Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

The third Transformers film Dark of the Moon has so much (too much really) spectacular action that it’s kind of a shame it got stuck with such a bad action movie. In Transformers 3 you will be treated to just about every kind of chase, stunt, explosion, shoot out, special effect, in the book plus the whole book and the kitchen sink as well. If that’s what you’re looking for, good for you. Look no further. Some people consider that getting their money’s worth and although the Transformers films have been a lot of things to a lot of people, boring they have not been. If however you want, oh I don’t know, say, filmmaking, storytelling, characters, drama, insight, depth, logic, common sense, continuity, or any other such endangered species to the Hollywood summer film landscape, well look elsewhere.

“But Hey!” some will scream. “How can you expect anything more from a Transformers movie when you know exactly what you’re getting before you even get it?” I don’t, but how, I retort, can you be satisfied with so much less? The Transformers films, I have realized, under the both flawed and brilliant reign of director Michael Bay, are not films at all but extended music videos in which there is only the outline of story, character, drama etc., and instead of music the quick, jagged images are instead made up of flashes of sound and colour. This is the cinema of banging and blowing up as enormous computer generated effects crash headfirst at high speed into other enormous computer generated effects in an orgasm of colour and noise. Transformers 3 is, if nothing else, certainly the loudest movie I have ever bared witness to.

In my last paragraph there I hinted at how Transformers could be so much more, but then again, I’m not sure, after all this, that it actually can be. Of the last film, the thoroughly unbearable Revenge of the Fallen, I complained of the function of the human characters who were essentially real faces that popped up amid the wall-to-wall animation and served no purpose other than to shout inane dialogue, run away from things exploding and ceaselessly fire unlimited rounds of ammunition, achieving upwards of nothing. Sometimes, I said, in particularly ambitious moments, they were allowed to do all three at once.

In this film, which is, for whatever it’s worth at a base level, infinitely better than that last one, I realized that it’s actually the Transformers themselves that are the problem. Sure the humans are still about as useful as a tuna flavoured lollipop, but it’s the Transformers that really blow the load this time.

To recap before I finish that thought: Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf) is now living with his new girlfriend Carly (Victoria Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whitely). This is one hell of a broad. Not only is she the most understanding girlfriend in all of movies, believing Sam and his crazed stories of saving the world, but she also manages to not even break a heel while in the heat of combat as the warring Transformers lay waste to Chicago. That’s a keeper.

Anyway, The Transformers are now used to help the American’s fight their own conflicts until they discover a piece of hidden Intel which suggests that, when the U.S. finally landed on the moon all those years ago they discovered a crashed Autobot ship (those are the good guys by the way) that also housed the lifeless remains of Sentinel Prime, the former Autobot leader. Optimus, learning of this, goes to get Sentinel and resurrect him before the bad Decepticons find him and…I don’t know. Something about pillars that could destroy the earth.

This all leads up to a monster of a third act which is straight, unending wall-to-wall combat as the Autobots and Decepticons wage war against each other in Chicago, leaving the city in ruins. Of course, this being a PG-13 enterprise, no civilian is ever seen to be harmed by the warring robots despite the fact that Transformers have to be one of, if not the leading cause of death in the United States.

Nevertheless, into the fold drops St. Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and his men who jump out of air crafts above Chicago and sail down like flying squirrels into the city because he apparently didn’t get the hint after the last two Transformer battles that machine gun fire doesn’t contribute anything to a giant space robot war except noise pollution.

Not even mentioning that the film also, for reasons above and beyond what my mind allows me to comprehend, features John Malkovich, Frances McDormand and Patrick Dempsey, it’s time to get back to the problem of the Transformers.

If Bay were to allow a genuine human emotion to seep into the movie over the course of the film’s mind battering two and a half hours, and maybe if he’d lay off the pyrotechnics a little than maybe, just maybe there would be something here. But because the film revolves around a nonsense plot involving robots who have no back story, no empathy, no characteristics and nothing that defines their existence, it is virtually impossible to care about a single one of them. They are thus, when broken down, essentially made to crash into each other, pound each other to spare parts, blow one another up and, ultimately to have faces to be put on t-shirts and be made into action figures and so on.

All of this, as all bad movies tend to, left my mind to wander to this: What is the origin of Transformers? How did they come to be on that distant planet of Cybertron? Because they are machines that leads one to believe that they would have had to be assembled, which explains why none of them are females, but what was the force that brought the first Transformer to assembly? It couldn’t have been human as, until they arrived on Earth no knowledge of Cybertron existed. But it would have had to have been something. And how, if not human, did this mysterious force know to model them after American vehicles?

Of course, the movie doesn’t have any answers to these questions, but I didn’t expect it to. What it does have is a lot of bang-pow-boom-blow-up-fall-down-shoot-shoot-run-jump-crash kind of action. It’s masterfully done but after a certain point it all blends together into one big void of nothingness. I know, I know, why should I expect anything more? Apparently not a single fan of these films does.

1 comment:

  1. There's so much happening here but it all feels so epic and works on many levels because this time I could actually see what was happening, rather than having no clue in the second shit. Good Review Mike!