Tag Archives: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Short Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction

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It’s hard to not like this movie when you consider the previous film to be Michael Bay’s valedictory address. Transformers 3D (yes, I’m still sticking to that title) is a culmination of everything Michael Bay has learned in filmmaking (for better or for worse). To suddenly go back to the franchise when it was effectively concluded in the third film just reeks of everything rotten in the current Hollywood system.

“But Evil Dr. Bok,” some of you minions would groan, “You enjoy Michael Bay movies, The Rock, Bad Boys 2, and Transformers 3D to be exact. You even told your students that watching Michael Bay movies is to expect nothing but explosions explosions explosions. Heck, you enjoyed The Expendables, a movie which is essentially a corny 80s action flick made with contemporary sensibilities. Why the hate surrounding this movie?” The answer is simple; Bay-isms can only take the film so far.

Transformers 3D had a story, and that alone saved the film. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen had absolutely no direction in the plot, character, etc. While you may accuse Transformers 3D of committing the same atrocities, its crime to story-telling isn’t anywhere  near as criminal compared to Revenge of the Fallen. Age of Extinction’s plot is Revenge of the Fallen bad. What makes its frustratingly bad is that there are slivers of brilliance in the script. The idea of humans going against their saviors is actually a stroke of genius story wise. It actually challenges the Autobots’ faith in humanity; if humans will turn against their saviors, why save them to begin with? This is where Cade’s family enters. Yeah, it’s a cliche but it can work given the proper storytelling.

And let’s not forget about Lockdown, the primary Cybertronian antagonist in the film. This is actually one Cybertronian I’m scared of. This dude is scary; he’s ruthless, he’s badass, he’s cool. He holds no loyalty for the war between Autobots and Decepticons; that makes him scary.

These nuggets actually made the film for me, but they were unfortunately drowned in the excesses Bay usually presents in his films. The explosions are there; they still look gorgeous in typically Bay fashion but they lack something which was present in the earlier Transformers films. I can’t really pinpoint what it is, but I am under the impression that this film somehow lost the charm the three previous ones had. Everything here, except for the two points I mentioned, seems so disconnected. The film somehow feels half-baked, similar to how Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was. Sad to say, this film, I believe, is what Michael Bay makes when he is on auto-pilot. Yes, I’m saying it; despite my ultra low expectations for Transformers: Age of Extinction, this film is a bad film, even by Michael Bay standards. Do yourself a favor and wait for it once it reaches cable.

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Transformers: Dark of the Moon (aka Transformers 3D) ***

*Forget the “Dark of the Moon” bullsh*t; I’m calling this movie Transformers 3D.

**Seen in 2D, will update the review once I watch this on IMAX.

***UPDATED: Watched on IMAX 3D

It seems like Michael Bay just gave us his valedictory address with this film. Having practically blown up every imaginable thing on the planet (and an asteroid), he unleashes the mother-load with Transformers 3D, a film oozing with Bay’s trademark style of explosions, stylistic camera angles, and a butchered script milked for humor.

The Good

There are only two things I’m looking for in a summer blockbuster film: a decent story, and a decent spectacle. Those are the bare minimum, and if a movie achieves that, I’m all praises for it. And in this particular movie, both have been achieved with satisfactory results.

For those who think that there’s no way for the franchise to be redeemed after the clusterf*ck that is Revenge of the Fallen, you’re mistaken. Transformers 3D actually has a plot and a story (not a life changing one though but that’s beside the point); a story which finally gives us that long awaited glimpse of the epic civil war on the planet Cybertron, and how that war got the planet earth involved through the Apollo 11 moon landings. Thus, we finally see how epic (in the loosest definition of the word) the world of the Transformers is.

I mentioned earlier that this film is Michael Bay’s valedictory address. If Michael Bay were to retire from filmmaking after this movie, my goodness what a final film this is. Explosions galore, impressive action set-pieces, nice CGI, smoother camera movements in the action scenes (gasp!), and robot gore (probably the goriest robot film in history), yep: Michael Bay could already retire after this.

On an additional note on the cinematography, the decision to film this movie on 3D may be one of the best things that ever happened to Michael Bay. Gone are the problematic camera movements from Revenge of the Fallen (action scenes which leave the audience confused due to frantic camera work, et. al.), meaning that one will be able to follow most of the robot battles here.

For the acting, I’d have to give credit to John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Alan Tudyk, Patrick Dempsey, John Turturro, and Ken Jeong. These guys just went there to have fun (most especially in the case of Malkovich and Tudyk). Patrick Dempsey gives a chilling performance as Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s boss, and Ken Jeong, well, plays himself in this film.

The Bad (spoiler alerts)

Just some minor technical complaints. I’ve heard that Bay shot the film on digital and 70mm cameras. There are portions of the film where you can spot the difference; there are moments when the image is clear then suddenly it becomes too grainy. This may be intentional but the abrupt change on image quality becomes occasionally disturbing.

Secondly, there seem to be too much villains. Sure we have Megatron and the other Decepticons, as well as the new muscle troop in the form of Shockwave. However, two other significant villains make an appearance in the middle act, with more emphasis on a traitor character, thus making Megatron and Starcream supporting villains.

Regarding the film’s length, the movie suffered from an overextended 3rd Act. Sure, the last hour is an orgy or explosions, demolished buildings, and robot gore. However, there are moments where I admit I felt quite bored as the events were just too long.

For some geek ranting (as requested by some friends of mine, so this portion isn’t entirely my thoughts), why didn’t Starscream betray Megatron once in the series? Now, my knowledge of the T.V. series is basic at best, but what I know is that Starscream is always trying his darnest to overthrown Megatron. But all three films portray him as a pathetic loyal follower. What a way to portray one of the more memorable Transformer.

3D Effects

I’m having mixed feelings about the film’s 3D effects. The effects here certainly isn’t Avatar. There you have things moving from the screen towards you (in a very non-gimmicky fashion). For this film, in particular, the screen is kinda like a diorama: we do not see things mostly coming towards us (when they do, it was pretty gimmicky) but instead we see depth. This isn’t so much of a problem, but there are moments when the 3D effects are too minimal that you hardly see the illusion at all. And when things do  jump at you, like I said earlier, it was pure gimmickry.

Some 3D scenes were pretty cool though. The Cybertron war scenes were cool, the highway chase scene was cool, the gliding sequence over Chicago was cool, and Optimus Prime killling the robots before his big fight with the main baddie was also cool. In short, majority of the action sequences looked cool in 3D.

The Verdict

As I said earlier, this is a summer blockbuster film. More specifically, this is a Michael Bay film. As such, all expectations of something profound and life-changing are non-existent here. I went there to kill a few brain cells, to be entertained, and I was. The film had a plot, the action sequences, though a bit extended, are entertaining. While there are some technical complaints regarding the abrupt changes in visual style, the distraction was not enough to kill the experience.

As for the 3D, this ain’t Avatar. However, in the midst of trashy post-conversion live-action 3D films like Thor and Green Lantern, Transformers 3D is pretty good.

4 stars out of 5.