Sunday, July 3, 2011

Addict Overview: Movie Edition: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

After 5 years it finally comes down to this. The final installment of Michael Bay's adaptation of the Transformers fiction to the big screen has been upon us for 5 days now and so far not only has the overall reception from fans been completely split down the middle, but once again has it come under fire from professional critics and online reviewers. So is the movie really as painful an experience as people say or are they still not over the sub-par experience of Revenge of the Fallen? Lets find out....

(WARNING: This review will contain some spoilers from the movie. If you have not seen the movie yet and do not wish to be spoiled, please stop reading now. You have been warned.)

The plot for DotM is easy to understand; Sam Witwicky is now living on his own and struggling to find a job with the help of his new girlfriend, Carly Miller (While Mikaela isn't mentioned by name, it is mentioned on several occasions that she dumped Sam between the events of RotF and DotM). Meanwhile, NEST and the Autobots have learned that the Americans' first trip to the moon was to uncover a crashed Autobot ship called the Ark, which contained not only technology that could have turned the tide of the Great War, but also the dormant body of the long lost Autobot leader, Sentinel Prime. It's not long until both Sam and the Autobots learn that Sentinel is the key to the Decepticons' master plan: to bring Cybertron to Earth....

Unlike RotF, DotM's plot is much more coherent. Megatron's plan actually makes more sense: He wants to use the space bridge technology to bring Cybertron to Earth and then transport the human population to Cybertron to use as a slave work force while also ravaging Earth of it's usable natural resources. The space bridge itself played a much bigger part then the Sun Harvester as it is talked about a good amount as well as being used more then once as a way to advance the plot itself. The side story revolves around Sam and Carly finding out that the Decepticons have actually been working with humans for a long time now, most of whom had worked for NASA, including Carly's boss, Dylan. Now Sam has to take matters into his own hands as he, Epps, Lennox and their own small groups of soldiers must infiltrated the Decepticon-occupied city of Chicago to help the Autobots and save Carly. It was really awesome to see Sam do more then just run to a certain area while freaking out. He definitely mans up this time around, which makes sense considering what he's been through so far. Everything keeps in line and stays constant. When characters are added, they don't add more confusion. They're there to move the story along.

The robots get the most time to shine here then in the previous two installment and are just as fun to watch. The comic relief role has been taken from Skids and Mudflap, who have been cut from the movie, and replaced with Wheelie, who returns from RotF, and Brains, a new little drone character. While I liked Wheelie in RotF, I liked him way more here. He was much more likable and his jokes were way funnier. Brains also serves as a surprisingly good sidekick, spouting his own funny one liners. Other new Autobots consist of Dino, a red Ferrari with an Italian accent who has some pretty cool fight scenes along side the other Autobots, and Que, a purple Mercedes Benz who also serves as the "Wheeljack" of the group by creating weaponry and inventions to further help his allies. Neither get all that much screen time, but you see just enough of them to deduce their characters. There are also the Wreckers, who function as a trio of engineers with Scottish accents. They also don't get too much screen time, but they were surprisingly likable and probably some of my favorite characters. Sideswipe gets much more screen time and lines as opposed to his role in RotF, one of his best scenes taking place in one of the film's multiple fight scenes. All the other characters pretty much stay the same.

The new Decepticons include Shockwave, who is not really the film's main villain and as such is kinda sacrificed, screen time-wise. I will say that he looks really cool and every time he appears is always a badass moment. Soundwave makes his first Earth mode appearance as a white Mercedes. While he isn't heavily focused on he does have one of the best scenes during the Chicago battle, where we see his more psychotic, insane side. He's also joined by his second partner, Laserbeak, who honestly steals every single scene he's in. His main function in the film is an infiltrator and assassin, tasked with watching over every human partner and killing them once they've either exhausted their usefulness or decide to call off their deal. He's also the center of one of the creepiest scenes I've ever seen in an action movie, involving Laserbeak posing as a miniature, pink bumblebee in order to get close to his target's daughter. Lastly, there's Sentinel Prime. Though he is an Autobot, his betrayal pretty much makes him an antagonist. When he first appears you really feel like he's a being of nobility and leadership. With him on the side of the Autobots the Decepticons would have a hell of a time trying to win.....then Sentinel reveals that he struck a deal with Megatron in order to save Cybertron, shoots Ironhide in the back, kills him, ransacks the NEST base and steals back the 5 space bridge pillars they had. Even when he shows his true colors, you can't help to love him or love to hate him. He's also the only movie villain to make Optimus Prime show extreme emotion, leading to one of Peter Cullen's best Optimus performances since his return in 2007. Sentinel really shows off his power during his final fight with an enraged Optimus Prime, going so far as to sever Prime's right arm from his body. He was just all around fun to watch.

The action is leaps and bounds better then either of the previous movies. The fights are clear and easy to follow and look fan-freaking-tastic. One of the best scenes in particular involving Bumblebee, Sideswipe and Dino being chased by a trio of Decepticon Dreads in an awesome chase sequence. The entire Chicago battle was a non-stop roller coaster with some surprisingly dark moments, such as humans being visibly killed by Decepticon soldiers and one of the Autobots being executed for sport. We also get scenes like Starscream doing his best recreation of his jet fighter battling from TF07, destroying a squad of ospreys, and Epps' small squad of mercs traversing a collapsing building while also having to hold off Shockwave and his Driller. Add some of the best 3D I've seen so far and this is enough to probably melt your eyes right out from your skull.

For all the good stuff the movie does, there are some things that may put some people off. While the humor has been turned way down and is nowhere near as cartoony and childish as in RotF, fans may still find it unfunny and stupid. The length of the movie is also a slight downside, clocking in at 2 1/2 hours. The only other major complaint, as well as the only real issue I have with the movie so far, is that it ends very quickly. Once Sentinel is dead, that's pretty much it. It would have been nice if they did what they did with the first movie and added a bit of an epilogue to close things up instead of just ending it with the last battle.

Overall, what's the verdict on Dark of the Moon? It's absolutely worth the watch. This is a case of the critics and reviewers completely over-reacting about a movie that honestly doesn't deserve the review bombing it's been getting. If you liked the first two movies, you'll most certainly like this one. If you hated the first two then I honestly don't understand why you'd go see this, let alone why you went to see the last one. It's action makes it the best of the three while the story puts it on par with the first. Michael Bay definitely delivered here and sent the series out with a bang. Literally!

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