Heroes rise, the Earth falls, The Dark of the Moon!

Last night I saw Transformers: Dark of the Moon. My plan was to put up Sentinel Prime today in anticipation of the movie’s full release tomorrow. This plan, however, was thwarted by the fact that no post I could make would do him justice without being able to talk about a very, very surprising (well, to me at least) turn of events from the movie. Of course, a good majority of the Transformers fans out there won’t have a chance to see the movie until tomorrow, meaning Sentinel will have to wait until Thursday.  Instead, I will be filling in today with the photos I took of the filming for the movie here in my home town of Chicago, but first a spoiler-free review of the movie.

The review: I loved it. Ha! There’s a big honkin’ surprise. Hey, I never claimed to be a movie critic (ugh, who would?)

Fine, I will get a little more specific. I don’t go into movies like this, Transformers or not, looking for Shakespeare. I’m not looking for deep, insightful dramas about the human condition. I am looking for summer blockbuster-style action and adventure. Also, blowing the city I live and work in to rubble was a lot of fun to watch, and just a little scary.

Specific to Transformers, I am looking to watch a live action enactment of my favourite war, that one between the robots that has a bad habit of spilling over to inhabited planets. If you can squeeze some human interaction in there and keep it consistently entertaining, then awesome. In the first two movies, I found Megan Fox’s character of Mikaela Banes to be worthwhile. Obviously she was chosen for other… assets before her acting talent was taken into consideration, but I personally had no problems with her. My wife put it best, “I totally believed she could fix a motorcycle and drive a tow truck backwards.”

Damsel in distress: 1 Invading alien robot: 0 Boyfriend, who screams like a girl: -1

Rosie Huntington-Whitely? Nope, sorry, not buying it. Granted, at no point is her character, Carly Miller,  presented as being a badass, but the script takes great pains to try to convince you that she is remarkably intelligent. If she is, she has one opportunity to really display it, and instead you get a ham-handed scene between her and Megatron that really should have ended with her squished to a pulp. Miss Huntington-Whitely was hired as eye-candy, which is clearly evidenced by the fact that her mostly not clad rear end is the first part of her you see in the movie. I understand the demographic of this movie and can mostly laugh it away, but what is up with those  gigantic lips? What is going on there? Huge. Just distractingly huge lips.

Gah! Forget the Decepticons, those lips are the real threat to humanity.

Other human problems? Ken Jeong plays the exact same completely unbelievable, annoying, hyper-angry “asian dude” he plays in everything else and John Malkovich’s character is a complete throwaway. John Turturro’s increasingly lunatic Seymour Simmons is also increasingly unnecessary. His role in this movie was so obviously shoehorned in for no apparent reason other than star power. However, I forgave him; because along with him came my favourite new human, Dutch, played by Alan Tudyk. Though he is as exaggerated as any of the rest of them, he does so in controlled bursts, which allows him to remain entertaining.

Along with Dutch, I continued to be entertained by the Witwicky family and all of their interactions. If there was anything I could ask from the human quotient of these movies, it would be more Judith Witwicky. Julie White is wonderful in this role, she is definitely my favourite human in the movie franchise.

Another thing that remains consistently good is the military — or as is the case in Dark of the Moon, military and ex-military — half of the cast. Lennox, Epps, and the rest of their gun-toting crew are just funny enough but when it comes down to business, they get it done.

That brings us to the reason for the entire franchise: the giant robots. Early on director Michael Bay promised more robot backstory in this installment, and he provides it… a little. Unfortunately we still get virtually no character depth to the Decepticons, particularly in the case of the newly introduced Shockwave. but we do get a story full of self-doubt, recrimination, exploited vulnerabilities, and pure, unbridled self-interest. We are presented with the deadly consequences when those that are truly not made for war are inevitably sucked into the conflict. There was at least one point in the movie that left me heartbroken and there were no humans involved. This movie manages to do what the first two as well as 27 years of comic books have failed to do: meaningful, impactful death. It brings home the real scale of this war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, making it is easy to see and believe the ravaged, lifeless state Cybertron is in and the desperate acts people will sink to, robotic or otherwise, to ensure their survival.

I’ll be very interested to read the opinions of others of this movie in relation to the other two or in relation to other incarnations of the Transformers franchise.

So, get out there and see it tomorrow and let me know what you think.

Next up: I share the photos I took when I stalked the set of the movie while it was being filmed in Chicago last summer.

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