My dad, a friend and I planned to go see Green Lantern last night, only to be told it had been pulled. How long has the movie been out? I’ve heard offhand remarks about the movie’s crumminess, but I didn’t know it was bad enough to be pulled so quick! On the bright side, Transformers: Dark of the Moon was on, and since two out of the three of us are massive Transformers nerds, this was a better option!
As is tradition, I’ll be doing this in header format like my reviews of the last two movies. For those of you who want to catch up on my extremely buttery opinions of the first two, see here (2009 movie) and here (Revenge of the Fallen).
Oh snap, the Apollo mission was just a way for the Americans to learn stuff about a crashed Autobot shuttle on the moon! On it was Sentinel Prime, former Autobot leader and his secret technology to transport matter through space and time, and only he knew how to use it. The Autobots are miffed that the humans pilfered some of this equipment, and the Decepticons want to use it to transport Cybertron to Earth so they can use Earth’s resources to rebuild it. And antics ensue!
The movie is kind slow-going for the first half, simply because it’s all merely set-up for the second half where all the action takes place, and as usual there’s a lot of the usual human filler to make this seem more complex than it really is. During the second half… well, the Decepticons pretty much conquer the city! Yeah! The Autobots are exiled to space and the Decepticons totally blow the fuck out of the main city. What happens next?
To its credit, this movie almost tries its best to give all the Autobots something to contribute to the story, no matter how minor. Revenge of the Fallen had a bad problem with introducing guys who got a minor bit of gratuitous screen time just to acknowledge their existence, but did nothing of worth. Like, what did Sideswipe do? Kill the fleeing Decepticon who made no attempt to fight back? Aw yeah, that’s totally essential to the overarching storyline. A lot of the new characters still don’t get proper introduction, but they’re kinda sorta slightly established a bit better than last time. Maybe.
So, who returns? The four surviving Autobots from the first movie are back, along with Sideswipe and Wheelie (more on him in the next paragraph). Bumblebee gets some gratuitous hero moments just to establish he’s the kid-appeal character, as do Ironhide and Sideswipe, but Ratchet is kinda ignored; I was almost surprised they dragged Foxworthy back just to record his three-or-less lines of nonessential dialogue.
Big shocker! Ironhide gets killed off! He gets a good fight paired up with Sideswipe against some unnamed Decepticon thugs before he bites the dust. The way he dies is pretty awesome-looking though, if a bit undignified and grim. He dissolves to pieces and his head falls off.
Now, new guys. There’s a new guy called “Q”, who’s basically a kid-friendly scientist type fellow who makes weapons and gadgets for the human allies. He later gets killed and his head falls off.
The Wreckers are basically a trio of rough and tumble guys who, well, rough and tumble. They have big guns that you rarely see in action. They’re designed to look like Nascar fan stereotypes, complete with beer guts, beards, baseball caps and the like, but outside of their mildly rowdy nature, they’re not too obnoxious – just forgettable. None of them die, surprisingly.
There’s a red sports car with whips who’s usually seen with Sideswipe. He has a Spanish accent. I don’t think his name is ever mentioned. He kind of disappears after the halfway marker.
There’s a laptop guy who hangs out with Wheelie, the two forming a crass comic duo, though a bit more toned down than Skids and Mudflap. They do little more than chat with Sam about the fickleness of women early on, but they’re vital to taking down enemies forces towards the end, which is rather surprising. Before that they do little more than wander around the streets complaining about being left behind, and I kinda wondered “why is it focusing on these guys when proper action stuff is taking place just a few streets away?” Like, they’re okay, but they’re not such fantastic comic relief that I need to see them all the time. I can take ’em or leave ’em. It seems implied that they nobly die in a ship crash, though given the tendency for characters to just disappear off-screen, you can hardly tell.
And then there’s…
Sentinel Prime is the big guy the story really focuses on, though … he aligns himself with the Decepticons, in a way. He’s still an Autobot, but he believed the war could not be won and sided with the Decepticons to get the power and resources he needs to rebuild Cybertron; he didn’t like the arrangement, but his intentions were purely for the sake of Cybertron and the future of the Transformers as a race. Though just because his intentions were good doesn’t mean he can’t be an asshole; he blasts Ironhide to pieces and wrecks the entire N.E.S.T. base just to emphasise “say hello to my ideology, suckers!” He rags on Optimus for being soft and not having the guts to make big decisions like this one, to enslave the Earth to rebuild Cybertron.
It is a bit of a shame how Sentinel basically becomes a “gwahaha, I’m a villain!” character, because he fills an interesting niche. Revenge of the Fallen had Jetfire, an ancient Decepticon who had no real affiliation with his side anymore, and it could be argued he had ideologies closer to the Autobot’s. Sentinel, meanwhile, is an Autobot with rather Decepticon ideologies, what with enslaving the humans and not being able to walk five steps without needlessly wrecking something. He wants only the best for Cybertron and his fellow Transformers, and yearns for them to relive their former glory, no longer having to be scattered around the cosmos and what have you. Mind you, he doesn’t care if he has to destroy the civilisations of other planets to achieve this, and he doesn’t give a damn about his own subordinates, it seems.
Then Megatron is pissed that he’ll be playing second fiddle to Sentinel and kills him, and his head falls off.
Yeah, Megatron’s back! He’s got a really neat truck mode with spikes and a raggedy cloak/cape/hood and stuff! He also spends pretty much the entire movie off-screen just sitting around and doesn’t really do much of anything until the aforementioned fight.
I think that’s the problem. It’s like Megatron isn’t relevant anymore. Heck, he’s practically forgotten about. Sentinel announcing his alliance with Megatron makes for a real shock moment, but more just because you know the name Megatron always belongs to be a mean son-of-a-gun. It’s pretty easy to forget about Megatron until the final act, to be honest. He’s almost a non-entity, and when he does show up, he doesn’t cast a very imposing image; he’s more like a down-and-outer hoping that people still think he’s relevant.
It also doesn’t help that after being absent for most of the movie and having little screen time, he gets another chance to face Prime one-on-one, and it ends mere seconds afterwards. It’s anticlimactic as all hell. I was personally expecting Megatron, after killing Sentinel, to do his old “you have won this day, Prime” shtick and then walk off to fight another day, though given how murderous Optimus is in this continuity, I imagine that wouldn’t be in-character for either of them. It’s like the whole story revolves around Sentinel siding with the Decepticons, and the writers realised “oh wait, Megatron’s still around, isn’t he?” So they get him in a fight with Optimus and have his head torn off.
Since there’s a good few hundred Decepticons landing on Earth, it’s hard to keep track of them all, and outside of Starscream, none of them get any real character.
Starscream continues to serve as Megatron’s toadie, and gets a couple of brief action scenes to himself. Then Sam starts swinging around on his eyeball and his head blows up. I suppose there was no big demand for a big finisher since he hadn’t actually done much in the movies proper – he’d had no real serious direct confrontations with the characters, nor was his scheming nature shown much. He was just a bit of a whiny asshole. It still strikes a chord when Starscream, one of the A-lister figures in the franchises, is humiliated and blown up by a couple of people swinging around on his eyeball. I’m serious.
Soundwave is back! He does little of import, having lost his behind-the-scenes satellite-tapping function from the last movie, and just serves as a guy who stands around. Then Bumblebee punches his head off.
It’s hard to really say what other Decepticons return, because the models are reused so much you can barely tell, and they have a bad habit of dying en masse. You could argue Barricade returns thanks to there being a black police car robot during the final segment, though he stands around, gets his eyes shot out and then his legs blown up.
New baddies! Again, it’s hard to keep track of who’s who and who’s actually relevant, especially since I hadn’t been keeping up with the news of this movie as much as I had with Revenge of the Fallen.
Laserbeak is Soundwave’s new minion after Ravage got his spine torn out in the last flick, and he plays a big part in the backstory, as he’s assassinating everyone involved in the space program that found the Ark. I, uh, can’t remember why, mind you, but he did it. He has a really neat way of transforming into various things, and seeing him unravel into his bird mode is really neat, though the fact he talks is a bit off-putting. Then Sam pulls his head off.
Shockwave was assumed to be one of the big bad guys of this movie, and in a sense he is, but he’s got very little relevance to the story. He’s more like a video game rival than a true enemy in that he shows up and gives Optimus grief a few times, and really hinders things for our heroes with his really badass gigantic tunnelling robot worm things, but he hasn’t any real motivations or anything. He just shows up, looks cool, and unleashes the worms. The worms do steal the show with their sheer wow factor; they’re way more impressive than Devastator, and they’re just so inhuman – they eat the shit out of everything! Then Optimus cuts the worms heads off and the humans shoot Shockwave to bits when he can’t see with a parachute obscuring his optic. I’m trying to figure out if it’s a more dignified death than Boba Fett’s; is it better to be killed while blind, to be killed by a blind man? (No, please do not go all Expanded Universe on me.)
Mikaela gets the boot Sam gets a new love interest in Carly, an ex-… uh, Whitehouse person. She serves as love interest and that’s about it – she hasn’t any street smarts like how to hotwire cars or anything that Mikaela added to the movie. She is the one who convinces Megatron that he’s going to become Sentinel’s bitch (in that exact wording!), so she’s not totally useless from an action movie perspective.
Sam’s parents return seemingly just for token scenes – nowhere near as much comedic output as the previous movies, though whether that’s a plus or a minus is up to the viewer. I personally enjoyed their antics. Seymour is back as a rich eccentric marketing his fame for saving the world twice, now with a camp bodyguard/personal manager in tow. You know. The usual affair.
I found the humans rather forgettable. Same with a lot of the characters, really. Michael Bay said for this one he was going to tone down the “dumb humour,” and he has. This kind of renders a lot of the characters very bland, because the dumb humour was nearly all they had to define themselves. Seymour’s still full of dumb humour, but now he just feels like a walking joke – without his role as a secret agent, he doesn’t feel like a character anymore. Though, uh, who’s concerned? Not me. I’m here for the robots, yo.
There is a guy who was really intriguing, though – I’ve forgotten his name, but for the sake of easy writing I’ll just call him Dennis. Dennis’ dad was part of the NASA team who learnt about the Ark, and the Decepticons made a deal to spare him if he sides with them, and he assisted them in killing all the other people affiliated with the program. Dennis thus inherits his dad’s company, and his dad’s clients, and believes siding with the Decepticons will be the best for humanity – or at least for himself.
It’s a story that’s been done before in the franchise, but it’s nice to see it on the big screen, and he makes for a nice villain for Sam to have a personal agenda with. The fact he’s actually in with the Decepticon technology is neat, and the fact he realises that he means nothing to the Decepticons now that they’re bombing the city and shit, it’s like he’s searching for relevance in the crumbling world around him. I’d dare say it’s handled better than Sam’s personal quest for relevance; he just whines “I want to be relevant!” and so on and because it’s Shia LeBouf you’re just like “whatever, kid! Go back to Indiana Jones!”
The first half of the movie has a bit of action here and there, but it kinda goes by without notice; it’s more to set the scene for the upcoming story than really drop wow-bombs. once the Decepticons invade and lay waste to the city, that’s where things really ramp up – story goes out the window, but they drop big battles and serious eye candy like cluster bombs.
The movie loves really undignified deaths. It is a war, so nobody can die with a warrior’s speech and serve as a motivator for their comrades to continue the fight, but it is just a bit unsettling to see big guys like Ironhide, Starscream, Soundwave and even freakin’ Megatron all go down with barely a whimper. It’s doubly undignified when the movie has a fetish for heads falling off. Some characters get legitimately decapitated, but some of them just have the noggins roll off once they’ve been shot a bit. Maybe they’re all suffering from Cybertonium depletion?
What’s really noticeable about the movie is just how bleak it is. I mean, it’s still totally a kids film, but it’s surprising how much they get away with. Revenge of the Fallen got away with jokes of bad taste (and arguably unintentional racism), but this has pretty much a post-apocolyptic landscape where humans are vaporised to bits on-screen by Decepticons and stuff (it is bloodless, but it is rather disturbing – I think you even see a skull flying from a dissolving human at one point). The robots are torn about callously and casually in very brutal manners. Characters new and old are killed without a hint of remorse. It’s the kind of movie kids would probably walk away from a bit upset.
This probably belongs in the story heading, but why not. I do think the ante was upped quite considerably this time, and it helps that the Decepticons have a motive more threatening than just “gather energy”. With the city pretty much a smoking heap, humans vaporised left and right, Decepticons blending in across the globe, the Autobots believed to have been exiled to space (they just never got on the rocket in the first place. The masterminds!) and plans to use the humans as slave labour for Cybertron, it really does make you wonder how they’ll get out of this one.
By the end of the battle, it feels like a bittersweet victory. The main Decepticons have been destroyed and the rest, without a leader, will likely go into hiding; but many of the Autobots have also been killed, including Optimus Prime’s predecessor and mentor, and their home planet of Cybertron was utterly destroyed to prevent it from being warped to Earth. The entire city (I still can’t remember what city it’s meant to be – it’s just the city!) is a smouldering wreck that would take years of work to rebuild; the Autobots would help, surely, but with their planet gone, what tech do they have left? There still exist Decepticons on Earth, even as far as China, and weeding them out will be a struggle. And, yes, although Sam’s now happy and the Transformers have saved the Earth a third time, will the human-Autobot relationship still last?
It’s a really bleak way to end the series, but personally, I loved it. The end of a war is always messy.
My dad has been keen to drag me to another 3D flick for whatever godforsaken reason. He heard that Green Lantern was a really good 3D movie, and that’s mostly why he wanted to catch it. This is the second one I’ve seen after Avatar, and I still don’t give a damn. You can’t watch it perfectly either – with the glasses you can see the screen decently, but it’s too dark to make out details (and in a movie like Transformers, you like to catch all the detail you can); without the glasses it’s at a good lighting, but it’s blurry half the time. And, once again, you pretty much forget about the 3D by the halfway mark outside of a gratuitous bit here and there like rubble flying past the screen. I think this has convinced us all that 3D just isn’t worth it. Took ’em long enough!
I really enjoyed Dark of the Moon. I was almost concerned that I’d just grown up too much to enjoy it, as what humour there was didn’t do anything for me. It took quite a while to warm up, and I do think Revenge of the Fallen had some memorable sequences that are hard to top, but I think in the scheme of things, this was a better film. It ties together better and offers a much grander scale of adventure, and seeing things become so bleak really makes the battles and eventual victory so rewarding. I do think the movie loses a bit of its personality in comparison to Revenge, though given how it had giant wrecking ball testicles and whatnot, I think it might be for the best. If you didn’t like Revenge, this one might be better, though I’m hardly the one to offer advice. I’m biased as all hell, mang.