Transformers: Dark of the Moon — The best in the franchise… so far

Audiences watch The Transfomers on cinema for several reasons, cool cars, even cooler robots and mind blowing action. Transformers: Dark of the Moon delivers more than that, it manages to prove that there are some movies that are better in 3D and IMAX and shakes the belief that sequels are always inferior to the original. This third installment to the franchise is absolutely awesome and by far, the best in the franchise.

When I originally reviewed the first Transformers in 2007, I gave the movie five stars out of five because it was just so well made that I found it hard to believe that the director and the producers could improve on this kick ass summer blockbuster. Boy, was I wrong.

Dark of the Moon, the third of the Transformers movie, presents the Apollo 11  in 1969 as a secret mission by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to investigate an impact on the moon’s surface eight years prior to the landing. In the movie, the impact was caused by the last autobot ship called the Ark, which escaped Cybertron during the civil war. Piloted by Autobot general Sentinel Prime, it carries a technology encapsulated by small cells called the pillars which has the power to create a space bridge which could determine once and for all who will win the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons. The Decepticons are of course, scheming to get the pillars and bring in their long dormant brothers to earth with this technology but only Sentinel has the ability to control them. Conspiracies and connivances with the humans ensue in the years following the moon landing in order to bring back Sentinel.  Whether or not mankind’s fate will be one of servitude or freedom hangs in the balance.

What really impressed me about the movie is the steady progression of the plot from the first Transformers. The three movies could be grouped as three chapters but also taken as separate standalones but however they are perceived, they are all strong movies in their own right. I look at it as a hook, line and sinker approach — the first movie hooks the viewers into the franchise, establishing a strong fanbase, both from cartoon watchers of the 80s and new ones from this generation of movie viewers, while the second one reels us audiences in by establishing the emotional connection between the Autobots and the humans (Prime’s death and the race to bring him back to life with the Matrix). This last movie as the sinker, incorporating all of the franchise’s strengths to come out with a film that is not only rich in mind blowing action but combines it with an end of the world drama that gets audiences to forget that they’ve been glued to the screen for over two hours.

Dark of the Moon also manages to focus on new characters, passing on the torch from well established members of both sides. New Autobots are introduced to support the familiar faces  — the Wreckers are this installment’s answer to Skiz and Mudflap, only that they’re British and rough rather than wisecracking and mouthy– they turn into weaponed Nascar stock cars; Dino (earlier called Mirage) who transforms into a Ferrari, and the Decepticons also have super cool new members in addition to the now rusty but still powerful Megatron and Starscream. What’s amazing about the action in this movie is the attribution of human stunts to the robots executed in flawless CGI. These robots can move.

The film also benefits from a strong ensemble performance from cast members. It was evident from the beginning that there was no love lost between the franchise runners and Megan Fox, who played Shia LeBeouf’s  (Sam Witwicky) love interest in the first two movies. From the get go, her absence was explained in an offhand wisecrack by Wheelie and Brains, illustrating how little they thought of their loose mouthed former cast member. Director Michael Bay did excellent work in spotting Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington Whiteley as a replacement because a) she didn’t oversell hot girlfriend thing (she didn’t have to. All she had to do was walk into the room to make the boys drool) and b) she was very very comfortable doing the action stunts in five inch heels. As per usual, Josh Duhamel (Lennox), Tyrese Gibson (Epps), and John Turturro (Simmons) did excellent work reprising their characters as well as Kevin Dunn and Julie White as Sam’s eccentric parents, but this time, there were also supporting performances by THE John Malkovich, the comedian Ken Jeong, Patrick Dempsey (who portrays a villain, for a change), and Frances McDormand as National Intelligence Director Charlotte Mearing. But the star of the show is really Shia LeBeaof. The guy has an amazing skill to be equal parts funny and dramatic at the right moments, which isn’t easy when trying to portray an average Joe trying to save the world from giant alien robots for the third time.

The screenplay managed to up the notch of the enmity between the Autobots and Decepticons this time around. Optimus’s rage was palpalable as he faces off with his betrayer and arch nemesis, and the Decepticons grow bolder and more evil with their actions (executions of Autobots — I won’t ruin it for you). The movie did have a War of the Worlds/Battle of Los Angeles/G.I. Joe feel when Decepticon ships started to hover over Chicago, leaving the city in rambles and reducing civilians to toast (literally), but what really sold the battle was the perfect balance and teamwork between the humans and the Autobots in the face of Decepticon attack. The humans pulled their share this time around and didn’t simply wait around for their allies to save the planet. The parallelism’s in Prime’s fights against Megatron and Sam’s struggle against Dylan to disarm the Master Pillar was a great touch. Credit should also go to the musical scorers of this film for its excellent selection of background music to emphasize the action and set the tone for various scenes throughout the movie.

Dark of the Moon, is by far, the best movie I’ve seen all year and I’ve seen plenty.  The only problem I found with it was how come when the robots are in robot form, they have dents and scratches, and when they transform into cars, they are all sleek and shiny? Pretty trivial, really. This movie is awesome. Kudos to director Michael Bay, the cast and the crew for this excellent summer blockbuster. The field is wide open for another sequel (I wouldn’t mind) but this could well serve as the end to the franchise. At this point, I don’t think anything is impossible for this wonderfully creative kickass team. P.S. The franchise is loads better without Megan.