Can you believe that this is my first Transformers movie review on Geekreads? With Transformers: Dark of the Moon, we’ve finally come to the end of Michael Bay’s movie trilogy, and let me say that it’s been a rough ride for this Transformers fan. It’s been quite the ordeal being asked by fellow Transformers fans whether I enjoyed seeing Michael Bay repeatedly rape my childhood, because secretly, I enjoyed the movies.
I realise the litany of offenses against the source material is epic, but if the huge box office success of all three movies is anything to go by, Bay could be forgiven for the fact that he has helped to cement Transformers in the minds and imaginations of a whole new generation, keeping the franchise alive unlike many other cartoons that are still lurking in the shadows waiting for the possibility of a reboot (or have already tried, and failed).
Having said that, it’s not all roses. Dark of the Moon, like its predecessors, is no masterpiece (although apparently it does demonstrate some advanced movie-making techniques, for those interested in the cinematic arts). Whatever merits it might otherwise have, the movie is sorely let down by:
- Bad concept: this isn’t really a Transformers movie, it’s an alien invasion movie featuring Transformers characters.
- Bad writing: the characters are not only inconsistent with the Transformers “lore” (as established in the original cartoons and comics), they’re inconsistent within and between the movies. For example, Optimus Prime goes from being a compassionate, courageous leader, to a ruthless, merciless killer without rhyme or reason.
- Tight budgeting: the scenes designed to minimise the use of CGI were so very, painfully obvious, e.g. how the Wreckers never appeared in anything but their “bristling with weapons” vehicle mode; they’re never seen to transform.
- Pernicious product placement: among the worst I’ve seen in recent times. From the glaring “Lenovo” logos on all the screens to the photocopier with a ream of Double A paper resting on it a la this old TV ad – it made the movie seem like one long ad.
But surely, the monstrous box office takings must mean that they did something right? Personally, I think these things might have been:
- Making the action scenes visually intelligible: a big problem with the previous movies (particularly Revenge of the Fallen) was that the robot fights looked like a giant machine vomiting jagged metal parts onto the screen. Giving each of the robots distinctive colours instead of the various shades of silver and grey, and the liberal use of slow-mo, made it possible to comprehend the fight choreography.
- Having “something for everybody”: yeah, the fans will argue that the humans in the story are superfluous, but unfortunately the rest of the cinema-going public would largely disagree. Covering all bases with the eye candy, toilet humour, conspiracy theories, etc. means that nobody is entirely bored and unentertained for the whole duration of the movie – whether you brought your partner, kids, parents or friends. Heck, even Margaret Pomeranz (of At The Movies) had kind words for the first half hour dealing with the moon landing.
You can’t please everybody, and I believe Michael Bay made the right decision by NOT pandering to the hardcore fans. Yes, the movies could’ve been better with consistent storylines and faithful characterisations, but then I’m afraid that the approval of the geeks would have kept others at Bay *tish boom*.