Movie Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
Hulk Hate Michael Bay. . .
A Film Review of Transformers: Dark of the Moon
By: Lawrence Napoli
Instead of beginning this film review with my traditional setup, I was lucky enough to land an interview with the one and only, Incredible Hulk, and he was kind enough to give me an hour of his time amidst his rigorous shooting schedule for his upcoming film The Avengers, which is scheduled to open practically one year from today. Hulk’s most recent Hollywood productions have inspired him to become more engaged with the creative and critiquing process of the art of film. He had plenty to say in regards to this exceptional summer run of blockbuster titles, and I’ve included some excerpts of that interview to get his perspective in regards to the most recent blockbuster release Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
LN: Hulk, it’s quite an honor to finally meet you in person. I understand that The Avengers is in production and the shooting schedule is demanding. How do you feel the production is going so far?
Hulk: Hulk tired. Joss Whedon make Hulk work hard.
LN: Well it is quite a large undertaking. Your last film had you working with Ed Norton and the result was a collection of positive reviews. Now you have to work with Mark Ruffalo portraying your human persona Bruce Banner. Any thoughts on the matter?
Hulk: Hulk hate dumb budgetary cuts when movie already cost lotta money. Hulk like Ruffalo, but Hulk like Norton better even if he prima-donna. Hulk hate puny Banner!
LN: That’s terrific. So I understand you got to see an advanced screening of Michael Bay’s third Transformers film. Did you like it?
Hulk: Hulk love smashing! Big robots smash everywhere! But flashy pictures move around fast. Give Hulk headache. Hulk not know what to look at.
LN: What about the story? Was it an interesting and inventive plot progression that built on the established mythos of the movie franchise?
Hulk: Uh . . . Hulk not know.
LN: Did the actors do a good job at portraying their characters?
Hulk: Hulk not care for puny humans. Hulk see explosions!
LN: But what about the infamous replacement of Megan Fox by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as the love interest for Shia LaBeouf? Was Rosie capable of filling the void?
Hulk: Hulk like big, fake lips on blond girl. Hulk wish for big kisses from big lips.
LN: It was my understanding that even with the ridiculous budgets that studios forward to Michael Bay; he was unable to employ any actual Transformers for this film. Were the computer graphics able to make them look as good onscreen as in the previous films?
Hulk: Big robots smash bad guys good! Hulk smash bad guys better! Robots have lots of shiny, moving things. Almost look real. Hulk knows they not real.
LN: What was your overall assessment of this film? Did Michael Bay redeem himself from the last outing of this franchise?
Hulk: Hulk think movie like when Hulk smash when no bad guys around. Hulk smash, but no point. Hulk make mess. Thor make Hulk clean. Hulk hate puny Thor.
LN: Would you recommend this film to any of your fans out there?
Hulk: Hulk smash Michael Bay. Hulk is strongest one there is! Hulk smashing more fun than robots smashing. Hulk say come see Avengers!
And there you have it. That loveable green monstrosity certainly is a handful and despite the lack of diction, Hulk did have some interesting things to point out. Having seen Dark of the Moon for myself, I’d have to agree with some of Hulk’s observations. Hulk was certainly wowed by the shear spectacle that few not named Michael Bay are actually capable of producing on screen. To say that this film represents an overabundance of eye candy would probably be the understatement of the decade. Big stunts featuring all manner of sky diving, and big explosions featuring cars being thrown around like matchbox toys are only two of Bay’s calling cards, but they are all well executed and well shot. Bay tends to spam the slow motion effect in the editing room so as to accentuate the dramatic tension, but in all honesty, the stunt sequences featuring humans really didn’t need it. Action sequences that feature the Transformers themselves are very impressive and would have been more appreciated if an overall reduction in the frame rate could have been accomplished in order to allow the audience to really take in the detail of the machine animation. Bay lets off the gas ever so slightly on the extreme close-ups during robot fisticuffs. But make no mistake; there will be plenty of times where a wider angle would have delivered a greater impact. Hulk’s rather pedestrian mind is not capable of appreciating some of the lightning fast action sequences, and in a film where pacing is more balanced, these sequences would certainly aid in moving the film along. The problem is, once the opening scenes of the film reveal the inciting incident, it’s off to the races as the pace throttles up to ludicrous speed and never lets up until the film’s closing moments. As such, the audience becomes prone to the terminal velocity and tends to get a bit blurry if not repetitive.
Those expecting any semblance of a decent story or character development of even the most basic of arcs need not attend Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I would have expected a much better effort from a veteran screen writer such as Ehren Kruger who is responsible for such screenplays as The Ring (2002) and Arlington Road (1999). However, he was also the man responsible for penning Revenge of the Fallen, and apparently has no appreciation for writing a Transformers story that doesn’t deviate from Decepticons taking over/destroying Earth and Autobots defending it formula. In fact, the only deviation of the overall story lies in the evolution of the human characters that populate this franchise’s mythos, and therein lays the fundamental flaw of every Hollywood adaptation thus far. A Transformers story is supposed to be about Transformers; not humans trying to deal with them. I suppose Kruger was trying to be creative by connecting Sam Witwicky’s graduation blues/failing to enter the labor force troubles to the same reality facing all young graduates in the United States of today. Do you know how much any of that matters to Optimus Prime? Not a damn thing! The entire story (for the third straight film) has been told strictly from the human perspective which disallows any character development of the “Giant F’ing Robots” outside of determining who is good and who is evil. So yes, the audience is once again privy to more Sam Witwicky BS that couldn’t have less relevance to the global turmoil resulting from the Autobot/Decepticon conflict besides conveniently placing an unimportant character in the right place at the right time and hoping such an uninteresting/untalented individual appeals to the audience in some way, shape or form. The Transformers themselves are little more than very elaborate CG gimmicks when they ought to be the featured characters. Shia LaBeouf’s name should not receive top billing; it should be Peter Cullen voicing Optimus Prime.
Speaking of LaBeouf, I cannot fault him for his performance because he does exactly what he is meant to do, namely, making a character defined by luck (without any other distinguishing traits) appealing. Well, he tries to anyway, and whether one personally likes LaBeouf or not is virtually the only means of extracting any sympathy for the Sam Witwicky character. Most of that sympathy dries up when the film tries to explain how mega babes like Megan Fox and Rosie what’s-her-name would be attracted to a guy like that in the first place. Sure, they love him because his Chevy is an alien robot. No rational person would buy this, so why would any film try to sell it? Bad writing aside, LaBeouf does his best to jump through every flaming hoop the script calls for, but his character’s overall contribution to the story can be summed up as an invincible moving target which is a great plot device to maintain the action at a high pace throughout the film. Shia certainly shows off an impressive array of jogging, running, sprinting, jumping and falling that even action veterans like Bruce Willis would take note of.
Everyone so eagerly awaiting the outcome of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s official replacement of “the sex” in Transformers can rest easy. Yes, she adequately fills the token slut role, but must obviously be a higher caliber actress than Megan Fox because she does it with a British accent. Um, newsflash: that’s only because she’s British; ergo, no actual talent at work. Despite this fact and her collagen inflated lips, the one element of her performance I found to be quite impressive was how comfortable and commanding she seemed in every scene. Perhaps it’s the kind of confidence that naturally develops after being photographed in one’s underwear over a long period of time. Perhaps it’s because she has a body that defies the laws of physics. Whatever the reason for her on screen presence, there are no moments where she flubs a line, misses a mark or mishandles a romantic scene. All she has to do now is get a plastic surgeon to take a look at that shnoz in the middle of her face.
The rest of the cast exists to be comic relief in a film solely focused on keeping the action on an adrenaline high. I will say that Tyrese Gibson made the most significant dramatic contribution as a supporting character, while the inclusions of Patrick Dempsey and John Malkovich to be nothing more than the shallow ploy of name-dropping. They were available, they were cheap, and thus, they were cast.
I wanted to rip my seat out of its foundation and hurl it through the screen when the end credits began to roll, which is odd because there were lots of “cool scenes” throughout this picture. But “cool scenes” aren’t cool just because they look cool. It’s because they are properly setup with a healthy mix of exposition, plot and character to make “cool scenes” payoff in a satisfactory way to the audience. That’s where the concept of setup/payoff comes from. My big problem with Transformers: Dark of the Moon is that it is merely a compilation of payoff after payoff after payoff. There is no setup, there is no groundwork and there is no character. It’s money shot after money shot and it gets boring really fast. Yeah, the robots look great, but you’ve seen them before. The action is fast, but almost too fast to see. This film was a great spectacle, but it was also a giant miss. People making the argument for “mindless fun” ought to have their heads examined because even “mindless fun” requires brain power. There are ok blockbusters and then there are good ones and I fully expect Harry Potter and Captain America to outrank, outclass and out-earn Transformers any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
P.S. Leonard Nimoy voices the character Sentinel Prime and this character regurgitates a certain iconic line from a certain iconic character from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. I realize that the filmmakers were again trying to be creative, but I found it to be a shameful example of the immense lack of creativity behind this film’s script. I wonder if Leonard was in the voice-over booth, read the line and asked: “Really guys? You want me to say this again? You won’t think anyone seeing this movie will be old enough to remember this gag?”