Wednesday, July 6, 2011

PCP in theaters - Transformers - Dark of the Moon

Time for another hit of PCP:  Pop Culture Panorama.  Today I’ll be reviewing Transformers:  Dark of the Moon, which I just caught in theaters.  For all the critical bashing this film received, I saw it Friday, 7/1 in a nearly sold out show, and people in the audience actually applauded when the film was done.

Transformers:  Dark of the Moon – 2011, Rated PG-13.  157 minutes.  Starring Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey, John Turturro, & John Malkovich, and the voices of Leonard Nimoy, Hugo Weaving, and Peter Cullen.  My rating:  8 out of 10 on the popcorn rating scale – movies that are popcorn movies are rated for how much fun they are, not for plot or acting.  They are films you can watch without having to think.  Leave your brain at the door.  Had this film been treated like an Oscar picture in my review, I’d probably give it 4 or 5 out of 10, as you’ll see why in the review.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a fan of the Transformers characters in general.  I had a couple of their toys as a kid, watched the cartoon, and I actually enjoyed the first movie in this franchise quite a bit (though the second one had a number of obnoxious parts that ticked me off).  When I saw this movie, I was wearing a Transformers T-Shirt.  Also, I live in the Chicago area, and I’ve been to a bunch of the places where they filmed the movie and I love almost any movie set or filmed in Chicago, like Ferris Bueller or the Dark Knight.  On top of that, although he has become rather hated by many in film circles, I cannot forget that two action flicks I love, Bad Boys and The Rock, were Michael Bay’s first 2 directorial outings, so he has made a couple films that I thoroughly enjoyed before.  Altogether, I am not the most unbiased of reviewers of this film.  That being said, this is what I thought of it:

First off, the film is thankfully better than the 2nd one in the series.  The first best improvement:  gone are the much hated racist stereotype “twins” from the second movie.  That doesn’t mean that Bay can make a movie without stereotypes.  He just replaces them with a Ferrari that speaks like a stereotypical Italian in the 1 line he has in the film, 3 Nascar cars that act like drunken hooligans and are even referred to by another character as a-holes, and one of the mini robots acts like a drugged homeless guy.  At least the other mini robot doesn’t do any leg humping this time.  The stereotypes aren’t limited to just the robots either, with Ken Jeong (Hangover 1 & 2) as an Asian stereotype and Alan Tudyk (Firefly) in this as a hodgepodge mix of stereotypes, as a form of comic relief.  Megan Fox has also been replaced in this movie by Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.  She isn’t a good actress, but she’s not in this role for her acting ability – as proven by the very first shot of her is of her walking up the stairs, from behind, in a dress shirt and tiny underwear but no pants.  Bay is making it extremely clear why she was cast in this film from the get-go.  Besides, in a film about robots, who cares if the actors are robotic themselves?  They’re just matching the performances of their costars.

Read the rest of the review after the jump

One positive thing that I’ll say about Michael Bay and 3D – thank God for 3D.  It forces Michael Bay to hold shots for longer than a second, so you actually get to see things happen rather than try to figure out what is going on in the flurry of cuts from shot to shot to shot to shot every half a second that he usually does in his films.  It actually cuts down on the size of the headache that his films tend to deliver to audiences.  There are actually a number of really cool long shots in the film, especially the skydiving sequences where the camera is along for the jump, and another long shot of Optimus Prime tearing through 9 Decepticons in one fell swoop, where the camera doesn’t change for about 30 seconds.  For a Michael Bay film, that’s practically an eternity.

This film does feel like an eternity at points however, especially with its super-long running time.  When things aren’t blowing up or robots aren’t fighting to the death, the film shows its weaknesses, especially the poor script, weak acting, and logical inconsistencies that just drive me nuts.  Here are the just a few of the logical inconsistencies that piss me off (WARNING – spoilers ahead, and if you care about spoilers in a movie like Transformers, well then that’s just too bad):

1.       Early in the film they verbally state that the NEST team’s HQ is in Washington D.C., as evidenced by Sam and Carly talking about working in D.C. themselves and being able to drive to the HQ later in the film.  Yet in the chase sequence on a freeway, the Chicago skyline is in the background, there is a sign for Interstate 88 to Aurora, and the cars drive over a bridge right before entering the NEST HQ that is clearly a bridge over the Chicago River.  I hate it when films do that.  If you’re going to make the scene take place in D.C., then get rid of the Chicago landmarks that are clearly identifiable, especially the frakkin’ skyline, when you aren’t filming it in D.C. 
2.       So Tyrese Gibson and his friends, who all left the military, just happened to keep their heavy duty assault rifles and even a rocket launcher?  Really?  We’re supposed to believe the government let them keep those guns?
3.       Optimus Prime’s behavior in general in the latter half of the film also totally surprised me, as it’s out of character for him.  I can’t put it better than this writer from who basically says that Prime becomes a total douche by the end of the film (and in a way, he’s completely right):   That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy watching this, as I liked the bad-ass that Prime becomes, I just thought that it was out of character for him.

In short, the film has its ups and downs.  On the downside:  the script sucks, the acting sucks, and there are still some offensive characters.  On the upside:  There are 50 foot robots beating the living crap out of each other for almost an hour straight at the end of the movie, as well as on a number of occasions early in the film.  That is why one goes to see a movie like this, for the robot awesomeness.  You don’t see a movie like this for the character development or emotion; you go to see things blow up in new and spectacular ways.  And Transformers Dark of the Moon delivers on this.  I have a feeling that this will be the end of the franchise for awhile, mainly because there’s no one left standing at the end of this film.  A good number of Autobots and Decepticons get killed in this film, including a number of the leaders.  I’m not sure where they’re going to go if they try to do another sequel to this film.  It’s going to be hard to explain if some of the major deaths get undone, and it will cheapen the ending to this film also.  So, go see this one, it’s better than the 2nd film in the series and it might be the last one for awhile.  It’s fun, especially on a big screen.  Turn your brain off and enjoy the spectacle.

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