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I gave the original Transformers a hesitant pass thanks to the fact that director Michael Bay managed to bring giant robots that turn into vehicles to the big screen. The gimmick was enough to sate the eyeballs, and mostly detach the mind from logic for the slightly over-stuffed runtime. But I didn’t enjoy myself enough to bother with the sequel until it came to video, where I was astounded by how much the gimmick had worn off, and how epically idiotic the endeavor actually was. You know those ‘Magic Eye’ books, where if you stare hard enough at the garbled images on the page you see a three-dimensional image popping out at you? I’m utterly convinced that if you stare closely enough at the twisted mass of terrible that is Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen you will see a giant hand emerging from the screen, extending its middle finger right at you. I haven’t been able to brave the film a second time to verify this claim. Needless to say I had no interest in paying to see a third Transformers film, despite the promise of eye-popping 3D. I just assumed it would be a series of middle fingers, longbowman salutes, and bitten thumbs.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Well, I’ve seen Transformers: Dark of the Moon now, in old-fashion 2D, and I’m reasonably sure I didn’t see any coded offensive gestures, but there was the faint hint of Michael Bay’s laughter humming under the 5.1 soundtrack. The good news is that Dark of the Moon isn’t as bad as Revenge of the Fallen. The bad news is just about everything else. This dumber than sand sequel mixes nigh unwatchable comedy routines with eye-rolling melodrama, a plot pocked with holes big enough to drive a giant robot worm through, and just enough over the top action to keep the audience from revolting. I do have to admit that there are good pieces sprinkled over this puke sandwich. Things start well. The speed at which the film’s pre-credit sequence unravels is kind of breathtaking. Bay trusts us to absorb a whole lot of information in a matter of minutes, with surprisingly little narration. At this early point it starts to feel as if he’s going to treat us with an ounce of respect. Frankly speaking, I was scared. Fortunately things quickly devolve into idiocy the second we’re asked to feel sorry for a guy dating a super model and living in an impossibly large apartment furnished with impossibly expensive stuff. It seems the poor guy doesn’t have a job. You see, Bay and his ‘screenwriters’ are relating to their audience by placing their human hero into same impossible job market we’re all dealing with. It’s impossible to care. At all. Following the tight editing of the prologue it’s even more impossible not to notice that the whole film screeches to a halt.

The first movie got away with revolving so much of its story around Sam and his friends and family because it was all about introducing the alien robots to a human world, but there’s no longer a compelling reason not to hand off the bulk of the narrative to the Transformers. This third film does away with about half of the horrible family dynamic, mother/son penis humour, and unremarkable ‘romance’ of the second film, but it’s still here, and it’s still terrible. The plot would be just as asinine without the human element (I defy anyone to explain the Decepticon plan to me and make any sense of it or its legion of plot holes), but it’s certainly easier to forgive silliness when it pertains to giant alien robots. There’s more robot melodrama this time around, but there’s still about an hour and a half of screen time wasted on Sam and his boring problems. Though they’ve clearly learned something from the negative reactions to the first sequel (there’s considerably less racism this time around, and we don’t waste too much screen time on Sam’s parents), the filmmakers have curiously decided to make their main protagonist out as a consummate asshole for the first half of the movie. When he’s not yelling at his girlfriend for being pretty, and attracting the eyes of other male cast members, Sam’s either loudly reminding everyone that he helped to save the world twice (as if we needed further reminders as to the nonsensical plotting), or whining while kicking his non-Transformer car.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Yeah, yeah, but this is a Michael Bay movie, specifically a Michael Bay movie about giant robots hitting each other with army assistance. It would be nice to like the characters, or find the story anything short of the dumbest thing since brain damage, but we’re all here for the action. Following the cool Cybertron fly-by there’s a pretty cool, but all to brief robo-tussle at Chernobyl. But then there’s a depressing lull to make room for the ridiculously convoluted plot. Almost exactly at the one hour mark there’s a fun highway chase/battle that Bay manages to shoot with enough grace for the human eye to actually tell what’s happening, unlike the second film, which was little more than a mess of metal gears and explosions. The real novelty of live action Transformers wore off with the first film, but it’s still the only reason anyone is watching these movies, so it’s nice that Bay and Company got it right this time. Soon after things really rev-up, and the last hour (or so) is adequately action packed enough to make the mind-numbing weight almost worth our time. Logically this extended climax comes down to just one damn thing after another (why are we spending so much screen time watching humans floating?), but the sheer quantity of stuff happening is dumbfounding enough to pull back the sense of disbelief for a good measure of the remainder of the film. Well, up to the point where the gravity of Cybertron should be destroying Earth, but that’s at least forty minutes of screen time.

I never believed I could miss Megan Fox, but at least she had character. Okay, not so much ‘character’ as existence. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who plays new, less human girlfriend Carly, exists only for the audience and male characters to ogle. Even the robots are flummoxed by her appearance (the little Autobots rummage through her underwear drawer, which is what passes for comedy in this film). Every hero and villain reacts to her only as a set of bouncing breasts and a tight ass, and she’s given no compelling reason to like, let alone love, Sam. Her biggest plot purposes are as the MacGuffin the heroes journey to Chicago to save (you know, because the other humans aren’t really worth their time), and the character that talks the villain into fighting another villain (which, when you think about it, is just an extension of her MacGuffin status). And Bay isn’t content to have just one slab of girl meat, he fills out his background cast with distractingly sexy underwear models. Besides Carly, and Special Intelligence Director Charlotte Mearing, who’s mostly presented as a old school bitch, and Sam’s mom, who fans of the series know is obsessed with her son’s sexuality, the only woman with a speaking role is a Hispanic woman that gets chided for dressing like a whore at Sam’s work.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
I’ve heard some folks claim these films were aimed at kids. Though I agree they should be aimed at kids, there’s very little about this film that’s appropriate for children. Between Laserbeak’s assassination streak, and the unsavory treatment of women, there’s barely even time to complain about the excessive curse words. Do we really need a dozen ‘shits’ and ‘dicks’, and one and a half f-bombs in a movie based on a long standing toy line that exploits the entirely un-adult concept of vehicles that double as robots? And then there’s the sequence where the Decepticons blow-up and burn a couple hundred Chicagoans to death, or the repeated manner in which the heroes murder the villains in cold blood (sometimes, as a bonus, the villains are even begging for mercy!). These aren’t the things that make Transformers 3 a bad movie (to the contrary, they’re among the only things I enjoyed about the film), but are proof positive that it isn’t aimed at children, or that if it is, it’s aimed by adults who have no concept of what is and isn’t appropriate. The closest recent comparisons, namely Spielberg’s War of the Worlds and Battle: Los Angeles, were also hard PG-13s, but they didn’t have Burger King kid’s meal tie-ins.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Video


Transformers 3 is a film so intricately decorated with ridiculous special effects detail I almost can’t imagine a non-HD presentation. Anything short of 1080p must be maddening. This 2D presentation (the 3D release will be released later) is pristine, and only slightly held back by the severity of director Michael Bay’s style. Bay’s visual theme for these, and most of his movies, is a juxtaposition of hyper-clean and hyper-gritty images. There’s a lot of pure, bright white used in the film, along with mirror finished metal surfaces, and though Bay’s beloved grain survives in tact, these clean elements are never anything less than perfect. The gritty elements, including the robot parts, dirty faces, and war-torn Chicago, are better representations of the transfer’s detail capabilities. Again, the grain does nothing to hurt the intricacy of these elements, though it doesn’t really do them any favours in terms of realism. Like the other Transformers movies, this one is hyperrealist, meaning every element, including the grain, skin tones, fabrics, and general lighting schemes are entirely unnatural. Bay’s favourite colours, yellow and blue, also play a big part in the film. Everyone wears yellow or blue, most of the sets are yellow or blue, and the majority of robots are some mix of the two hues. In fact, I’d almost call the use of these two hues excessive. It’s more or less always dusk or dawn, and a little bit cloudy, which makes even the sky a mix of yellow and blue. Occasionally a set is bathed in red, and Sentinel Prime is visually labeled as such, and even these hues cut rather sharply against the relative monotony of the rest of the palette. Bay’s 2.35:1 framing is more or less terrible any time something large is talking to something else large. I normally would suspect the disc itself, since I didn’t see the film in theaters, but there’s no way Paramount would put this thing out misframed, is there?

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Audio


There isn’t a lot to love about these films, so I’ll take what I can get, and what I can love is the aggressive, abstractly sci-fi sound design. It’s awesome. The action scenes presented on the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack all feature demo worthy sound. The last hour of the film is a blast of dynamic highs and lows, explosions of all different sizes, flying machines whizzing through every channel, huge directional moments, and some cool 3D camera swoops that create the appropriate sense of aural immersion. The sound design team makes great use of the Transformer’s weapons systems, creating fun, punchy laser blasts, and mêlée weapons that hum and buzz. And even when they aren’t fighting the giant robots keep the stereo and surround channels busy with whirring gears, and hissing hydraulics. The big sandworm-looking Decepticon is likely my favourite of all the aural elements, with his chattering, spinning sound, and the fact that everything he touches breaks into pieces that fly throughout the speakers. The dialogue, when not spoken by a giant robot, is actually consistently a bit too low on the track. It’s almost impossible to hear Rosie Huntington-Whiteley half the time. The music includes some of the most ill advised pop music samples I’ve ever heard in my life, along with a bunch of unearned sad and victorious symphonic cues.

Extras


Zippo. There will be another release later, which will include extras apparently.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Overall


Despite my protests, I can’t really blame fans of the series for buying this Blu-ray, because outside of the theater setting one can just skip to the action packed climax, and avoid the pain of the human interactions and nonsensical storyline. On the other hand, why would any fan need this extras-free version, when a jam-packed release is on the horizon? If I had enjoyed myself I’d probably be plenty antagonized by the double dip. But those not looking for extra features, who just want to zip through the more spectacular bits of this particularly dumb machine of a movie, and show off their screens and sound systems could do a whole lot worse. I’m certainly not one to judge.

*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.


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