Transforming Opinions of 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon'

You may think you know what you're getting by the third installment of the much maligned Transformers series, but Dark of the Moon bests the initial two offerings with a streamlined version of loud, visually bombastic mayhem.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Rosie-Huntington Whitley, Patrick Dempsey, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Kevin Dunn, Ken Jeong
Length: 154 minutes
Studio: Paramount Pictures, Hasbro, Di Bonaventura Pictures
Year: 2011
Distributor: Paramount
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo
Release date: 2011-09-30

Hello? Is anyone there? Of course not. I didn’t know why I thought…what? Oh. Hello. I didn’t think anyone would show up for this. Are you in the right place? Did you click the right article? I’m sorry. I’m just a little surprised anyone would actually take the time to read a review for a Transformers movie. I mean, there can’t be a movie (not film – too dignified a word) franchise in existence that critics have raked over the coals harder than this one while its legions of fans, casual moviegoers, and non-moviegoers making their yearly exception, have continued to throw money at again and again.

Even I, a critic who not only reads other critics but cites their opinions to frustrated friends who just want to go see Taylor Lautner’s stone-like abs (and face) in Abduction, have seen the first two Transformers moves despite their vehemently off-putting reviews. Sure, I saw them both at home (and one for free thanks to a PS3 rental coupon), but I still watched them in their entirety. The first was average enough as mindless summer blockbusters go.

The second, mind you, decided it should be longer, bigger, and more convoluted. I couldn’t tell you a single thing that happened in that movie, plot-wise, despite viewing it all the way through. It was one messed up movie that somehow involved pyramids, a massive vacuum cleaner, and the screenwriters’ lifesaver - a life-restoring glowing orb. Even Michael Bay himself admitted the movie was flawed.

After that catastrophe, I vowed “Never again.” Never again would I be get sucked into Bay’s intricately depicted web of visual wonder and empty characters. Why, then, did I end up seeing Transformers: Dark of the Moon only a few days after its release in a theater not so near to me (I had to go the extra miles for a sweet new 4K projector)? What did I see in the preview for the third installment of Transformers I didn’t find in the first two? Well, I already went over that a bit, but there was more to it than just for Armageddon flashbacks during the shuttle launch and my desire to see two ACTORS! slum it in a blockbuster. It’s the same reason critics’ pleas to see something, anything else go unviewed. Transformers just looks so freaking cool!

Ok, I can explain myself a little better. Well, no, I don’t know if I can. For me, it was a done deal as soon as I saw missiles from an alien spacecraft being launched into the skyline of Chicago. No one, not even fictitious fighting robots, were going to get away with blowing holes in my favorite city. I must see them pay for their transgressions, and if that meant braving another Bay movie than so be it. Turns out, no bravery was necessary. In fact, no feelings are necessary whatsoever to view the Pink Floyd edition of Transformers. They would actually get in the way of this soulless monstrosity of a movie. And I mean that in the best way possible.

Let me first state the obvious: Transformers: Dark of the Moon is why you bought a Blu-ray player, a giant HDTV, and a surround sound system. I know you’ve heard that a few times before, but there really are only a handful of movies that take full advantage of the format. It may not engage your sentiments, but T3 will break the cement structures of your home with a cacophony of noise. It will rivet you to your La-Z-Boy, wake up your neighboring state’s population, and possibly leave you reminiscing about the days when you could still hear everyday sounds, like your alarm clock or wife. In other words, you’ll finally get what you paid for and it’s freaking awesome (one note – there are no special features on this disc. If you want those, wait – they’ll probably be on the 3D release in the next few months).

The picture is equally impressive. I thought I was topping out, technology-wise, when I saw the film in 3D through the latest digital projecting machinery on a screen 50 feet tall. I may have, but it was hard to tell a difference in sheer beauty when comparing it to my 42-inch 1080p television. Yes, the experience was lessoned a bit, but similar feelings of numbed wonder crept back through my subconscious. Also, if you ever wanted to see the mechanical version of the giant worm from Tremors (and really, who doesn’t want to see anything related to the Kevin Bacon-starring cult classic?), this is your movie. Even if the thought never crossed your mind, you’ll still be pretty pleased when it starts chewing up buildings and the VFX army behind it gets to show their skills.

And that’s really all people are looking for with a Transformers movies. The first one worked as a origin story. Exposition was heavy to make it easily understood and the action came in droves. The sequel messed things up by getting messy. The plot was all over the place and the action was hard to see and comprehend. Dark of the Moon takes it back to basics with hard and fast action, simple conflicts, and the expected landmark audio and visual effects. For those who have the ability to turn their brain off, or at least the part that discerns logic, for almost three hours, it’s a pretty average time. Well, I guess you also have to appreciate bright lights and loud noises. If you’ve ever thought, “How’d they do that?” during a movie, the odds are with you here.

In the end, it comes down to simple math. 0 for story + 10 for audio/visual + 1 for Chicago =


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