'Transformers 3' great in 3-D, story still 1-D
By Andrew Outwater
To start this review off, I enjoyed the first “Transformers.” It was a stupid, but fun introduction to what could have been a great franchise or a solid stand-alone film.
Then “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” came out and just sucked every bit of life out of me for close to three hours. As I explain here, I absolutely loathed the second movie. It later was said that the second film was during the writers’ strike, and they didn’t have much of a script to go off of. Michael Bay is not a storyteller (much less a creative thinker in terms of story), so having him come up with stuff on set off the top of his head would explain why it sucked so much.
Here, “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon” had writers, so I had the tiniest bit of hope that this latest movie wouldn’t suck as hard as the last one. And for the most part, it didn’t.
Most of what I despise about “Revenge of the Fallen” is gone — not all, but most. Gone are the racially insensitive twin bots. Gone are transformers with testicles. Gone are the humping dogs. Gone is Megan Fox. Even with these cut, the movie still isn’t much more than safe-for-work teenage fetishism. To clarify, before people start going off in disgusting directions, I mean this movie is everything a teenage boy loves: explosions, robots, and 3-D shots of girls’ asses.
I could go over the story, but there really isn’t a point. Decepticons are coming to Earth with something that crashed on the moon — which is why we had the space race in the 1960s — and the Autobots have to save us. The plot, a word that I use very loosely, has some twists and turns, but none of it is convincing. You already know that half the red herrings are complete BS just by watching the trailer. And I really don’t think Bay truly cares. Probably because he knows that his audience just comes to see things blow up.
And, boy, does Bay blow them up good. Bay has never been a director you go to for story. Yeah, “The Rock” and the first “Bad Boys” had good stories, but those were back when Bay had a leash. The last 60 minutes is just Chicago getting the hell kicked out of it. Buildings being destroyed, cars and planes and choppers exploding in the sky, transformers getting torn in half and blown to bits — they’re all beautiful.
One of my biggest concerns was the 3-D. In order for 3-D to work, every shot needs to be about three seconds long for your brain to process the two separate images into a three-dimensional image. If you’ve seen a Bay film, you’ll know that three seconds is an eternity to Bay. He cuts his movies fast and relentlessly (which is also a complaint I usually have with Bay). I think Bay even at one point didn’t want to make anything in 3-D because it would force him to chill out and set up his shots differently. Steven Spielberg (executive producer on the “Transformers” franchise) convinced him to do “Dark of the Moon” in 3-D, and Bay actually got help from James Cameron on directing in 3-D. It definitely shows, as DotM’s 3-D is great. But, I think it has already gone to Bay’s head, as he claims, “There has never been a live-action show that has pushed the boundaries of 3-D like “Transformers 3." Sure, Bay, sure. . . except, you know, “Avatar.”
Something Bay really had to change from his normal style for this 3-D movie was his shooting style. With the three-second minimum for shots, he actually took time with the action to show everything in fewer shots than normal. I really wish Bay made this transition sooner. He’s always known how to blow things up, but sometimes you couldn’t see everything blow up. That’s hardly ever a concern with the set pieces in DotM. Bay went back to his cinematographer from “Bad Boys II” (which wasn’t a “great” movie, but still probably one of Bay’s most entertaining films), who was able to frame everything nicely.
But as much as I praise the action, it doesn’t make DotM good. While the amount of absurdities is brought down tremendously from the previous film, my face ended up in my palm more frequently than it should have. There’s still the annoying mini-bot voice by Steve Buscemi from the last film, except now with an equally annoying mini-bot to have witty dialogue (read: annoy the shit out of you) with. Sam’s (Shia LaBeouf) parents make an appearance and are still full of wisdom (read: annoying as hell). John Turturo’s still here, only with a sidekick, Dutch. This is exceptionally sad because Dutch is played by geek legend Alan Tudyk, only to act like a complete idiot. Speaking of good actors acting like idiots, Academy Award winner Francis McDormand (“Fargo”) and Academy Award nominee John Malkovich (“Being John Malkovich” and “Red”) on for a while just to make asses of themselves.
In the end, the target audience isn’t going to care. Outside of the theatre, all I heard were people yelling at one another other over how “awesome” the movie was. I heard one person even say that it was the best movie he had ever seen. I looked over and it was a high school kid, so I let it slide — he probably hadn’t seen much. While the movie is terrible at points, it was entertaining. I was able to laugh at the more ridiculous moments (in both action and things we’re just expected to believe — like Shia LeBeouf scoring that chick) and the action was beautifully staged. Plus, the 3-D is pretty good. While I can’t throw a recommendation to people to hate Bay, I will say it’s an entertaining popcorn flick for anyone who can look past terrible storytelling and Bay’s frat-boy humor.
Photo: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley arrives at the global premiere of "Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon" at the Moscow Film Festival on June 23. (Photo by Lucian Capellaro || Getty Images)