Two years after Revenge of the Fallen (and four years after the last decent Transformers film), Dark of the Moon finally arrived in theaters last week. Despite being spectacularly disappointed by the previous film, I got tickets to see the Tuesday night preview 3-D premiere of Dark of the Moon. I have a lot of loyalty to the Transformers brand, and decided to go in optimistic. Michael Bay swore up and down that this movie would be worlds better than Revenge of the Fallen and would features strong plot and characterization, coupled with non-offensive humor and sensational special effects. Does Dark of the Moon fulfill those promises, or was Michael Bay just blowing more CGI smoke?
- Shockwave is essentially playing the role of Boba Fett in this movie–the taciturn, deadly badass with character development left to the imagination. And it really works for the character. He comes off as being more formidable than perhaps every other Decepticon we’ve seen in these movies, and really makes a great showing for himself.
- While it was a little strange to have Laserbeak talking, he got some of the best scenes and development of any Decepticon in the entire movie trilogy. Laserbeak was depicted as intelligent, cunning, and sneaky as he should be. And I doubt there were any G1 Transformers who didn’t “Squeee!” with delight when Laserbeak flew in and perched on Soundwave’s arm to report in.
- Hey, Barricade! Nice to see you, now get lost. I was thrilled to finally wrap up the loose end of Barricade, who survived the first movie only to be speculate about for the last four years after skipping Revenge of the Fallen. He didn’t do much, but I was glad to see his character wrapped up.
- Unlike in Revenge of the Fallen, all of the Transformers actually get to speak and do something in this movie. Whether it be a great action scene like Ironhide and Sideswipe get, heroic comic relief like Wheelie and Brains, or just some exposition/plot advancement in the case of Que, I actually felt like there was a reason for each of the Transformers in this movie to be there. That’s a huge advancement over Revenge of the Fallen, where characters like the Arcee triplets and Sideways and so forth were totally inconsequential and only existent to blow money on CGI character models.
- The idea of the Ark full of Transformers crashing on the moon as the catalyst for the international space-race is at least interesting, unlike the “plot” of the prior movie. Not everywhere they go with this storyline works, but this hook is still good enough to keep my attention.
- Sentinel Prime was perfect. Perfect. I’m not going to say anything more about that here.
- John Turturro as Agent Simmons is my favorite character across the trilogy (though I didn’t like him much in the first film), and I found his acting to be one of the most amusing and entertaining aspects of this film. I know a lot of people hate this character, but I find the conspiracy-theorist government agent to be hilarious and probably the only good human character in the series next to maybe Sam. I thought Agent Simmons was highly entertaining in this movie, and his assistant was at minimum more fun and interesting than Leo was as supporting cast in the prior film.
- This is not the Optimus Prime that fans are accustomed to, and the change is not for the better. Optimus Prime does not sacrifice thousands of human lives to prove a point, nor does he brutally rip off enemy’s heads after a truce has been called, nor does he blow the heads off ex-friends in cold blood. Optimus Prime is the greatest of the Autobot soldiers, but he is also a compassionate being–not the ruthless killer Michael Bay depicts him as in this movie.
- Humans machine-gunning down Decepticons is just not believable, nor is the notion that a half-dozen or so specialist soldiers can last more than 10 seconds of the battlefield with 200 Decepticons flying around. What happens with Starscream especially has drawn hate and criticism from fandom, and I have a hard time reconciling it myself.
- I love Shia Lebouf, but Sam was really not very likable in this movie. Sam is portrayed as angry and violent throughout the movie, and his humor fell totally flat this time. Coupled with his “romance” with Carly (more on this later), and I’m ready to let go of this character that used to be among my favorites.
- They cut Skids and Mudflap’s deaths from the movie. I’d have rather seen that than 99% of what was in the movie.
- For all the bragging Michael Bay did about how amazing the 3D was going to be in this movie, I thought the 3-D was highly underwhelming and embarrassingly inferior to that in Kung Fu Panda 2. That’s just sad.
- The shared history between Earth and the Transformers becomes even more confusing and convoluted in this movie. So Megatron came to Earth to find the Allspark Cube, but also because he had a secret agenda to enslave humanity, but there was also The Fallen planning to use the Solar Harvester to steal the energy from the sun nearly 20,000 years ago, and killing cavemen, and… whatever. And there were Decepticons on the moon in like 1960, even though the Decepticons didn’t find their way to Earth looking for Megatron until the Bush Administration, and… I’m totally lost now with how and when things happen in this chronology, and at this point I just don’t care anymore.
- The music was not integrated well into this film. Linkin Park’s “Iridescent” false-starts several times as an instrumental, and it’s very jarring and distracting. In addition, I was actually excited about the new Goo Goo Dolls romance song “All That You Are” being used in this film, but it’s used wastefully as part of a scene where it makes absolutely no sense while Sam is delivering mail at the office and creepy Wang is stalking him.
- “Deep Wang” did not work for me in any way whatsoever. I was staring in disbelief the entire time this character was on-screen, and quite simply found this character more offensive and ludicrous than Skids and Mudflap were in Revenge of the Fallen. And while I found this character the most unnecessary, he still wasn’t my least favorite in the movie.
- Which brings us to Rosie Huntington-Whitely, who plays Sam’s new lover, Carly. While he was at the White House getting a medal from Obama, Sam met Carly, who worked at the White House doing… something. They apparently hit it off and hooked up, and Carly then took a new job standing around and posing for pictures next to antique cars with some rich guy who she flirts with her incessantly. If this doesn’t make sense to you, that’s because it doesn’t make any sense. Although Carly supposedly “loves” Sam, she treats him as though he’s just some loser who needs to get a job and stop leeching off her. She has no backstory, no depth, no motivations, no anything to endear her to the viewer. She’s simply there to stand around looking like a whore and showing off her body. To me, the “character” of Carly is nothing but a personality-less cardboard cut-out of a Victoria’s Secret model. I winced in disgust every time Sam and Carly embraced, as the forced couple has no chemistry as actors or as characters. We gave up the soul of the live-action series, the relationship between Sam and Mikaela, for this, Michael Bay?
- Optimus Prime accidentally gets tangled in some electrical cables while flying around, and spends 10 minutes of the climactic battle struggling to get himself loose until other Autobots come to help untangle him. No. Just… no.
- The core of the first two live-action Transformers movies was the evolving relationship between Sam (Shia Lebouf) and Mikaela (Megan Fox), as they grew from unlikely friends to passionate lovers. The entirety of Revenge of the Fallen was Sam and Mikaela growing to the point where they could admit their total love and devotion to each other and realize that they would stay together despite their differing career prospects. But between Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon, Megan Fox made the critical error of insulting Michael Bay, and Mikaela was no more. One of the most intriguing aspects of speculating about Dark of the Moon for me was wondering how Mikaela’s absence would be explained, and worrying that this crucial plot-point wouldn’t be treated with the respect and care necessary. My concern was well-founded, as Sam’s “break-up” with Mikaela was handled nonsensically and unbelievably.
“Where Can I Buy It?!”
The cheapest place to purchase Transformers: Dark of the Moon on Blu-Ray or DVD is usually Amazon. At the time of writing, you can order the Blu-Ray 2-Disc Special Edition for $16.99, the Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack for , $21.99, and they also have the DVD version available for $18.99.
Overall: Transformers Dark of the Moon is not a great movie. What it’s also not is a complete god-awful mess like Revenge of the Fallen was. Unlike Revenge of the Fallen, this movie actually has a coherent story and a plot that (mostly) makes sense. It gives fans worthwhile screentime for demanded previously-unseen characters like Shockwave and Laserbeak, while also giving spotlight to underused characters like Barricade and Soundwave. Unfortunately, it also features some dreadful characterization for lead characters like Sam and Optimus Prime, while the highly-touted 3-D effects are underwhelming. Coupled with a ridiculous explanation for Megan Fox’s absence and further complicating the history of Earth and the Transformers, I just can’t grade this film as any better than below average or recommend this movie to anyone besides Transformers fans. The Michael Bay trilogy of Transformers films is at an end, and the end for this series could not have come soon enough.