Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Film Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

The original Transformers had one thing going for it. By no means the greatest film in the world, it did however for the first time bring these hulking great mechanizations to the big screen, delighting an entire generation brought up on the 80s staple. While this 'wow-factor' absolved the first film from the ridiculous convoluted plot for many, to a discerning audience it was, frankly, crap. And did the second film decide to take itself any more seriously? Did it bollocks. In true Michael Bay fashion, he merely cranked the absurdity up to eleven. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what he's gone and done this time.

Dark of the Moon begins in the 1960s when NASA discovers something crashed on the moon. Cue that well-worked path of blending the historical with the conspiracy; the Apollo missions weren't just for the sake of landing on the moon, but to recover a crashed alien spacecraft harbouring Optimus Prime's (Cullen) predecessor, Sentinel Prime (Nimoy), and a weapon that will turn the tide of the war against the Decepticons. Back on Earth, Sam Witwicky (LeBeouf) has a new model-girlfriend (Huntington-Whitely) and is desperate to save the World once again.

The prime (hurhur) question regarding Dark of the Moon is simply; "Is it better than Revenge of the Fallen?". It's actually a more difficult question to answer than you might think. Has Bay learned from his previous mistakes? In a word, no. Robot bollocks have given way to a giant mechanical dick that has a penchant to fuck everything in sight as Bay's obsession with phallic symbolism pretty much embodies this teenage boy's wet-dream of a movie. It exists to show gigantic robots banging into one another remorselessly beyond reason, adding a sexy girl for good measure, because this film requires a sexy girl. Everything and everyone else is superfluous if you consider for a second why they would even be needed in a conflict between robots.

There is a moment in the the film where CIA bigwig, Mearing (McDormand), tells Witwicky that he's "just a messenger", but this is more true of every human involved. That is if there is any message in this film at all. LeBeouf's Witwicky, an unlikable unlikely hero as he was in the first two, fails to draw any more sympathy than you might have had for him in the first place. This is in large part due to the nubilous circumstances of his relationship with new female lead, Huntington-Whitely's Carly. That is to say nothing of Megan Fox's successor, the former Transformers star candidly dismissed with a "we never liked that bitch anyway". Where you'll believe an advanced alien race of robots can change into any machine, you'll stare in utter disbelief at Huntington-Whitely's attempts at acting. Everything about Dark of the Moon is really about as dense as you'd expect from a Bay movie. The only saving grace to an otherwise witless script comes in the form of John Malkovich's anal-retentive role as Sam's boss and Ken Jeong's crazy-asian Hangover style performance.

Perhaps the most leeringly lascivious gesture is the film's not so subtle politics. If Fox News' very own arsehole of the century, Bill O'Reilly, is granted self-aggrandising publicity it is nothing in the face of a sequence at the beginning of the film. Optimus Prime delivers a monologue updating us all of what's happened since Revenge of the Fallen, stating something along the lines that "Autobots now help our human allies against their enemies on Earth...". Cue an Autobot assault on an "illegal" nuclear facility waving Iranian flags. It's not difficult to see that Bay certainly gets a hard-on for military muscle, portraying them in the most 'sun-shines out their arse' way imaginable. But it is difficult to decide which film displays the more sickeningly brazen patriotism; Revenge of the Fallen, which amounted to little more than a US military recruitment campaign ('look how cool we are with our planes, tanks and warships'), or Dark of the Moon's seeming endorsement of right-wing bigots and nationalistic jingoism. All the star-spangled banners and American military hardware this film shoves down your throat will send your gag-reflex into overdrive.

One thing Dark of the Moon excels in however is its stunning visuals. The Transformers are beautiful, as are the shots of blown out skyscrapers in Chicago slanted on their axis. Indeed, Bay never disappoints in the aesthetic department and you'll get what you expect from the master of fucking shit up. The 3D format is sublimely wielded to the point where even the physically imposible feels realistic. Watching an underground metal penis bore into glass and steel fully justifies that little bit extra for a 3D screening.

If Dark of the Moon achieves anything it will be its accumulation of a small fortune amounting to the value of Grenada's GDP. But this is that obligatory dumbass Hollywood blockbuster of the summer, bringing with it its thick-witted plot, its fatuous discourse and its loud clanking robots gratuitously impaling one-another. You will be treated to one special effect after another, and you are then expected to be thankful that you just witnessed two special effects even though they ultimately signified nothing. And still, this is going to be massive.