June 29, 2011

THE SHOWBUZZDAILY REVIEW: “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”


TRANSFORMERS:  DARK OF THE MOON – Worth A Ticket – But Only If You Insist On Seeing It

This is what gives ulcers to control freak movie directors:  despite Michael Bay’s well-publicized orders to theater projectionists, at tonight’s premiere IMAX showing of TRANSFORMERS:  DARK OF THE MOON in West Los Angeles, the 3D system imploded an hour into the film and was never fixed, causing the rest of the picture to be projected in a mere 2 dimensions.

As much as I would have liked to see the entire film as the director intended, there’s something reassuringly karmic about Michael Bay being betrayed by his own technology, since that’s ultimately all he’s got.  Transformers 3 isn’t suspenseful or surprising, and it isn’t even exciting, really; what it is, is Big.  Fantastically, impossibly, spectacularly Big.  And Big is one of the things movies do better than any other form of entertainment.  No medium can so convincingly create the illusion of seeing and experiencing a reality that couldn’t exist.  So Transformers 3, if it’s to be seen, should by all means be caught on the biggest theater screen, with the loudest sound system, by means of 3D technology that actually works.

This third installment in the fabulously successful Transformers franchise ($700M worldwide gross for the first movie, $835M for the second) is easily the best, which is faint praise but nonetheless earned.  The stupid comedy scenes have been minimized (although Ken Jeong is briefly around to remind us why), Kevin Dunn and Julie White as the parents of Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBouef) are barely around, the plot (script by Ehren Kruger) is more or less comprehensible, and Bay’s action sequences have a geographical coherence they’ve lacked in the past.  More to the point, unlike Pirates of the Caribbean 4, Green Lantern, Thor or any of the other summer action blockbusters except X Men First Class (which is on a far smaller scale), Transformers 3 delivers the set-piece goods, one giant scene after another of massive machines blowing up buildings, people, entire cities, and each other

None of this makes the picture “good,” exactly.  Kruger’s script may be an improvement over its predecessors, but it takes far too long to get going and I won’t even bother to detail what the plot is (something about materials hidden on the moon for the nefarious use of the bad robots), and the dialogue credited to him (which may well have been partly written by others) is for the most part horrible.  The robots themselves are completely uninteresting piles of machinery, some of them good and some bad (and some purportedly cute, which is painful).  Most of the people don’t fare much better.  LaBouef has become less appealing with every part he’s played, and as his new love interest, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley manages the considerable feat of making Megan Fox look like an accomplished actress (in the one scene where she’s called upon to do some, you know, acting, she makes Fox look like Meryl Streep); even in the looks department–which is why, let’s face it, she was cast in the first place–her gorgeousness is pretty generic.  Patrick Dempsey, Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson are among the others who barely register amidst the carnage.  Luckily, Bay has a few self-starters in the smaller roles:  Frances McDormand, John Turturro, John Malkovich and Alan Tudyk supply some bright moments as they support the more worthy independent work they do.

But Michael Bay movies aren’t about scripts, characters or actors.  So it should be noted that in the hour of 3D that was screened, the quality was exceptionally good, by far the best since Avatar–his insistence on bright projection doesn’t just rescue the image from dank blurriness, it eliminates the eye-strain we’ve all been taking for granted the past year and a half.  The special effects, too, are absolutely top of the line; the presence of those robots on real streets, ripping apart real buildings, is completely convincing.  Amir Mokri’s cinematography is crisp and fluid, and even though the movie is inevitably overlong at 154 minutes, the editing by the team of Roger Barton, William Goldenberg and Joel Negron moves things along.  The score by Steve Jablonsky is mostly pounding noise, which is surely what Bay wanted.

The depressing thing about TransformersDark of the Moon is that it’s good enough to guarantee more installments.  Which is also the depressing thing about Michael Bay–he’s undeniably talented, and so successful he has no reason to change, but there may never have been a talented filmmaker less interested in humanity or nuance.  On some level, he is Megatron; he wants us under the dictatorial thumb of his overwhelming, unstoppable imagery.  And yet, take some comfort in this:  he can be defeated by as little as a busted 3D projector.

(TRANSFORMERS:  DARK OF THE MOON – Paramount – PG 13 – 154 minutes – Director:  Michael Bay – Script:  Ehren Kruger – Cast:  Shia LaBouef, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, Frances McDormand, Tyrese Gibson, John Malkovich, Patrick Dempsey, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, Alan Tudyk, Ken Jeong, and Voices of Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving, Leonard Nimoy – Wide Release)

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."