Review: “Transformers 3″ … mediocre in disguise

June 29th, 2011 at 7:20 am by under Entertainment

“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is an explosive high energy action ride…. but its also got enough flaws that I need to caution you so you’re not as disappointed.  If you’re one of the countless fans that just couldn’t wait to see this movie, then go see it and experience the big screen and the theater sound system, just temper your expectations… although as of this posting, you probably already saw one of the earliest shows.

Let’s be honest, I initially overrated “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” in 2009, then redeemed myself by using my one self-allowed mulligan  for the year…. but I won’t be leading you astray this time.

  (My spoiler-free review)

The third “Transformers” brings the franchise back to respectability, its noticeably better than “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”… but not as good as the first movie back in 2007.

Will it be the year’s best movie?  No. Not even the best movie of the summer.

Will it entertain you and keep you interested?  Maybe… that depends on what you are entertained by and how much prolonged “Transformers” action you can take.

It might sound cliche to compare it to the second installment, but isn’t that what everyone is thinking when considering this movie option… or while watching it… or the countless people I heard at the end of my screening making their comparisons to the last time we saw Sam, Optimus, and the gang on the big screen.

Once again, the effects for the autobots and decepticons are awesome…. looking very clean very impressive,  quite “real” if you know what I mean – when you see lackluster CGI that is distracting from the movie – the alien robots move seamlessly through scenes, flawlessly interacting with people and buildings in “Transformers 3″ (yes, I refuse to call it “T3″ – another franchise beat them to it).

Michael Bay and his writers explain why Megan Fox’s Mikaela is gone and a new girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) is in this movie … I do like how Sam (Shia LaBeouf)’s mom practically makes fun of the fact that he’s got another girlfriend that would seem to be totally out of his league.  There are new characters both human and cybertronian, with varying depths of character and varying levels of success.   There were less blatantly obvious racist stereotype robots and the little robots hanging out with Sam were less annoying this time.

LaBeouf does well in the scenes with dialogue… but more of his character’s scenes are running and jumping and yelling and trying to save the world.  While Josh Duhamel brings the calm confidence in his character, John Turturro and his assistant Dutch (Alan Tudyk) add wild and humorous chaos.  Sci-fi veteran Leonard Nimoy brings his respected voice to the new character of Sentinel Prime, its a role that works very well for him. Patrick Dempsey does well in a role that’s a little creepy and different from what he often plays…. but he pulls it off for the most part.  Frances McDormand is another good character actor, but she’s stuck with a character that could have more depth, but is reduced to more of a government suit than anything else.  There’s also John Malkovich and Ken Jeong playing wild outrageous roles that add some extra character layers to this long, drawn out movie.  I think this may be another flaw of the movie… between all these human characters and all the good and bad transformers, only Sam gets enough screen time to grow and develop.  The rest of the time, you’re just trying to keep track of where everyone is and what everyone is doing.

The running time on this sci-fi/action adventure is two hours and 37 minutes.

That information deserves its own sentence… because those 30+ minutes beyond 2 hours start to become very evident… and you wonder how long its going to take for this movie’s climatic battle to wrap up.  The climatic battle in Chicago is almost entire last hour of the movie.   However, the trouble may not be so much in the last half of the movie, because the first 30 minutes gives us a new history lesson about the space race of the 1960′s and the competition between USA and USSR to get the moon and the events of Chernobyl.  There is some archive footage mixed in (some appears to be real and some is quite noticeably faked).  Honestly, if you’re going to fake archive footage using look-alike actors, most of the time – less is more – when you show their faces you quickly loose credibility because its clearly not the real president.  The gravity of this “history change” also could have been achieved in a much shorter time… and sprinkled through the movie as it was…. with other characters telling of what happened back in the 1960′s.

“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” has a lot of action… cool technology, double entendres and innuendos, funny moments, lots of running, lots of explosions and destruction.  Thankfully this time around, there’s a little bit more story and script than just running, jumping, and explosions.  Some of the dialogue is better, some of it is much of the same.  While there is some emotional impact of what is going on, not everyone seems to be moved by the events of the movie… in other alien invasion movies we’ve seen a lot more raw emotional reaction to alien lifeforms arriving at the planet than we see in this movie.  And when we reach those moments of good dialogue, or a chance displays of real emotion… some of the acting is as plastic as the Hasbro action figures this movie is based on.

The explosions, action, humor, patriotism, hero shots, slow-mo camera moves as explosions happen behind and around character (but they don’t look at it) are all the pillars of a Michael Bay movie, but unlike some of his better movies… the script falls short of the amazing visuals.

So after all that… should you see it in 3D?  The visual onslaught will be over-the-top whether you see it in IMAX, 3D or 2D… sure it helps, and if you’re going to choose one blockbuster action movie to see in 3D this summer, this is probably the one to do it… just know that with the 3D ticket price, its going to inflate this movie’s box office success… increasing the chances that a fourth movie could be made.

And if you see it, in theaters or eventually at home… don’t worry too much about staying for a scene at the end of the credits…. there’s one little scene about 1 minute into the credits, but its not much and involves supporting characters.  It doesn’t hint at another movie, so you’re not missing anything… and that’s the only extra scene during the credits.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Really good visual effects, lots of action, but a long drawn out story make this a movie to wait to rent, or skip altogether…. I initially give it 6.5 out of 10… but it after second thoughts, it really deserves 5.5.

“Transformers Dark of the Moon” on location in Chicago

“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
(filmed for 3 weeks in Detroit) and 2 months in Chicago)

(2011) (rated: PG-13for intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo.)
(2 hrs, 37 min)

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Patrick Dempsey, Peter Cullen (voice of Optimus Prime) , Hugo Weaving (voice of Megatron), Frank Welker (voice of Shockwave / Soundwave), Leonard Nimoy (voice of Sentinel Prime), Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, Alan Tudyk,  Ken Jeong, Markiss McFadden, Kenneth Sheard

Director: Michael Bay  ["Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" (2009), "Transformers" (2007), "The Island" (2005), "Bad Boys II" (2003), "Pearl Harbor" (2001), "Armageddon" (1998), "The Rock" (1996), "Bad Boys" (1995)]

Genre: Sci-Fi/Action/Adventure

The Plot: The Autobots learn of a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the Moon, and race against the Decepticons to reach it and to learn its secrets.

So what did you think?  Please post a comment!

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“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” poster and photo Paramount

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