Wednesday, 29 June 2011

REVIEW: Transformers 3: Dark Of The Moon

You didn't have to be a psychic to know that Transformers 3: Bark At The Moon was never going to be released to critical acclaim, but I don't think anyone was expecting the kind of hostile debate that erupted yesterday with fans criticising critics for lambasting a film that "is just a bit of fun", which resulted in an excellent counterpoint from Helen at Empire Magazine.
I myself would freely admit that not every film sets out to be Citizen Kane and it would be unfair to review a blockbuster film and slate it for not being it's equal.  However, as Helen's article states, just because the film is aimed at the crowd-pleasing summer market doesn't mean that it should be exempt from such aspects as plot, character development and emotional connection.  And on this level, Transformers 3 fails on all accounts.
I tried to watch it with an open mind.  I had heard praise for the action sequences, that the use of 3D was "the best since Avatar" (yes, the brightness levels were an improvement but I'd still prefer to watch it in 2D) but just like The Hangover Part 2, it just smacked of lazy filmmaking.
Please do not think of me as one of those film snobs who only enjoys the latest Werner Herzog film or wants every film he sees to be in black and white accompianed by subtitles.  I enjoyed the hell out of Fast And Furious 5.  There was a point in the film, around 20 minutes in, when Paul Walker and Vin Diesel drive off a cliff and jump into the water below, surviving without a scratch on them.  I made a concious decision to accept this and enjoy the film, which I did (mainly because The Rock brung it) but unfortunately I could not do the same with Transformers.  Too many elements kept drawing me out of the story.
The plot of the third film is about how the space race was actually about retrieving Cybertronian technology that crash landed on the moon, which is capable of teleportation between Cybertron and Earth and the Decepticons wish to use it to invade. All well and good, but with all these films it is just a plot device designed to get giant robots together to smack the shit out of each other.
Iron Man 2 suffered from a similar problem, in that it is difficult to engage in a battle between giant robots or men in CGI metal suits.  The element of danger or threat of "real" harm is reduced and therefore more difficult to emotional invest or care about the outcome.  The action becomes very "samey" and indistinguishable from film to film (apart from the fact there are no giant robot balls swinging around the screen this time round).
This leaves the audience to connect with the "human characters", if you can call them that.  I enjoyed the first Transformers film, mainly because Shia LaBeouf made for an engaging everyman, a geeky little upstart who is thrown into this world of tranforming robots and lucks out by getting a smoking hot Megan Fox to take an interest in him.  By the third film, LaBoeuf has ruined two film franchises (Indiana Jones and Wall Street) and Sam Wikipedia has evolved into a whiny guy who sulks about being unable to find a job even though he saved the world and we are supposed to believe that once again he has managed to get an improbably hot girl to hang on his every word and support him financially.  I know that this is a film where I'm meant "to leave my brain at the door" but even that stretches the suspension of disbelief!

When told to "bring it" for the guy who did The Rock, they meant Michael Bay and not Dwayne Johnson!
Poor Rosie Huntington-Whitely.  I'll leave it at that.  She goes out with The Stath and he could break me in half with just a look!  It doesn't help her when her character is introduced with a shot of her (perfectly formed) arse walking up the stairs.  Unfortunately for Hollywood, for every film like Bridesmaids that promotes strong female characters, there will be Michael Bay lurking around to provide a fantasy figure for lustful mastabatory teenage boys!
Not that the rest of the supporting cast fair that well either.  Malkovich, Malkovich cashes another paycheck by playing Sam's boss who is oranger than the entire cast of The Only Way Is Essex, Frances McDormand initially gives some bite to her character but fades into the background as the film progresses.  Not learning any lessons from the overbloated Pirates Of The Caribbean sequels, Bay insists on bringing back numerous minor characters from the previous films like the army guys who I can't remember the names of even though I've just watched the film and John Turturro.  The only merciful blessing is that Ken Jeong is killed off quickly to atone for The Hangover Part 2!
The main problem I have with recycling these minor characters is that since they have survived two already long installments, I don't foresee any danger that they won't make it to the final credits.  I remember back in the day, with the likes of Independence Day or Jurassic Park, when movies had the robot balls to kill off minor/supporting/even main characters, thus making the final victory/escape/etc more meaningful.
The idea of an hour long climax complete with more money shots than a Sasha Grey retrospective would normally make for appealing viewing but unfortunately Transformers 3: Dark Of The Moon is just like Rosie Huntington-Whitely.  Astoundingly beautiful eye candy but with nothing underneath to sustain my interest for two and a half hours!

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