Sunday, August 10, 2014

Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the 2011 sequel to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. It takes place after Sam Witwicky has graduated from college, and most famously, broken up with his war-forged girlfriend Mikaela because Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg had a falling out with Megan Fox. But in universe she probably left him because he's an annoying ponce and he didn't stop her because she's a sadistic psycho.
Anyways, after a major coverup of the Autobot/Decepticon battle in Egypt, Sam Witwicky is now back to being a normal dude with the most annoying personality of all time. He's out searching for a job and living with his new girlfriend, Carly. In case you didn't know, Rosie Huntington-Whitely is a Victoria's Secret model turned actress who was chosen to replace Megan Fox.
So, in addition to Carly, Sam also lives with a pair of Decepticons who defected to the Autobots, Brains and Wheelie. I couldn't figure out who Brains was or even if he'd been in the last film. And Mikaela's dog. Why does he have Mikaela's dog? It's completely inexplicable and makes so very little sense that it just stinks of a movie that had characters thrown at the script regardless of their relation to the story. I mean, Sam's not even living anywhere near his old home town.
But that's not even the beginning of the movie. The beginning is the United States finding a crashed Autobot ship on the moon and deciding to send someone up to investigate. That's the space program.
So, in a world where Transformers, Doctor Who and Men In Black exist in the same universe, this means that The Silence, The US Government and Boglodite's all want something to do with the US space program. Lot going on in a single week.
Anyways, I have to say that the guy they got to play JFK in the scenes where he orders a space program looks nothing like him. And whoever they got to do the voice sounds nothing like him. JFK's appearance and voice are some pretty famous things, and you know when they're not doing them right.
There's a montage and stuff with some footage and voice clips from the first moonlanding, and I have to say that instead of just re-using the footage we've all been seeing for the last five decades almost, I would have appreciated them just re-making all the shots, and maybe adding in new ones. They could have just re-used the voice clips if they wished, but a major sticking point with me about the opening scene was the usage of that decades old stock footage of the moon landings, it just seemed fairly uninspired.
Granted, Industrial Light And Magic was using its render farm at maximum capacity on the action-scenes, but still..... Granted, they did recreate some of the famous shots in CG, but not nearly enough for my liking. And they even had the actor playing Neil Armstrong lip-syncing to his famous voice clip, but why do that at all when he just has to start speaking in his own voice not thirty seconds from then?
Anyways, they find the ship and some Transformers inside of it (Obviously) and then the movie cuts to the Russian government requesting help from NEST at the Chernobyl facility. Optimus finds some piece of Cybertronian technology inside the facility and then they get attacked by Decepticons. The Autobots and NEST taskforce fight them off and return to base with the part. Apparently it's from the Autobot ship that crashed on the moon long ago.
Now, depending on your point of view Optimus's actions are either completely justified or utterly unreasonable, and I'm somewhere in between that. Granted that NEST not sharing information about the engine part would have been completely unjustifiable if Russia was part of NEST. Are they? Who knew about the engine part? These questions will never be answered and thus this part of the movie left me confused.
Then again, considering how badly humanity has treated the Autobots I'm surprised that he didn't snap at them sooner.
See, this is why Optimus is such a great hero, because no matter how poorly humanity treats him he will return and protect them. In a lot of ways he's like The Doctor. A wise, kind old man who returns to save his new home no matter what.
I'm sorry, I need to remind myself that I'm not a Transformers fan sometimes.
Anyways, back to the annoying douchebag and his most certainly not funny parents.
For some reason, Sam didn't take the hint from the last movie and left Bumblebee to go with the Autobots on missions instead of sticking around. First off: The car Sam has is crap. Second: Bumblebee doesn't need fuel. Third: Bee is like a loyal puppy, and given how unlikable Sam is I'm surprised he sent the only friend he had away. AGAIN.
You see, this brings me to one of my problems with the movie. Sam hasn't learned anything since the last movie. For that matter, neither have any other members of the cast aside from Lennox and Epps. It seems like they reset to a default setting at the end of the last movie. That's..... Weird. And Sam has been passed over for anything other than a medal from the president. I'm serious, I thought he was going to be some sort of military commander by the time this movie rolled around. Sure a medal is nice, but he should have a job with them by now! Why isn't he at least serving with NEST? Why hasn't he done anything except devlove as a character? And how did he get a new hot girlfriend after the last one left? And why does the plot seem to bend itself around him to finagle a way to make him the linchpin of it all?
It was at this point in time I realized why. Sam is a Gary Stu.
For those of you who don't know, a Gary Stu is a fanfiction (And nowadays has been applying to actual literature more and more) term for a male original character that is essentially a blank slate for the reader, author, etc to project themselves onto. A blank slate isn't all that's necessary for the character to be a Gary Stu, because a story like that could be written from the perspective of personality-less bystanders to the plot. No, to be a Gary Stu the character has to be constantly catching the eyes of every pretty girl in the story, and the plot tends to bend around him to include him in it in some significant way.
Looking at the TVtropes page for Gary Stu's, Sam is almost certainly a variant of the "Geeky Stu" subtype at about this point in the story. The way the plot has to try to get Sam involved is so roundabout and it made me wonder why he was even in the movie to begin with. They could have made an entire series about NEST and the Autobots. Or better yet, just make that Transformers x G.I Joe movie I suggested last week.
But anyways, back to the movie and not my speculation.
Sam goes hunting for a job and gets turned down by a bunch of people because apparently getting a medal for saving the world twice carries absolutely no weight.
Okay, back to Sam. My perception of him is that by now he should probably have some kind of job advising NEST and the Autobots, or at least be a little jaded to his whole situation by now. The thing is, he's not changed a single bit in three movies and it really seems like he should have!
Meh, anyways. He finally gets a job at the one place that has a conspiracy nut who's been following the whole Cybertronian incursion since the beginning, who confronts Sam in the bathroom. Specifically inside a stall, after having jumped onto him. He introduces himself as....
"Deep Wang"
He says this three times. Three freaking times. And it doesn't get any less stupid the more he says it.
Jerry Wang then tells Sam about The Ark, the Autobot ship that crashed on the moon. Apparently Wang had been being manipulated by Laserbeak on behalf of Megatron and was trying to get a message to the Autobots.
Their boss, John Malkovich catches them and thus the mistaken for gay joke gets another century older.
Fortunately Wang gets assassinated by Laserbeak and Sam's office gets shot up so we can leave boringsville and the fun can recommence. Sam calls up Simmons from the last movie for some help in finding the Ark, and wind up finding out that almost everyone who was involved with the Ark has been killed by the Decepticons.
After having learned from the Russians about The Ark, the Autobots travel to the moon to scavenge the contents of the ship before the Decepticons can get there. On the ship they discover a comotose Autobot, Sentinel Prime. Along with him they find the Pillars required to transport matter from one place to another.
The Autobots bring Sentinel and the Pillars back to Earth. Optimus revives Sentinel with The Matrix of Leadership and we are introduce to Leonard Nimoy as a robotic version of Sean Connery.
No, I am not making this up. Sentinel Prime was modeled on Sean Connery.
Anyways, after locating the two surviving cosmonauts who had access to drone photographs taken on the moon, Sam and Seymour find that the Decepticons had been taking the Pillars from the wreckage for years on end and that they were laying a trap for the Autobots, as they lacked the means to revive Sentinel, the only one who could activate the Pillars.
I don't have a whole lot to criticize right here. Pretty good so far.
The Autobots and NEST rush Sentinel back to their base in what was probably the most confusing scene in the whole movie. You see, Sentinel turns into a military firetruck, but they never tell you take until about the time that he's in his vehicle form outside the base. I was wondering where Sentinel was until I realized that the truck must be Sentinel. What even? Anyways.....
Sentinel attempts to make off with the remaining pillars at the NEST base, and kills Ironhide after the latter attempted to stop him, revealing his alliance with the Decepticons to facilitate the resurrection of Cybertron.
He then teleports an army of Decepticons down from the moon, past all the early-warning Energon detectors NEST has set up all over the world.
While fleeing the Decepticon army, the car that Sam and Carly are in transforms, revealing itself to be a Decepticon. Since the car was given to Carly by her boss, Dylan Gould, we find out that him and his father before him have been working for the Decepticons.
The scene that follows is...... Well, kinda rapey. The car locks itself up and extends all manner of tentacles towards Carly. I've been on the internet long enough to see the implications of that.
Sam is forced to take a mini-con as a watch to find out what the Autobots and NEST are planning in retaliation.
The surviving Autobots are forced into hiding as Sentinel calls for their exile. Stupid is as stupid does, the new person in charge of NEST succeeds in exiling the Autobots from Earth.
The scene that followed is hear-wrenching. No contingency plan, no way to return, no possible way around the massive Decepticon army. Optimus laments this as they leave Earth. As the ship is taking off, it gets destroyed by Starscream, and for one of the few times in this and Revenge of the Fallen, Sam Witwicky shows some genuine human emotions, rather than just being an emotionless unlikable jerk.
So anyways, I actually kinda liked this so far. Granted, later on Gould starts showing a dangerous amount of genre blindness to his situation and grasps the villain-ball so tightly that I wonder if his character was written with any complexity at all.
The Decepticons seize Chicago, killing a lot of people in the process despite them having the ability to perform a completely bloodless coup. Since their main goal is to enslave humanity and rebuild Cybertron, they kill far too many potential workers and destroy too much structure for Chicago to be worth much to them.
Sam teams up with Epps from the last movie, who was working at NASA when the Autobots were killed and several other ex-NEST operatives to raid Chicago, stop Sentinel and Megatron, save Carly and destroy the Stargate that's being use to transport Cybertron into our solar system. This could have made for a really interesting adventure in guerrilla warfare between the humans and the Decepticons, and does for a while.
But when the rag-tag team is beaten down by the Decepticons, I still pumped my fist in glee when Optimus came in guns a-blazin'. Now there would have been a place to start playing "The Touch" but anyways.
The Autobots bailed out of a secret escape hatch they'd retrofitted into their ship. Not bad by trickery standards. Gives them the element of surprise when they attack and also makes for a great "Big damn heroes" scene.
Some awesome action scenes follow, my personal favorites were the ones with the Driller. Driller is one of the most complex renders in movie history, and it looks great. So the fights and action scenes were really entertaining, and while Sam takes a good deal of punishment that would kill anyone else in the movie.
The final battle is pretty cool, but the camera is too close in on Optimus, Sentinel and Megatron. There aren't enough wide shots of the fights for you to really enjoy them.
All in all, I know the movie has a ton of faults, but it's got some pretty cool action scenes. It's both a little better and a little worse then Revenge of the Fallen. Personally I think there was a great plot inside all of this mess. Removing Sam and his parents and his girlfriend from this movie and replace the plot role of Carly with Lennox's wife and we'd have a much better movie. Personally, I'd have preferred Lennox to be the hero of the series since he's a much more appealing character, and actually seems like a decent guy as opposed to an unlikable jerk.
So I give Transformers: Dark of the Moon a 6.3* rating. I'll see you next week with The Expendables!