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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Release Date: 6-29-2011)

        Like Autobots and Decepticons, people are either for the Transformers movies or against them, and there's not much use in trying to sway them. Critics can gripe all they want: The mega-budget, alien-robot explode-athon series is immune to complaints about story and character development, impervious to the rules and rhetoric that most movies must follow. Complain all you want about Michael Bay, his relentless quick-cuts, his objectification of women, or his 14-year-old's sense of humor: The guy can build spectacle unlike just about anyone else, and if you want to see what he's cooking up, you have to play by his rules. Make no mistake: Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a Transformers movie in every sense of the word, and if the first Two weren't your cup of tea, this One won't be either.

         The film opens with an extended flashback sequence, in which we learn that the very first mission to the moon was designed with an alternative goal: Investigating a mysterious alien craft that crash-landed on the rock. Flash forward to the present, where Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), once again dating a woman several divisions out of his league (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), searches for a job in downtown Chicago. He's busy moping through his days, wishing that he had a job that mattered more, when fate again calls on him, some mysterious Decepticon activity taking place that rounds up the whole gang (Optimus Prime, Josh Duhamel, Bumblebee, John Turturro, and a bunch of other characters we are supposed to care about). Soon, the Autobots are... oh, what the hell, THEY FIGHT A LOT!!!

        It says something about a film series when, "We were once a peaceful race of sentient mechanical beings," is the opening line to the best script in the trilogy, but Transformers is just such a franchise. In truth, the screenplay, penned by Ehren Kruger, is a slight upgrade over 2007's original, not to mention leaps and bounds ahead of the pages for 2009's Revenge of the Fallen. It has some interesting twists, moves at a confident pace, and makes sense at least 60% of the time, which is more than what I've come to expect from a Michael Bay movie. About 90 minutes of the film's mammoth 157 minute runtime are spent setting up a pretty decent story. It just so happens that the 67 minutes that follow are completely and totally disinterested in what came before them, as the battle again breaks down to an easy-to-understand showdown of good vs. evil. When it finally comes, it's hard not to feel like you've been wasting your time on what came before it, but what a showdown it is!

        I could list problems with Dark of the Moon all day: It's undoubtedly too long, Huntington-Whiteley is taken advantage of by the camera every Two minutes and given nothing to do in return, the jokes would be better suited for stand-up at a middle school talent show, and the plot is riddled with more holes than swiss cheese. But I, for One, really only wanted to see the movie so I could watch some gigantic alien robots throw down, and in this area, Dark of the Moon doesn't even dream of disappointing. The action sequences, aided by some pretty incredible 3-D effects, are among the best that CGI has ever offered, slightly scaled down in frequency from the non-stop action barrage of Revenge of the Fallen, gaining more meaning and ferocity by their (extremely, EXTREMELY relative) downsizing. And that's pretty much all that I have to say. It's not much of a review, but does a Transformers movie really need One? It's a good version of a known product, and if you were jonesing hard for another, 'good,' Transformers after the total suck-fest that was Revenge of the Fallen, then here you go. In what has been a relatively small-scale Summer season so far, its exciting and even kind of refreshing to see a movie as relentlessly epic and enormous as this One. It's dumb, it's too long, it's riddled with problems, and because I'm a sucker for giant alien robots, I kind of loved it. If you're the same way, then get thee to a theater!

Grade (Relative to other movies): B-
Grade (If you bought a ticket to a Transformers movie because you wanted to see some TRANSFORMERS!!!): A- 

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