More Than Meets The Eye

AKA: my Transformers: Dark Of The Moon review!

Stephanie and I went to see the third installment of the Michael Bay Transformers movie franchise last night. After the first two, I’ve been eagerly awaiting this final movie, as it’s been touted as the “end of the trilogy”, and I wanted to see what Michael Bay and Co. had come up with.

But, before I let you know what I thought of everything, I have to issue the following SPOILER ALERT!

That’s a HUGE spoiler!

Actually, here’s the REAL spoiler alert!

I will discuss the plot in DETAIL, so if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s time to stop reading this post and go back to Facebook or Twitter or whatever it is you do on the internet. It’s ok. I won’t judge.

All I have to say is YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

Ok, still with me? Good. Let’s go!

I intially thought the title of the movie was a little odd, and that perhaps Michael Bay and Co. were on some serious Pink Floyd-esque drugs when this was thought of, but it’s actually quite relevant.

Transformers: DOTM opens with the story behind the space race leading up to the Apollo moon landing of 1969. But the TWIST is, is that the purpose of the moon landing wasn’t really to put a man on the moon and for the Americans to beat the Russians into space. Once Neil Armstrong steps foot on the moon and does his iconic “one small step for man” line and does a quick report for the world media, NASA cuts everything over to a secure channel and we discover the real reason for the moon landing: an alien ship was tracked years ago as crashing on the moon, and the space race is all about finding out what that ship is about!

I thought this was an AWESOME tie-in back to the very first Transformers movie, where the teaser trailers showed a robotic form attacking one of the remote surveillance devices roaming the moon. There is also excellent use of original footage from the 60’s to tie all this together.

But back to the story. Once the Apollo landing team reaches the HUGE ship, we discover a whole bunch of dead robots on board, but we focus on one in particular. After the moon landing team leaves, the robot’s eye sparks to life: it’s alive!

Fast-forward to present day, and we find our hero from the past two movies, Sam Witwicky being woken up by the smolderingly gorgeous Rosie Huntington-Whitely, who, while beautiful in her own right, just isn’t Megan Fox. We find out Sam has finished college and is having trouble finding a job, which is upsetting for him. He has a medal of honor from the President, but can’t land work. We follow Sam on a few job interviews, before landing a job at a large firm. He has a couple of encounters with the big boss of the company, as well as with one of the VP’s (played by Ken Jeong from the Hangover series) who has been investigating the Transformers and has information related to the moon landing and what really happened there.

Rosie works for a company headed by Patrick Dempsey’s character Dylan, and he and Sam instantly collide. Sam is jealous of Dempsey’s wealth, fearing that Rosie will leave Sam for Dylan because he has everything that Sam can’t provide.

In the meantime, the US military and the Autobots have been working together, protecting the Earth from any remaining Decepticons after their defeat in the second movie. There’s energon (the lifeblood of the Transformers) detectors all over the Earth that allow the Autobots to find any Decepticons and crush them. Since there’s been no Decepticon activity in some time, the Autobots have started helping the military with their own operations across the planet, but soon enough, there’s energon signatures detected in Russia. The Autobots and NEST team (US Military) head to Russia to check out Chernobyl, the site of the energon, and get in a battle with the Decepticons, which the Autobots win, and come home with a piece of Autobot technology.

We get our first sight of none other than Shockwave here, and he looks AWESOME!

Back where Sam works, The Decepticon Laserbeak attacks the firm to try and retrieve the information, but the VP passes it to Sam, who escapes and tries to inform the Autobots. Sam wants to help out, but he’s being blocked by the government. The military won’t allow him to come in, and Sam tries to run through the blockade with his POS car, but it’s smashed. Sam then invokes his relationship with the Autobots, and Bumblebee comes out to escort Sam in. There’s a great line in here where Sam is asked about his car, and as Bumblebee transforms back into car mode to take Sam and Carly away, Sam says “THAT’S my car.”

Once all the information is given to the Autobots, combined with the fact that the piece of technology recovered in Russia is from an ancient Autobot ship called The Ark, Optimus Prime is PISSED OFF that he didn’t know about this, that the government would withold information from him, specificallY THIS information: there’s Autobot technology in that ship on the moon, designed by the previous Autobot leader Sentinel Prime, Optimus’ mentor.

The tie-in to The Ark is tremendous, and I love the shout out to the original Transformers universe. In the original Transformers, The Ark was a massive ship that the Autobots used to flee their home planet of Cybertron during the civil war. The Aubots realized they could stay and fight the war, but their planet would be ultimately ravaged, so rather than stay and fight, they evacuated Cybertron in an effort to save it. The ship was followed by the Decepticons and attacked, and ultimately crash landed into Mount Everest on Earth, where it and the Transformers laid dormant for four million years before being reactivated.

Essentially the same storyline is followed here (YAY CONTINUITY!!), but instead of The Ark crash-landing into the Earth, it crash landed into the dark side of the Moon instead (movie title explained!), and was the entire REAL basis for the space race. Both the USA and Russia wanted to find out what that ship was all about and confirm for all time that we were definitely not alone in the universe.

The Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, HAUL ASS to the moon to investigate the downed Ark, and once inside, discover all the dead Autobots, but manage to find the one robot who’s still there. The one that opened his eye earlier. It’s none other than Sentinel Prime! As he’s taken from the ship to bring back to the Autobot/NEST base on Earth for repair, an object slips from his hand. We find this object is one of a network of hundreds of them, that, when brought together, is about creating a giant space bridge, a massive transporter, if you will. In the wrong hands, the Decepticon hands, the transporter could be used to bring in reinforcements and weapons which would allow them to turn the tide in the war and defeat the Autobots, taking over Earth in the process. Sam also contacts Agent Simmons, who assisted the Autobots in the last movie, and pulls him out of retirement to lend his expertise to the situation.

A mysterious truck is seen roaming around, and it transforms… it’s MEGATRON! He’s alive! He’s holed up in the desert with a few Decepticon forces, biding their time until the moment is right…

As Sentinel Prime is repaired and revived, we know he has the last 5 of the objects on the Ark. What we find out here is that the Decepticons raided the Ark some time ago, and took the rest of the objects needed to create the space bridge. The Autobots, with Sentinel Prime, (who has an AWESOME alt-mode, BTW) head out to try to take back the rest of the objects required for the space bridge, only to run into a Decepticon ambush, as they go after Sentinel Prime! The Autobot team high-tails it back to base with Sam informing the base to protect Sentinel Prime at all costs. He’s the key!

As the team returns to base, it’s a SWERVE!!! and Sentinel Prime goes BALLISTIC, wrecking the base and KILLING IRONHIDE in the process! HEEL TURN!! Sentinel goes on a rampage and steals the remaining 5 objects recovered from the Ark, and announces that in order to save their home planet of Cybertron, he had to do the only thing he could: make a deal with the Decepticons!! In the melee, Sam and Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whitely) have their first real fight. They have a function to go to, but Sam doesn’t want to go. Carly can’t get out of it, and wants Sam to come. Sam chooses instead to stay and help the Autobots, and Carly takes off and heads to the function. Sam’s parents make an appearance as well, and talk about the fight/break up. They tell Sam of a story where they had a huge fight, and Sam’s dad wouldn’t give up on her, and searched all over until he found her, and they got back together. They tell Sam that if he truly loves Carly, that he can’t let her go.

Sentinel Prime escapes with the remaining objects and reunites with the Decepticons as they put the master plan into action. The Decepticon team has scattered all over the earth, taking the objects with them, with the plan to make a co-ordinated launch and activate the space bridge! The master plan: use the space bridge to transport new Decepticon soldiers to Earth to enslave the human race, and then transport CYBERTRON ITSELF to Earth, and use the human slaves to return their ravaged planet back to glory!

The Decepticons successfully open the space bridge, and a FLOOD of new Decepticon warriors, ships, and beings in all kinds of configurations come through the bridge, and the faction literally LAY WASTE to the city of Chicago! The sky is FILLED with Decepticons blowing the city to CRAP! Soldiers on the ground hunt remaining Autobots, and mercilessly slaughter civilians! The US military tries to get in there, but the Deecepticons easily dispatch them.

In the meantime, the US government has exiled the Autobots. Since the desertion by Sentinel Prime, the Autobots can’t be trusted, and they need to leave. The Autobot team says their goodbyes to Sam, and then blast off in the Autobot ship they used to get to the moon earlier. It’s linked with a decomissioned space shuttle to help them leave, and the Autobots are gone. Once the ship blasts off, the shuttle seperates and comes back to Earth as the Autobot ship hurtles into space, where it’s then attacked by Starscream who BLOWS THE SHIP OUT OF THE SKY, and all the Autobots are dead!

Sam’s attention turns to doing everything he can to find Carly. Sam finds former military member Sergeant Epps, who agrees to help Sam get into the city, as well as to try and fight the Decepticons. He has to find Carly and make sure she’s ok. Epps thinks he’s crazy to go into such a war zone, but the team tries anyway. Through an epic fire fight, office towers collapsing, and some great action, Sam finds Carly, only to be ambushed by Dylan, who’s abducted Carly and aligned himself with the Decepticons! In the New World Order, the Decepticons will need a human to interface with Earth, and Dylan would rather be in that position than that of a slave! Dylan attaches a Deception in the form of a watch to Sam, and this Decepticon will monitor Sam’s every movement, thought, and action, and transmit that back to Dylan and the Decepticons. The watch has been programmed to cause Sam unbearable pain if Sam even THINKS of trying to find help.

And that’s it. The war is over. Cybertron is nearing Earth’s atmosphere. Chicago is destroyed. The small US military team still presses on though, fighting to take back the city. They make some inroads, but the Decepticons hold them off. Sam and Carly are eventually rescued, though, and there’s a great scene with Carly and an extremely injured Megatron about how Megatron is ready to reclaim leadership of the Decepticons and rule Earth AND Cybertron, but Carly points out how Sentinel Prime is the one in control, with all the power, with all the technology, and Megatron will be nothing more than Sentinel’s BITCH. YES!!

The US Military sucessfully manages to damage the master object that runs the space bridge, and stops Cybertron’s approach to Earth, just as the AUTOBOTS RETURN!! The fight goes EPIC, and some Autobots are captured and start to be executed! Bumblebee is next on the list, but OPTIMUS F’N PRIME makes a HUGE return and the SHIT. IS. ON!!!  The Autobot team fights, but it’s Optimus Prime, with some AWESOME new armor and jet upgrades, comes ROARING back into the fight and slaughters half of the Decepticon team, before heading to hunt down Sentinel Prime! The rest of the Autobots dispatch the Decepticons as Optimus confronts Sentinel, and the whole plan is laid out as the two battle, with Optimus trying to talk Sentinel down, even as the have a wicked scrap. Sentinel injures Optimus Prime, tearing off his arm, and as Sentinel Prime goes to kill Optimus, it’s MEGATRON that intervenes, realizing that if Sentinel kills Optimus, he truly WILL be Sentinel’s bitch, and stops Sentinel! They fight for a moment, before Optimus recovers and executes Sentinel! Optimus and Megatron then get it on, and Optimus Prime TEARS MEGATRON’S SKULL AND SPINE OUT OF HIS BODY, slaying Megatron!

It’s over! The war is now truly over! The Autobots are victorious!

Overall thoughts on the movie:

Plot: This plot was much stronger than that of TF2: Revenge Of The Fallen. I’d say the actual plot of TF3, and the way it was all put together, was probably the best of the series. The first Transformers movie was very strong as well, but TF3 had a lot more layers and pieces that all had to come together. They did pretty well in that regard, and made for a pretty enjoyable storyline.

We also lost most, if not all of the real goofy comedy that plagued the second movie. No robot testicles, no peeing on things, and no robot leg humping. These are all good things. There were a couple lines thrown in here and there, but it wasn’t insulting.

I thought early on, there were some unnecessary pieces to the plot: Sam’s job search, the love triangle forming between Sam, Rosie, and Dylan, and other things, but they came together as the layers and pieces of the puzzle all connected and deliverd a solid story.

Characters: This movie was obviously focused on: the US Military/NEST, Sentinel Prime, and Optimus Prime, in that order. That’s not necessarily a good thing. I can see how it fit into the story, but this movie is called Transformers, and those characters should be focused on first and foremost. I was stoked to see Sentinel Prime in the movie. Shockwave showing up was awesome, but he got very little screen time. Major characters like Megatron (save for a couple minutes at the end), Soundwave, Starscream, Bumblebee (yes, even him), Ratchet and Ironhide were relegated to the background and had very minor roles, and that, I don’t think, was the best decision.

I really think this applies most to Megatron and Starscream, who are usually the focus of the Decepticon leadership and have major roles in any battle. With Starscream, they gave him a huge feather in his cap when he was the one that swooped in and assaulted and destroyed the Autobot ship, leading us to believe that the Autobots were all destroyed after they were exiled. But, it wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t comfortable. The same with Megatron. The Transformers war is really an epic battle between Megatron and Optimus Prime, with armies at their sides, but they are always the focus. It’s understandable that Megatron took a secondary role while he was recovering from his injuries suffered in the last movie (a third of his head was blasted off!) and you could even see tiny repair bots inside his head constantly trying to repair the damage. There was a nice touch to him having his head and face hidden with a large shroud, and it was logically explained why Megatron was in the place he was in, but it was obviously Sentinel Prime that was in charge, and that took some getting used to. There was a flare at the end of the movie where the old Megatron showed up, but it was short-lived and he was torn to shreds by Optimus Prime.

On the plus side, we lost the Twins (Skids and Mudflap), and this was the return of Optimus Prime as a tremendous, awesome, BAD. ASS. He was the inspirational leader when he needed to be, but was also compassionate and merciful when it counted, all true to the original character. But we also saw another side; angry and fired up, which was AWESOME.

Visuals: What can I say? It was a Michael Bay movie. There were giant robots blowing shit up. They laid waste to each other and an entire city. What more do you want? I think the 3D was a little lackluster, but it didn’t take away from the stunning visuals and CGI work done to put a movie like this together. Unreal.

Overall: Transformers: Dark of the Moon gets 3.5 out of 5 stars. Very solid. Had the movie done two things; focus more on the Transformers instead of the humans, and give the historically major players bigger roles, this could have easily been a 4 or 4.5 out of stars. GO SEE IT!