For those of you who don’t know me in real life and maybe missed the fact that I’ve watched Transformers at least 30+ times since it came out in 2007, you should know that this review probably isn’t so unbiased. I’m a huge Transformers fan, and am probably one of the only people who not only doesn’t think Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was horrible, but also enjoys it and voluntarily owns three copies of it.
Plus, I’ve now seen Dark of the Moon twice in less than 24 hours. That’s true love right there.
(No spoilers inside.)
On June 28th, I had already committed to geeking out with some Tolkien, so I had a tough decision once the release date for Dark of the Moon got pushed forward to June 29. Did I power through back-to-back viewings (7 PM for The Return of the King and midnight for Dark of the Moon) or did I just resign myself to an evening showing on opening day for Dark of the Moon? (In the end, I just did both.)
Dark of the Moon is much closer to the first Transformers than it is to Revenge of the Fallen. The “complicated” plot of RotF is gone, and while DofM takes a little while to get going, once it does, it’s quite enjoyable. Bay & Co have beefed up the robot factor – Sideswipe and Shockwave get significantly some more screen time, and there are a whole slew of new robots, chief among them being Sentinel Prime, voiced by the great Leonard Nimoy. We’ve also got Soundwave and his weird bird, a couple of Wreckers, and a shiny red Ferrari (who even comes with an Italian accent). The Decepticons continue to be mostly Megatron lookalikes who, outside of the main Decepticons, don’t do much transforming. If the robots are your favorite part of the franchise – and really, they should be – then you won’t be disappointed. And if you like explosions? Double the fun.
We’ve got most of the original cast – Sam, his parents, Agent Simmons, Colonel Lennox (guy gets promoted like nobody’s business), General Morshower – and some interesting additions to round it out. The casting of John Malkovich (Sam’s wackadoo boss), Frances McDormand (Director of National Intelligence), and Patrick Dempsey (Sam’s girlfriend’s suave boss (seriously, how did I never realize how hot Patrick Dempsey is?)) raised some eyebrows when it was announced, but each fits his/her role nicely and it works. As with a movie that’s all about the visuals, the characters are mostly flat and there’s no real development of them, but you’re hopefully not watching Transformers for that.
The most notable addition to the cast is Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, of Victoria’s Secret fame. As Sam’s girlfriend Carly, she’s inoffensive and is really, really nice to look at. Her acting isn’t amazing, but it isn’t abysmal either. I was expecting to be rolling my eyes every time she came on screen (a la Megan Fox in RotF), but she’s not bad.
As for actual screen time, Sam’s parents are barely in the movie and just show up to generate some Witwickyesque laughs. Ken Jeong, of The Hangover and Community fame makes an appearance and shares some inappropriate Ken Jeongesque moments with Sam. Best casting surprise: an appearance by Dr. Buzz Aldrin, who is all kinds of adorable.
And the effects? Dark of the Moon is easily the best film in the franchise in that regard. The effects and the CGI just feel cleaner, brighter, and sharper. If you watch the movie for nothing else, watch it for some really awesome special effects. Some of my favorites? One of the shuttle launches, the scene around the Reflecting Pool in DC, the beginning of the attack on Chicago, and the final battle scene. And if you’re contemplating seeing it in 3D, I’d highly recommend it. The 3D changes are, for the most part, subtle enough, and while they don’t drastically alter the experience, they do make it a bit more fun. (It’s especially fun during the wingsuit scenes.)
Of course the best part of the movie are the Transformers themselves. For anyone even a bit emotionally invested in the franchise, there are some moments you are going to absolutely love, while others will make your jaw drop (literally, in my case).
Long review short: storyline is standard, if a bit slow to start; actors are their normal selves; effects are fantastic and 3D-worth; and robots are better than ever. Dark of the Moon is a fun, and Michael Bay delivered on his promise to fix all the things that were wrong in Revenge of the Fallen. If you’re a fan of the first film, I promise you will love this one too. I’m already buying my ticket to see it again.