Before watching Transformers: Dark of the Moon, I went and read the plots of the previous films. I couldn’t remember what had happened, despite watching (suffering?) through them both more than once previously. I remembered bits and pieces, but the overall plot remained a mystery. So I read, and I remembered what happened. And then I remembered that each of the previous films was over two hours long, and I felt sad; this was likely to be more of the same.
Although I moderately enjoyed the first Transformers film, the second felt like an almost complete waste of time. This series wasted my time in one other area, but I suppose it’s my fault for not remembering. When I read through the previous films’ plots, I wasn’t using my time well, and I realize that now. Apart from a few characters and references to previous films, you won’t miss much if this is the first film you watch in the series. The plot is almost completely unrelated to each of the other films, which is a positive because it means those who chose not to watch them won’t have to suffer through Revenge of the Fallen to understand this film.
The plot this time around begins well, with a conspiracy theory that has been covered up for years. The moon landing in 1969 was actually done because the government found out that something had crash-landed on the moon. When the astronauts land, they find a destroyed Autobot ship, and bring back parts of it to Earth. We then fast-forward to present day, when Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), leader of the Autobots, has learned of this, and knows that there are other things on the ship. Meanwhile, our human lead, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), is looking for a job. I wish I was making that up.
Optimus ends up going to the moon, and retrieves an elder Autobot named Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy). Apparently there were a bunch of probes on the ship that can act as a teleporter, with Sentinel being the only one that can use it. The war being the Autobots and Decepticons is still going though, and this time, the Decepticons plan on bringing the robots’ home, Cybertron, to Earth with these probes. And by now, Sam has found a job, which pleases his new girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley).
Eventually, Sam and Carly become involved in the war, and at the point in time where I stopped caring about the plot, were in a fight for the universe that was taking place in Chicago. There’s something about the Decepticons killing a bunch of people who used to be involved with NASA at some point, but the storytelling in this film was so poor that I eventually gave up and decided to just focus on the pretty explosions and questionable looking robots that were bombarding the screen.
As with all of the films in this series, the special effects look good. They should, considering that they’re the focal point and where most of the almost $200 million budget went to. Or at least, that’s my guess, because I didn’t see anything else that warranted that much money being spent. The effects dominate the film, at least, the second half of the film, and they look really good. I know a lot of people don’t like how the robots look, but at least they’re on-screen a lot more than in Dark of the Moon‘s predecessor.
There’s still an awful lot of human presence, which detracts from the film slightly. Not just because they’re taking time away from the giant robot, but mostly due to the fact that a lot of what happens with the humans isn’t necessary. Most of what happens doesn’t have any impact on the final battle, and it felt like a lot of the time, they were there only because it has become customary in this series. You could completely exclude Carly, give Sam a different reason to go to Chicago, like, you know, because he cares about his robot friends, and you shave off a good 30 minutes of screen time.
What’s funny about that is that I don’t think we’ve seen the complete version of this film. There was a lot of choppy editing here, and a lot of the story failed to make sense for most of the time. There’s a point in the film where Optimus loses his trailer, which apparently contains his sword and battle ax (don’t ask), and he says he has to retrieve it. And then, some time later, he magically re-acquired his weapons, and is ready for war. I’ll give director Michael Bay the benefit of the doubt here, and say that it was his editor’s fault for that to happen.
But there are also plot points that are directly explained more than once, which felt really weird. When the human characters learn of something, we don’t need a shot moments later of the Decepticons learning the same thing, where both characters that explain what happened say almost the same line of dialogue. I know this is supposed to be a brainless action film, but give the audience some credit.
The last hour or so of the film is that giant battle of Chicago, which is actually fairly entertaining. It has variation and it’s not completely the same as the other films. I wasn’t bored for much of this film, even with the human drama, but this extended battle was definitely the highlight. It ends on an unsatisfactory note though, with a character more or less out of the blue deciding that it would be fun to interfere in the overall plan.
It was a big deal when it was announced that Megan Fox wasn’t returning for this third installment. In her place is Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who plays more or less the same character, but less annoying. She has about the same range as Fox, meaning that she’s there just to be a pretty face or give Sam a reason to go places. This is actually Huntington-Whiteley’s début in a motion picture, and I don’t think it’s fair to judge her completely based on how she can act in front of giant CGI creatures. (But then again, her scenes with the Transformers are limited anyway, so maybe that is fair.)
If a fourth Transformers film is in the cards, and I have little doubt that it is, I’m sure I’ll have to re-read the plot of this one to remember what happened. I just didn’t care enough. I’m sure I’ll believe it to be a waste of time once again. But there’s one thing that I know I’ll remember, and it’s the biggest deviation from the series that happens here: Why do the Transformers bleed, when they never have before?
My feelings on Transformers: Dark of the Moon are mixed, but overall, I was entertained. Sure, the humans still take up too much of the film, the acting is pretty poor and the story makes little sense, but I enjoyed the spectacle that was on-screen. If nothing else, it’s a lot better than the second film, and since you don’t have to watch that one to understand this one, (you won’t understand this one anyway), it’s a definite improvement.