Friday, August 12, 2011

Devon #1 = Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Disclaimer- I never watched the cartoon

So, first review eh? Well, what movies have I seen recently. There was Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a fantastic looking sci fi movie with a brilliant concept and remarkable use of the series's heritage. Or, there was Captain America, a clever return to basic superhero storytelling from Marvel, which captured the time period presented perfectly, from Captain America's"I'm a soldier, thus I will kill people (off-screen)" approach, to the fictitious Captain America comic being his real life first issue, right down to the Hitler punch. Or there was Transformers 3. Yeah, lets go with that.

I really don't like this title. For one thing, that just sounds stupid, not just because it's a misnomer, but because they clearly wanted to call it "Dark Side Of The Moon". It turns out, that was exactly what they were going to call it, but Pink Floyd threatened to sue. Secondly, the moon barely factors into it at all. The first scenes do indeed focus on how a ship from Cybertron, the transformers home planet, though if you didn't know that coming in then you really have no business with this movie, landed on the moon. This is shown to be the reason that President Kennedy (who appears via news clips and a decent lookalike, a nice touch) started NASA and the space race. I usually love alternate history like this, but the way that Transformers bends history around the moon landing conspiracy theories, seems really off putting. I suppose that a movie about transforming robots does warrants a fair amount of suspension of disbelief, but this stuck out for me, personally.

 The movie properly begins as we cut to the modern day as a device, a "sky bridge", that the U.S. recovered from the moon, lies at the source of the Chernobyl explosion. That's another little logic problem that i got caught up on. Why would U.S. property be used by the Russians in the cold war? But again, it's about giant robots. The Autobots go to the moon and take more sky bridges (when combined they will teleport Cybertron next to the earth) plus their old leader, Sentinel prime. This is great, except that he is evil! I would seperate the introduction of his character and the twist of him being evil, but the movie barely does, so why draw it out here. Sentinel doesn't really have any moments to show his character, not even when told that his species is now endangered and that their war was lost. This makes  his turn to evil seem less like a desperate plea to save his planet and more like a cartoonish plot, particularly when it is revealed that he suddenly hates humans and wants them enslaved. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to see him tying women to train tracks and yelling "Curses, foiled again!". And thus this character is wasted, and worse, a waste of Leonard Nimoy's voice talents.

Sentinel's evil turn, using sky bridges to teleport Cybertron to the earth, comprised most of the plot, save some death scenes and the resolution. I would say this plot composes about 45 minutes of the movie, non consecutively, and it slows down considerably in the second and even third act. Another 45 minutes involve's Sam, our hero, played by Shia LaBeouf. His plots go something like this: Sam is trying to get a job. His parents show up, have two jokes, and appear in two scenes. That transforming toy car is causing trouble again, but this time with a wacky (read: perverted) sidekick. This sidekick doesn't have any perpose or explanation, unless I'm forgetting something from Transformers Two. In fact, the only things I remember him doing are saying clusterfuck and peaking up the new girlfriends dress. Speaking of which, Sam has a new girlfriend who just isn't memorable at all. Megan Fox was mostly eye candy in the first two, but at least her personality was there, for good or bad. The new girl seems under written, and probably was as she was brought in to replace Fox only after filming had began. Sam he seems to constantly mistrust and be jealous of whats her face, and it even seems like Sam doesn't actually care for this woman, saying "I love you" and sounding as if he just wants an attractive girlfriend. This makes him seem like a jerk, which is a shame because Shia LaBeouf was, in my opinion, one of the most tolerable parts of the first film. Whats her name also has a boss played by someone from Grey's anatomy, who I will refer to, for purely comedic purposes, as McSexDoctor. McSexDoctor seems to be the source of Sam's mistrust and jealousy of whats her face, which could be resolved in a much better film through character building and trust between Sam and whats her face, but also with a respect forming between Sam and Dr. McSexDoctor. Instead, they made his character evil. This is fairly obvious from his introduction because, well because of the poor script and acting, but also because Dr. McSexDoctor (god I love typing that) give's her an expensive supercar that is clearly a Transformer. Sam runs into Seymore Simmons from the other movies, aka the guy who bumblebee peed on (I think, confirming this would require re-watching a Transformers movie, an act I will not stoop to) appears via a cameo from Bill O'Reilly, and apparently is a good guy. Not O'Reilly, the pee guy. And he (pee guy) has a romance with a "hilariously" uptight woman who runs central intelligence (a plot line consisting of one line, followed by one end sequence kiss). Oh and there's a crazy Asian dude. And megatron shows up. And John Malcovich is there. Except hes Sam's craaazy boss. And i really wish he had been the vulture in one of the Sam Raimi spiderman movies. And there's a billion other tiny little plots. And everything I have described in this paragraph goes nowhere and has little resolution, save for McSexDoctor having a very iffy feeling death. These plots exist only to eat up time. Sam himself isn't even obviously responceable for the Autobot's winning, he could of sat this one out entirely. Sam's only real contribution is that he figures out is that Sentinal is evil, but Sentinal reveals himself before Sam can say anything. Sam exists only so that we arent watching an hour and a half long movie with only giant robots fighting and making gravel voiced speeches. But that is the movie Michael Bay should have made! A big problem with this movie is that all this (the whole damn paragraph) should have been left out or streamlined, or even just made relevant to the plot. Transformers succeeds when it realizes that it's about blowing shit up, and this film fails because the far to few examples of blowing shit up are few and far between, lost in a random sequence of empty, soulless, and irrelevant plots..

The last hour of the movie (and it will feel like an hour) is one big fight scene. Oh, and the government exiled the transformers, but they stuck around secretly, and now Chicago is under siege. Anyway, the last hour of the movie (and it will feel like an hour) is one big fight scene. Sam goes to find his girlfriend who is being held by McSexDoctor, who has since been revealed to be evil. The soldiers from the previous movies (?) come with Sam, armed with only guns (I never understood how guns can hurt these robots, but i digress), and exactly one (1) rocket for their rocket launcher. One. And it's not like they only shoot it once, they actually go out of their way to say yeah, we only brought one rocket. So blah blah they go up a skyscraper to shoot the Trump building which is the focal point of the teleporting device. Blah blah their skyscraper falls over via giant metal ringworm. Blah blah a guy who had either zero or one line dies in slow motion. Blah blah blah the good guy are safe, but wait, they're not! Optimus Prime flies in with the wings he got in the last movie, looks cool for all of thirty seconds, saves Sam and friends, and then proceeds to get stuck in hanging wires for 15 minutes. No really, he is just hanging upside down awkwardly for a long time, which just feels strange. Eventually he is freed by the three soccer hooligan transformers (two of which have almost no lines). Next, a transformer who only had three or so lines with the face and voice of Albert Einstein gets killed by the Decepticons. They put him on his knees and shoot him in the back of the head, causing blood to fly everywhere. Oh yeah, the dozens of shot, exploded, and stabbed robots bleed now. Now, no one expected this movie to be child friendly, though it should have been, but I know that some kids are gonna have some strange feelings after seeing this. Speaking of the Einstein bot, he, along with the hooligan robots and a Spanish-sounding Italian sports car Transformer are the most notable new robots, and of these only two have a personality (I'm a hooligan! I'm Einstein... for some reason!) anther two have no lines, Einstein bot  gets shot horribly, and the culturally confused sports car disappears halfway through the movie. But they will make great toys!

The good guys win through some manner that I honestly forget and kill four important Decepticons, only two of which I had realized were in the movie. Optimus fights Sentinel with the help of Megatron, who Optimus immediately kills via axe to the face. Sentinel, defeated, then begs for forgiveness, and Optimus shoots him not just once, but a second time as his mutilated body tries to crawl away. Again, Sentinel was practically begging for his life, and Optimus just kills him. This doesn't feel like a victory, honestly it feels like a moment from a much more morally ambiguous film crammed into something as goofy as Transformers. The needless bloodshed, with literal blood, is distracting and honestly, kind of sad, not something you want in a movie such as this.

So yeah, this movie has problems. It needs editing badly, it has characters and plot lines that exist only for padding and/ or selling toys, not nearly enough shit seems to blow up for a "shit blows up" movie, the pacing is too slow, and importantly, the tone is wildly fluctuating between childish humor and trying-to-be-serious death, either of which is incredably inappropriate for a movie based on a children's toy line and cartoon. This film is a combination of a kid's movies plot, an adult movies tone, and the stupidity of a really bad teenage sex comedy, multiplied by a length worthy of a Lord of the Rings film. It's worst crime however, is that all these problems make the film just plain boring. What this movie should have been was a simple, nostalgic interpretation and modernization of the cartoon, with clear morals, few subplots, and plenty of explosions. Transformers is not a complex thing. Make a movie that is appropriate for younger viewers, enough action for a summer blockbuster, a suitably epic and clear good vs evil plot, a decent script, and, most importantly, a respect and admiration for the original series, and you would have a good movie based off of a liscense such as this. Don't do any of that, and you have Transformers 3.

Well there we go. Off to a great start eh? Join me again sometime when I review something good, at some point. I will say things, possibly humorous things, and they will be entertaining. Cheers.

I give it a thumbs down. I guess. Reviewing system coming soon.

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