Thursday, June 30, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon review from Mike Curry

Below you'll find a hearty review of the newest Transformers flick from Mike Curry.  Mike is, in my opinion, the best basketball blogger I've had the privilege to read.  Understandably, his review of the movie would be a bit out of place on an NBA blog, so my spot gets the benefit of Mike's typical wit on an atypical (for him) topic.  If you get a chance, please pay his blog, CavsHQ, a visit at  

(Here is a long movie review of Transformers: Dark of the Moon by
someone who has no business reviewing movies.  I'm not quite sure why
I decided to write it, but it needed a home and Dan was kind enough to
host it on his site.  Thanks Dan.)

I was lucky enough to sneak into a Transformers: Dark of the Moon
preview on Monday night.  Damn the lack of proper English, this is
robot fighting, son, and I was excited to see it.  That excitement
didn't last, but it was enough to convince me to write a couple of
thousand words about the film to both prepare and warn people about
what to expect from this third movie in the Transformers series.

Full disclosure: I am a Transformers fan.  The first toy I vividly
remember receiving was an Optimus Prime figure that my grandparents
got me when I was four or five years old.  It was a Christmas present
that my brother and I discovered buried in a closet at their house.
After it's discovery, my brother and I were allowed to play with it
whenever we were visiting, even though Christmas was still months
away.  It was awesome.  I had surrogate Optimus Primes when I went
home - repurposed other toys to stand in for the Autobot leader - but
that metal truck that transformed into a robot at my grandma's house
was the coolest thing in the world.

And some people were surprised that kids were devastated when the 1986
animated movie killed Optimus Prime?  Stupid adults.

Flash forward 27 years, and now we have two live action movies, with a
third releasing on Wednesday.  Whatever you may think of their
quality, the two previous movies took in over $1.5 BILLION in revenue,
so somebody is interested.  I liked but didn't love the first film,
and unlike most I really enjoyed Revenge of the Fallen - that inner
four-year-old was able to overlook the sloppy storytelling and crude
humor to get to the 30-foot talking robots shooting at each other.  I
went in to yesterday's screening with the hope that lessons had been
learned, budgets had been spared no expense, and that I was finally
going to get the Transformers movie that I could wholeheartedly

Well, maybe in another 27 years.  While Transformers: Dark of the Moon
features some fantastic visuals throughout, it is a disaster as a
movie.  But that doesn't mean it's not worth talking about.  I hope.

The (Spoiler free, I think) notes:

The Good:

-  Robots fight in this movie.  They rip each other apart.  The action
is heavy, loud and visceral. The only shame is that the fights move so
fast and with so much action that it can be difficult to catch
everything that is going on in each scene.  The action is more
coherent than the previous two films, however, and watching robots
beat the bolts out of each other is why I go to Transformers movies.

-  The robot and vehicle designs in the films continue to work for me.
 If you are able to show me a flame-embossed Peterbilt semi cab or a
yellow Camero and make me think of them as living characters, you are
doing something right.  Megatron's new vehicle mode, being an actual
vehicle and not strictly CGI this time, looks particularly menacing.
For all the failings of the movie franchise, the visualization of the
Autobots and Decepticons has remained impressive thanks to the
magicians over at Industrial Light and Magic.  They steal the show.

-  A few of the set pieces - especially a mid-point highway battle
(that had to have killed dozens) and the building folding in on itself
seen in the trailers (likewise) - are truly impressive.  They are "Oh,
that's why this movie cost $200 Million" impressive.

-  For better or worse, this was the first 3D movie in a long time
that didn't make me think about wearing the glasses.  The picture at
the Cinemark XD screen in Valley View was sufficiently bright, and the
3D picture was not a distraction, though it is fair to wonder if that
means that the effects were minimal.

The Bad:

-  Michael Bay is not a good director.  Like so many other incredibly
lucrative filmmakers, Bay is a visual effects expert who knows how to
get an incredible shot, but has no idea how to put together an actual
movie.  He is certainly not the first of his kind - George Lucas and
James Cameron blazed this particular trail, and a similar though more
controversial attack could be leveled at Steven Spielberg - but Bay
has utterly failed to grow as a storyteller over his career.

Sure, it's not like Shakespeare was drafting this screenplay, but
after six years of working with the franchise as its sole director,
Bay can't pin the lack of coherent narrative on anyone else.  It's
clear that he doesn't care about the story that these Transformers
films are telling.  Which makes him bad at his job.

-  Bay can say that he makes films to appeal to 15-year-old boys, and
that's certainly a way to go.  But that doesn't make tiny robots
dropping four-letter words and lingering shots on a Victoria's Secret
model not wearing pants a requirement.  Bay is obsessed with dropping
adolescent comedy in places where it does not belong, including one
excruciatingly long scene in TF3 featuring Ken Jeong as a conspiracy
theorist whose only motivation is to see how uncomfortable he can make
that same teenage boy audience feel with clumsy mistaken

The scene would be unwelcome in any film, but to put it in the same
movie where you shoot Chicago as a post-9/11 war torn wasteland and
get somber about the possible execution of beloved robot buddies, it
is particularly tone-deaf.  It's not okay just because "it's a Michael
Bay movie."  It is bad film-making, and fans and movie goers deserve

-  I don't think I've seen editing this bad on a feature-length film.
I don't know jack about the technical aspects of film-making, so the
editing would have to be pretty atrocious for me to notice.  It is.
Characters disappear for extended stretches, only to reappear for a
moment, only to disappear again.  Coherence is an afterthought.

The Observations:

-  At no point did I think that Rosie Huntington-Whiteley was doing a
great job, and at no point did I think that she was killing the movie.
 It is clear that Michael Bay uses women in his movies strictly as
objects to be admired, and as a Victoria's Secret model
Huntington-Whiteley is familiar with that role.  I'm quite certain
that there will be more comments on her outfits than her acting in
reviews of the film, so in that she must be deemed as successful.

I thought it was interesting that Shia LaBoeuf said in a recent
interview that Megan Fox was uncomfortable with Bay's misogynistic
film-making, and that attitude led to the conflicts that resulted in
her disappearance from TF3.  Hey Megan, if you don't want to work for
a misogynist, more power to you.  Also, I loved "Jennifer's Body."
Call me.

All that said, if anyone says that they thought either
Huntington-Whiteley or Fox were vastly superior to the other, they're
kidding themselves.  Fox was the object in the first two movies,
Huntington-Whiteley is the object here.  No more, no less.  Not even
noticeably less clothing, if we don't count that early pant-less

-  I assume that Shia LeBeouf did every scene five different ways, and
then Bay and his crew just chose one out of a hat.  LeBeouf's Sam
Witwicky changes disposition like a drug addict.  But it's hard to
kill Shia from not remaining consistent to his role, because there is
no role.  I wonder if Bay is even on set for the scenes with dialogue.

-  As for the other actors, Frances McDormand does a commendable job
in making the most out of a tough-talking intelligence operative
unafraid to talk smack to 30-foot-tall death machines.  John Turturro
works as a competent foil to McDormand and is far less manic and
obnoxious than his character in the first two films.  Alan Tudyk is
also very watchable as Turturro's valet slash hacker accomplice.

-  These performances make the work done by "Army" guys Josh Duhamel
and Tyrese nearly unbearable, and anyone who can explain to me why
John Malkovich is in this movie gets a prize.  If you "steal" scenes
that should have been left on the cutting room floor, you're not a
help you're a hindrance.

-  Leonard Nimoy as the voice of the newly revitalized Sentinel Prime
worked.  The forced in Star Trek line did not.

-  In previous films, the Transformers just "transformed" their hands
into swords, guns and other weapons.  This time they hold the weapons
in their hands.  Not sure why that should change mid-series.


Why am I writing about a Transformers movie?  Because I wanted it to
be good.  I wanted to go back to 1984 for a couple of hours.  Instead,
I got a movie where even I - a guy who liked Revenge of the Fallen! -
was unable to really enjoy.  It's a disappointment.

I wouldn't blame you for going to see it just to check out the
spectacle.  Just don't be surprised when you walk out knowing that you
crafted better stories on your living room floor when you were four.


  1. Man I liked reading this , but hated hearing it because I too want to go back to 1984!!!! Nice writeup!

  2. This is a good action packed movie sure to please the science fiction/fantasy enthusiast. The story starts with an alternate history of the moon landing with an alien discovery twist and moves on to become a fast-paced action movie with the familiar heroes except for one, a new romantic interest.