Friday, 1 July 2011

'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' Review

'Transformers: Dark of The Moon' (dir: Michael Bay, 2011), Cert: 12A


Michael Bay's live-action features starring the Hasbro created 'Transformers' has been a troublesome ride for many. 2007's first picture gained universal praise whilst the 2009 sequel 'Revenge of the Fallen' was easily the most critically despised feature of that year - and lots of bad films were released in '09. As many of you know, I am a huge 'Transformers' fan - I grew up watching the Generation 1 animated show and I love both of Bay's pictures regardless of what the critics think. So naturally, I am bias towards these films - I wanted to put that out there straight away before I review the new feature.

 Anyway, after the mass complaints about the sequel, Bay apologised and claimed the film wasn't good enough due to the writer's strike heavily interfering with the scripting process. Now in 2011, Bay has released the third and supposedly final instalment in the franchise entitled 'Dark of the Moon' - the film was shot with 3D cameras (the same which James Cameron used for 'Avatar'), has only one script writer as opposed to three on the last movie and stars a new love interest for Shia LaBeouf in Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (Megan Fox's replacement). So it seems to be all change for the third movie, but will it be able to change the minds of those who have lost faith in Bay's Bots? Autobots, Roll Out!...

 Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) has left the Autobots and is trying to gain employment in the real working world. However, Sam's normal life is only brief when he's brought back after it becomes aware that during the 'Space Race' of the 1960s, a Cybertronian spacecraft was found on the Moon and was kept under wraps as a security secret. When Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) and the Autobots learn of the ship, they must race to locate it and understand the secrets it holds before Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving) and the Decepticons claim it for themselves and use it's power to rebuild Cybertron and enslave the human race.

 As we all know, Michael Bay strives for dazzling imagery and spectacle more than narrative and character development which can be a problem but thankfully 'Dark of the Moon' defies this issue by perfectly blending a well-written and balanced script along with the most innovative and ground-breaking visuals since Christopher Nolan's masterpiece, 'Inception' last year. The latest 'Transformers' feature demands and psychically needs to be seen at the cinema in the biggest screen possible and in 3D.

 Personally, I'm not a fan of 3D; in fact I think it's a fad but Bay's latest looks utterly astonishing in the extra dimension - it's easily the best 3D release since the technology came back to the cinemas a few years ago. Not only does it make the film more immersive, it also uses the technology to it's potential and breaks the barriers between the screen and the audience.

 Now it seems to be a common occurrence for summer blockbusters to be incredibly long nowadays which can often lead to narrative sagging and stages of boredom throughout. Clocking in at 157 minutes (nearly three hours including cinema trailers), 'Dark of the Moon' is a very lengthy feature, but it absolutely flies by. Bay manages to hold the audience's suspense and interest for the entire duration by clever pacing and plenty of surprises. Considering Bay is known for his manic destruction and pyromania, the robots latest outing has a fairly subtle first hour and a half - little action takes place (for a Bay film anyway) and the film spends time building relationships with the characters, old and new, as well as wonderfully establishing the film's drama through newsreel footage, beautiful space photography and tensions between certain characters.

Still from 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' (dir: Michael Bay, 2011)
 However, once we reach the final hour and the film moves to Chicago, the 'Bayhem' ensues and the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons truly begins. The action is turned up to 11 in the climactic hour and it took my breath away. Many critics have said that a 15 minute sequence during the final fight is worthy of the entrance fee alone - with that I completely agree. One scene is particular which is teased in the trailer involving a falling glass skyscraper is the best CGI sequence of the year, hands down. It's jaw-dropping, eye-popping and unbelievably realistic. The human action is also as insane as the robo-madness too; Bay is famous for expecting his actors to perform their own stunts - remember the final scene in 'Transformers' where Sam is stood on the edge of that building holding the cube? Yes, Shia did that for real and multiple times. However in 'Dark of the Moon', the stunts are uncontrollable. A scene which involves soldiers jumping from a plane wearing 'wing-suits' is amongst the action highlights of the movie and again, this was performed for real. You can find the filming footage on the film's website and YouTube. This film is easily the most essential action feature of 2011, no doubt.

 Many critics have made claims about the 'poor' acting in this film which couldn't be further from the truth - for the genre of film this is and the massive amount of responsibility that comes with working with action of this size, the actors all give solid performances. Many have criticised LaBeouf because he shouts a lot. Yes, in the final hour he does shout a fair bit, but during an epic war, people don't tend to stop for a calm chat about the weather over an Earl Grey do they? The shouting is his agression towards the Decepticons, his fear for the Autobots and his concerns for his new girlfriend Carly Spencer (Huntington-Whiteley). I recently received "too many negative responses" to a comment about the film I posted on YouTube in which I said that I genuinely believe critics give these films bad reviews because it's easier than taking the time to explain why they liked it and to stand up for it and their own opinion. Now I could be completely off the mark but when journalists moan about a character shouting to communicate during a war scene, I just think they are just downright arrogant.

 LaBeouf is outstanding in this film; he portrays difficult emotions with ease, provides some wonderful comedy and his line delivery is pitch-perfect. He is a fine actor and I don't understand why so many dislike him. The wonderful Frances McDormand plays her role of the US Intelligence director Charlotte Mearing with such cool and malice; she's a pleasure to watch as always. Josh Duhmel, Tyrese Gibson and John Turturro all reprise their roles from the previous two features and put on a brilliant show. Huntington-Whiteley had difficult shoes to fill after Megan Fox left because of how strong her fanbase was but considering this is her acting d├ębut (she's a famous British model for Victoria's Secret), she actually wasn't that bad at all. I believed her character and most importantly, she wasn't made to put on an American accent which was great. John Malkovich and Ken Jeong also both make brief but entertaining appearances.

 However, my favourite performance was from Patrick Dempsey ('Grey's Anatomy') as Dylan Gould, a successful accountant who acts as Sam's rival for various reasons which I won't spoil. I was surprised and pleased to see him play a bad character and to do so with real menace and grit. He's known by many as 'McDreamy' but here he was a snappy-suit wearing nightmare - it was a great performance.

 Although this film is rated 12A, it is rather violent and some scenes might be a little too much for younger viewers. I had two children leaving my screening in tears over some of the violence although it's mainly robot parts and metal being decapitated and smashed to smithereens rather than humans. Apart from that, there's nothing else that should scar or scare your little ones.

 Critics already have and will continue to pick holes in Bay's cinema and the latest 'Transformers' but if you are looking for an unforgettable cinematic experience, this is the film for you. The action stops you in your tracks, the score bellows through you as the screen bursts to life and the performances compliment the stunning and compelling narrative. This film will surprise and shock, move and thrill and most importantly, will make you desperate for more. 'Dark of the Moon' is the blockbuster of the summer and most likely the year.


Beautifully made, exquisitely executed and wonderfully performed. Bay's third Bot outing is a masterpiece and amongst the best films of 2011.

By Chris Haydon

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