(Spoilers abound. Be warned!)
To recap my experiences thus far as a G1 Transformers fan watching the new films: I absolutely could not stand the first live-action Transformers movie. Revenge of the Fallen was, in my minority opinion, the better of the two. Looking ahead at what was to become Transformers: Dark of the Moon, I said this in my last review: "Maybe if they take some of the revenue from Revenge and use it to make a few practice pieces, 'Transformers 3' will be a genuinely good film."
... Ahem. We can only dream, can't we?
To be fair, Dark of the Moon started out seeming as if it might be headed somewhere, even as it traversed the well-trodden landscape of alien and lunar landing conspiracy theories. For once, a movie suggested that we did indeed go to the moon, but for more nefarious purposes than simply showing up the Soviets. A reference to 1980's history was even thrown in with the hidden Cybertronian technology located at Chernobyl; though did anyone else notice that the human team that went into ground zero mysteriously lost their radiation gear in the middle of the battle? I suppose the script supervisor was too busy keeping track of who had the pyrotechnics charges to notice a major detail like "Where the heck did their radiation masks go? They're in freaking Chernobyl!". But as usual, director Michael Bay is not concerned with technicalities - only mayhem interests him.
And the last...what was it, half-hour-long? hour-long?...battle sequence set in Chicago was certainly well stocked with mayhem. Buildings and Decepticons were not the only things to be torn apart in the melee. Along with them disintegrated any semblance this movie had of coherency and direction. Frankly, I got bored watching it. I can tell that Dark of the Moon was made specifically to cater to 3-D and Imax, because there were ample visual sequences in the Chicago battle that, viewed in 3-D, would probably seem to engulf viewers into the spectacle. I'm beginning to think that 3-D movies are replacing roller coasters for popular entertainment; why stand in line all day at a theme park to get a rush when you can mash your buns in an air-conditioned theatre and wear goofy glasses to get the same thrill? But in any case, as a frugal moviegoer and "old-school" purist, I opted for the standard showing. I was unfortunately not compensated for my simpler 2-D viewing choice with anything resembling an entertaining storyline. Dark of the Moon continues to prove that 'train-wreck syndrome' is a more surefire route to blockbuster status than good storytelling.
(Another side observation: some people get nauseated watching 3D and Imax from a form of motion sickness. Should this new format be counted as discriminatory to a physically sensitive segment of the population? Stop discriminating and give us better movies!)
Finally, I must make some observations about the robotic characters in Dark of the Moon. Laserbeak, like Ravage in Revenge, was a wonderful translation to CGI from his original form. Even his mission, to hunt down and kill all the NASA scientists and government operatives, reflected missions he had in the original series: particularly in Divide and Conquer, where he was sent to infiltrate the Ark and kill a critically wounded Optimus Prime. The sequence where Laserbeak flew up to Soundwave and landed on his outstretched arm was a welcome homage to the original series. It came as a raindrop in what has typically been desert, in terms of parallels between live-action Transformers and its animated roots.
The plot device of Sentinel Prime's interplanetary space bridge also mirrored the plot of an original episode, The Ultimate Doom. Yet somehow the 'kiddie' version managed to have more pathos and drama. In The Ultimate Doom, Optimus Prime agonized over the choice Megatron forced upon him to either fully activate the space bridge and bring Cybertron into Earth orbit, thus dooming the Earth; or save Earth by refusing to activate the last pylon, but destroy Cybertron in the process. In Dark of the Moon, the most agonizing decision presented to Optimus Prime was which tentacle of Shockwave's to attack first. And while the alliance between Megatron and Sentinel Prime held a great deal of potential, its climax was somehow...anticlimactic. Megatron lets a Victoria's Secret model convince him to turn on Sentinel Prime? I just don't buy it. Megatron could have, and should have, made that decision on his own. G1 Megatron would never have needed a blonde hood ornament to remind him that world domination was his sole prerogative, and that alliances were made to be broken.
The biggest laugh that I and my viewing party, which included a trio of original Star Trek fans, got out of the whole movie was a line that Sentinal Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) used which was lifted straight out of Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. One of my compatriots' further observation bears repeating here: "I found myself thinking, 'If he does a Vulcan neck pinch, I'm outta here!'". What struck me was that we were perhaps the only ones in the audience howling with laughter; the others were apparently too young to even catch the joke. I'd probably confuse them even further if I told them that this was not Mr. Nimoy's first appearance in a Transformers movie, his first role being Galvatron in the 1986 feature. Their loss, I suppose.
I think my impression of
Dark of the Moon, and overall of the live action Transformers
trilogy, is best reflected in Starscream's, Soundwave's and Megatron's deaths
at the end of this latest film: sudden, brutal, and a complete waste of potential.
Yet at the same time, I'm actually glad they're dead because it means that the
nightmare may actually be over. There are, after all, fates worse than death.
Watching the trilogy I have come to derisively call Bayformers certainly
feels like one of them.
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