Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Rating: B

In the mid-1990’s, television talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford was producing a high quality apparel line for K-Mart at affordable prices.  Then in 1996, the National Labor Committee reported (Democracy Now) that the clothing was being made in sweatshops with conditions that are too unspeakable to go into in this blog post.

I mention that to mention this.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is bananas.  B-A-N-A-N-A-S.  Bananas.

It so crazy and insanely over the top that even with a $200 million (US) budget, I have to wonder if we won’t find out in a few months  that none of the actors or crew were paid (or fed) and that the special effects were all done in fifth-world sweatshops in countries we’ve never heard of.

But until then!  This movie is just insane and worth seeing in a great theater with a nice digital 3D projector (like the Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin).

Let’s start with the fact that if I were a kid.  This movie would be my jam.

Visually, it is incredible.  It’s one of the first times where I’ve noticed a director composing his shots for 3D and then actually pulling it off without it being the stupid ‘he that actor is throwing something at me’ nonsense.  Rather, subtle things like foreground elements such as lamp posts give this movie the three dimensions that other movies (like Green Lantern) fail to do.

The open letter that Michael Bay wrote to theater projectionists and fans was on  the money; the theater experience will make or break this movie for you.  My older brother convinced me to see this in the theater and he was right to do so.

BTW, let’s talk about Green Lantern for a moment.  My hatred of Green Lantern is well-known.  Transformers delivers all of the awesomeness that Green Lantern did not.  I am not lying to you when I say that there is a scene in the first five minutes of the movie that looked more expensive than all of Green Lantern combined.  And it lasted for maybe 5 minutes.  If that.

There’s also a stunt involving Bumblebee on the highway that…when you see this thing your jaw will open and you’ll think what I did, “Wow.  That one scene is so much better than the entirity of Green Lantern.”

Michael Bay is a very easy target.  He’s made enough bad movies (I saw The Island in the theater, thank you very much) and he’s a “jock” in a world full of nerds.

But let’s look past all of that because this is a good movie.

Michael Bay does two things that you would think are diametrically opposite of each other very well.

He can handle a large budget like $200 million (US) without bankrupting his backers or the studio and at the same time he can stretch a dollar in the way that Sam Raimi and Robert Rodriguez can.

The other thing that Bay does quite well is action, and a lot of it has to do with his unique relationship with the military.  I recall reading somewhere that after doing Pearl Harbor, the US military has pretty much been open to any request he asks of them (short of doing a Dogs of War thing, I suspect).

For instance, the last film was the first use of the V-22 Osprey and this film uses them heavily as well but the drop into Chicago in particular is a scene where you recognize that not only does MIchael Bay have some of the best military tech advisors on speed dial, but he backs up the budget to let them show us some amazing stuff.

The script from Ehren Kruger is interesting in that it’s a lot more historical fact-meets-fiction (ala National Treasure and the like).  Overall, the story holds together.

If I were to scrutinize it, could I find plot holes?  Sure.  But I almost give it a bit of a pass because the movie progressed at a nice rapid clip and overall it was visual insanity set to screen.

The dialogue from Optimus Prime was everything it should be.  Every time Peter Cullen speaks it is inspirational and at the same time heroic.

I will say that the role of women in this movie was horrible.  Seriously.  The lack of roles for women in this film outside of girlfriend, horrible boss and assistant probably set the suffrage movement back about 50 years.  And yes, that was Keiko Agena aka “Lane” from Gilmore Girls.

Also, this movie suffers from what Green Lantern did in that it only credits the screenwriter and not the many hard working individuals who created the comic book and television show.  It should be noted that former Editor In Chief of Marvel comics, Jim Shooter, actually created the storyline and character details for the comic, the toys and ultimately the television show.  He was not credited.

Overall though, this is a fun movie to go see during the summer.  Don’t scrutnize it too hard.  LIke I said, go to a theater with a good 3D digital projector.  Put on the glasses. Have fun.  And prepare to see in snanity that is bananas.

…and in honor that, I give you Mindy Kaling singing, “This day is bananas.”

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5 Responses to “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

  1. @londonfilmgeek Says:

    I’d not even noticed Lane, good spot.

    I have to counter you on the 3D.

    I’m not a big fan of 3D movies anyway. I think it’s gimmicky, detracts from composition and more importantly hinders a film from ever truly absorbing it’s audience – far more of a hinderance than watching a film on an iphone for that matter.

    The 3D in this film only added to the grotesque ‘assemblage’ of techniques that in their own right serve to ramp up screen tension, action pacing and signifiers of jeopardy.

    Where the film was good – the aforementioned BumbleBee transforms flinging Sam out of the car, leaping the obstacle and reassembling with Sam back in the car was shot front on, with little definition and essentially flattened as we spin around to avoid the image not making sense.

    SImilarly Optimus ‘BadAss’ ice skating through the cars spinning, pirouetting and knocking deceptions out of the way was a wide low shot tracking along with him. Very little depth.

    Where the film was bad – ‘Not Megan Fox’s’ introduction by way of her asshole was glaringly over extruded. This was Bay’s axe at the camera/viewer shot. Ironically ‘Not Megan Fox’s’ best side, biggest asset and deepest character trait. In fact it was the only thing about ‘Not Megan Fox’ that ever felt balanced.

    There was an annoying technique of putting completely out of context objects in the foreground, knocked out of focus for the bokeh or whatever. I lost count of the amount of times a lamp, or table light, or office gadget or pointless cable was thrust forward at the bottom or top of the screen – totally breaking the illusion of 3D as it clashed with the 2D screen edge of the screen. This was bad, bad, bad shot design.

    Amusingly I watched The Rock soon after and noticed there’s a lot of those framing tools employed there too – less bokeh, no 3D and a kind of device for cramping the frame and situations. I’m not exactly sure what the vocabulary of it all is – ie. What Bay’s tongue is suggesting in this form of mise en scene but am willing to let it go as it was only after seeing it used poorly in TF3 that I noticed it at all in The Rock.

    Now we get to the big one for me. The point at which the film stopped being entertaining and actually nasty. There’s a political agenda going on that I found it impossible to see past. Walter Chaw at Film Freak Central touches upon the butchering of American History and goes someway to confronting the vulgarity and senseless agenda on show (http://filmfreakcentral.net/screenreviews/transformers3.htm).

    The second unforgivable aspect of the film is not the 60minutes taken to run it’s final scene but rather the unchecked violence afforded to the Deceptions by the ‘goodies’ of the film.

    As soon as ‘Not Timothy Olyphant’ screams “it’s their eyes, get their eyes”. Though the concept of an advanced mechanical creature relying as much on their eyes as we do to function is ludicrous enough – the senseless violent retribution dished out next is even more ludicrous.

    Shockwave has his legs blown off, back split, stomach imploded, eye pulled out, scalp taken off and finally a rocket into his throat.

    This is a kid’s movie. And here we are supposed to cheer for the most brutal of consequences. It is with something of a triumph then that at this point the robots cease to be robots and are actually entirely and seemingly biologically human – fit to be hung drawn and quartered. It’s just tasteless.

    Optimus Prime’s opening and closing speeches are not heroic or inspirational they’re polemic hyperbole of the worst kind, trite and of spurious relation to the story we’ve just seen unfold.

    Somewhere in a loft in my parent’s home, my Optimus Prime figure is sat atop a box looking depressed and hopeless. Autobots Fuck off.

  2. @londonfilmgeek Says:

    Minor edit:

    “The 3D in this film only added to the grotesque ‘assemblage’ of techniques that in their own right serve to ramp up screen tension, action pacing and signifiers of jeopardy.”

    Should have been followed with this paragraph.

    “Here the cacophony of ways this movie is trying to communicate essentially blind the audience to any subtly or naturally occurring ‘drama’ by repeatedly relying on Full Beam as a default setting, you’re literally knocked about the head with sensual overload.”

  3. Noah Kuttler Says:

    Interesting analysis of the 3D and it’s interesting. Where you found the foreground objects to be annoying and obtrusive, I found them to add a bit of depth but as you said – it is a gimmick. No question.

    The political agenda was a very interesting catch and yes, there was certainly quite a bit of sub-text happening in this movie pushing any number of agendas. I was listening to a podcast (forget which) where they were talking about the 80’s Cold War and how films o the time pushed the agenda of the good guys (US) as being trustworthy with nuclear devices whereas the bad guys (Soviets) were not. The example used was Wraith of Khan. Khan uses Genesis as a destructive tool. The Federation use it to build a new world.

    And i do agree. The violence for a kids movie was extremely brutal. Some of the things they did to robots was alarming. But they are robots. But still. Shooting out eyes and taking out legs. Kinda brutal for kids to watch. Sure.

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