Thursday, June 30, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon - An IMAX 3D Experience

I'm The Foxy Replacement

The universal hard truth – that this film will make an obscene heap of money no matter how bad a film it actually is, and that Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is a smoking hot Victoria's Secret model that Michael Bay just loves to train his camera onto her endless limbs and cleavage, but can't act to save her life. Welcome to the third live action installment of Transformers, which Bay at one point said he won't be back to direct, but only because he got tempted to play with new 3D filmmaking toys that we got to this point, this being his only return to a material for the third time in his career, and his second Moon outing since Armageddon.

Written by Ehren Kruger who was responsible for the mess in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, I would say this time round the story was one leg up than the previous, though expect little other than to have scenes crafted to bring the audience from one major fight to the next. But it actually started off rather brightly with our first detailed view of the never-ending war on Cybertron, and culminated in a plot that Transformers fans and those who follow the cartoon series will celebrate with the introduction of the iconic space bridge, and what it can do to wreck havoc on Earth. Kruger also fell prey to the permeating sweep of nostalgia in the blockbusters of this year, with the 60s being a groovy time like X-Men: First Class, to get into, this time round tying in some major conspiracy theories into the entire Space Race between the USA and USSR, and of course the moon landing and why since the Apollo missions nobody else set foot on our moon. And not to forget that little bit on Chernobyl as well, that made Dark of the Moon feel quite epic in its narrative scale and ambition.

But some things never change in a Michael Bay film, and one enters his world knowing fully well what to expect, no matter what he's directing. Granted the army is back in full force once again, as are various quasi-government agencies, but toned down are the tremendous recruitment ra-ra moments that defined Revenge of the Fallen, although you can't help but to chuckle at how Bay is determined to show us the perfect US-led world with the Autobots now being at the beck and call of the American military to take out rogue nations and groups that pursue unsanctioned nuclear ambition. Well if you can't do it in real life, do it in film in time for a 4th of July salute, can't you?

Then there's the token female characters, one babe in Rose Huntington-Whiteley's Brit bombshell Carly taking over the fired Megan Fox whose character in the previous two movies got written off through no less than two mentions that she had dumped Shia LaBeouf's Sam Witwicky with many characters exalting Carly's "great" qualities, and the other the brainier Mearing of NSA played by Frances McDormand looking really frumpy. In Bay's universe, hot babes get to drive sleek sports cars and pout incessantly, and in what would be a laughable moment, have enough charms to casually chat with one of the main villains in the show reminding him that he should be vicious, when the villain should have just swatted her away like an insect.

But there are some plus points to amuse a Transformers fan. For instance, the much loved Laserbeak gets featured here in its nasty glory, being one heck of a powerful opponent with espionage its main weapon in orchestrating much of the Decepticon web of deceit, though its combination with Soundwave was one scene too little. Then there's Shockwave looking too up to date save for his cyclops eye and owning a gigantic pet worm that you see in the trailer, and Optimus Prime finally having his trailer put to good use in more than one battle sequence. Yes, it is up to these little things that keeps things interesting for fans and the casual viewer, but that's about it, as the big bang finale treaded on familiar ground covered in recent science fiction films such as Battle Los Angeles - this one becoming Battle Chicago - and Skyline with its alien invasion theme with alien planes peppering the sky, and aliens flexing their superior firepower with reducing masses of humans into ash.

Effort has been put into resisting the temptation to have too many robots show up on screen pulverizing each other in close combat, and having Bay's slow motion to show off some cool stunts involving humans and robots (Bumblebee seems to be the favourite to have to slow down), but for all the loud, mind numbing and eardrum busting action going all around during the action sequences, there's this distinct lack of villainy in the movie, with action sequences being overly long and losing their impact and focus.We get tons of faceless and nameless Decepticons yet again, with plenty of action in the huge finale focused on the humans and the soldiers/mercenaries, but little on the robots. I mean, if Optimus Prime can be temporarily forgotten since he's stuck in a bunch of wires dangling upside down from some broken building, something is wrong, besides the fact that he's in identity crisis mode for the most part fawning over to audiences who like their heroes dark with his declaration of annihilation over his enemies.

There are also supporting characters galore, some returning from the previous film such as John Turturro's Simmons, now a multi-millionaire thanks to his best selling book, and the likes of military men Lennox (Josh Duhamel) now made Colonel, and Tyrese Gibson's Epps, and new ones with John Malkovich and Ken Jeong in minor roles, with Patrick Dempsey's Dylan being written in to be in stark contrast to Sam Witwicky as humans who share similar robot-related ancestry, but it doesn't matter since no acting chops are required to star in this film, only the willingness to spout incredibly bad lines, and look cool/nerdy. What Buzz Aldrin (the real Buzz Aldrin) is doing in this film, is something of a mystery in itself too, other than to lend some gravitas to the created back story on the space race.

The IMAX 3D presentation wasn't all that impressive given the trumpeting of using technology that gave rise to Avatar, and felt for the most parts a 2D film instead, since most of the action sequences were converted to 3D in post. So you just might want to save money on this and go for a digital presentation which will suffice. Will this be the final Transformers film? I suppose the millions in revenue will make it hard for the studio to say no, but whether Bay will be back for another round, well it's anyone's guess. At least this installment was more entertaining than the previous one, but it still continues with the same of Bayhemic formula (of juvenile jokes, big explosions and coverup of plot loopholes), doesn't offer anything new and is at risk of running stale. There's only so much that the robots can do on Earth that we haven't already seen before in 3 movies.

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