Review: “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon” (2D)

 
Transformers 3 really doesn’t warrant an extensively thorough delve into the minutiae of every bit of texture, nook and seam found within; because quite frankly, there really doesn’t exist. But you know what? Despite Mark Kermode’s head bashing of the film, I quite enjoyed it. That is not to say there are no problems. Surprise! It’s chock full of them. All of the typical Bay-isms that people are constantly bashing the guy for are here. And it is certainly possible that I had the wool pulled over my eyes like I did with the first film. It was 2:30 in the morning when the film ended so my delirium may have clouded my judgement a bit. Either way, for the most part, I had fun. A LOT more fun than the dreadful Transformers 2. So again, not really worth diving into exactly, but one can make a checklist of the goods, the bads and the uglies. So here they are in a Wednesday morning (much like the movie) stream of consciousness…

So yes, there are bad things. For one, I cannot for the life of me get on board with Bay’s particular brand of humor. The only way to explain it is with redundancy: it’s juvenile in the most childlike manner. It’s George Lucas-style robot humor that is supposed to be cute and amusing but just comes off as flat, needless, perplexing and eye-rolling. Nothing works. The humor might work in another movie, but here it is simply too broad. There is certainly a place for humor in Transformers, but it’s got to be of the right brand of humor – and this stuff just doesn’t work. Shia LaBeouf has oodles of charisma and makes some of his stuff amusing, but anything not involving him is simply embarrassing. I fucking hate Ken Jeong – that pretty much says it all. The parents didn’t work last time (excuse the understatement) and they don’t work here either. They are the most needless characters in cinema history. About the only character I found truly funny was Alan Tudyk – no surprise there.

Next is the music. Bay probably loves “Nickelback.” Nothing wrong with that; except one thing: I hate it. The music choices are as broad as the humor. It doesn’t sound cool, it sounds typical, corny and backwoods. If Celine Dion did the soundtrack it would probably have worked better. The end credits are excruciating to sit through. To each their own I guess. But for me: terrible, terrible, terrible.

Lastly, at 160 minutes, Transformers 3 is just TOO DAMN LONG! There are plenty of small action sequences that did nothing but prolong the action. Now, by about the 90 minute mark the movie had won me over. If it had ended at about the 125 minute mark I would’ve been a pretty happy camper. But the action really drags on by the end and things start to get repetitive. I can only watch LaBeouf and company slide back and forth in a building for so long before I’m yawning. I can only watch a robot explode so many times before I’m checking my watch. I can only see people getting zapped for so long before I’m squirming in my seat. I can only watch a finite number of building crumble before my eyes start to close.

But there are some good things going on as well. For starters, I really enjoyed the opening sequence before the title card. In about 10 minutes, Bay recreates the decade for the race to the moon… but with the plot twist. Neil Armstrong, et. al. are trying to get to the moon before the Russians for really only one thing: an alien space craft has landed on the dark side and they’re tasked with a recon mission. From the president to NASA to the CIA and everyone in between, it gives an interesting and surprisingly believable twist to American history. Bay uses archival footage mixed with recreations to give a unique and creative feel to the film that I haven’t seen from him before.

The rest of it is whiz-bang fourth of July type of movie making. And it looks fantastic. Bay has (sort of) learned from previous mistakes and pulls back on his action a bit more so that we can actually see what is going on. Robots are differentiated by color and appearance. The bad guys are snake like or have “dreadlocks” or some other distinguishable feature. The good guys are bright and colorful. The camera isn’t as up close as it was in previous films and the action isn’t literally as in-your-face as it was before.

The plot was simple and something I could relate to in a movie kind of way. I had a frame of reference. Bay has a knack for making his characters paper thin so when they’re under attack no one really gives a frog’s fat ass. Transformers 3 introduces a new character that I do care about: Chicago. Pitting the action in a well known city that slowly gets torn apart is much more “heart breaking” than a bunch of army dudes in the desert or in some unknown scrap metal yard.

Lastly, you gotta admit it. Everything looks fantastic. Not a glitch in the whole thing. The compositing is perfect and the design of motion is so fluid and fun to watch. The freeway chase sequence is particularly thrilling. This is where the movie really shines – and it knows it, so there’s a lot of it. As mentioned, it does start to drag towards the end, but until then everything is a lot of fun to watch. Watching the details in the intricacy of the bullet time transforming borders on fascinating – particularly when there’s a human involved with the actual morphing. It’s pretty ingenious actually.

Overall, Michael Bay is simply not a good film maker by the yardstick that I never really enjoy his films except as a one time watch; and only on the most superficial of levels. They are “shut down your brain and watch” moving pictures. There are small plot threads that are abandoned and big name stars are clearly only here for the paycheck. And you know what? This is just fine by me. Michael Bay knows what he likes, he knows what he wants and God bless him, that is what appears on screen. It is his vision of awesome and he makes it come alive. So it is with zero sarcasm I say, good for him.

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Henrik
Guest

I’d like to see the visual effects!

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

A reminder for my Transformers 2 challenge from 2009.

A brief rant/conversation about Transformers 1 from Cinceast Episode #54 in 2007 when the first one came out. The challenge was to say whether or not TF2 would be different than TF1 and I throw that out here again, yes these films seem to get BIGGER with each outing, but the inane non-storytelling, exhausting exposition diarrhea is not improving.

http://www.rowthree.com/2009/06/24/transformers-2-challenge/

Unless of course, you see things this way for TF2: http://io9.com/5301898/michael-bay-finally-made-an-art-movie and the Sequel Review (i.e. TF3): http://io9.com/5816415/transformers-3-is-a-movie-about-how-wrong-you-were-to-hate-transformers-2

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

That Michael Bay defense is awful, shallow, and almost pointless. In other words, completely what the director deserves.

Henrik
Guest

The Michael Bay article is laughable.

“The prelude to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor features one blink-and-you-miss-it moment that I always loved. A nondescript radar operator looks at his screen and sees an ominous cloud approaching. He turns slowly, as, this being a Michael Bay movie, the camera tracks in and says, “I’ve got a large haze.” That’s Bay’s “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” His, “That’s no moon.” ”

WHAT A DIRECTOR 😀

Rodney
Guest

Great review, Andrew. Regardless of the plot holes or flagrant disregard for logic, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. And that’s all I ask of any film.

Since we’re in the linking mood today, I wanted to include an article I wrote a while back dissecting the films of Michael Bay (in as non-biased way as it was possible for me): http://www.fernbyfilms.com/2009/11/09/all-kinds-of-awesome-critical-analysis-of-the-works-of-michael-bay/

Feel free to tell me what you think!

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Rodney. I just read your piece on Michael Bay, and really, it is unconvincing and ill informed, or at least so informed from only popcorn, over-advertised, blockbuster mentality that it comes across as dangerously ignorant. (“I didn’t think Kate Beckinsale had the chops for Pearl Harbour?”) – is this only from watching the gawd-awful Underworld films? Have you not seen Cold Comfort Farm, Laurel Canyon or The Last Days of Disco? Beckinsale is a marvelous actress for witch Pearl Harbour, at best was a big-budget paycheck, not a ‘step up acting challenge for her!). Another choice moment, “Underrated Steve Buscemi who I’d really like to see in a more dramatic role” – to which I reply – GO TO THE IMDB and do not collect $200 – Tree’s Lounge, Ghost World, The Sopranos, Interview, hell, Reservoir Dogs even…

I can buy the TF2 defense of Michael Bay simply doing ‘Bayhem’ in the most energy intense logic-be-damned way and calling it auteur action filmmaking, but I do not buy most of the points made in your article. Calling Transformers a model of coherency and logic is only in relation to Michael Bay’s filmography, not in terms of filmmaking.

I don’t think your article is non-biased, but I think it is kinda clueless in terms of what is available out there, movie-wise, beyond the American Multiplex (and yes, I know you are Aussie, but that doesn’t change my point…)

Rodney
Guest

Dangerously ignorant? Sounds like I’m close to committing genocide of some sort. Bit melodramatic, don’t you think?

I’ve always enjoyed Beckinsale in the films she’s appeared in, Serendipity the only exception, although that was less about her and more about it just being a stupefyingly cloying piece of romantic syrup. Laurel Canyon didn’t grab me, although I agree, Becks was good in it, and Last Days Of Disco was uniformly excellent. Haven’t seen Cold Comfort Farm yet. The Underworld films did nothing for me, except prove the point that even top quality actors can come undone with some terrible scriptwork. Also check her out in Shooting Fish (a highly underrated British film worth your while), Brokedown Palace, Click (with Adam Sandler in a role he’s not terrible in) and Vacancy, the latter film in which I think she was about the only good part.

Steve Buscemi does do awesome dramatic work, I admit, so I guess it was a poor choice of words in that instance – you forgot to mention Fargo, Barton Fink, Animal Factory, Big Fish and The Messenger for dramatic roles, all of which see him in a less clownish light.

Kurt
Guest

Well said. These were the things going through my mind when talking about Michael Bay and seeing things that were (IMO) blatantly wrong (I also disagree with the statement “Proven Performer” in regards to Ben Affleck as an actor, or that Josh Hartnett has ‘gone the way of luke perry’ – Hartnett is still getting pretty steady work, I’ve seen him in several films in the past few years – Bunraku, 30 Days of Night, Black Hawk Down, etc. The guy ain’t Brad Pitt, but then who else is these days?

On the dangerously ignorant front, it wasn’t intended to be melodramatic, but having read a very lengthy piece making an auteur call for M.Bay (a statement I happen to even agree with), there were a lot of ‘eyebrow raising’ moments where you came across as ill informed. It’s not (entirely) my intention to call you out, but after your quite strong reaction to the above review, I figured I’d got tit for tat (and that having read a fair bit of stuff at Fernby Films, checking out your bio, etc. etc.)…

We can at least agree that Vacancy is a solid little thriller….

Rodney
Guest

In what way do you disagree with me re Ben Affleck? I think he brings an enthusiasm and energy to his roles that many “actors” can’t get to – his performance in Chasing Amy, for example, is wonderful, and it’s my opinion that he tends to be unfairly castigated for having no nuance to his acting. By that I mean he’s either full bore or bore-ing, there’s no subtlety to his work. Do you agree?

Re Josh Hartnett…. well, aside from 30 Days Of Night and Sin City, he’s done nothing that’s kept him in the public eye here in Australia in recent years. Considering the trajectory he had at one point, being the latest “heartthrob”, you’d have thought his high profile roles might have continued well beyond 40 Days And 40 Nights… I haven’t seen Black Dahlia yet, which is a film he apparently appears in – can anybody shed light on whether he has a leading role or a supporting role? Still, you can’t count success purely in monetary terms, or even how many covers of Teen Scream magazine he appears on – it’s about the quality of work, isn’t it. That said, he’s no longer the household name he was during the early 00’s.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

He is the lead in Black Dahlia (along with Aaron Eckhart) but sadly the film, outside of one magnificently loopy dinner scene, is pretty crappy.

Affleck, post Armageddon had a run that was an almost complete river of uninspired crap (on both the filmmaking, and Affleck – Sum of All fears, Gigli, Paycheck (now there is an appropriate title!), Daredevil, Surviving Christmas. I’ll give you Changing Lanes as the exception that proves the rule, it wasn’t until Hollywoodland, and Affleck moving into directing (Gone Baby Gone, The Town) that the actor gained back a little self-respect. I believe Affleck’s generic river of shit co-incided with some pretty heavy JLo/Affleck tabloid coverage which subsided when Lopez moved along…

I’ll give you that Affleck is far more interesting when playing in films with his buddies (i.e. the Askewniverse films and Kevin Smith)

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

And Armageddon, considering its fairly mighty cast of supporting players, may be the single worst blockbuster ever made. The film is like hammers beating on your head for 2 straight hours. It’s just salt in the wounds that Bay tends to use actors that give such memorable performances in Coen Brothers movies and make them look like quasi-retarded monkeys in his films.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Admittedly, I’ve not seen Bad Boys, or Bad Boys II, (or TF2 or 3 for that matter), but the only Michael Bay production that I can watch and actually enjoy is THE ISLAND, I am thinking that THE ISLAND was a failure because the girl is somewhat competent, and more importantly, the guys are not as rah-rah muscle-headed fools (although he cannot resist a muscle-headed fool version of Ewan McGregor after having a rather sympathetic version for most of the films runtime)

Rodney
Guest

Any yet Armageddon remains one of my favourite “guilty pleasure” films, if not THE number one!

I guess this difference of opinion is one we’re going to have to agree to disagree on.

Damn that JLo. She screwed up a good actor for a while there, didn’t she? Do you think Affleck makes a better director than actor? After watching The Town, I think he does.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I simply fail to get the pleasure out of Armeggedon, and I don’t mind big loud nonsensical films (see: Big Trouble in Little China, Doomsday, Aeon Flux, Last Action Hero)

Rodney
Guest

Aeon Flux? A film almost as bad as Kurt Wimmer’s Ultra Violet. Isn’t that the film where one of the chicks had hands for feet? And the grass was razor blades or something. I think I fast-forwarded bits of that one.

Doomsday, on the other hand…. was one of those films you sit there enjoying the hell out of, and at the end think to yourself “there’s no WAY I should have enjoyed that, but I did”. Anybody who hasn’t seen Doomsday (It’s by Neil Marshall, who gave us Dog Soldiers and The Descent, by the way) should so so at their earliest convenience.

Rodney
Guest

Big Trouble In Little China and Last Action Hero speak for themselves. Mucho awesomeo.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I’ve got a soft spot for those two films in the same way you have a hard-on for The Rock and Armageddon.

Here are my reviews of the film if you wish to get how I like my ‘stupid blockbusters’ to taste:

Aeon Flux: http://twitchfilm.com/reviews/2005/12/aeon-flux-review.php

Ultraviolet: http://twitchfilm.com/reviews/2006/03/ultraviolet-review.php

Rodney
Guest

You can defend Ultraviolet, quite possibly one of the worst modern film ever created (and I LOVED Equilibrium, so expectations were high for Wimmer’s follow-up) but not Armageddon?

When I get home from work tonight, I’m going to sit down and read these two reviews in detail (I’ve just skimmed them, the boss is walking around the office) before I respond in kind.

For an alternative impression of Ultraviolet, here’s my review from 2010: http://www.fernbyfilms.com/2010/09/20/worst-film-week-2010-ultraviolet/

I have Aeon Flux on DVD at home, and the only reason I couldn’t review it was because I didn’t understand it. Would I be better served watching some of the animated series before the film, to get it in context?

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

@Rodney: The animated series will not help much. I found the film quite linear and coherent as a piece of story telling. I’m actually a fairly large defender of the film, the film suffered from the “CATWOMAN” – post-Oscar winner syndrome where an actress has a blockbuster come out right after a big Oscar win and people hate it. It was a fair thing to do in Halle Berry’s case, as Catwoman is dreadful, but Aeon Flux is a pretty solid piece of visual science fiction filmmaking, and not as dumb as people write it off as….

To put things into context (and Sci-Fi is my wheelhouse) you may want to read this also: http://www.rowthree.com/2010/05/10/brave-new-worldview-30-science-fiction-films-of-the-21st-century/

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

@Rodney, I read your Ultraviolet review, and I think you missed the point of the film entirely, all your complaints about the shitty effects and ‘un-realism’ of the movie is part-and-parcel of that film. If the comic-book cover credit sequence doesn’t tip the films hand, I don’t exactly know what else to say.

Now I’m not saying Ultraviolet is a masterpiece, but it is competent in its execution, and far more ambitious and interesting the the slap-dash of dystopian reading that is Equilibrium. If it weren’t for the Christian Bale and the Gun Kata, Equilibrium would have been a total waste of time, I think people are far to kind to Equilibrium because the film was buried upon its release, and the fact that this mid-sized sci-fi action extravaganza is ‘discovered’ by many as a hidden gem. If this thing went out wide in 2000 or whenever it was released, it probably would have been reviled as much as The Island (which I think is a better film than Equilibrium…)

Rodney
Guest

“If it weren’t for the Christian Bale and the Gun Kata, Equilibrium would have been a total waste of time”

Dude, you could say that about a lot of films…. take out a key character or plot concept, and ANY film will fall to pieces. To say that, is a subjective argument without any grounding in fact. Bale WAS in the film, and the film exists with him in it. You can only judge a film based on that.

I accept that Ultraviolet is supposed to be a comic-book styled film, and can accept that certain conventions need to be believed in order to enter that films “world”, but what I don’t accept is a disregard for the viewers intelligence. Stylised action, of the kind found in Ultraviolet (and also Aeon Flux, while we’re talking about it), needs to be grounded in some sort of reality. Rules need to apply in each case, and I found with Ultraviolet that they seemed to just be making shit up as they went along. That’s a personal observation, and I don’t say that as fact, of course; I’m all for Matrix-styled air ballet and bullet time theatrics, but there has to be a basis for it, a reason for it, and not just throw it in because it looks cool. Even comic books have to have some sort of logic to follow – and it’s then up to the reader/viewer to either accept that world or not. That (amongst the other reasons I mention in my review) is one of the things I didn’t like in Ultraviolet – the action and effects seemed to exist purely for its own sake. Perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps I was looking at the film the wrong way, but it’s the way I felt afterwards.

At least Armageddon followed its own set of rules, even if they were pretty far fetched (rockets driving through space like NASCAR entrants, while unbelievable, was consistant throughout the film, so even if it wasn’t logical in our world, in the film world established by Michael Bay, you either accepted it or you didn’t, and got past it) and took some folks out of the film. Much the same could be said of Transformers, in that Bay created a world and a set of “rules” for that world, whether you chose to accept them or not is not his problem. Suspending your disbelief, whether in a Transformers film, a film like Ultraviolet, or any other fantastical movie you watch, is dependant on whether you accept the rules of the world into which you’re going. If you don’t, the film doesn’t have you, and in all likelihood, you’re not gonna like it.

In a nutshell, and I think I’ve gone on way to long on this topic for anyone’s liking: Ultraviolet was too unbelievable for me to accept, while Armageddon (and Transformers) I could more easily suspend my disbelief. Is that a personal thing, different to each of us? Yes, I think it is. Have I made any sense at all? God I hope so.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I know we are on the subject of Kurt Wimmer, but you quote, “but what I don’t accept is a disregard for the viewers intelligence.” is even more applicable to Equilibrium with its lazy use of Yeats, and not very inspired borrowing of Orwell to boot. The plot is as nonsensical and ludicrous as Ultraviolet, but Ultraviolet makes no pretense at being smart filmmaking, and goes straight for visual an speed. Equilibrium actually thinks it has something to say, and it is pretty damn inane and clumsy.

Nothing makes sense in Armageddon. NOTHING. (Admittedly, I’m talking out of my ass on this one, as I only saw it once upon its theatrical release) but I seem to remember Affleck being kicked off the job, then being re-hired in a couple days or whatnot, and within that short span of time, he is fully gainfully employed on the other side of the country in an oil field. There are no rules in Michael Bays narratives, yet he seems to aim for emotional beats and everything rings hollow and stupid.

I do not believe that Ultraviolet ever aims for this sort of stuff, and exists as a pure visual experiment. Micheal Bay is so commercial and cynical in his movies that it is kinda nauseating, just like the Aerosmith song used for emotional beat in the film. It’s ghastly and radiofriendly at the same time. UGGGH.

Rodney
Guest

A man prepared to knock down Aerosmith. You sir, are a braver man than I. 😉

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

And here I thought Canadians and Aussies had more in common than either paired with Americans….

🙂

Kurt
Guest

Heh. Somebody has the same idea as me in regards to Southland Tales, a film I also described as a cultural channel hop.

GS test demo
Guest

Review: “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon” (2D) – Row Three