Friday, July 1, 2011

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon: Third Time’s The Charm

It’s no secret that I really, really didn’t like the last two Transformer movies. True, I missed out on the whole Transformer toy craze by a few years so the nostalgia factor was not a concern for me. What I did see were two lousy movies. The first one was okay in a giant robots are cool kind of way, but the historical inaccuracies made me think Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann had written it. The second was just plain awful with an incomprehensible script, insipid dialogue, and borderline racist overtones. I spent more time looking at my watch than I did the screen. So my hopes for this one being any better were very low. I was wrong.

This was not only a great Transformer film but it was also one of the best summer tent pole pictures that have come out this season. Shia LaBeouf returns as Sam Witwicky, who as he is getting older is looking more and more like a Mini-Me version of Liev Schreiber. Sam is broke, unemployed and desperate for work. Victoria Secret model, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is Sam’s new girlfriend, Carly, replacing the fired Megan Fox for calling director Michael Bay “Hitler.” Not a good thing when the producer is Steven Spielberg who is Jewish and a huge backer of the Holocaust Project, a film study of survivors of the World War 2 concentration camps. Unfortunately, as much as a pain in the ass Megan Fox is, she can actually act. Whitely is sure fun to look at but her acting skills are somewhere between The Situation and a gravy ladle.

After finally being hired by a manic John Malkovich, Sam is accosted by a senior VP, played to the twitchy hilt by Ken Jeong. Both provide great comic relief. Jeong knows who Sam is and what he’s done, having worked for NASA in the past. He informs him that there is a big cover-up over the original moon landing, but before he can tell any more, he is killed by one of the Decepticons.

Sam returns to the base holding Optimus Prime and the other Autobots and informs them of what he has found out. While there he encounters a prickly administration suit, played by Oscar winner Frances McDormand, and an old battle comrade Lennox (Josh Duhamel). Optimus returns to the Moon to rescue Sentinel Prime, voiced by Leonard Nimoy, and get him back to Earth. Once here, all hell breaks loose as the Decepticons try to turn Earth into a slave planet.

For the most past, this film is non-stop action. The last forty five minutes is mostly a disaster film where Chicago and its inhabitants are reduced to rubble and ash. Unlike the previous movies, there is a plot line that can be easily followed, the dialogue doesn’t sound like it was written by someone for whom English is a second language, and there are many, many great moments from fun cameos to sci-fi references for the geek crowd, like myself.

Best of all, the 3-D actually works for once. There was a lot of worry as Michael Bay’s hyperkinetic style is exactly the kind of directing that would never work in the format. But as they filmed it in 3-D, rather than the awful conversion technique they have used to ruin many a flick like Clash of the Titans, Bay has had to slow down his editing and, as a result, has directed one of his best movies in a long time. Maybe all his films should be in 3-D from now on.

Hit or miss writer Ehren Kruger steps up to the plate, possibly to apologize for the mess that was the last Transformer movie he wrote. The script is funny, action packed and, most surprising, linear. You didn’t have to know anything about the mythology of the Autobots or Decepticons to follow the story. In the previous film you would have needed Cliff Notes, a flow chart and a Rhodes Scholar to explain the plot. Not so here and, at two and half hours, this film surprisingly breezed by.
So if you’re in the mood for some wanton destruction, giant robots, an uber-hot Victoria Secret model and some solid laughs, this is the film for you. It may not win any Oscar’s (other than special effects) but there are worse ways to spend a summer day. I highly recommend it.

4 stars out of 5

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