The third Transformers movie explodes into theaters this week. Following on the heels of the disappointing second film, moviegoers have asked themselves whether to bother seeing this one at all. I know that many of my friends said that they had no interest in making the trek to a theater for this, leading me to go it alone this time faithful readers. Without the benefit of snarky commentary from my friends, or from me to my friends, I was dreading a long and disappointing viewing. Considering that this film clocks in at over two-and-a-half hours that is a lot of disappointment.
Thankfully, this movie was not disappointing at all. Even going in with a very guarded outlook I found it to be enjoyable and interesting. Some of the corny parts are still there, with two annoying Sidekick-bots and Sam’s parents making a return, but these elements are used much more sparingly. Although it might be embarrassing to admit, I found myself even laughing at a few of the jokes. We can all give thanks that the Racially-Insensitive-bots were no where to be seen, and most of the jokes in this movie were actually in the movie rather than elbow nudges to the audience.
So the film opens on the war back on the Transformers home planet of Cybertron. Showing a ship that was struggling to get away that could have turned the tide in the war, but it is shot and left adrift in space. At least that’s what it looks like until we see it end up crashing on the moon back in 1961. Astronomers notice this particular impact on the moon, and somehow determine that it is not one of the other constant meteor strikes on the moon. Because of this they inform President Kennedy who makes his famous speech about reaching the moon.
Then we are treated to a sequence blending archival footage of the Space Race with the narrative. In this version we see that the U.S. actually did land on the moon, take that conspiracy theorists, but it was to study a crashed alien robot ship. Never mind on the take that part, this pushes us back into conspiracy territory. Mr. Armstrong bounces around the moon and then uses the short window of fake radio silence to explore the ship without the people at home seeing.
Okay, so Transformers: Dark of the Moon picks up with a recently graduated Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) living with the way out-of-his-league Carly Spencer, played by model and Megan Fox-replacement Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. She has one of those names that stick in your head, which is beneficial because after seeing this film most of our male viewers, and some of our female ones as well, will probably be googling her extensively. Anyway, she is living with Sam and is the sole bread winner as he cannot find a post-college job (three months of looking *Gasp*). Sam seems to be suffering from post-saving the world syndrome and is having trouble being a normal guy with an amazingly hot girlfriend who pays for everything. I can relate.
Actually, on a side note, this is one aspect of the film I really enjoyed. Personally I’ve always been a little obsessed with the idea of seeing what the hero does after saving the world, especially if most everybody doesn’t know what he did. How can somebody go back to living a normal life after that, and Sam seems to feel the same way. During this we also see the Autobots, the good guy robots for those who can’t remember the names, working with the government despite getting boned by them in the last film. They explore the ruins of Chernobyl and discover that it was not the site of a nuclear power plant meltdown, but was a secret Russian military lab and that they have a piece of Transformer technology.
After a pretty cool fight with Soundwave, one of the more famous bad guy robots, they recover the tech and realize that it is a piece of the Ark which was the important ship shot down in the beginning. Optimus Prime is “pissed” to use a direct quote, that the government did not inform him and his people about the discovery of the ship. Josh Duhamel returns as the leader of the NEST task force, the human red shirts who fight alongside the Autobots. Really it’s not fair to call them red shirts as they do some pretty kick ass stuff, and we all know Michael Bay love the military so they play a bit role in this film as well. We also get a new player, Frances McDormand as Mearing the Secretary of Defense. She’s a bit hard to pin down, at one moment she’s the jerk government representative, but then later she works hard to help save the day and stops being a complete jerk.
So Optimus and Co. fly to the moon on their own spaceship to retrieve the body of Sentinel Prime, the former leader of the Autobots and a genius inventor who created the ultimate weapon to end the war, a teleportation device. Only he can properly use control it, and he is described as the ‘Einstein’ of Cybertron. Einstein as a giant transforming robot, I think half the physicists in the world just blew a load while the other half blew their brains out.
Naturally as all this is going on the Decepticons are hatching their own plans for domination and destruction. Sam is clued into this later in the film, and serves as the call to action for the good guys. Unfortunately the jerk government representative sends him packing, and this leads to everything falling apart for the big action finale.
All in all this is a really solid movie, and seems to have cleaned up the major offenders from the last movie while keeping the great special effects and breathless action that keeps the franchise alive. This is fresher in my mind that the first, so it is difficult to say whether it is better or not, but I am inclined to say that it is better. It’s not a deep character portrait by any means, but the characters are portrayed in a deeper way. When we get to the big action finale this feels worldwide, not as contained as the first two movies. Also throughout the film we see references to the ‘alien robots’ in the news and by people which makes the world feel much more realistic. By the end of this film the masquerade is completely shattered, there is no way for people to deny the truth.
So we get a good entry into the franchise, and maybe the final entry. If this is the last movie then at least it goes out on a high note. The highs are higher and the lows are fewer, so if you liked the first one at all then get out there and see this at the theater. Transformers: Dark of the Moon turns it all around and is totally worth seeing.