Transformers: Dark of the Moon
There is absolutely nowhere near enough story to sustain the 2:30 running time of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. This third installment in the live-action adaptation of the classic toys and anime is loud, noisy, and very busy but ultimately empty. I kept wanting to turn the channel as I watched the Blu-ray release of the film, available Tuesday in a variety of packages including the four-disc combo (Blu-ray 3-D, Blu-ray, DVD and Ultraviolet digital copy).
Michael Bay by now has mastered how to fill the screen with kinetic action, spectacular explosions and CGI galore. What he continues to misunderstand is that all of this action needs to be grounded with characters we can care about and root for. While Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman gave it a valiant attempt in the first film, they were kind of coasting with the second feature and their writing partner Ehren Kruger was allowed to go solo this time out. Maybe the film feels so pointless because Bay himself didn’t want to make the film for another year, but Paramount forced his hand, announcing the June 2011 release, in 3-D no less.
Kruger had to find a story that would find the Autobots and Decepticons at one another’s throats with the fate of the world once more at stake, while putting good old Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) in the middle. It’s a tall order, no doubt, but the thin story feels like so much linkage between action pieces.
We open three years later as the Autobots have been integrated into the United States’ intelligence community, working with the NEST (Networked Elements: Supporters and Transformers) military force, policing the international political scene. Meantime, Sam has finally graduated college and in a nod towards current economic times, is having a tough time finding a job. Now, for most people that should be a real issue, for a Presidential medal winning hero, he should be the exception, snapped up by NEST or some related field. But that would make him less the everyman; a conceit the franchise seems bent on maintaining. Of course, most Everymen don’t go from one hot girl friend to another and the film makes some comments about this, casually dismissing Megan Fox’s character, who was booted form the franchise because the actress couldn’t avoid pissing off Bay and Steven Spielberg. She is replaced here with English model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, already in a deep relationship with Sam (who calls her “The One”). Unlike Fox’; character, who actually had some emotional stake in the first film; she is merely an attractive appendage throughout this film.
The Decepticons have not sat idle but have been manipulating events to bring about the enslavement of humanity in the name of saving Cybertron, their homeworld. And it all dates back to a Transformer crashing into the Moon in 1961 which we’re told is the real reason President Kennedy insisted we land a man on the satellite within a decade. They needed to beat the Russians to see what collided so near home.
Complicating Sam’s life is the no-nonsense director of National Intelligence Charlotte Mearing and Dylan Gould, his girlfriend’s boss and traitor to mankind. Both new roles are played by actors (Frances McDormand and Patrick Dempsey respectively) who either needed the paycheck or were slumming. Of course, once evil has risen once more, Sam finds himself working alongside the more familiar USAF Chief Robert Epps (Tyrese Gibson) and Seymour Summons (John Turturro), the former Sector 7 thorn in his side from the earlier films.
The film is bloated, in need of editing and depth. No doubt it looked spectacular on both IMAX and in 3-D. This has to be why the film did so well on the international stage, bringing in over $1.2 billion.
Thankfully, it looks and sounds great on both the television and laptop. The CGI is better than ever and it’s fun hearing familiar actors voicing the various Transformers (Peter Cullen and Hugo Weaving are joined by Leonard Nimoy, James Remar, George Coe and others).
There’s a disc of Blu-ray extras that are fun to sift through and certainly show the amount of effort went into the film’s production. We have the five-part Above and Beyond: Exploring Dark of the Moon, which is all the usual making of stuff you would expect. Deconstructing Chicago: Multi-Angle Sequences if a four-part exploration of the overblown climax and is really for filmmakers and CGI buffs. The Art of Cybertron gives you a plethora of views of the various mechanical lifeforms and their environments. The Dark of the Moon Archive includes some fun footage of the Russian premiere and other short featurettes. The Matrix of Marketing offers you trailers and a marketing gallery. The best of the bunch I the min-doc Uncharted Territory: NASA’s Future Then and Now, using the film’s premise to look at the real science.
Really, you have to deeply love this nonsense to put up with such an overblown film but at least it gets very nice treatment from Paramount Home Entertainment. It should be noted this is also included in the seven-disc limited collector’s edition that contains all three films and might be the version diehard fans lust after.