Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon (Michael Bay) 2011

I know an instant rebuttal for me is that I came into this movie with a sore attitude and am therefore predisposed to disliking it. Believe me when I say I really want to love the Transformers movies. I practically bent so far backwards trying to find good things for this movie yogis were calling me up asking how I got so flexible. Transformers 3 is the best of the three Bay made Transformers movies, but that is damning it with incredibly faint praise when the first two (as redlettermedia would say) has your expectations so low they are near fucking dinosaur bones.

All of my praise for this movie is predicated on the fact that “Well…this doesn’t suck as bad as Transformers 2.” The racist/misogynist/offensive humor is not as bad as TF2. Yes, Skids and Mudflap (the resident Jar Jars) are gone, the decepticon testicles are gone, and we don’t have to see John Turturro’s ass anymore. Yes, we do get more action in this movie than in TF2. And by that I guess I should clarify that this is action I can actually understand now because after three movies Bay has finally learned to pull his camera back so we can see the whole picture. I don’t care if you have the world’s longest fight scene if the camera is so close we are practically in Optimus Prime’s butthole.  Rosie Huntington-Whitely is not as annoying as Megan Fox.  Leonard Nimoy does a great job rather than Megatron (who is MIA in the last and this movie) Yes, this movie has a plot unlike TF2.

I can keep going on but you get the gist. The problem is even though all the problems are not as bad as they were in one of the worst movies ever made, they are still problems which ultimately cripple the movie. One of my biggest problems is that of the comic relief. As I explained somewhere else, Bay doesn’t seem to know the difference between ‘comic relief’ and completely killing the tone of your movie. For the most part, Dark of the Moon is the darkest themed of all Bay’s TF movies. We get several autobots dying as well as some shocking imagery of the decepticons killing humans. But present throughout this movie is wacky comedy which would almost be out of place in many comedies let alone this film. One scene which really is the best highlight is when the decepticons hold Sam’s girlfriend hostage and will only release her if he betrays Optimus Prime. This is a scene which is very intense and has a lot of drama behind it. I will admit, I was interested to see what Sam would ultimately do and if he would betray those people he loves. In the immediate next scene, Sam is doing Three Stooges type prat falls and “comically” feeling everyone up while making goofy faces. This completely kills all drama or tension and ruins what little emotion I had for the character. It is like having pie in the face humor after a rape scene. And this is not an isolated incident, this is the whole movie. This is it. And when your movie is two hours and forty minutes long, you have to wonder at what Bay was thinking when he left so much of this crap in.

This leads to crippling problem number 2 which is making this movie be about the humans. In a movie called Transformers, I do not expect the characters to be essentially the subplot of the film. I can somewhat understand why a character like Sam is in the movie even though I hate the character. Sam is a ‘fish out of water’ character that the audience is supposed to relate to and to whom all the characters explain what the hell is going on. Somewhere along the way that message got screwed up and instead of making us relate to the autobots more, the autobots are supporting characters in a movie about Sam working out his various issues. It absolutely doesn’t help that Sam is still an annoying prick of a main character. This is a man who has the Transformers as best friends, has an underwear model as a girlfriend, and has been involved in several battles with an alien race. Yet in this movie he feels like he is owed more from everyone else and does nothing but bitch and moan about his oh so horrible life. As one of my exes would say “Cry me a river, then build a bridge and get over it.” Everyone in this movie is selfish, arrogant, or unbearably annoying and I don’t want to spend one minute with them let alone 160 minutes.

You notice I’ve spent so long talking about the humans because we still don’t know all that much about the autobots or the decepticons. Again, I will admit they do a little more (by that I mean, more than nothing at all) to introduce these characters to us. I was able to recognize some of these characters because they give them a little more screen time. That being said, I have had several discussions with other people who have watched it trying to figure out what happened (if anything) to Starscream. Some think Sam had a fight with him, others think Bumblebee got in a fight, while I am not so certain Bay didn’t just forgot about him. That’s a good sign of a movie isn’t it? When you can’t even figure out what, if anything, happened to one of your main villains. Is it such an unreasonable expectation that I can get to know these characters and what motivates them? For those that think I may be too snobby and am somehow expecting Transformers to be Citizen Kane let me use another kids movie as an example; the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In that movie, anyone that watches it can identify all the different turtles, can tell me who they are and what motivates them, and can say how they are unique by how they act. In Transformers we get none of that. I can only identify characters in the loosest of ways: he’s the NASCAR with an Irish accent, he’s the red car who is a Spaniard, that decepticon is the big worm thingy, and so on. What should be our main character in Optimus Prime probably has a quarter of the screen time of the useless character of Sam.

The action in this movie is great and the fights with Optimus had the audience giving multiple fangasms. In what can only be described as selective memory, I think the majority of people that will like it will have the uncanny ability to forget all the crap in order to focus on the 15 minutes of pure awesome. Simply put, I cannot do that. I cannot forget about two hours of useless filler, unlikable characters, and everything else described above to get excited about Optimus making Megatron his bitch. If you haven’t guessed, my crippling problem #3 is the length. Now I don’t have a problem with long movies, but a movie should only be as long as necessary to tell the plot. While I was being nice in saying this movie had a plot, this really isn’t the kind of story that needs two hours and forty minutes to tell. Because of that, you have useless scenes of comic relief and even useless scenes of action. In our third act, we have probably a twenty minute sequence where the humans are being terrorized by a giant worm thing. I will admit the scene looked great but at the end of it the whole sequence was completely useless. The characters achieved nothing, the plot was not advanced in any way, and it was all just a waste of time. I can understand people forgiving many of the faults of the movie if it was a quick 90 minutes, but when you are trapped in a near three hour movie, all the faults seem to inflate to monster proportions.

I feel I could dedicate a book to all the ways Bay screws up in the process of movie making but I think you get the point. Despite all I say I’m sure there are still going to be people who think I’m asking for too much or that I just can’t appreciate a ‘turn off your brain’ type movie. As I mentioned before I and everyone else *want * to love a series like Transformers. A concept like giant fighting robots that also turn into cool cars seems hardwired into our brain and an Earth shatteringly awesome thing. It is so ball explodingly manly that people are willing to forgive just about ANYTHING if they get even a whiff of Optimus Prime. I want an awesome Transformers movie just like anyone and I think in the right hands it could be an action classic but I am simply not able to overlook the near criminal flaws which are the albatross around the series neck. Despite the cool scene here and there and being the best of the Bay series, this is still a very bad film. Now give JJ Abrams a chance at the series or something. Anyone other than Bay.

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