Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' Review

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is an unabashed work of pure entertainment made without the slightest agenda beyond replicating the look and feel of a Power Zone cartoon. It’s very nearly everything that's wrong with Hollywood, but darn if it won't give an action-hungry audience its money's worth. The story isn’t the least bit cohesive – it’s ridiculous and unintelligent, but the mayhem gets so over the top that it's hard not to have a big grin on your face.  

Like the Autobots themselves, director Michael Bay’s latest succeeds by simply crashing headfirst through every obstacle in sight. There's no way to take this movie seriously, and that's exactly what makes it so much fun. But when the action begins there’s nothing one can do but sit back and witness the carnage in awe – there’s huge robots mercilessly gutting each other, as they transform from military jets, tanks, trucks, concept cars into heavy artillery wielding biomechainsed warriors. The parajump/skydiving scenes are spectacular. And some scenes are just gorgeous massacre – like Shockwave's huge driller strangling an office tower, as the mirrored glass sprays everywhere.  Bay’s long, evolving shots are mouth-agape stuff, and their intricacy is remarkable. The 3D is glorious – it is the best usage of the format I've seen since ‘Avatar’, it even tops the latter in some places. There’s none of that gimmicky in-your-face drivel, (aside from a scene where a character points two gun barrels in our eyes). The depth of field in each shot is eye popping stuff.  Most impressively, the action is shot wide enough for one to make sense of it. Bay pulls the camera back, and it becomes sheer guilty pleasure to witness Optimus ripping mechanical spines and Decepticons blasting humans into ash and skull-dust.

In fact the only real drawback of Dark of the Moon is that the Transformers themselves aren’t the central characters. The fearsome Soundwave, who makes a return from the previous movie makes a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance. Starscream, one of the best damn villains of pop culture is reduced to a puny minion. But thankfully, most of the hogwash from the previous installments has been fixed. The attempts at comedy are far more respectable – there are no robots making racist comments or anal raping cement mixers in front of pyramids. No one pees on people’s heads, the dog doesn’t hump the cat, Sam’s parents don’t show up as often.

The plot doesn’t make much sense – we’re treated with a full blown CGI prologue that explains the presence of the Autobots and the Decepticons on earth. Writer Ehren Kruger goes the whole hog by connecting the incident with NASA’s first moon mission, and Bay responds by throwing in cameos by Edwin Aldrin and Bill O'Reilly. We learn that Sam (Shia LeBoeuf) has just graduated from college and is living with a different, hotter girlfriend (Rosie Huntingon). It isn't long before Megatron makes an impressive entry, wandering in a desert, preparing to implement his master plan to wipe out mankind. The Decepticons pop up in Chernobyl to steal a mysterious piece of a spacecraft that landed on the moon fifty years ago. And the Autobots bring Sentinel Prime, who was marooned on the moon back to life. 

The human characters are introduced, including newcomers played by John Malkovich, Patrick Dempsey, Alan Tudyk , Ken Jeong, and Frances McDormand. Add to them the returning actors Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson. Thankfully, the humans are nowhere as annoying was the case with the previous two films.  From here, the film zips from point A to point B, and Bay merely edits for convenience. He even brings us a series of quick cuts separated by blackness in order to reduce major plot points into a sort of trailer reel. Steve Jablonsky’s score blares in the background, reminding you of the Inception gong, as the final hour of mayhem takes over all your senses.        

Transformers: Dark of the Moon doesn’t just offer a veritable feast of special effects chaos - Industrial Light and Magic has crafted some of the best CGI I’ve ever seen in a movie, and I challenge you to find faults in the action. The film dwells so far away from the realms of reality, that it would be foolish to condemn its cartoonish violence. You could step in after the first hour, but you can’t afford to miss the rest. Do watch. 


  1. Nice review, Mihir. I saw the movie yesterday, wasn't too taken aback by the 3Dness, but perhaps that was just the theater.

  2. Thanks, Deepak. Yes, the 3D experience very heavily depends on the theater/ quality of glasses. I despise 3D myself, i was lucky enough to see this film at a decent venue.

  3. Brilliant review, Mihir.

    90 minutes into the film I was sapped. The plot was as cohesive and the screenplay as smooth as the skin texture of a Decepticon.. the characters as deep as the chain of command in the film. But then the finale came about. Arresting, dizzying CGI mayhem. Mind -> IMAX + 3D = blown. Michael Bay is a crazy robot war pornography genius!