Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

It's official, Michael Bay can now be legitimately named the serial rapist of my childhood. Three Transformers movies and the man still doesn't know what the hell a robot is (let alone a Transformer). Short version: Despite showing a momentary early glimmer of promise of not totally sucking, the film wastes what little it had going for it by making a series of mistakes and beating you down with a level of stupidity it's hard to believe was done on purpose. For the first, but certainly not the last, time in this review, let me just say: Fuck you Michael Bay.

What works? The special effects are well done. The 3D isn't Avatar level but is still impressive. Everything else? Hold on to your seats boys and girls this is going to get messy. Spoilers be damned, I've got a hellova lot to talk about. You've been warned!

The film begins with a revelation that the United States and the U.S.S.R. have both known about Transformers since the early 1960's when a lost Ark was discovered on the moon. The sequence awkwardly pieces together actual news footage with staged scenes, only half of which have been made to appear old and grainy, in a juvenile half-assed cobbled-together setup that makes you seriously wonder if someone actually got paid for it.

We move into the present to discover Sam (Shia LaBeouf) is unemployed and dating a different hot girl (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) who is introduced to us in typical Bay fashion with a loving shot of the her ass walking up the stairs in nothing more than a pair of panties and one of Sam's dress shirts. Aside from her looks it turns out Carly is a great catch as she makes enough money as an assistant to a wealthy art collector (Patrick Dempsey) to afford racks of high-end fashion and an insanely spacious apartment with a main room large enough for Bumblebee to stand up in.

Sam's new job puts him in immediate danger through an unbelievably awkward restroom encounter when one of his coworkers (Ken Jeong) reveals the Decepticons are working in the company and NASA has known about Transformers since the 1960's. The realization and attempt on his life which soon follows (and makes absolutely no sense given the "plot") sends Sam to the secret government facility to warn his pals (and show off to his girlfriend). This part of the film is explicitly presented (over and over again) by Lenovo in as unsubtle use of product placement as you're likely to see.

Dark of the Moon follows the basic setup we've seen from the previous two films which begins with Sam's attempts to fit in (while constantly whining), followed by the section where he finds himself dragged into a world changing adventure and calls on friends for help (John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel), and finally ends in a huge 30+ minute action sequence showcasing countless shots of humans running for their lives beside Autobots doing almost nothing to protect them. The only real difference here is this movie has a few other notable actors (John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Alan Tudyk) thrown in to act foolish when called upon.

Just to thrown in some added conflict, and put each character where they need to be when the shit hits the fan, Sam and Carly fight over him putting himself in danger to save the entire goddamn planet. I know, he's such a dick, right? Of course she doesn't seem to mind later when he risks his life to save hers. Bitch.

Of course a movie in this franchise wouldn't be complete without an awkward conversation between Sam and his parents (Julie White, Kevin Dunn). No, we don't get pot brownies this time around. We get Sam's mother talking about the size of his penis. I'm sure Julie White is a nice person, she might even be a passable actress, but this is as bad as it sounds. And you've got to admit, it sounds pretty damn bad.

Until the point where Michael Bay and the screenwriter Ehren Kruger stop even the illusion of effort and throw in the towel, the movie was mildly diverting (at least for a Michael Bay Transformers flick). As uninspired as it was, it was infinitely better than when the script gives up trying completely and simply starts pandering to the audience. Plot, character, and motivation are hard. Casting Leonard Nimoy to shamelessly crib arguably the most famous line of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (and minutes later start quoting Highlander)? That's easy. Fuck you Michael Bay.

Nimoy is chosen as the voice of Optimus Prime's mentor Sentinel Prime, who disappeared near the end of the Autobot/Decepticon war. His secret invention, the Space Bridge, which we are told would have won the Autobots the war (except it probably wouldn't have, given what it actually does), was lost as well when it happened to crash land on the moon in the 1950's. As Michael Bay would put it, that's serendipity bitches!

So what is the Space Bridge? It's another concept from the classic cartoon which we are told is used to transport individuals and supplies across great distances. How that alone would have led to a guaranteed Autobot victory is never explained, but okay, fine. It's a giant transporter. Except what the script uses it for is to resurrect and army of dead Decepticons (who no one knew were there) buried deep under the moon's surface. Wait, what? Yeah, that's what I said.

Once again the legion of interchangeable special effects fodder look more like monsters than a race of robots. Has no one ever explained to Michael Bay that a giant robot doesn't really need fangs, claws, tentacles or testicles? Or look to like flying fish? Or have the mouth of an octopus? Does it make them look scarier? That's debatable. Does it make any sense whatsoever? No. In this movie some Transformers wear capes and even have frizzy hair. Even after three movies about them it's obvious Michael Bay still doesn't know what a robot is.

The new villain, Shockwave (Frank Welker) is a classic character in the toy line as well as the cartoon and comics. And, I'll admit one of my favorite designs (the original, not the crap we're given here). Although he gets the same monsterfied look he actually comes out looking better than most. Basically, they didn't fuck him up as badly as most of the other Transfomers. See, I can give Michael Bay a compliment when I need to!

Because Shockwave's design is unique he's also one of the few Decepticons other than Megatron (Hugo Weaving) that actually stands out in a crowd (even if he isn't allowed a single line of understandable dialogue). Although I'm not sure why they felt the need to give him a huge robotic worm. Yeah, giant robot with a cannon for his arm isn't menacing enough. Giant worm, that's what's cool. Fuck you Michael Bay.

Seeing as most of the Transformers aren't as recognizable as Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, or Shockwave, the final 30 minutes of the movie are nothing more than nameless CGI special effects mashing into other nameless CGI special effects. Yes, we see plenty of robot-on-robot action, but since time isn't made to make the various robots distinct enough, let alone spend time to make them actual characters we might care about, it's just CGI masturbation thrown into overdrive. When Optimus Prime cuts his way through a half-dozen Decepticons in what should be an impressive sequence it means nothing because none of the Decepticons have any more personality, or use, than Star Trek redshirts.

These CGI creations exist only to have another CGI creation destroy them. There are almost no characters here at all which is evidenced by the movie's closing credits which name every actor, even those without lines, before crediting the voices of the Transformers themselves. Once again, the characters who should have been the stars of their own movies are relegated to little more than flashy special effects.

We haven't yet gotten to the part which royally pissed me off. The cribbed Star Trek lines, the lazy writing, the never-ending final battle, and the faceless legion of CGI monsters were all bad enough, but none of it holds a candle to the movie's mind boggling final act. Caution major spoilers follow, if you don't want to know what happens skip to the final paragraph of the review.

This is going to take a little setup to explain, so bear with me. Setinel Prime betrays the Autobots by revealing he was in league with Megatron all along. And it's shocking I tell you... for those paying absolutely no attention to the story. In his view the only way to save his race is to unite both groups. Sounds unlikely to me, but this is a Michael Bay film.

Once they use the governments of the world to get rid of the Autobots, Sentinel and Megatron destroy Chicago, killing millions to teach their new human slave force who's the boss as they prepare to use the Space Bridge to transport Cybertron to Earth. (Is it just me or is Michael Bay totally ripping off Doctor Who?)

It's here the Autobots reappear to help smuggle Sam into Chicago to save his girlfriend from her charming boss who turns out to be a secret Decepticon agent. (Your groan here.) Why do the Autobots wait until Chicago is totally lost and millions are dead to make their final stand against the Decepticons? I really wish you hadn't asked, because here's where I get really angry.

Optimus Prime, voiced by Peter Cullen, explains it was to teach humans a lesson. The Autobots allowed this level of destruction to show humanity how weak it is and how much they need to rely on the Autobots' help to survive. So what Optimus Prime allows massive devastation to make the populace more tractable, easier to control. That's right, Michael Bay just turned Optimus Prime into Ming the Merciless. I can't say this strongly enough: Fuck you Michael Bay!

And he's not even done yet! Before the movie ends Optimus Prime, after killing off Megatron with all the ease of batting away a pesky fly, will turn his attention to his unarmed friend and mentor, who lies wounded and begging at his feet for mercy... and kill him prison-style. Optimus Prime, ladies and gentlemen. Hero, and leader of the Autobots. Fuck you Michael Bay.

Spoilers End

Mindless, pointless, and without charm or brains, Michael Bay ends his trilogy of Transformers flicks exactly how he began them. Sadly, for the first time this film actually took some effort into having the Transformers, and not just the humans, tell the story only to throw it all away when it became far too much work. What can I say, if you liked the first two movies you might give this one a pass. Me? My ass is still bleeding too much to forgive, or forget, the repeated rape of my childhood. To summarize: Fuck you Michael Bay.

No comments: