scrotum like we saw in the previous two movies. Again, thank you
for that. This time out, the robots are impressive in battle,
occasionally quirky and funny but mostly just played straight and
awesome, and the Decepticons are actually scary and imposing this time
around.

Which brings me to another point. This time it’s all-out war, which
when you think about it, that’s exactly what the follow-up to
Transformers should have been any way. This is a war movie, and as such
it can be pretty gritty and brutal at times. The Decepticons are dark in
this movie. They kill indiscriminately and do some truly evil things.
Worse, some humans have sided with them and are helping them enslave and
destroy the human race, a great element that needed more screen time
than it actually got. The stakes are high in this movie, which is nice
because they really haven’t been before. Best of all, Patrick Dempsey
plays a bad guy. I’ve grown tired of all his McDreamy roles, and this
time out he plays a straight up jerk with no redeeming qualities
whatsoever. It’s fun. But again, at the end of this day this is quite
simply a war movie. The last hour is non-stop onslaught of destruction
and battle. Yeah, it’s a little wearying, but it’s always exciting and
thrilling.

Perhaps the best improvement in this movie is that I actually cared
and I actually felt something about the robots as characters. When they
die, I actually felt bad about it. When they’re hurt, I actually cringed
in sympathy. Bay promised to do this last time, but didn’t succeed;
here he does. Optimus and the rest finally become true characters rather
than just special effects this third time out, and it’s a better movie
because of that. Plus, Optimus Prime really gets to shine in this movie.
If it were ever possible for a special effect to be a kick-a action
hero, then Prime is it in this movie.

While much of the movie is one relentless action
set-piece after another, there are a few moments to catch your breath.
During one of these, Sam (played well once again by Shia LeBeouf) yearns
to do something that matters, to be important. Never mind that he’s
already helped save the world twice, he still wants to be on the
frontlines, not looking for a regular job. We all want that, dont we?
We all want to matter somehow, some way. We try to matter by being being
rich or being successful or being the best, sometimes people even try
to matter by doing evil. Well the good news is you dont have to try to matter in this world, because you already do;
you matter to God. In fact, you are so important to him that he sent
Jesus to suffer on a cross and die a brutal death all to pay the price
for your sin. Jesus conquered death itself when he rose from the grave
so you could have eternal life because you matter to God. He loves you
so much he wants to adopt you as his own child through Jesus; thats how
much you matter. You dont have to prove your significance or
importance and you dont have to fight giant transforming robots to show
you matter. You already do to the God of the entire universe. The fact
is, you couldn’t possibly matter any more than that and you can’t do
anything more important than what he has planned for you.

Michael Bay promised that this movie would make up
for the disappointment of the last. As fan, I’d say he’s kept that
promise. He’s done everything that matters for this kind of film and
made it better while at the same time getting rid of most of the
elements that dragged the last movie down. He’s also delivered this
summer’s true spectacle movie; one that has to be seen on the big screen
and even makes a good case for seeing in 3D. Several scenes make very
exciting use of the 3D element, and while Green Lantern overall probably looks better in 3D, Transformers: Dark of the Moon
actually does something with the technology to draw you into the movie
in certain sections. This is a big, loud, and (overly) long summer film
full of epic Bay-hem. You probably already knew ahead of time whether or
not that was your thing, but just in case you were wondering if Bay did
better job of it this time than the last, the answer is a resounding
yes.