June 29, 2011 by Vinnie Leduc
For nearly every sequel ever made, you’re bound to hear from at least one critic that it’s the “BEST (insert movie name here) EVER!” Fortunately for Transformers: Dark of the Moon, that overused advertising quote can be applied to the blockbuster franchise’s third and latest movie. It may not have been hard for director Michael Bay to achieve this culminating feat after disappointing audiences and lowering expectations with Revenge of the Fallen, a sequel that even Bay himself admitted was “crap”, but Dark of the Moon is definitely the best Transformers ever(!!!).
My girlfriend insisted on tagging along even though she wasn’t even sure if she had seen the first two. She assumed that she hadn’t so while in line she asked me, “What do I need to know?” “I dunno… lots of explosions. Okay, there are two alien robot races. One’s goo–” “I don’t get it.” Awesome. Thankfully, the plot for this trilogy bookend turned out to be so much more than that. Like X-Men: First Class, the story is interwoven into recent human history’s Space Race, yet Dark of the Moon manages to keep its plot not only relevant throughout the film, but better and better as it progresses. Sure, it still has some “um, ok” parts but overall Transformers received a much needed story improvement.
Even if it doesn’t fly with you, Bay doesn’t even give you enough time to dwell on it (not the reason most of us are watching the movie anyway) because he bombards you unremittingly with incredibly imaginative action sequences before topping off with an extravaganza that showcases what made him one of the top summer movie directors. The final act is Bay at his best; it reminded me of a video game but is probably better than the actual game itself. Instead of a false ending (Bad Boys II, Pearl Harbor), Bay treats us to an hour-long onslaught of epic action that alone is worth the price of admission.
Oh, and that ticket better include the extra few bucks for 3D. Bay’s use of the gimmick reminded me of Kung Fu Panda 2, a very impressive achievement for a live-action movie. He shot 70% of the film in 3D instead of having it converted in post-production, and consequently Dark of the Moon looks spectacular in the format. Some have suggested that it’s the best 3D since Avatar, to which I’ll agree and disagree. Transformers absolutely has the best 3D action sequences to grace the silver screen, but I did forget that I was watching it in 3D sometime in the middle (must’ve been that other 30%) before the final act raised the bar.
Bay employs the best use of slow-motion action since 300, Watchmen, and Sucker Punch. He may have to thank Zack Snyder for that, but everything else is all Bay. He one-ups his own highway action sequences from The Island and Bad Boys II in presenting a thrilling Transformers one that would’ve clearly topped The Matrix Reloaded‘s freeway chase if it had been a little longer. The magnificent, Armageddon-like destruction of the Windy City should be called Battle: Chicago. The stunts (highlighted by the skydiving sequence), special effects, and sound (minus the soundtrack) are all amazing, following in the footsteps of its predecessors, which were Oscar-nominated for their technical sheen.
Beyond the main draw of the film, I love that Bay conspicuously refers to several offscreen headlines and gossip throughout Transformers. One example is how he almost immediately addresses the elephant in the room, the introduction of Brit bombshell Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. A Victoria’s Secret model, she replaces and makes you forget about Megan Fox as the female lead character. Dark of the Moon is full of pleasant surprises, including, but not limited to, the addition of many notable actors like John Malkovich, Patrick Dempsey, Frances McDormand, and Ken Jeong. Shia LaBeouf is annoying as usual but becomes more tolerable later when the orgy of metal and munitions drowns him out.
Like the previous Transformers films, Dark of the Moon has its share of hit-or-miss gags, lengthy running time, questionable plot points, awful dialogue and one-liners (looking at you, Optimus), and shameless product placement as it shoves American themes down your throat. But most of it can be forgiven because Bay has given us the quintessential summer flick. The seizuriffic violence made me feel like I was being brainwashed… but in a good way. The crowdpleasing film is a grown-up version of what millions of kids fantasized with the Hasbro toys on which the franchise is based. It may not be for everyone (it took my girlfriend an hour to realize that the “colorful robots were good”), but Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the action movie of the year and the box office blockbuster to beat. Transformers: Dark of the Moon gets 4 out of 5 stars or B+ or Great.