REVIEWS

Review: Killer Action Makes 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' Worth It

by
June 29, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Misplaced humor has always been the biggest swamp to wade through to get to the bang of Michael Bay action movies. Sure there's stale dialogue—not usually his fault—a cut every 18 nanoseconds, and camera movement that calls for a Ritalin, but most of that can be overlooked for the sheer velocity and execution of his massive action scenes. It's that damn comedy, the goofy yelling, the broadly quirky characters, and Anthony Anderson that are the hardest hurdles to leap even when the good stuff is very near in sight. It's why the last Transformers movies, Revenge of the Fallen, and to a lesser extent the first Transformers don't work as well as they should.

Well, there's some worry in the newest movie in the series, Dark of the Moon. The comedy is still there, misplaced as ever, but whether it's due to acceptance, exposure, or the least likely candidate of it not being as awful as previously seen, it's easier to look through. It's easier to see past the first 90 minutes of this movie, most of which is loaded down with the stuff. It's easier to get to the last 60 when things really go boom. And, boy, do they go boom in all the right ways, all the ways you expect from a summer blockbuster, all the ways that get your geek flag flying high, you adrenaline pumping, and your eyeballs swinging from left to right in pure visceral joy. In a nutshell, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, or 2/5th of it, at least, is awesome in the most literal sense of the word.

All the goodies—Autobots—and baddies—Decepticons—that you know and love are back, but this time it's our very own United States history that seems to come back and bite them all in the fender. Beginning in the '60s, the film shows us how an alien craft, one from the Transformer home planet of Cybertron, crash-landed on our moon. The space race was created for the sole purpose of getting to the moon and discovering just what is on that alien ship. It's a prologue that has conspiracy theorists' minds reeling and historical buffs' anger gauge peaking.

Jump ahead 40+ years later when our human hero, Sam Witwicky, played again by Shia LaBeouf, is trying to find his place in life after the events of the first two films. He knows he's important, but without the ability to tell people what exactly he's accomplished, he's just another faceless soul looking for work and trying to impress his new girlfriend, Carly, played with more solidity than Megan Fox - it doesn't take much - by model-turned-actress Rosie Huntington-Whitley. Once Optimus Prime and the Autobots learn of crashed ship still resting on the moon, events are set in motion to begin what could be the final battle between the two opposing robot sides.

Yes, it's those first half moments in Transformers: Dark of the Moon that make you wonder if we have another Revenge of the Fallen on our hands. Goofy characters played by notable actors pop up including John Malkovich as Sam's new boss and the returning John Turturro as Simmons. Frances McDormand, acting much less goofy than the rest, also shows up as the US Secretary of Defense. Ken Jeong shows up acting surprisingly subdued even for Jeong or Bay standards. There's enough story progression and hints of the all-out visual assault that is to come, though, to keep the wheels firmly on track, but you realize a sharp left could easily send this train careening off and into an obnoxious oblivion.

We are introduced to Sentinal Prime, brilliantly voiced by Leonard Nimoy, who holds the key to the Autobots winning the war against the Decepticons and their leader, Megatron. Prime's appearance also holds the key to the latter half of Dark of the Moon, the point when everything shifts in terms of tone and the action really begins. It's at that moment, when tides turn, an Armageddon-esque shuttle launch takes place, and the third act kicks in that Transformers: Dark of the Moon really shows its astonishing face. You almost have to wonder if Bay and screenwriter Ehren Kruger started with the last half of the film, the image of hundreds of robots descending on a burned out downtown Chicago, and reverse engineered back to how they got there. It doesn't matter, because once that last half kicks in, the shoulder straps come down, the 3D glasses tighten, and you're in for one hell of a ride.

The last hour of Dark of the Moon is really for anyone who liked Battle: Los Angeles, but felt the scale wasn't big enough or the tone wasn't dark enough. Dark of the Moon offers a surprisingly scary depiction of a metropolis under attack, people being wasted away to hardly anything, and the dust and metal wreckage of an apocalyptic landscape and its population trying to survive a war they didn't even know they were in.

And this is where Michael Bay shines, has always shined. The spectacle is something that has to be experienced to be believed. To say that the action in Dark of the Moon is non-stop, eye-opening, and all-around staggering still doesn't seem to do it justice. To say that it includes shots—shots that really need to be seen in 3D—of men jumping out of planes that make you literally feel like you're going over that first hill of a roller coaster still doesn't live up to actually taking it all in for yourself.

Unfortunately, and there's always an "unfortunately" when dealing with Bay, that action isn't the only thing Transformers: Dark of the Moon delivers. To grade the film in parts seems the only fair assessment one can give it, and in doing that, it's easy to say the first 90 minutes are an average 5-6/10, but that last 60 minutes easily hits a 9. The 3D, hardly ever a plus for any movie, does a magnificent job of pulling you in. The robots, the bad ones, anyway, are scary, and the good ones are noble, humane, and even sometimes quite badass. The action, well, that's why you go to a Michael Bay movie. That's why you go to a Transformers film, and even if Transformers: Dark of the Moon has some bad but not atrocious jungle to chop through, the action-packed city of gold on the other side makes it all worthwhile.

Jeremy's Rating: 7.5 out of 10

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  • Jericho
    the story felt like you had to be a fan to enjoy the characters...but i do agree with the review entirely
  • dave
    the action was better and even thought the movie had its flaws not like tf2 it was still passable. 7.5 seem  about right.
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=732807680 Tomer Zadaka
    Seeing it tonight in 3D IMAX, CAN'T wait!!!
  • David Jones
    Once again, American trash without storytelling imagination, this movie is obsessed like all america with destruction. Hollywood is managed by Spielberg, i'm tired of its trash that is imposed worldwide every summer. Not worth it.
    • Luis M. Milán Leal
      Steven "Schindler's List" Spielberg has no storytelling imagination? No, I think you meant Michael "Pearl Harbor" Bay.
      • Rp1n
        Yes, Steven "Indiana Jones 4" Spielberg has no storytelling imagination. 
    • Anonymous
      "Hollywood is managed by Spielberg, i'm tired of its trash that is imposed worldwide every summer" Man...someone needs a hug...or a good woman...or just simply needs to climb off their high horse and just not go watch movies at all.... Sad, sad, sad....
      • Anonymous
        Someone needs a hug? Nah, he's right on the money. This movie is made for one crowed only (that was sitting to 90% in our imax): the fat, slurpee sipping geek, around 13-16 years old, not well educated, cannot think for himself and prob thought bay's humor is top and proper...sounds racist? Im not, just being real.
        • Anonymous
          Nope, you're not being real...I'm not fat, hate Slurpees, and I've got two college degrees....and I can sure as s**t think for myself.  And the two people I saw the film with are not the stereotypes you just described.  Then again, nearly everyone in the theater I saw the film in sure as shootin' was not the "crowd" you described. Look, if people didn't like the film, that's fine.  But they had better understand that there are others who will like it....and that there's no need to insult them or their intelligence (now, if it's about voting for Republicans, well, I would understand).  Film is subjective--not everyone is going to have the same tastes you have.  And THAT is being real. Just sayin'....
        • Anonymous
          Yay, sweeping generalizations ftw! 
    • jah p
      Why does it have to be "American Trash?" all of our movies are not trash! And btw, what kinds of movies does your country produce dickhead?
      • Jericho
        good old fashioned North Korean films...the ones where they kidnap real directors to do......
    • Cap
      I totally agree. 
    • Cracky
      It would appear that way at first glance. And second. Our core audience of movie-goers aren't very particular.
    • Jake
      Another Hollywood run by Jews smear? Grow up. American cinema is not typified by Transformers films, and mindless jabs at Americans has no place in the discussion of one horrible film.
  • El Barto
    Seriously? I mean, I just rewatched the first two parts and quite enjoyed Bay's action scenes and even some of the humour - but for us the real downside was the ideological BS ... the first two were basically recruitment clips for the Army and ads for cars, but I didn't mind that so much. The third one, however, is advertising: "War is such a great thing". And in that context, sentences like "the freedom of the few is more important than the freedom of the many" just make me throw up. :( Some of the action was still nice, but no way 9/10.
  • Rich Hill
    Also agree with the review.  The first half consisted with too much human stuff. Sam and Carly, Sams parents (not funny), government against autobots.  I was a bit worried until the final act.  When it finally ended, everybody in the theater was like, "is that it?"  Not even one clap.  First half 4/10 Second Half 10/10.  A must in 3D.  Action was off the hook. 7/10 *last but not least, I thought the movie was 30-40mins too long.  If allot of the fluff was editted it and better paced tis movie would be up there...
  • Anonymous
    Alex, in all fairness, as a regular reader of your site, Im shocked to see how you always give these movies a high score.  Let me ask you this, if you give TF3 a 7.5 out of 10, how would you rate R Scott's "Alien"? What about Blade Runner? Are these a 12 out of 10?  I mean, ok, the action is fun but this movie is so, so, so so dumb and worse of all, its maker thinks we are ALL dumb. Besides a few cool action shots, some nice 3d work, there's nothing worth while on this movie.  I have a feeling you rate movies based on effects and the oohh factor. Yes, its cool when you are able to 'forgive' bad jokes, bad sex humor, bad dialog and horrible acting because theres some cool cgi flying around? How does that it a 'good' movie? How does validate this movie to a 7.5?  Ok, its your site, your taste, I dont have to like it. But im really just curious....
    • Dustin Fuston
      This isn't Alex's review, buddy.
      • Dustin Fuston
        And for someone that hated the movie so much, you would think you would be able to just......idk.....shutup about it? You steaming ass people need to realize it is a movie. And Aliens? Blade Runner? What in the hell does that have to do with the fact you think a director such as Bay thinks everyone is stupid? Its not like he put out a movie called Transformers and all it was was 7 fat guys eating gyros and falling asleep next to each other while discussing whatever happened to Hanson. Get over it. Clear your mind. Its robots slapping robots. 7.5 is an amazingly accurate review, its first act was flawed, middle was slow but you could see progression, and the end was perfect end to the trilogy! You knew you would hate it, why even go see it?
        • Cracky
          I love how people can freely express how much a movie was "epic" or "orgasmic" and explain why/how the movie is badass-- but when someone else can be just as excited to post negative things and bash the movie, others immediately jump his shit. It's called fairness. Dustin OBVIOUSLY enjoyed the movie. Buzzfunk did not. Why did Buzzfunk get his dick ripped off for his opinion? You should relax, man. Also: He used better movie references because I guess it makes him look a bit more like an uppity, polished film guy. Which he kind of is since he hated this movie.
          • Cracky
            And by that I mean: This movie is bull.
    • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
      I did not write this review. In fact, I haven't written most of the reviews labeled "Review:" for the last year. I usually only write reviews from film festivals. This is all Jeremy Kirk, here's our resident FS critic. Take it up with him: @jeremykkirk:twitter
      • http://twitter.com/JeremyKKirk Jeremy Kirk
        WHAT?!?!?! Hahaha. JK, Alex. Bring on the hate. :)
        • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
          Haahahah! Just making sure he knew who you were and that you could defend yourself, ahem! :P
  • flipflops
    Super 8 - 7/10 Transformers 3 - 7.5/10? what is this madness
    • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
      I agree... I think Super 8 deserves a 9/10, but I'd still give Transformers: Dark of the Moon maybe... an 8/10. They're both close scores, but Super 8 just barely edges it out.
      • Jericho
        Ditto, Transformers was amazing but Super 8 was so much more memorable in so many more ways than one......
  • Anonymous
    the negative reviews are dramatic. the movie is great fun and the first half was just about unfolding the story and some quality time between sam and carly (who isnt that bad as an actress).
  • Daniel
    I just got out of seeing dark of the moon in imax 3d. And I can't describe how epic it was you just gotta see it in 3d. Yeah the whole new girlfriend thing was kinda wierd I would've liked it better if he just didn't have a girlfriend but other then that the movie was pure gold, best transformer movie by far! Go see it! Now!
  • john
    I was disappointed with this film... the action was really great, but there was just too much crap to sit through.  I have no idea why this film had to be 2.5 hours.  I look forward to the blu-ray, where I can watch the spectacular action sequences and skip through the rest.
  • http://www.facebook.com/MattNotDamon Matt NotDamon
    Here in Germany we had a good time with this one. Entertaining and that's the point of this movie. Great 3D also. Great look over all.
  • Jcs012872
    Michael bays failure is now complete!
    • http://www.facebook.com/JaiysonM Jason McGuire
      ahaha ignorance
  • Anonymous
    If you didn't like the movie, its quite alright, but doesn't mean those who did are morons. It wasn't perfect but made up for it in scale and deep wang!
  • Film Guy
    Very entertaining.  Get off your high horses, you sad pretentious losers.
  • http://www.facebook.com/jeisenhauer Jim Eisenhauer
    People are so corrupted by rottentomatoes; a movie has to be a 0% or 100%.   It's like you are crazy if you don't think a movie is the best thing you have ever seen or the worst...
    • solider
      haha so true
    • Anonymous
      True dat, Jim.  And think about it...if RT was around back in say, 1982, imagine how they would have scored BLADE RUNNER or Carpenter's THE THING remake.... Yeah--those two films would have been in the pits, according to RT. The best critic is you.  Granted, if someone doesn't like the same movie that I do, I'll live--but I've seen enough pretentiousness from "mainstream" critics to know that the films that they hate...I tend to like.  But that's just me. Either way, I don't bother with Rotten Tomatoes....I just go and check the film out on my own.  If it works for me, great.  If not, well, that's life. 
  • Nate
    I don't understand all these people who come on here and bash at the Transformers movies or at Michael Bay. He made 2 previous Transformers movies for you to judge and go by, what were you expecting from the 3rd one? Good story line? character development? If this is what you were expecting then it's your own stupidity that you went and watched T3, now you're complaining that you wasted your time and want your money back? Obviously you don't hate Bay that much cause you keep on going back to watch his movies.
  • leftfeild optimist
    Its just a freaking movie.....that's all it is......meant to entertain people....if you didn't care to see it then u shouldn't have wasted ur precious time.....time that could have been spent going to see a movie you actually wanted to see instead of going to a movie just to bash it later....for christ sake.....do you actually realize that if you're doing that then you're part of the reason it remains popular.....and why listen to people here's opinions....what in the hell do you kno about entertaining anyone in your sad little existence....spent behind your computer anonomously bashing something that you had a hand....albeit inadvertently....making popular......if enjoying a mindless movie with no story makes me another american drone who likes garbage movies and is uneducated sign me up......cuz I sure do love to have a good time and be entertained
    • Anonymous
      Nice points, Leftfeild...but also think about this--the time they spend bashing the film they could be trying to create something better, but they can't.  Oh well. This film is not meant to be on the level of Herman Melville or John Updike.  It's a movie made to entertain you and make you enjoy two+ hours and just forget about the real world and have fun.  Perhaps people should just learn to enjoy movies on the films' own terms instead of whining about how the film "wasn't what they wanted" maybe they would find going to the theaters to be a little better. Nick Meyer (STAR TREK II) once said that movies are not about what you want--it's about what the director wants to show you.  A bit cold and blunt, but hey, it's the truth.  Bay wanted to show action, robots beating the everlovin' hell out of each other, and crazy humor.  If you liked it--or even if you didn't like it--you cannot deny that that was what he set out to do.
  • Roran
    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I loved the movie, in fact I liked all of the movies. The story was simple and to the point, the humor was actually pretty funny (except some of you assholes don't have a very broad sense of humor), and the new girl is a pretty damn good actress for her first big movie (and some great eye candy). Also, if you want to see a Bay movie that has great comedy, story, acting, and action then go watch Bad Boys 2. Finally, to the ignorant, prejudiced, bastard David Jones: most american movies are some of the greatest films in the world and have brilliant stories with brilliant characters, we're sorry you only like drama filled love stories that you can sit and watch while holding a blanky and eating ice cream (and before you argue this, yes ik this is a stereotype). Good day to you, I said good day!!!
    • Roran
      Btw, great review Jeremy. Although I would have given it a 9.
  • sooogle204 sooogle204
    WATCHH Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) ====>>> http://tiny.cc/TransformerDarkofMoon

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