Friday, 15 July 2011

TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (2011) - 3 STARS

'Earth's last stand'


 It's been a rather action-packed summer hasn't it with the climax of the fantasy series Harry Potter coming to a close yet while Potter-mania has spread out across the world, I find myself watching another film from a major franchise which has lose some of its credibility since the first film came out in 2007. The Transformers saga began with director Michael Bay bringing the toy robots story onto the big screen but choosing to sex it up and make it more mature for teenage audiences, and though the first film proved popular at the box-office, the sequel from 2009, Revenge of the Fallen was derided by many and was named Worst Film of the Year at the Razzie's. This particular outing however doesn't do just as well, though I'm not one to absolutely ridicule it as it does at least keep you entertained but there are still problems that have flawed the franchise....

 
 The film begins with a flashback of a ship escaping from the mass war between the Autobots and the Decepticons which crash-lands on the moon around the year 1961. NASA gain permission from the president to secretly track down this ship while the moon-landing is taking place (re-writing history basically) to which astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin uncover the ship's insides. Fast-forward to the modern day where human hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is struggling to look for a job while lingering with hope about helping the Autobots but has also moved on from his previous girlfriend Mikaela and is now dating another hot lady Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whitely). He does eventually get a job working for eccentric boss John Malkovich but things soon get complicating (again) when the Autobots discover that the humans have covered up the secret ship on the moon though they manage to bring their former leader Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) back to life. Unfortunately that in itself gets worse when Sentinel turns out to have made a deal with the Decepticons including Megatron to betray the Autobots/humans and by gathering hundreds of pillars and placing them round the world, they could bring back their former civilization and let it take over Earth. It is up to Sam, Optimus Prime and many others to try and stop them in a ferocious and epic showdown in Chicago with plenty of bangs....


 For many young action film fans, this will spoil them rotten when it comes to the thrilling set-pieces that occur throughout from the very word 'go'. The Transformers franchise has always entertained its audiences despite its negatives from critics but the action scenes are simply spectacular with the final hour focusing on the ruin of Chicago and resulting in the huge battle that takes place between the Autobots and the Decepticons completely leaving destruction in its path. One particular moment where the villainous robot Shockwave wraps itself round a collapsing building is a cleverly made scene though there may be some emotional people who could be painfully reminded of 9/11 in the way that several buildings in the film are completely destroyed. The positives of the acting are mostly same-old, with LaBeouf continuing to play the plucky yet determined young man trying to help save the world while its good to see Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson continue to pop up now and again. Frances McDormand and John Malkovich are decent additions though the latter does kind of embarrass himself in certain scenes while Nimoy's voice work of the corrupted Sentential adds more intertextuality to his own experience in the sci-fi world giving warmth to his character. The way the film rewrites history is quite clever too making out that the American people were fooled by their own government just to find out about the ship, with Buzz Aldrin's cameo adding a bit of irony about supposed 'conspiracies'.


As great as the action is, some keen film fans will groan again about the constant obsession of Michael Bay to focus more on it than the actual story which isn't really memorable. It is flawed by several plot-holes which take away the originality that the TV series succeeded with doing and instead explosions take control of the film's story. Certain sub-plots of the film are all over the place including a lack of Megatron who appears in brief spells throughout the film but then does one bizarre good deed in the climax which most die-hard Transformers fans will be angered about. Shockwave is also barely used throughout, and it becomes obvious that Bay tries to focus a lot more on the humans then he does about the robots which is disappointing with some human characters let down by the horrid script. It also seems an obsession for Bay too to bring in the FHM sexiest woman in the world, newcomer Rosie Huntington-Whitely whose clearly been brought in as sexual eye-candy to replace the previous two film's eye-candy Megan Fox. Her facial expressions make her more abysmal plus Bay focuses too much on her body by placing camera shots on certain positions (her first shot in the film, you'll understand....), something which has seen Bay labelled with his 'robot porn' tag. John Turturro appears briefly but only adds weird humour to his role (thankfully no thong this time!) while Mr Chow from The Hangover gets another over-the-top role which doesn't last as long this time round. 

VERDICT: Lots of teenage audiences will be left in awe over the visual spectacle but the lack of a major plot and ridiculous characters drag it down, it entertains like the previous films do but may need to be toned down for a new installment and maybe a new director. Whether LaBeouf will return or not remains to be seen....autobots roll out!

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